Monthly Archives: April 2012

ANZAC Day – a day to remind leaders that soldiers’ lives are a precious resource not to be wasted

Few would seriously dispute that ANZAC Day is supposed to remind us of the sacrifice made by soldiers in war. About how tragic is every one of those deaths and injuries, and what a high price we should put on ever asking any soldier to take that risk again.

In other words, it should remind us and our elected representatives that war is not a slightly-serious decision that will make us feel big and important. It’s not an opportunity to extend our national influence or impress countries we assume are definitely going to sacrifice their own soldiers in gratitude for this downpayment if we ever ask them.

If our soldiers are ever to be sent to a war it needs to be an absolute last resort. Only somebody who’d utterly failed to grasp the significance of ANZAC Day – or who had stupidly confused it for a day celebrating nationalism – would sell their sacrifice so cheaply as to send them to an overseas military campaign where there was no serious plan for winning it or for what would happen if we did. It may well be that protecting the human rights of other people and establishing a long-term genuine free democracy may be a high enough good to be worth paying the extremely high price of soldiers’ lives – but anything less than that certainly isn’t.

If you genuinely valued soldiers’ lives as highly as ANZAC Day is supposed to remind you you should, then you would not send them until you had such a plan on your desk and had had serious people evaluate its prospects.

I can only conclude that certain recent leaders who sent Australians to die in wars that have left the countries in question in chaos and their citizens in danger not significantly better than what was there before our soldiers’ sacrifice – an outcome that was entirely predictable because no-one in charge of the campaigns appears to have seriously contemplated how they were going to rebuild the countries once they’d smashed them up – that those leaders (or that leader) must have slept through the ANZAC ceremonies they’d previously attended. That they did not listen to the soldiers’ stories. That they completely missed the lesson of what happened at Gallipoli. That they did not grasp just how valuable our soldiers’ lives really are.

Let’s hope that our current and future leaders are paying attention today. Never again. Lest we forget.

Greg Ham’s death should be a reminder that we need to reform the broken parts of the Copyright Act

Reading about the death of Men At Work saxophonist/flautist Greg Ham last week, one aspect in particular made me rather angry:

Friend and local pharmacist David Nolte, who discovered his body, says Ham felt responsible for the copyright controversy.

“He was a very sensitive person. It really cut him apart,” he said.

“He did say ‘That’s all they’ll ever remember me by’. It gutted him really … I don’t want to say it destroyed him or anything, but it really did cut him up.”

The hideously unjust and destructive “Down Under” case, and its effect on a man who gave so much to the country, call out for legislative reform.

The fact that Australia has – through absurd provisions in the Copyright Act that turn a musical reference into some sort of plagiarism, rather than an entirely artistically legitimate fair use, and that keep an almost fifty year old nationally-significant song out of the public domain – treated a man who made such an important contribution to our musical life so horribly, deeply annoys me.

Why is the length of time before a work enters the public domain so obscenely long? The life of the author plus seventy years? I mean, yes, I know why – because the US copyright terms were corruptly extended due to the lobbying of the Disney company, and because John Howard gave us the nationally destructive Australia-US FTA locking in those absurd provisions. But why are the rest of us, through our politicians, so committed to holding back the creation of cultural language? To locking down artistic works so that subsequent artists can’t refer to them and can’t build on them?

Why is a brief musical reference in a song not “fair use”? Great writers have always referred to each other’s work all the time with quotes and paraphrases. It’s keeping our creative heritage alive. It’s enriching our cultural life. It’s not “plagiarism”. They’re not simply trying to flog off an earlier artist’s work – they’re honouring it and its importance in the culture.

Greg Ham was a creative artist, not a plagiarist. Someone who gave to this country and enriched it, not someone who deserved to be ground into the dirt by shameless copyright opportunists and the broken system that enables them. It infuriates me that he died thinking that he was going to be remembered as some kind of cheap rip-off thief, rather than the significant Australian musician he was.

The Australian Law Reform Commission is about to review the Copyright Act – it might be worth making a submission. Copyright terms need to be shorter, and fair use like Down Under protected. It’s too late for Ham – but let’s not do it to another artist.

A strange unsolicited email from Leon Bertrand, solicitor

An unsolicited email arrived in my inbox this morning from young Queensland blogging solicitor, Leon Bertrand, who apparently believes the rubbish he reads in tabloids (and who seems to have some very odd ideas about how parliamentary democracy works):

Dear fellow Earthian,

As you know, the carbon tax will come into effect later this year, and I will have to pay more for my electricity as a result.

As you also are no doubt aware, the reason we are having a carbon tax is because we ended up with a hung parliament after the last federal election. This resulted in the Greens, who received 11.76% of the vote in the House of Representatives, being able to impose a carbon tax when the vast majority of Australians voted for a party against any such tax.

I am writing to you because I believe that you are one of the 11.76% that voted Green at the last federal election, at least partly because you were in favour of what you would call ‘action on climate change’ ie: a carbon tax.

Unlike other taxes I pay, I will not be receiving any services in return for paying the carbon tax. At the last election, I voted against a carbon tax because I didn’t want one. Opinion polls confirm that the carbon tax has been passed into legislation against the will of the majority of Australians.

It may be that I will receive some compensation for the tax from the federal government. However, many Australians will not be fully ‘compensated’, particularly those who lose their jobs as a result of the carbon tax.

Furthermore, the compensation package is increased government expenditure and will exceed total revenues from the tax, even before you factor in the costs of administering this scheme. I will therefore have to pay back much of that compensation in years to come with compound interest.

In the circumstances, I believe that it is only fair that you pay the portion or percentage of my electricity bill that is due to the carbon tax.

Please confirm that you agree to this perfectly reasonable request. Once you have done so, I will forward to you my next electricity bill, along with my bank account details so that you can reimburse me for the cost of the carbon tax.
Yours in fairness,
Leon Bertrand

An amusing collection of silly partisan claims (which I suspect will be exposed by the reality of the July 1 introduction of the carbon package) and an intriguingly unorthodox understanding of Australian parliamentary democracy, to which I replied:

Dear crank.

Tell you what. I’ll agree to pay your share of the carbon price when you agree to pay my share of the GST, which I and a majority of other Australians voted against in 1998. By now it amounts to a significant amount of money.


Thought not.

Yours in consistency,
Jeremy Sear.

I’ll keep you posted if he genuinely turns out to be committed to the principle of people who voted for a particular policy compensating other people who voted against it. I suspect he isn’t.

Fragile Safety Blanket

Thoughts after watching a few moments of last night’s Q&A between Richard Dawkins and Cardinal Pell.

I concede that religion has motivated some people to do good things, and has motivated some people who were tempted to do bad things not to do bad things. So never let it be said that its impact on the world is wholly negative. There’s more to the history of religion than just the wars and discrimination.

It does worry me, though, when people argue that without religion they’d be completely unable to function as civilised human beings. Good thing it’s there to keep them going, but… that’s a fragile safety blanket.

Here’s hoping that if those people lose their faith they can still find a reason not to go completely off the rails. I choose to have faith in their humanity that they can.

ALP’s new-found friendship with Clubs Australia reassuring to everyone hoping for meaningful pokie machine reform

Remember when the ALP claimed that it hadn’t really just completely caved in on pokie reform?

Pokie industry calls dogs off Labor MPs

THE pokies war is over.

The poker machine industry has claimed victory and has called off its controversial $40 million campaign that targeted worried Labor MPs in the Government’s most marginal seats.

Sweet, sweet democracy. That’s what it’s called when industries with money can successfully use it to crush popularly-supported reforms, right?