Author Archive

Anything for a quid. Social and environmental costs of Australia’s resources boom

January 9, 2012

Dirty Money. The true cost of Australia’s minerals boom

Matthew Benns

Random House Australia, 2011

A review


As an environmental disaster it was world-class — up there with last year’s Gulf of Mexico oil spill, and then a bit. In fact, according to some, BHP’s Ok Tedi mine in Papua New Guinea is the third largest environmental disaster ever, and the largest associated with mining. A sliding scale of environmental disasters is probably meaningless — they all threaten our future on this planet — but this one was on a grand scale.

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Ferguson puts spooks to work for mining companies

January 7, 2012

The Sydney Morning Herald and other papers carry reports that Resources and Energy Minister Martin Ferguson has been using a private spy agency, the National Open Source Intelligence Centre, to supply information to the Federal Police on environmental protests and protesters, particularly against mining companies.

According to the report, the Federal Police admit they conduct “covert operations” (ie infiltration and spying) in protest groups, but only “on rare occasions”.

It’s bad enough that people well-known to be committed to non-violent protest are being spied on by police, but what is this other, non-government, private-profit organisation up to? How widely is the government using taxpayer dollars to outsource so-called security operations? Will we be told what is being done in our name, with our money?

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Paul Howes, coal seam gas and Dutch disease

January 2, 2012

Paul Howes, in a demagogic and incoherent article in the January 1 Sydney Sunday Telegraph begins with a description of what some economists call Dutch disease: the collapse of manufacturing export industries under the weight of a currency inflated by a runaway resources boom.

It’s called the Dutch disease because something similar to the current Australian resources boom occurred in The Netherlands between the late 1950s and the late 1970s. The discovery of North Sea oil and gas inflated the Dutch currency, making large parts of the country’s manufacturing industries uncompetitive internationally, contributing to their collapse.

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Too many people? A review

December 28, 2011

Too many people? Population, immigration and the environmental crisis

Ian Angus and Simon Butler

Haymarket Books, 2011

Available in Australia from Resistance Books


In about 20 years as an active supporter of the Australian Greens I’ve regularly encountered people advancing populationist points of view, which all share the starting point that overpopulation is the main cause of the global environmental crisis.

Environmentalists are justifiably alarmed about the damage human activity has caused, and is still causing, to our planet, particularly since the industrial revolution that transformed firstly Europe, and then the world, in the 19th century. Too many, however, avoid looking at the role of forms of government and corporate control that developed out of the industrial revolution.

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Agonising about organising

December 13, 2011

A response to Max Lane

Max responded to my observations about the Labor Party conference, and particularly the decision on marriage equality, with two fairly long and thoughtful comments on organisation and the left that require a thoughtful response, which I will provide to the best of my ability.

But firstly, because this discussion began on the matter of Labor’s decision to support marriage equality, it is clear that this will now be an issue in the next federal election and it will be important to support any candidates, particularly Labor Party candidates, who come under attack because of their democratic stance.

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The Labor left and its role

December 11, 2011

A response to Doug Jordan

Doug Jordan responds on the Green Left discussion list to my post, Left reaction to the Labor conference.

DJ: “Almost implict in Ed’s comments seems to be the idea that any sharp criticism of the ALP is sectarian.”

What does “almost implicit” mean? Perhaps an implication that Doug would like to be able to point to but can’t find? There’s no justification for Doug trying to read implications into my writing. I try to write precisely and avoid ambiguity, which I hope Doug as a historical writer might appreciate. Doug doesn’t indicate which part of my analysis might be ambiguous on this point, which I’m sure wouldn’t pass muster in historical circles.

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Left reaction to the Labor conference

December 9, 2011

My prediction that the Labor Party conference would be received with a round of ritual moaning and whingeing on the far left has been largely confirmed, although a couple of people have accused me of dishonesty in saying that.

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Don’t moan, organise

December 4, 2011

The Labor conference vote on gay marriage

“Goodbye Bill. I die like a true blue rebel. Don’t waste any time in mourning. Organize.” — Joe Hill, IWW agitator, in a letter to Bill Hayward not long before his execution in 1915 on a framed up murder charge.

The outcome of the Labor Party national conference on gay marriage reform will no doubt bring a chorus of moaning from the far left about the Labor Party. John Passant of Socialist Alternative was quick to lead off the chorus:

“The party that screws over gays and lesbians and refugees and fears the views of its own members, most of whom are part of the 99 per cent, will screw over workers as workers for the 1 per cent.

“And tomorrow, guess what? They will vote to sell uranium to India.

“Labor’s conference is a con — the ALP remains a right-wing party, a party of neoliberalism.”

This was on the day left and democratic forces in the Labor Party won an important victory, changing the Labor Party’s platform to support gay marriage.

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The Rise and Fall of Squizzy Taylor: a review

November 29, 2011

Squizzy Taylor. The rise and fall of a larrikin crookSquizzy Taylor. The Rise and Fall of a Larrikin Crook
By Hugh Anderson
Published by Pier 9, Murdoch Books Australia
First published 1971, reprinted 2011
Reviewed by Ed Lewis


I picked up this little book because I’m interested in the working class history of the inner suburbs of Melbourne, particularly Collingwood.

All of my grandparents’ generation on both sides lived in Collingwood, and most worked in boot and shoe factories until the Great Depression closed them down. My father’s parents met in one of Collingwood’s boot factories.

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Bob Brown and the environmental vandal Obama

November 21, 2011

Geraldine Brooks delivered her first Boyer Lecture yesterday.

In it she said something Bob Brown and the Greens federal politicians should have considered before encouraging Greens to warmly welcome Barack Obama on his visit to Australia:

“When President Obama took office … he made a speech that promised his inauguration would mark the day ‘the rise of the oceans starts to slow and the planet begins to heal’. If only. Of all the disappointments of the past three years, highest on my personal list is Barack Obama’s silence — his failure to use his gifts of eloquence to explain our predicament and the necessity for urgent action. Instead, Obama greenlights Shell’s drilling in the Arctic, even as the toxins from BP’s blown-out well swirl in the Gulf of Mexico. He fails to act against a tar sands pipeline that would run from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico and that has been described as the fuse on a carbon bomb.”

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Dark clouds on the mountain

June 27, 2011

Dark Clouds on the Mountain, John TullyReview

Dark clouds on the mountain

John Tully

Hybrid Publishers, Melbourne, 2010

ISBN 9781921665035

John Tully’s second novel dips into the history and sociology of the working class in Tasmania, weaving in Nazi war crimes and death camps in the Ukraine, leftist campaigners for Palestinian human rights, right-wing antisemitism, domestic violence and much more.

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A “political assessment” from the twilight zone

June 16, 2011

The cut-and-paste so-called news service, World Socialist Web Site, has published a purported “political assessment” of Bob Gould.

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Windschuttle makes a fool of himself over Chomsky − again

June 4, 2011

This site has been getting quite a few search engine hits for Bob Gould’s writing about Keith Windschuttle, following the latter’s outburst against Noam Chomsky being awarded the Sydney Peace Prize, so see below for a collection of the links.

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Who fills Hitler’s boots?

May 31, 2008

Ed Lewis

The strains of the privatisation battle in the NSW Labor Party are well and truly past the robust debate stage, if the Youtube war that has broken out in the past few days is anything to go by. When you start comparing your comrades to Hitler, there’s obviously not much bruvverly feeling left.

According to rumours, the first blow, Della’s downfall, was struck by a former Labor Party leader who’s now a big end of town mover and shaker. The attempt to associate the anti-privatisation forces with the Nazi dictator stretches a point quite a bit, as his party donors tended to be very well-heeled volk, more like the pro-privatisation crowd. The real estate man in his corporate glass house may have been a bit careless with his rocks.

The anti-privatisation forces have riposted with Iemma’s dilemma.

Meanwhile the anti-privatisation forces have been running Saturday morning street stalls in shopping centres and getting a good response, although not from federal Labor MP Carmel Tebbutt, whose office was the target of a spirited demonstration.

There’s one born every minute

May 19, 2008

Jeff Angel gets his thanks from Morris Iemma and Mick Costa

Ed Lewis

Usually governments wait a decent time before, as quietly as possible, breaking promises, but the NSW government of Morris Iemma did the Total Environment Centre’s Jeff Angel no such courtesy last week when it made public its lobbying of the federal government for air pollution concessions to the state’s coal-fired power stations that would gut the emissions trading scheme being developed by the federal government.

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