From under the linoleum
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I sat on the floor and picked through the tragedy of the country we now call Ethiopia laid out on the yellowing pages. It was eerily reminiscent of the current Iraq adventure.

A tale for our times
The December 1934 assassination of Sergei Kirov

Seventy years on, the killing of Sergei Kirov casts an eerie light on the events of 11 September 2001, the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, the “war on Terror” and the state-sponsored hysteria surrounding the shadowy figures of Osama bin Ladin and Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

Ninety-three years of bombing the Arabs
It was the Italians, hell-bent on acquiring an African empire, who got the ball rolling. In 1911 the Libyan Arab tribes opposed an Italian invasion. Their civilians were the first people in the world to be bombed from the air.

Dispossessed all over again
After spending nearly two months in the West Bank the pull towards my village was growing stronger, especially after being detained twice and threatened with deportation … an Australian Palestinian returns to her ancestral home.

The tragic inevitability of a forlorn hope
Australia slides further into the Iraq quagmire
Cabinet documents recently released under the 50-year rule show that, in 1954, Liberal (conservative) Prime Minister, Robert Menzies, and key figures in his Cabinet were extremely gloomy about the prospects for success in an American war against nationalists in Indochina. But eventually they went to the Vietnam War anyway.

Bombing King David
One man’s freedom fighter is another’s terrorist

Some historians date the beginning of modern terrorism from the 1946 bombing by Zionist terrorists of the British military HQ in Jerusalem.

Don’t loiter near the exit
Military debacle and economic decline haunt the Bush regime

When I was just a young possum in the school cadet corps there was a hoary old war story that we all knew. It was almost certainly apocryphal, but it ruefully expressed a nasty historic truth about the US role in the demise of the British Empire.


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Brushtail Graphics

The onward march of petrol poverty

12 May 2008

After a long frustrating day of internet searching and phone calls to political insiders, I downed tools and wandered down to the café for a bite to eat. Joadja wasn’t behind the bar but I found her in the disused storeroom off the Brushtail Gallery where she and Old Possum had set up a Petrol Crisis Situation Room.

On the wall there were two laminated maps of Sydney, compiled by UTS researcher Peter Rickwood. The first showed a vast outer ring of suburbs coloured orange, where , at $1.50 a litre, the average household was shelling out more than 6 per cent of their income on petrol. This zone was labelled “Petrol Poverty Belt” in a bold hand, with a thick black marker. Scary, I thought, the $1.50 line passed a few days ago and petrol’s now heading for $1.60.

The second map showed what will happen when petrol reaches $2 a litre. The contrast was truly frightening. The petrol poverty belt was marching inwards, tightening around the inner city. When $2 goes up at the pumps – and that could be before Christmas – even the average household in the inner west will be spending up to 4 per cent on petrol.

Of course sane people have been pointing out for many years that the anti-public transport, pro-motorway obsession of the Carr and Iemma governments were leading Sydney into a trap – and now, there it was on the map. You could almost see the trap snapping shut in real time. A Sydney Morning Herald article, based on Rickwood’s work, was pinned up under the maps.

Joadja went back to the bar and came back with a couple of ciders.

“Look what that idiot Alan Evans from the NRMA is saying in that article”, she said, “‘Clearly it shows the failure to build a public transport network is now coming back to bite people’. Ho, ho. Especially Alan and the NRMA. For years they’ve been pushing, pushing, pushing for billions to be spent on freeways. They’ve hogged the transport infrastructure budget and pushed out public transport projects. And now it’s their members in the outer suburbs who are paying the price. Things are tough in here, but out there, where its two or four cars per family, they’re really stuffed.

“That $12 billion Costa wants to spend on the M4 East could buy a whole vast network of light rail in the outer suburbs, but you won’t see Alan Evans speaking out against the M4 East.”

I twisted the top off my cider. “I’ve been doing a bit of snooping for a client who wants to know whether the Iemma mob are fair dinkum about this North-West Metro Rail proposal, and the other day I noticed a big display ad in the Herald calling for expressions of interest for everything from construction to operation. Funny thing was, the ad was in the paper on Thursday 8 May and the expressions had to be in by the next day. The captains of industry got just one working day to tell the government what they wanted to do on a $12 billion project. What does that say?”

“That the whole Metro thing’s just something to wave in front of the gullible while they push ahead with the M4 East.”

“That’s my bet. The only other explanation I can see is that the government’s actually serious about Metro and they’ve already done a deal with their friends – you know, the big donors – and they’re running this little ad scam to cut anybody else out of the action.”

“It’s hard to say which one is more wicked.”

I went back to studying the petrol poverty maps.

“Ye Gods”, I muttered, “When it goes past two dollars we’re going to see refugees from the outer west flooding into the inner suburbs. The petrol bills will kill them, and the trains and buses are already getting near saturation in the peak periods. If they work in the city and they can’t get on a train, they’re going to try to rent rooms to stay in during the week. Or maybe they’ll sleep in their cars.”

“And remember this”, said Jo, spinning a bottle cap on the table, “On top of the petrol price rises, the cost of everything in the shops is going up because diesel and LPG are going up. And their mortgages are going up while the value of their homes is going down. I reckon what we’re facing here is a wartime-like emergency.”

“The Greens certainly think so. I notice that they’ve got something called the Peak Oil Response Plan Bill before state parliament. They want to set up a task force to get some emergency decisions in place quickly.”

“What’ll happen to the bill, do you reckon?”

“Oh, Iemma and his crew of venal dimwits will vote it down of course. They’re from a generation who’ve never known real crisis. They’ve never seen poverty or a serious economic calamity and they’re too dumb to imagine them. They’re dazzled by the prospect of a post-politics sinecure with the MacBank. Such are our leaders”.