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August 9, 2007 - 1:30PM

Nagasaki remembers

The Japanese city of Nagasaki has warned of a breakdown in world efforts to prevent nuclear proliferation, as it marked 62 years since it was flattened by a US atomic bomb.

Thousands of people bowed their heads and observed a minute's silence at 11.02am (1202 AEST), the exact moment of the world's second and last nuclear attack on August 9, 1945, which killed more than 70,000 people.

'We are facing a crisis in terms of the breakdown of the very structure of nuclear non-proliferation,' Nagasaki Mayor Tomihisa Taue told the ceremony.

Besides the five established nuclear states of the United States, Russia, Britain, France and China, Taue lashed out at India, Pakistan and North Korea for pursuing nuclear arms 'under the excuse of self-defence.'

In the Middle East as well, Taue said the 'nuclear non-proliferation structure is being shaken' by Israel, which is believed to have atomic weapons, and by Iran, which is suspected of pursuing them.

'With the appearance of new nuclear weapon states comes increased danger of actual use, as well as the leakage of nuclear-related technology,' he said.

'The use of nuclear weapons can never be permitted or considered acceptable for any reason whatsoever.'

Taue, who took office in April after his predecessor and staunch anti-nuclear campaigner Iccho Ito was gunned down by a gangster, also demanded Japan's government show 'strong leadership' in the non-proliferation drive.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe pledged his efforts as he stood at the foot of the Peace Statue - a bronze figure of a man pointing to the sky from which the atomic bomb fell.

'Japan has taken a path of international peace wholeheartedly for the 62 years after the war,' Abe said. 'Japan, as the only atomic-bombed nation, is responsible to pass down this tragic experience in the international community.'

Some of the conservative leader's top aides last year called for Japan to at least study going nuclear after arch-rival North Korea tested an atomic bomb.

The prime minister also faced a backlash in June after his defence minister appeared to justify the nuclear attacks, saying they hastened Japan's surrender and prevented the Soviet Union from seizing large parts of the country.

The US nuclear bomb, codenamed 'Fat Man', was even larger than 'Little Boy' which was dropped three days earlier on Hiroshima, killing some 140,000 people.



August 5, 2007 - 12:59PM

Australia's growing international belligerence means the anti-war message of Hiroshima Day continues to ring true, event organisers say. Hiroshima Day was marked on Sunday with a noon rally at Sydney's Hyde Park, where speakers called for world peace and the abolition of all nuclear weapons.

A similar protest was scheduled for Sunday afternoon in Melbourne.

The event is the annual international commemoration of the anniversary of the first use of nuclear weapons that instantly killed 90,000 in Hiroshima and injured many more on August 6, 1945.

The US also dropped nuclear bombs on Nagasaki three days later, resulting in the immediate deaths of 40,000 more. By the end of 1945, over 200,000 were dead in the two Japanese cities.

At the Sydney rally, anti-nuclear campaigner Helen Caldicott said the commemoration of Hiroshima had never been more important. 'The world is facing greater instability in more and more areas,' Dr Caldicott said. 'Regional wars could escalate to a global nuclear holocaust as the US and Russia have so many nuclear weapons primed and ready to go.'

Hiroshima Day committee member Denis Doherty said annual calls for peace from the mayors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki fall on deaf ears in Australia.

The federal government continues to send Australian troops to war whenever the US asks it to, as well as hosting US military bases and providing logistical support, he said.

'The Australian government's increasing belligerence is illustrated by its decisions to send troops to trouble spots rather than civilian assistance,' Mr Doherty said.

'In Australia too, it has responded to long-standing Aboriginal welfare issues by using troops.'

Other speakers included Greens senator Kerry Nettle and Jenny Munro of the Metropolitan Aboriginal Land Council.

© 2007 AAP


August 10, 2007 - 9:59AM

A letter urging people to sign a petition against a nuclear power station in an outer Melbourne electorate is just a Labor Party scare campaign, Prime Minister John Howard says.

Responding to a radio listener's concern that the federal government had earmarked a site near Werribee—in deputy Labor leader Julia Gillard's seat—Mr Howard said local residents should ignore the letter.

'It's a complete scare tactic. The government has made no decision to put nuclear power stations anywhere,' Mr Howard told Southern Cross Broadcasting.

'All that we have said is that this country should consider the option of having nuclear power as a source of power generation in order to effectively fight greenhouse gas emissions because nuclear power is clean and green. It's just dishonest of the Labor Party to run that kind of fear campaign.'

© 2007 AAP

Web Editor: Prime Minister John Howard has lost the support of the Australian people. This is reflected in the election polls 100 days out from the Federal elections. It is also reflected in oncourse betting, one of Australia's favourite pastimes, the average Australian is prepared to put his money where his mouth is. He has never thought John Howard to be honest, but through apathy and self interest a numerical majority have kept him in power. They (we) have thought that at least he was, perhaps, a competent conservative and that with his minders a placid future might have been possible.

He and his cohorts have had the advantage of a prosperous world, but when there has been a hiccup in the world economy Australia's future looks far more bleak. He is a very experienced politician but not a bright one. He has profited by circumstances outside his control and found himself consorting with people of power and influence. He likes this and it has gone to his head. He feels no price is to high, for the people of Australia to pay, to keep him there. He could have left politics at his peak but greed forced him on to the next and higher mountain. For him it is unfortunate that he is now in a deep valley from which point he may always be remembered.

There is the chance that at the oncoming election he may even lose his seat in Benelong. In a Newspoll released today (12-8-07) the Labor candidate, Maxine Mckew was leading John Howard 53 to 47 in response to the question ' Who do you think would represent Benelong the more efficiently'.

Maxine McKew                    John Howard

His mistakes have always been with us but the thriving world economy has led them to be overlooked.

His recent actions have been such obvious 'pork barrelling' that no amount of denial can help him. His history stands against him.

To list a few:
Large federal donations to a hospital in a marginal seat when two separate enquiries have shown it to have an inadequate patient pool to sustain it.

Rumours that a nuclear reactor is likely to be located in the seat of the deputy opposition leader. (if she was replaced by the Liberal candidate this would not happen, of course). All unofficially leaked reactor sites have been in opposition held electorets.

The unheralded introduction of the prospect of twenty five nuclear power reactors. This has seldom been mentioned as the elections approach and has been opposed by every poll held. Despite this a number of prominent nuclear physicists have claimed that a general consensus of the polls show a tendency to be more supportive. It is obvious that should John Howard be back in power they will all be constructed.

The Land Rights Act has been one of the few strengths of Australian Aborigines. To change this is not the right of this government, to trifle carelessly with this iconic legislation, at the end of this parliament when they have never campaigned on the matter or had a serious dialogue about it, is yet another example.

To introduce Work Choice Laws, again without campaigning on the matter, is another instance of what this government will do in an attempt to preserve capitalist industries by allowing them to dispense with long established workers' rights. Does this herald a return to the days of child labour at Asian rates of pay?



August 10, 2007

The Coalition has cancelled some bookings for advertising time in September and reserved time in November instead. It is clearly thinking of waiting as long as possible before calling the federal election. It makes tactical sense: governments that are trailing in the polls tend to want a long campaign. The hope is that the Opposition will stumble or reveal a weakness that can be exploited. But pity the poor voters.

This election is shaping up as one of the most fiercely fought contests of recent times, if the weight of money pushed into political advertising is anything to go by. In addition to the parties' war chests, the Government is shamelessly using taxpayers' funds to push the Coalition line on, in particular, its Work Choices law, and has successfully urged business groups to pitch in, too. To support Labor, the Australian Council of Trade Unions is reported to have amassed $20 million through a levy on members. The unions believe they are fighting for their lives. The amount that business groups have to spend on the other side has not been revealed, but is said to be rather less than the ACTU's war chest. The total spent on campaigns by government, parties and interests will reach well over $100 million. That will buy a lot of sound and fury. While the contest certainly signifies something, its intensity is not matched by any great interest from the public. Just as well, a cynic might say, that voting is compulsory.

The debate over interest rates shows this public indifference is right. Following the Reserve Bank's decision to raise interest rates, attention has focused on the Coalition's promise before the 2004 election to maintain interest rates at record lows. Was it right to do so? The answer to this tedious question is: of course it wasn't, but so what? No one with any knowledge of economics or politics believed the promise when it was made; and those who are ignorant of both simply do not care.

The biggest danger for the Government is not damage from this broken promise. It is that, as the polls suggest, people are simply tired of John Howard and want to hear no more from him. If that is so, stretching the campaign to its maximum so the Prime Minister can get in as much jawboning as possible may only make things worse for him.

Shallow thinking.

The Federal Government's plan for the Murray-Darling is more than ambitious, and not just because it involves $10 billion and seeks to reverse more than a century of damage to the country's largest river system in a basin of a million square kilometres that is home to 2 million people. No, what takes the plan beyond the ambitious is its call to all governments involved to put the nation first. That is a big ask of this jealous federation.

From the outset the plan was called a 'takeover'. Yet the key was always going to be co-operation. The Federal Government would pay to reduce demand on the rivers and to make irrigators more efficient. In return, the relevant states and the Australian Capital Territory would cede their power over the system to the Commonwealth. Except that Victoria, for its own parochial reasons, refused—a stance reaffirmed this week by its new Premier, John Brumby. Victoria's intransigence is now having a dangerous domino effect.

Because Victoria would not cede power to the Commonwealth, the Federal Government has introduced legislation to simply take it from all the states. However, the takeover gives the Commonwealth only limited control over the Murray-Darling system. Accordingly, the Federal Government is prepared to pay only limited compensation to those adversely affected. The NSW Premier, Morris Iemma, rightly protests that this suddenly exposes NSW to demands for compensation. Mr Iemma insists the Commonwealth stands by its initial undertaking that the Murray-Darling plan would cost NSW nothing. Or else, says Mr Iemma, NSW will pull out.

Since the Murray-Darling takeover was first mooted in January, state and federal bureaucrats have worked to develop the detail to make it a reality. Despite Victoria's obduracy, there has been a reasonable hope that the state would eventually come on side. But now there is the impasse with NSW. And while South Australia's Premier, Mike Rann, insists he still backs the scheme, the Queensland Premier, Peter Beattie, is saying ominously: 'We want to try to stick with this deal, if we can.'

As the National Farmers Federation says, agreement between all the parties is crucial for the plan to succeed. That means all those involved—and that includes the federal Opposition—must accept the challenge to work towards an agreement based on co-operation. The Murray-Darling plan is too important to be allowed to fall victim to the increasing acrimony of pre-election federal-state politics.

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