May 30

II Reef Lotto II Arts – Alexandra Palace II No to Affordable Housing II Malaysia’s Mandela II Bidi Bidi – release from hell II

Welcome to the May BLOG

Contents :  Reef Lotto II  Arts – Alexandra Palace II No to affordable housing II Malaysia’s Mandela II Bidi Bidi – release from hell II

Now that the budget has been and gone (see Reef Lotto), and the Royal wedding with all its pomp and ceremony was televised globally,  we have a breathing space.  Trump and Nth Korea are on-off again,   so trending… let’s see.   Try Donald Trump meeting the Queen, he is in the UK on Friday 13 July  (bad choice of date ! if you’re superstitious which I am, black Friday). 

$443m for Reef 

This is the headline of the front page of The Saturday Paper with a wonderful pic of our PM … he so loves his selfies.  Here’s another courtesy of photographer Steven Brennan.

The largest government grant for the protection of the Great Barrier Reef has been awarded without tender, to a tiny foundation.  Andy Stafford writing for The Saturday Paper talks about resilience not climate change.  Not so the government, its climate and energy policies are a train wreck

“Publicly the government still supports Adani’s Carmichael coalmine,” writes Stafford.  The grant – $443 million – has been awarded to the Great Barrier Reef Foundation, a body with 6 full time and 5 part time staff, and a turnover of less than $8 million.  The body is focussed on BUSINESS COOPERATION.

Stafford further states “the foundation started ‘with a small group of businessmen chatting at the airport while waiting for their flight, wanting to do something to help the Great Barrier Reef”.  It’s so left-field.  The foundation’s MD Anna Marsden said “It’s like we’ve won lotto… we’re getting calls from a lot of friends.” 

“Labor senator Kristina Keneally summed up: ‘I am trying to understand how.. the greatest contribution … to the Great Barrier Reef went to one foundation without a tender process,  without advertising, without a competitive process and it would seem, without invitation from government.” 

 “God help the Barrier Reef,” was the blunt response of Professor Terry Hughes, director of the Australian Research Council’s Centre of Excellent for Coral Reef Studies.”  Professor Hughes says the core issue with coral bleaching is global warming. 

Cairns – Gateway to the Reef

Cairns is the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef, its economy is reliant on tourism.   The city’s population hit 164,500 in 2017. Overall total passengers at Cairns Airport grew by 5 per cent reaching the 5.2 million marking growth across all sectors.  International passenger numbers increased 7.6 per cent to 659,010 for the year (Source: Cairns Airport).  Hence my interest in this budget bonanza for business.

During the Prince’s recent visit to open the Commonwealth Games, the Prince’s Trust and the Great Barrier Reef Foundation hosted major companies to a Reef Round Table (read talkfest).  Those invited included Lendlease, BHP, Qantas, Boeing, Australia Post, The Star Entertainment Group, The Walt Disney Company, Affirmative Investment Management, Virgin Australia, Australian Institute of Marine Science, Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, UQ, WWF, Greening Australia, and many others including  representatives from the Prince’s Accounting for Sustainability Project, the Australian Government and Queensland Government.

The  Great Barrier Reef Foundation website promotes the Reef to businesses. Donations are welcome.  

Climate Change

We [GBRF] believe climate change is the biggest threat to the Great Barrier Reef.  (They’ve got one thing right.)

We support the Paris Agreement

 The Great Barrier Reef Foundation is acting by prioritising projects that build the Reef’s resilience to the impacts of a changing climate and participating in constructive dialogue on policy options.

At the Foundation’s recent Reef Roundtable with the Prince of Wales, Lendlease Group Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director Steve McCann said, “The Great Barrier Reef is universally recognised as one of our planet’s greatest natural wonders. Its protection and preservation requires collaboration between government and the private sector, and we’re ready to contribute our skills and resources to assist.

“Lendlease employees from around the world will work with the Great Barrier Reef Foundation, and engage with local indigenous communities, to undertake on-ground conservation activities.” 

Prince Charles flanked by Foundation MD Anna Marsden (right) and GBRMPA’s Dr Russell Reichelt at the Reef Roundtable  Photographs: Greg Sullavan

Today, the Foundation spruiks itself as the lead charity dedicated to raising funds for scientific research to protect and restore the Great Barrier Reef and the world’s coral reefs.

Great Barrier Reef Foundation Chair, Dr John Schubert said, “Coral reefs are critically important ecosystems, supporting 25% of all marine life on the planet and supporting the livelihoods of over one billion people world-wide.

“Aside from its outstanding natural and cultural heritage value, the Great Barrier Reef alone supports over 64,000 Australian jobs and contributes $6.4 billion to the Australian economy annually” concluded Dr Schubert.

Projects for the International Year of the Reef will be funded up to $190,000 per project.

The Prince’s Trust Australia Chair, Margaret Jackson AC said the royal visit was a wonderful opportunity to highlight the work currently being done …As we mark the International Year of the Reef, we have a responsibility to collaborate across government, not-for-profit, the private sector and with local communities to ensure we safeguard the Great Barrier Reef and its natural assets for generations to come.”

The Foundation was established in 2000 in response to the United Nations World Heritage Convention encouraging countries with world heritage sites to establish a national foundation whose purpose is to invite donations for their protection.

Monitoring the reef

The Future Reef project [being undertaken through the GBRF] is taking the ‘pulse’ of the Reef using specially engineered water sensors mounted on a ‘ship of opportunity’; Rio Tinto’s RTM Wakmatha vessel.  (Forgive my cynicism, but this tanker goes through the Reef, laden with bauxite on its way down.)

Before taking up the role of Managing Director in 2016, Anna Marsden was CEO of Queensland Ballet where she led a major change program resulting in enormous growth. Anna holds board positions with Brisbane Festival, Brisbane Powerhouse and Circa.

I’d say strategic marketing is her forte.  Please,  you the reader and viewer assess whether this small Foundation has the ability to truly deliver on $443 million of taxpayers investment money.

Easy linkages, easy connections and we’re all in the money! 

With a corporate partner like Google, what can go wrong?

Lottery restores old theatre – A little known Victorian Theatre is being restored in Alexandra Palace by a lottery grant. The theatre will officially open on 1 December with an as yet unnamed headline act, but the 2 December celebrations are the “don’t miss” event.  There will be a gala night of music, comedy and circus so if you are in the UK in December, save the date. (Source: Guardian Photograph Graeme Robertson/Source image : Evening Standard online.)

Govt doesn’t want affordable housing – this alarming headline written by business editor Ian Verrender for ABC News online (Mon 28 May, 2018) was explained in his erudite analysis.

Infrastructure and high rises – keeping the bubble afloat, Sydney’s skyline


“When the market is running hot, you need to get in quick.  And when it’s cooling, its an opportunity to grab a bargain.”  Either way,  Verrender says “there’s never been a better time to buy.”   The major capitals are declining while regional values are gaining.  Units are outperforming houses.  There is strong demand for affordable housing.  “Some analysts argue that last year’s crackdown by the banking regulator on investment loans is affecting the market.  Investors mainly use interest only loans to maximise on the benefits of negative gearing.”

Currently major banks are heavily exposed in that 60% of their loans are allocated to domestic mortgages.  “Our household debt is ‘just shy of’ 200% of our annual income”  Verrender says “and it ranks among the world’s highest.”  

“Hocked to the eyeballs,” Verrender says “it’s no wonder household consumption is sluggish, retail is struggling and inflation is anaemic.” 

Low interest rates and an increase in infrastructure building has kept the bubble afloat.  Our large and growing intake of migrants is capped at 190,000 and last year 128,550 skilled migrants entered the country.

“This large intake has given the impression that our economy is travelling better than it appears,” argues Verrender.  “Wages are stagnant and as for job creation, we are standing still.”   Lastly and in conclusion the analysis suggests our skyrocketing housing costs are not the result of a supply problem.  Instead there has been a deliberate attempt to increase demand to maintain an illusion of economic growth.”   Ouch!

Malaysia’s  Mandela

Anwar Ibrahim has been serving a five year sentence on trumped up charges.  This past has been his second jail sentence, the first was trumped up sodomy charges instigated by Mahathir Mohamad,  Malaysia’s then Prime Minister and now newly elected Prime Minister once again at 92.  Mathathir deserves credit for collaboration – seeking a pardon for his long time opposition leader and promising to turn over power to him within two years. 

Source/Image: Coutesy of Dr Khoo Boo Teik, The incorrigible optimist – pictured Anwar Ibrahim and the new Malaysia Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad in court.

 “In my darkest hours of solitary confinement I had never given up hope that something good was to come of the ordeal. And now, after more than a decade of struggle and profound challenges, we are on the threshold of a new beginning” Anwar Ibrahim.  

A royal pardon by the Sultan was formally executed yesterday – May 11.  Anwar Ibrahim can now run for parliament.  In a recent Wall Street Journal article (author unnamed), the Journal states “Malysia needs Anwar’s leadership to rebuild its degraded institutions.  But first he has to clean up corruption.  Only Anwar combines the political skill, …liberal values and moral authority to carry through the necessary reforms.” 

Anwar Ibrahim has been a political prisoner since 1998.  By forbearing revenge and letting the judiciary follow the law, Malaysia’s multi-ethnic people may yet achieve democracy.  Some $US4.5 billion has disappeared from the state-owned IMDB,  it is critical that Mahathir cleans up corruption but more importantly he has to honour his promise.  Let us pray.

(Source: Editorial board – Wall Street Journal, The Weekend Australian May 12-13, 2018 p13.)

Bidi Bidi – release from hell

Uganda supports the biggest and many other large refugee camps.  About 3.5million people have fled South Sudan’s civil war as refugees.

Primary school children at the Bidi Bidi camp attend school and their little play attempts to explain why their lives have been uprooted, why they have been forced to flee their homes and why they have ended up in Bidi Bidi. 

“Where is the money?” Salva Kiir,  the president of south Sudan, asks his deputy Riek Machar.

“I bought guns.”  “Where are the guns? Kiir insists,  “I will show you… We shall meet in the bush.”  Gun shots ring out, people are killed and so began South Sudan’s civil war.  Since the civil war,  300,000 people have died and 3.5 million have been displaced.  

Unbelievably with its torrid history under Mugabe, Uganda is a welcoming country.

It represents a bright spot in this bleak global landscape of refugee despair. Rather than packing refugees into quasi-permanent tent camps, which are often in austere locations like deserts, and miles away from local communities, “Uganda has chosen a policy of inclusion over marginalisation”.

World Vision, Uganda

Refugees are provided with a fertile parcel of land to cultivate, as well as a “starter kit”, which includes seeds to plant food and construction tools to build a home. If they wish, they may lease other parcels of land and open their own businesses. Refugees in Uganda have the same access to public services, like schools and healthcare clinics, as Ugandan nationals. They are even allowed to vote. The Ugandan model poses a sharp contrast with the restrictive refugee policies of other countries including Australia.  (Source : London School of Economics, Marina Elgawly is a MSc candidate in International Relations at LSE.)

During the day adults till land.  Some volunteer with NGOs.  Other have started small businesses, transforming nearby forests.  The children go to school.  And while the settlement now covers more than 250 square klms, there are positives.

Betty Dawa’s fire is luke warn, her family of two children and husband Julius Wani, have eaten their only meal of the day – posho, dried mashed maize and beans.  “We do not have much but we have a lot.  We have love and we have our culture,” Wani says. 

In August 2017,  the UN reported that the number of refugees in Uganda,  had passed the million mark.  Women can get raped here on their way to fetch firewood.  Many are still routinely raped by their husbands who believe a woman must never say no.  Wani explains “the refugee women are raped … because the community is angry and resources are shrinking”.  Women have long been pawns during conflict.  

But Wani and Onzia say they love their life and are content to stay in the camp until the war ends and they can return to South Sudan.  “We just want to go home,  not to Europe, not to America.. why should we go there to wash dirty plates when there is so much land for farming?” Onzia says. (Source: Guardian Weekly 25-31 May 2018, Front Cover “We just want to go home”, International News pp4-5, Reporter: Patience Akumu)

Quote of the week :  You can’t live a positive life, with a negative mind.

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