Abbott to acquire $12.4 billion jets

Prime Minister Tony Abbott announced last week his Government will purchase new jet fighters to boost Australia’s air defence capability. Australia will spend $12. 4 billion for 58 Texan-built F-35 Lighting II Joint Strike Fighter jets.

Boasting the fighter planes’ capability, the prime minister gave some specs: a top speed of 1960km/h, fire air-to-air missiles, guided bombs and a cannon using the most sophisticated avionics and sensors.

F-35 is built on the premise that “it will see first, shoot first and kill first,” according to a phrase from a US Pentagon official in charge of their development.

Abbott said Australia is sure to dominate the skies when another war breaks out. “You just don’t know what’s around the corner,” he was quoted as saying.

He defended the decision by citing Australia’s past war-readiness and military capability such as the 1990 coup d’état in East Timor, the 1999 invasion of Iraq, and the decade-long military commitment in Afghanistan from 2002.

in a joint press release, the prime minister and the Minister for Defence said Australia will purchase the fifth generation F-35 which they said is the most advanced fighter ever made anywhere in the world. Both are confident F-35 will make a vital contribution to Australia’s national security.

Along with the Super Hornet and Growler electronic warfare aircraft, the F-35 aircraft will ensure Australia maintains a regional air combat edge. The F-35 will also provide a major boost to the ADF’s intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities.

The first F-35 aircraft will arrive in Australia in 2018 and enter service with the Royal Australian Air Force in 2020.

Australia has been working with the United States as a partner in the Joint Strike Fighter programme since the Coalition joined in 2002. Acquiring F-35 aircraft will reinforce the ADF’s ability to operate seamlessly with US forces and Australia’s capacity to continue supporting our shared strategic interests under the US alliance.

The F-35 aircraft will bring significant economic benefits to Australia, including in regional areas and for the local defence industry with more jobs and production for many locally-based skilled and technical manufacturers.

The total capital cost of $12.4 billion for this acquisition includes the cost of associated facilities, weapons and training.

Around $1.6 billion in new facilities and infrastructure will be constructed, including at RAAF Base Williamtown in New South Wales and RAAF Base Tindal in the Northern Territory.

As a result of the Howard Government’s decision to join during the development phase, Australian defence industry has been awarded over $355 million in work and stands to win well in excess of $1.5 billion in JSF-related production and support work over the life of the programme – creating long-term advanced manufacturing and engineering jobs.

The F-35 will replace the F/A-18A/B Classic Hornet aircraft. For over three decades, the Classic Hornet has been the backbone of Australia’s air combat capability. These aircraft have delivered exceptional service to Australia’s security but will be withdrawn from service by 2022.

The new 58 F-35 aircraft, in addition to the 14 already approved in 2009, will provide the RAAF with a total of 72 aircraft to form three operational squadrons and one training squadron.

The Government will also consider the option of acquiring an additional squadron of F-35 aircraft to replace the Super Hornets in the future.

The Government remains committed to building a strong, capable and sustainable Australian Defence Force.

Anti-war activists gather in Canberra

Not everybody is happy with the announcement. A peace group gathered in the Tent Embassy in Canberra — outraged with the purchase calling it provocative and extravagant.

Anti-war group rally at the Tent Embassy in Canberra to oppose the purchase. (Photo: Supplied)

The Independent Peaceful Australia Network (IPAN), an anti-war group claims more than a hundred joined their peace rally this week focussed on Australia’s defence spending. According to the group, they will collect signatures to petition against the acquisition. Around 700 signatures have been collected this week, the group said.

Justin Tutty, executive member of the IPAN said “We are supposed to be in deep financial hole – so how on earth can we afford such an extravagant military purchase?”

IPAN is convinced that in a time of peace, Australia should be investing in education and health and cutting back defence spending.

Adding the controversy is a statement coming from Pentagon. Tutty said that even the project manager at Pentagon finds the planes to be “risky, risky, business because they are unreliable and need too much maintenance”.

“No Australian Defence strategic study has said we these strike fighters. The USA buys these for foreign wars but we do not need them. They are provocative in this time of global instability, and build fear rather than security. If we want peace, we need to invest in aid to our region, not aggressive military posturing” he concluded.

Blog Link: The Green Journal at Asian Correspondent

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Court rules out ACT’s marriage equality, conscience vote urged

The Australian Marriage Equality (AME) is calling for a federal conscience vote following a High Court’s ruling on Thursday quashing the Australian Capital Territory’s (ACT) Marriage Equality Act.

ACT enacted a same sex marriage law in October, Australia’s first state ever to pass the highly-debated legislation; but the said court ruled out its validity. The state law did not meet the provisions under the Commonwealth Law.

AME Deputy Director Ivan Hinton-Teoh and Chris Hinton-Teoh are among the first couples who got married last week in Canberra. (Photo: AME)

Twenty-seven couples from the GLTB community tied the knot in Canberra last week hoping the court will uphold their vows.  The ruling dashed their honeymoon on Thursday.

AME is now pressing for a new legislation through a conscience vote. National Director Rodney Croome said in a press release today the federal government has indicated that it is possible to legislate a new law on marriage equality through a conscience vote. He said the possibility has been indicated by Liberal leader, Malcolm Turnbull.

A separate press release also said four Liberal state premiers support the federal Coalition’s conscience vote, including Barry O’Farrell (NSW), Denis Napthine (VIC), Colin Barnett (WA) and Campbell Newman (QLD). The press release said the premiers have all urged the federal parliament to deal with the issue.

Croome added “if Coalition leaders as conservative as Colin Barnett can see the importance of a marriage equality conscience vote, Tony Abbott has no excuses”.

“With four Liberal premiers telling Abbott that community attitudes are changing and a marriage equality conscience vote is a no-brainer he’d be unwise not to listen.”

AME Deputy Director Ivan Hinton-Teoh, who married his husband, Chris Hinton-Teoh, under the overturned ACT law, said that in the absence of a timetable for federal reform the states and territories should continue to endeavour to allow same-sex couples to marry.

The federal Labor Party allows a conscience vote on marriage equality. Prime Minister Tony Abbott has earlier said a Coalition conscience vote is a matter for the Coalition party room to decide.

 

Ashleigh Watson and Narell Majic who got married this week comfort each other after the High Court ruling. (Photo: AME)

 ACT Government

The ACT Government is disappointed with the ruling and pledged to re-legislate for civil unions but not same-sex marriage.

The High Court cannot uphold the ACT same sex marriage law as it lacks the validity of marriage defined under Commonwealth Law.

Marriage Act of 1961 provides provision for the union of man and woman. This provision defines marriage.

Today the High Court decided unanimously that the Marriage Equality (Same Sex) Act 2013, enacted by the Legislative Assembly for the Australian Capital Territory, cannot operate concurrently with the federal Marriage Act 1961. The Court held that the federal Parliament has power under the Australian Constitution to legislate with respect to same sex marriage, and that under the Constitution and federal law as it now stands, whether same sex marriage should be provided for by law is a matter for the federal Parliament.

The Court held that “marriage” in s 51(xxi) of the Constitution refers to a consensual union formed between natural persons in accordance with legally prescribed requirements which is not only a union the law recognises as intended to endure and be terminable only in accordance with law but also a union to which the law accords a status affecting and defining mutual rights and obligations. “Marriage” in s 51(xxi) includes a marriage between persons of the same sex.

The Marriage Act does not now provide for the formation or recognition of marriage between same sex couples. The Marriage Act provides that a marriage can be solemnised in Australia only between a man and a woman and that a union solemnised in a foreign country between a same sex couple must not be recognised as a marriage in Australia. That Act is a comprehensive and exhaustive statement of the law of marriage.

Because the ACT Act does not validly provide for the formation of same sex marriages, its provisions about the rights of parties to such marriages and the dissolution of such marriages cannot have separate operation and are also of no effect.

The Court held that the whole of the ACT Act is of no effect. Read HERE

State Legislations

Bills drafted on state levels should be worked out to meet the provision of the Commonwealth Law. Same-sex marriage bills have been tabled in five states but overturned. WA drafted the latest bill yesterday. At Federal level, same sex legislations have been scheduled for deliberations, but similarly voted down.

The GLTB believes the issue is now at a tipping point. It is just a matter of time while the concept of morality itself is radically shifting.

Gays, lesbians can’t wait to tie the knot in Canberra

Gays and lesbians cannot wait to tie the knot in Canberra following the passage of a marriage equality bill last Tuesday.

The Australian Capital Territory (ACT) Legislative Assembly passed the historic Marriage Equality (Same Sex) Bill 2013 —the first state is Australia to legalize same sex marriage.

ACT makes historic marriage equality law, NSW will follow. (Photo: Australian Marriage Equality)

Euphoria engulfed the LGBTI (lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, transgender, intersex) community but this was cut short when the Tony Abbott Government lodged a High Court challenge within 24 hours saying the ACT law is not consistent with the Commonwealth marriage law.

Commonwealth Marriage Act 1961 establishes the sole and exclusive means under Australian law by which the status of marriage may be attained. Family Law Act 1975, likewise, makes provisions for divorce, child custody, and property arrangement. The ACT law does not meet such provisions.

The Commonwealth government has lodged a writ of summons in the High Court Wednesday. The High Court will hold its first reading on Friday.

The ACT Government is determined to defend the new law. Members of the GLTBI community also stand hand in hand and optimistic to withstand the challenge.

The lobby group, Australian Marriage Equality, has already put up a separate website to gather gays and lesbians who would like to take the opportunity to be amongst the first to tie the knot.

On its Facebook page, it said “Despite this we know that many couples are not going to wait.  We’re compiling a fact sheet for couples interested in being amongst the first to tie the knot. You can sign up here.”

Abbott earlier warned not to rush until the validity of the law is determined as the writ also states  “There would be immediate adverse effects for persons whose marriages would be ineffective if the ACT Marriage Act is found invalid” and “The status of marriage has a weight and a significance beyond its legal consequences.”

Abbott said he views the ACT same-sex marriage laws as a constitutional matter, not a moral issue.  Advising same-sex couples wishing to marry in the ACT to wait until a High Court challenge is resolved, Abbott said the federal government had constitutional responsibility for marriage.

ACT Attorney-General Simon Corbell introduced a raft of eleventh hour amendments to the Marriage Equality (Same-Sex) Bill 2013 in order to bolster its chances of surviving a High Court challenge. The amendments are aimed at fending off the High Court challenge by minimising any inconsistency with commonwealth legislation.

The bill is supported by Greens (Member of Legislative Assembly) MLA Shane Rattenbury and all eight Labor MLAs.

ACT Chief Minister Katy Gallagher has hoped same-sex couples will be able to marry in Canberra before the end of the year.

Meanwhile, the New South Wales Legislative Council is now planning to introduce a similar bill. AME, in its website said the” NSW Cross Party Marriage Equality Working Group consisting of Liberal, National, Greens, Labor and Independent Members have announced plans to introduce legislation into the NSW Legislative Council next week that seeks to allow same-sex couples to marry in NSW.”

Wind power activists gather in Canberra

Supporters and detractors of the Julia Gillard Government’s clean energy plans will converge into the Australian capital Canberra Tuesday to hold  two separate rallies in a showdown of rhetoric on wind power turbines.

Australia targets to get 20 percent of power source from non-renewables such as wind power by 2020. (Photo: Supplied)

The Green bloc led by Friends of the Earth and citizens’ watchdog GetUp! are rallying supporters nationwide to join the march to Garema Place at noon to face the anti-wind turbine top guns.

“Tuesday’s rally will be the biggest moment this anti-wind ‘movement’ has ever had, and it’s our job to make sure it stays that way. If they gather in opposition to renewables, it’s our job to gather in support [of renewables],” GetUp! said.

One group which opposes wind energy  and runs a website called Stop These Things, boasts of its  parliamentary members from the opposition coalition. Their rally will kick off at 10am on the lawns to the north of Parliament House. Their agenda is to thrash the “unreliable” and “costly ” wind power industry. They claim “wind turbines are not clean, not green and the cost consumers are forced to pay for the unreliable and intermittent power they produce is ridiculous.”

The anti-wind power group accused the industry and its benefactors of raking in about, “AU$50 billion  worth of consumers money in the form of REC tax”.

Supporters are instructed to take bring cameras and capture any misbehaviour from the Green bloc and spot their “Ditch the Witch”-type placards – or “equally unsavoury material.”

Bring a camera or use your phones to capture any misbehaviour from wind industry goons and their supporters – STT will have a name and shame spot where we will post photos and videos of any thugs in action…O ur fine people are smart enough to know that the Green-Labor Alliance is over and that – with a little more help – the Coalition will make energy policy work  again for all Australians – not against them – as is the case now.

Anti-wind power groups alleged wind turbines are threat to health and well-being. (Photo: Supplied)

The pro-wind groups shot back saying the Coalition’s anti-renewables crusaders are peddling misinformation to try and erode support for clean energy sources. The Gillard Government wants to achieve 20 per cent of energy sourced from renewables by 2020.

Anti-wind crusaders include Alan Jones of 2GB Radio; Victorian Senator John Madigan; South Australian Senator Nick Xenophon; Alby Schultz MP, member for Hume: Craig Kelly MP, member for Hughes and an early anti-wind fraud warrior; Chris Back, Liberal senator for Western Australia; Mary Morris – campaigner and community representative for Waterloo in SA;  Alan Moran of the Institute of Public Affairs; and other anti-wind turbines.

Opposition Leader Tonny Abbott earlier admitted he will scrap the price of carbon if elected in this year’s Federal election. He has described climate change as “absolute crap”.  Meanwhile, Crikey alleged that Abbott’s wife is linked to Jeanette Newman who is active in organising anti-wind power movement. She is married to Abbott’s business tsar, Maurice Newman – the former chair of the ABC and the ASX, and chair of Abbott’s proposed business advisory council.

Anti-wind turbines march to the Parliament House in Canberra. (Photo: Supplied)

The Guardian reports Newman earlier claimed that government subsidies for renewable energy is tantamount to a “crime against the people” because higher energy costs hit poorer households the hardest and there was no longer any logical reason to have them.

Blog Link: Asian Correspondent

Tent Embassy’s 40th year highlights Aboriginal struggles

The official poster of NAODIC Week 2012

The National Aborigines and Islanders Day Observance Committee (NAIDOC) observes the spirit of Aboriginal struggles this week since the founding of the Tent Embassy 40 years ago.

Social Justice Commissioner Mick Gooda said NAIDOC Week should be a reminder that despite inroads made to  date, there’s still a long journey ahead to ensure equality between Aboriginal  and Torres Strait Islanders and non-Indigenous Australians,

Speaking ahead of the start of NAIDOC Week with the theme, Spirit of the Tent Embassy: 40 years on, Commissioner  Gooda said it was an opportune time to refocus energies and pursue the dream of  a fair and equal Australia.

“The Tent Embassy has maintained a presence in Canberra over  the past 40 years and remains a powerful symbol for advocacy in Indigenous  affairs,” Commissioner Gooda said.

“It provides a constant reminder to us to keep the  challenges faced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the  forefront of our leaders’ minds and adds much needed visibility for our  struggle for equality and justice.

“It is crucial that we acknowledge the legitimacy of the  discrimination, disempowerment and frustration experienced by many Aboriginal  and Torres Strait Islander people and focus our efforts and our energies on  securing the equal enjoyment of rights for Aboriginal and Torres Strait  Islander peoples.”

The Tent Embassy was established on 26 January 1972 when  four men placed a beach umbrella into the lawn of Parliament House in Canberra  in an iconic protest against the refusal to acknowledge Aboriginal land rights.

This act represented for many a symbol of strength and  defiance against injustice. The Tent Embassy’s protest on government policy,  along with the Wave Hill walk off by the Gurindji people and the Gove land  rights case of 1971, have been cornerstones in the history of the land rights  movement in Australia.

“The Tent Embassy has helped to make self-determination an  overriding factor in the thinking about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander  affairs. However, of most significance is the place of the Embassy in the  collective understanding of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander recent  history,” Mr Gooda said.

“It is a symbol of struggle, of Aboriginal and Torres Strait  Islanders’ power as a people to protest for positive change and to reclaim the  pride undermined by centuries of dispossession and discrimination.

A series of events was held to mark the 40th founding year of the tent embassy earlier this year.

“It also reminds us of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander  people’s ability to unite to campaign for better outcomes, bringing concerns  and the struggles for equality to the forefront of public attention and  political debate.”

Source: Australian Human Rights Commission