About Me

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The Author Erik’s family emigrated from Britain to the island State of Tasmania then lived in the woods. The family home schooled, helping to pioneer the home education movement in Australia. The Blog …explores ways to create a sustainable and just community. Explores how that community can be best protected at all levels including social policy/economics/ military. The Book Erik’s autobiography is a humorous read about serious things. It concerns living in the bush, wilderness, home education, spirituality, and activism. Finding Home is available from Amazon, Barnes&Noble and all good e-book sellers.

Sunday, 23 December 2012

In Memoriam - Helen Gee

My editor and friend Helen Gee died on Wednesday of a tumour at the age of 62. Today I and about 200 other people celebrated her life.

Much has been and will be said about Helen – author, poet, teacher, farmer, social historian, musician, extreme bushwalker, environmental pioneer, long term activist, mother, land carer, wife, maker of walking tracks, supporter of the mentally ill, Co-founder of the Wilderness Society, painter, compatriot of Olegas Truchanas…

While Helen will be remembered for her achievements in public life, (of which there are many), I will remember her most for her mastery of the art of living. Helen did not define herself by the environmental cause. She was bigger than the cause, and her activism flowed naturally out of who she was, just as the rest of her life did. Saving the planet was as normal and interesting as cooking home grown food and making music around the fire.

Helen’s genuine warmth and empathy crossed many barriers, and while she remained quietly outraged at the abuse of things wild, beautiful and free, she continued to be positive, seeing opportunity in adversity.

Helen was humble and unafraid. Perhaps this was innate or perhaps it was learned in some of the most remote and rugged country on the planet. You could (metaphorically speaking) stand her up at the gates of hell and she would greet it with a warm and hopeful smile.

We talked once or twice about things eternal. Helen had a church upbringing and at one time contemplated becoming a missionary but chose a different path. It seems to me though that her life was a prayer; and there was a sense of vocation in her personal and public quest to place beauty and nature above human greed and above the economic model of ever increasing material consumption.

We fight on for what remains of Helen’s vision. In 1972 the wilderness of Tasmania was not compromised by roads, shrunk by logging, and its heart – Lake Pedder, was still intact. To the end, Helen campaigned for the restoration of Lake Pedder. Helen taught us many things, but one thing surely is that friendship does not need a cause. Many who visit our national parks this summer will enjoy, unknowingly, Helen’s legacy.  Others will remember.

You’ll remember me when the west wind moves…

Friday, 7 December 2012

Tasmanian Forestry Peace Deal - Should we Support it?


Yes, yes, yes, that is - if it is real, the parties stick to it, and the Feds back it.

Is it perfect – no.  Are we going to get a better outcome – no. 

First let’s look briefly at what the Tasmanian Forestry Agreement is. 

For the first time since the ill fated ‘Salamanca Talks’ of 1989, environmentalists and industry sat across a table and talked turkey on what they wanted, what they were prepared to give up, and ‘where to from here’ for the forest industry. These talks were not initiated by government but by the parties themselves. On this occasion industry approached the conservation movement.

The Tasmanian forest industry is in serious trouble and has now reached a cross roads. I will explore the reasons for this, how we got here, and what happens if nothing happens, in my next post.

Whatever the ultimate outcome Tasmania can be proud of the talks and of the agreement.  Two groups of people with diametrically opposed objectives and long histories of conflict spanning over three decades, spent two years in talks seeking a way forward. I know of no-where else in the world where similar talks have resulted in agreement.

There were spats, leaks, and walkouts, but that’s the stuff of real life. During that time the State’s biggest timber company collapsed, a former Director of the Wilderness Society ended up managing a (now closed) woodchip mill, lots of logging contractors went bust, some politicians did all they could to undermine any agreement, and forests kept falling.

From the conservation side negotiators continued to talk while timber interests targeted and felled world heritage value forests that were key to conservation concerns. From the industry side negotiators continued to talk while conservationists ran international campaigns to persuade markets not to purchase certain Tasmanian timber products. Again, such is life.

The talks revealed deep divisions within and between different conservation groups, and within and between different industry interests. It is no longer meaningful to talk simply of conservation versus industry. The talks revealed multiple interests with multiple view points. Never-the-less an agreement has been reached and signed by the parties.
The agreement has the potential to:

  • end thirty years of conflict that has harmed the social fabric of a small community;
  • provide certainty for business by better defining the available resource; and
  • protect significant tracts of some of the most important wilderness forests on the planet.

The agreement does not  in itself prevent construction of a plantation based pulp mill should a financial backer for this project be found.

The Federal Government has already shovelled out millions of your hard earned to assist logging contractors sans any agreement for conservation. However more funds will likely be needed to buy out some interests.  In the national context these are trivial sums but the Feds are penny pinching in preparation for a tight budget post GFC stimulus spending (although they continue to spend-up big on pet projects like the national broadband network, and amphibious warfare vessels).

Legislation backing the forestry agreement has passed the lower house (House of Assembly) of the State Parliament with the support of the Labor/Green coalition. However it must also pass the upper house (Legislative Council).  The Legislative Council is famously conservative and has already held its own inquiry into these issues. If they throw out the legislation or seriously compromise its outcomes, we are back to the trenches. I will explore what that means in my next post.

Will the agreement hold?  The State Liberal (read conservative) party has reversed its own policy on forest protection.  They want to throw out the agreement in its entirety but have not publicly articulated an alternative forest policy. Oddly, a market based approach to this issue would have seen woodchipping cease on most high conservation value forests a decade ago but public subsidies have extended the carnage.

The mainstream environmental NGOs cannot prevent individuals or small community groups from protesting. Nor can the Green Party. Conservative commentators will jump on this as proof of a conspiracy and ill-will from the ‘never satisfied insatiable extreme greens who want to destroy civilisation as we know it and close down all our industries.’ If a logger stubs their toe in the forest it will be touted as proof of an eco-terrorist conspiracy (yawn). In reality small protest groups are nothing new. Without strong public support, sound leadership, institutional backing, and a clear and compelling cause, they fizzle out. Remember the “Abolish the Family Court Party”?  Of course you don’t! Some people though are going to have to grow up, realise you don’t always get everything you want in life, and that compromise also take courage.

That doesn’t mean that conversations about how to do forestry better or differently will not continue. My hope though is that people will no longer be sitting up trees for months, getting dragged out from under forestry machinery and thrown into prison, or asking international companies not to buy our products. I don’t want my kids to be part of that kind of conflict 15 years from now.

I am a deep green. I have knelt under the blade of a bulldozder. I am prepared to lose some forests for the sake of peace.  Let’s make this agreement real and move on. Let’s have peace this Christmas.

Update Note: Christmas has passed, the Upper House has amended the Bill and the Lower House is debating the amendments. The Greens are split. Never-the-less the environmental signatories have accepted the amendments in the interests of moving the agreement forward. This is a substantial compromise and puts to bed the notion that greenies are insatiable, extreme and unreasonable. There is more political maturity on display here by the green NGOs than has been shown by some politicians for a very long time. Things are moving very rapidly so keep posted for future blogs on this topic.

Tag line: forest peace deal, Christine Milne, Terry Edwards, Vica Bailey, Bob Brown, Dr Pullinger, old growth forests, high conservation value forests, The Wilderness Society, Tony Burke, Michael Hodgeman.


Saturday, 20 October 2012

Gay Marriage Bill – where were the children’s rights?

I admire anyone who is good at their craft.  While the religious conservatives remained distracted with internal conflicts on everything from ordination of women priests to the war in Iraq, the gay movement ran a long term strategic, incremental, intergenerational campaign.  As a former campaigner (on other issues) I give them credit.  They came within a handful of votes, and succeeded in framing the issue as one of love and tolerance verses bigotry and hate.  They have captured the agenda, the momentum and the media.  Having done so, they were able to create a wedge issue that forced conservatives into a corner; and then shouted them down.

Shouting them down: homosexual activists denying freedom of speech and assembly in Brisbane

For friends finding this site from the USA please note that homosexual couples can register a civil union here.  This provides them legally with all the same rights to financial settlement as heterosexual couples, e.g. assets on separation of death of partner, superannuation, spousal pensions if insured for the death of a partner, probate, etc.  What they cannot do is call the union “marriage” and, as a married couple, adopt children. The marriage bill sought to change that.

I opposed the Bill simply to uphold the principle that children have a right to be raised by a mother and a father.  Both genders contribute different and complimentary things.  Both are necessary for the raising of well adjusted and resilient children.  While that is not always possible in the messiness of real life, the law should as far as possible safeguard that right.  For that reason it should be unlawful for anyone to access IVF who is not a married heterosexual – and yes, we really do need to stop subsidising a culture of intergenerational illegitimacy.  Single parenthood on welfare  is an accepted career option where I grew up.  Having lived with and seen the social consequences of welfare without obligation, I can say that it is high time we put the brakes on. 

Of course some homosexuals can be better parents than some heterosexuals.  Bad parenting and social dysfunction crosses all boundaries of gender, orientation, ethnicity, nationality and religion.  Some kids are better off raised by wolves than by their parents.  That doesn’t change the argument.  It’s not about bigotry, it’s about making society work.  I have married heterosexual friends who have chosen not to have children because, for various reasons, they didn’t feel they could be responsible parents.

Key to this debate is the appropriate role of the State.  On the whole laws should not tell consenting adults how to live their lives unless there is an overwhelming public interest argument.  Children, animals, and the intellectually disabled don’t get to choose and we are compelled to choose for them.  The State therefore does have a role in setting boundaries.  The marriage boundary is an appropriate one.  I vote we keep it.

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Gay marriage bill and the fork in the road

Greco Roman sexuality was fluid and celebrated in art.

Now that the dust is settling after the defeat of the gay marriage bill it is time for all parties to reflect.  For the record I did not support the bill, about which, more later.  However, before I am written off as a homophobic anti gay bigot allow me to indulge in a little heterosexual bashing.  Whose sexual conduct does the greatest harm over-all?

It was not long ago that a 12 year old girl in State care was prostituted by her mother and step father.  Perhaps 100 men paid for sex with her.  They got off on a technicality (it was dark apparently).  One prominent politician was prosecuted – the victim came to his home and it was not dark – but he also got off.  Apparently his med’s made him do it.  I like to think that if I took some medication that made me sexually incontinent I would do what every self respecting 15 year old boy in the country does and jerk off with a copy of the Myer lingerie catalogue.  I am fairly confident that no medication would cause me to rape 12 year old girls, but we digress.

The only positive thing about the whole sordid saga is that it is still considered shocking.  It was not always so.  In ancient Rome if you wanted a 12 year old girl or a 9 year old boy you just had to go to the slave market and buy one.  Indulging in prostitution was considered a religious and civic obligation which is why the State provided a temple prostitution service.  Paedophilia was socially acceptable as was bestiality.  Homosexuality was celebrated in art.  Promiscuity was OK and unwanted babies were left out to die.  Cruelty and violence were celebrated at the games – paid for variously by the State or wealthy patrons.  Indeed, so foundational was violence to the Roman identity that arenas were build as far away as Wales.  The entire social hierarchy depended on the crassest forms of class exploitation.

None of the Greco/Roman gods had a problem with any of this, nor on the whole did the classical philosophers so beloved of the new atheists (see Grayling et al).  Only Jehovah, the god of a small oriental cult, had a problem with it for which reason he and his devotees were considered intolerant, uncultured and bigoted.  

Dawkins et al imagine that an enlightened humanism will rise phoenix like from the ashes of Christianity.  Basically he imagines a Christian society without religion and with a more relaxed view of sex and sexuality.  Unfortunately Rome’s social policies were a lot more consistent with Darwin than Dawkins’ are.  Unsurprisingly, as the culture turns its back on Christianity, we are drifting back to the moral and social mores of Rome. 

We are rapidly approaching a fork in the road and it is high time the church stuck a sign in the middle saying ‘wrong way, go back’.  The question is ‘go back to where?’ When people today think of the church and sex they think of paedophile priests, and a social policy that kept women in the kitchen, gays in the closet, denied sex education and contraception to teenagers, then when they got pregnant put a pillow in their face and stole their baby.  Partly informed by these policies rape within marriage did not become a crime in Tasmania until 1986 – because the wife was the property of the husband.  This nonsense didn’t work then, won’t work now, and we can’t go back there.  Somewhere between secular debauchery and 1950’s repression there has to be an answer that results in happy well adjusted people and families.  If we (Christians) are to find it we are going to have to have a frank and (for some) painful conversation, and we are going to have make theology the servant of facts and evidence.  On the other hand, that is the conversation we need to be having with our teenagers anyway.  I intend to begin a conversation - but not on this blog.

Tag line: marriage equality, Greco Roman erotica, Christian responses to LGBT issue

Friday, 12 October 2012

Submission to the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Review of the Defence Annual Report 2010-2011

To the secretariat, Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Review of the Defence Annual Report 2010-2011

Please find attached a submission to this review.  You will note that it takes the form of my previous submission to the Defence White Paper in 2008.  I present it here with comments in brackets to bring it up to date.  Tellingly, all the predictions made in that paper have come to pass and all the observations are still relevant.  Below are some points addressing specific issues that have progressed since 2008.  Accordingly I include this cover letter as part of the submission and ask that it be made viewable on the review website. 

In addition I refer the Committee to my previous submission to the JSCFADT inquiry into Australian Defence Force Regional Air Superiority available here: http://www.aph.gov.au/house/committee/jfadt/adfair/subs/sub32.pdf

All the statements and observations in that submission are still true and relevant to the current review, excepting that the Joint Strike Fighter performance is now far less than I envisaged in 2006.  You may consider that submission to be part of this submission also.

Both these submissions heavily reference research by Air Power Australia.  I wish to stress that I do not represent Air Power Australia, nor do I have any factional interest in Defence matters.  My concern is solely the security of Australia and her near friends and allies in our arc of influence – PNG, Fiji, New Zealand et al.  I reference Air Power Australia (APA) analysis for the following reasons:
  1. APA comprises career engineers, pilots and air power planners, and defence scientists, many of whom have invested their working lives in building Australia’s defence capability from the inside;
  2. APA has no financial stake in the outcome of any acquisition program within Defence;
  3. No one at APA has a career to protect within Defence;
  4. APA is linked to a deep and extensive international network of air power experts;
  5. APA analysis takes the form of peer reviewed scientific papers;
  6. Taken in total this published material represents much of the analytical work that Defence should have done as a matter of course over ten years and failed to do, or actively supressed;
  7. APA has done this work ex gratis and made it available to the world; and
  8. APA has made the connections between an understanding of the physical capabilities of air power weapon systems (planes, SAMs, radar systems etc), tactical matters, and strategic policy.  I am not aware of any other open source that has attempted this with similar rigour.

Note that the commercial value of this work would be hard to estimate but Australia owes the APA community a considerable debt.

I have not referenced analysis by the Department of Defence for the following reasons:
  1. I could not find any.
  2. Public statements by Defence usually take the form of unsubstantiated claims and an appeal to secrecy.
  3. In relation to the Joint Strike Fighter and related matters Defence ‘analysis’ often replicates verbatim public statements by the Lockheed Martin publicity office.
  4. These statements are not adjusted to reflect known realities, for instance the Department still talks about “affordable stealth” in relation to the JSF.
  5. The Department and Ministerial Offices continue to repeat known untruths some of which are addressed below.
  6. Defence has never publicly, in closed session with any minister, or else-where, and with evidence, refuted any of the claims of APA that are in direct contradiction to statements by Defence.
  7. Defence in their public pronouncements and through the Minister have not acknowledged the existence, let alone the profound strategic shift, brought about by the T-50 and J-20 Russian and Chinese stealth aircraft designs, proliferation of advanced SAM systems, counter stealth radars, or evolution of the Sukhoi design.

F-111 Capability and Availability
Since the attached submission was written the F-111 has been removed from active service and the Sole Operator Program closed.  This was in itself a travesty since at that time the Commonwealth Audit Office had stated that the airframe was safe for another 10,000 flying ours.  Independent testimony stated that with a virtually infinite supply of spare parts in the USA, the F-111 could be maintained almost indefinitely and evolved into a modern interceptor.  This would leverage the significant investment already made in the aircraft and pay significant dividends to Australian industry.  The F-111 represented a third of the strike capability provided by the RAAF.  There is no other aircraft that currently has the same capabilities apart from the Russian SU-34.  This matter deserves attention by the Committee since it goes to the heart of what drives decision making within the NACC program office.  It illustrates the cavalier approach taken to hugely expensive and profoundly important decisions by Defence, and says much about the profoundly dysfunctional imbroglio that air power planning (or non-planning) in Australia has become.

F-22 Capability and Availability
Defence has stated directly and through the Minister’s Office, and in correspondence to me, that the F-22 Raptor has never been available for export, that it is only suited to a niche role and that it is prohibitively expensive.  Further, the F-22 assembly line has closed and some sources have stated that it cannot be re-opened. All of these statements are false. 

An export version of the F-22, dubbed the F-22A, was offered for export to Australia in 2001.  The delegation from the USA was turned back at the airport on arrival in Australia because Defence had already decided on the JSF.  At that time the JSF was a concept program and the F-22 was a proven operational capability.  Defence did not examine the F-22 offer.

The F-22 carries guided DJAMs and operates as a multi-role fighter, bomber and interceptor. 

At the time the assembly line was closed the unit price of the F-22 was circa US$120M.  The final unit price of the JSF is now climbing above US$160M.  On both a unit procurement and cost for capability basis the F-22 is now the more affordable plane even if Australia pays the full cost of re-opening the F-22 assembly line.

The F-22 assembly line has been shut down following a massive and dishonest campaign.  One consequence of shutting down assembly is to increase unit cost of future aircraft and increase pressure Congress to buy the JSF since the better rival is out of production.  

Australia paid US$300M for an option to purchase the JSF.  US$300M is the estimated cost to re-start F-22 production.  It would make good sense in light of a looming A$50 billion JSF purchase to pay the cost of re-starting the F-22 production line and purchase new Raptors for the RAAF.  The manufacturer has photographed and documented every part of the production process in order to ensure that production can be re-started.  The reason for this is clear.  Once the fog of marketing propaganda and diplomatic arm twisting has dissipated that material reality will emerge that the US cannot remain relevant in the Pacific without the Raptor.  The JSF and Superhornet are simply not survivable.  When this reality becomes undeniable the F-22 program will be re-started.  It is a ‘when’ question not an ‘if’ question.  Export of the F-22 requires Congressional agreement to a formal request from Australia.  Such a request should have been made years ago and must now be made as a matter of urgency.

I also attach for the Committee’s review correspondence from (then) Air Commodore John Harvey in 2005 which includes the following statement:

“Defence has up to 40 DSTO scientists working full time on detailed technical analysis of the JSF and how it will perform when integrated into the future networked ADF.  In addition, RAAF pilots are involved in high fidelity simulation exercises to assess the capability of the JSF against advances (sic) threats – both from the air and from the ground – including threats that won’t be fielded for many years to come.  All this activity reinforces Defence’s view that the JSF, integrated into the future networked ADF, will provide the air combat capability that Australia needs well into the future.”

This statement reveals an astonishing level of intellectual vacuity that says much about the NACC program office.  Consider the following:

Defence has up to 40 DSTO scientists working full time on detailed technical analysis of the JSF….but none working on any comparison of other aircraft that might perform better against known reference threats.  Note that in 2005 the JSF was still a ‘paper plane’.

…and how it will perform when integrated into the future networked ADF.  Note: “when” not “if”.  So by 2005 Defence had already chosen the JSF. Why?  Why were 40 scientists studying a plane after it had already been selected?  What did they hope to discover?

In addition, RAAF pilots are involved in high fidelity simulation exercises to assess the capability of the JSF against advances (sic) threats ….this is true, and the simulations showed that the JSF was not survivable.  The following is a quote from one of the scientists working on the JSF simulations:

“My colleagues and I do simulations of future military conflict as consultants to international clients, and my colleagues and I have done detailed studies of the JSF F-35A vs Su-35S. The result is clear but stark: the F-35As are annihilated in each engagement. (Note: we did the same work inside Defence using classified data and got the same result—which the Senior Defence Officers noted (up to Chief of Defence Force level), did not challenge, and proceeded with the JSF purchase. So they know the truth.)”[i]

All this activity reinforces Defence’s view that the JSF, integrated into the future networked ADF, will provide the air combat capability that Australia needs well into the future.  So Defence is sees its own enthusiasm for the JSF as proof that it is the right aircraft.  That is the kind of institutionalised groupthink that one would expect to find in a religious cult, not in a professional organisation.

I also draw the Committee’s attention to the statement that the F-22 is three times more expensive than the JSF.  The F-22 is now the cheaper aircraft.

It was in an attempt to cut through this institutionalised irrationality that I spoke to then Defence Minister John Faulkner and presented him with a submission at a community Cabinet in 2009.  In essence I asked him why there was no contestability in the advice given him by Defence on any issue.  He made a personal commitment to me to establish an independent expert reference group to critique Departmental advice on air power issues.  Faulkner failed to do this.  Given that Defence and the NACC program office still refuses to engage with anyone who disagrees with them, including prominent experts within Defence and outside it, it is vitally important in the national interest to get contestability across the board, but most urgently with air power planning.

I can only urge the Committee in the strongest possible terms to make that a key recommendation of the current review.



Tag line: ABC Four Corners Joint Strike Fighter, JSF, Sukhoi, Defence Force Reform, RAAF, Lockheed Martin, Thana Marketing, F-22, stealth fighter, fighter aircraft, networking, Superhornet, air power, Australian defence force.

[i] Wing Commander Chris Mills RAAF (Retd) BSc, MSc, CEO Eagle Vision, simulations representative at REPSIM Pty Ltd, pers comm.

Save the RAAF – it may save you

Sukhoi 35S - the reference threat that the Joint Strike Fighter has never been compared to.
Ever wanted to borrow thousands of dollars to buy a dud aeroplane?  Don’t worry, the government plans to do that on your behalf. 

This debate finally got some traction in the mainstream media with the recent ABC Four Corners program confronting the myths of affordability, performance, and supportability (http://www.abc.net.au/4corners/). This plane will cost upwards of US$35billion and it is already irrelevant and over matched in our region.

This isn't really news. Experts in the air power community have been saying it for years. This issue has taken up a lot of time at the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade in their review of the Annual Defence Report, and their earlier review of RAAF air superiority.  As usual, on the one hand the debate featured detailed technical analysis from acknowledged industry experts showing that the Joint Strike Fighter is a gold plated lemon.  On the other hand, the debate featured a series of motherhood statements, shifting goal posts, and appeals to secrecy, from the project proponents and their cheer squad in the Defence Department. Now proponents claim is has a "secret weapon". How convenient. No it doesn't, but it can destroy defence budgets and capabilities across the Western World. Really it is a very expensive form of disarmament.

Special thanks to Dr Dennis Jensen MP, committee member, for his balanced and insightful contribution to the report– and thus devastating critique of the project.  See here for the Committee’s report. 

It is common knowledge in the air power community that the JSF capability was analysed only against baseline late 1980’s/early 1990’s vintage Russian designs, not the modern air power environment of 2020-2030. Tellingly Defence and the project proponents refused point blank to reveal what the reference threats were that the JSF was analysed against. In other words, they refused to reveal the baseline data but demanded we accept their predictions on faith.

I feel that the Committee’s report misrepresents my submission somewhat, though doubtless only for the sake of brevity. It said that I advocating purchase of the F-22 but noted that the F-22 is not available for export.  In fact I spent some time explaining in my submission that the F-22 is available for export but only on request, and only by agreement of Congress.  Yes that is a tall bar.  No, Defence has never explored that option.  Yes, the F-22 was offered to Australia.  I have consistently argued that all alternatives should be explored.  The report also said that I argued for retention of the F-111 but noted that it has been retired from service.  Actually I noted that Defence dug holes and physically buried the F-111.  I included this to provide some history for the Committee on the ongoing attempts by Defence to destroy the RAAF as a war fighting machine and turn it into an expensive flying club – suitable only for counter insurgency operations and benign airpower environments like Afghanistan, oh – and rent seeking defence projects that fail to deliver.

Please read my submission and decide for yourself.  You will find it on the Committee website and their is another submission on this blog spot. You will find a great deal of material on the Air Power Australia website: www.ausairpower.net if you really want to get into the nuts and rivets. Check out Eric Palmer’s blog too.

Tag line: ABC Four Corners, Joint strike fighter, JSF, Lockheed Martin, sukhoi, raptor, F-22, Superhornet, Defence reform, RAAF, new air combat capability, air power, fighter aircraft, stealth fighter.

Saturday, 22 September 2012

The Extremely Greedy Forty Percent Extra Party

How to embarress politicians on polling day

Anybody ever heard of politicians downsizing Parliament to save money then voting themselves a 40 per cent pay rise in the middle of a recession?  Well, it happens in Tasmania.  At the time unions were pushing for pay parity with other States but the government said there wasn’t enough money, but they found enough to fund their own pay rise.  Chris Kelly put out the idea of founding a political party to protest the pay rise and push for Parliamentary reform.  Chris, a small group of friends and I formed and registered the ‘Extremely Greedy Forty Per Cent Extra Party’ with a pink pig as the party logo.  Within weeks our party had 300 members and attracted serious and comic commentary in the press. 
Wouldn't YOU vote for these lovely people?
We ran candidates in each electorate – out polling the National Party in Franklin. My running mate Peter Heading and I got 384 primary votes from the good people of Launceston.  If we had campaigned in Launceston we would have got more!  What creative political parties are out there that you know of?  Note: I am not interested in the far far right!

Australian Defence Force Reform and the RAAF

From 'Lost International Soldiers' photo collection

Debates about buying things for Defence to blow people up with tend to fall into two camps.  There is the “war is bad so we need to stop funding it, fighting for peace is like procreating for virginity, all wars are the fault if the West so if we spend more money on foreign aid we wouldn’t need a defence force because all the nice people over there wouldn’t come over here and invade” camp.  Then there is the “what the fig are smoking, international relations works by the law of the jungle, you only own what you can defend, there were lots of nice Germans in the 1930’s but WWII still happened, we need lots and lots of shiny new weapons to scare the bad guys with” camp.  Then there are lots of people who understand international relations and geo-strategic policy quite well but lack the technical knowledge to understand practical military things, such as why the Chinese J-20 stealth fighter/bomber/interceptor is a strategic game changer that eats the US Joint Strike Fighter for breakfast and has the Superhornet for desert.

Remember the Somme?  Lots of propaganda, lots of theory, not much empirical
analysis. There are a very small number of people who actually do real analysis – like Dr John Stillion of Rand Corp (at that time) who told them the truth about the Joint Strike Fighter – center piece of a defence ponzi scheme that is now threatening not just Western budgets, but Australia’s future existence as a nation.  The Australian Defence Force bureaucracy ignored him and every other analyst who didn’t sing along to the JSF song.  The fact is, if more people had understood what military technology meant for strategic policy WWII would not have happened.  The fact is, history is repeating. 

In subsequent posts I have added my submissions and correspondence and a number of opinion pieces based on research done over nearly a decade. See for example here:


You will note that all my predictions have come to pass and none of the issues I raised were addressed. Read more analysis from ‘down under’ in the book and here:

Saving the Tarkine Wilderness

True wilderness still exists on planet earth – within driving distance of a domestic airport.  The Tarkine is named after the Tarkinener Aboriginal people who inhabited a large expanse of North West Tasmania at least since the land bridge to mainland Australia was flooded circa 6000BCE.  It’s an incredible primordial and still largely unspoiled place.  It is also a stronghold of the new threatened Tasmanian Devil.  Stands of tall Eucalyptus forest give way to pure temperate rainforest that wash up against rolling grassy hills interspersed with woodland, rivers and streams that find their way to a wild coastline. 

This should have been made national park along with Yellowstone but instead the Tasmanian government spent scarce public funds bulldozing a road through the middle of it.  It was calculated vandalism.  I joined the fight against the road, eventually suing the Government in the Supreme Court.  Largely as a result of that campaign eco-tourism is flourishing in the Tarkine and the world’s largest tract of temperate rainforest is protected from logging.  However it is now threatened by mining. Given the size of the area some small scale or underground operations could be managed without doing great violence to the integrity of the area.  Unfortunately we are talking ‘open cut,’ lots of mines and lots of roads.  

This is not my video, is was shared on youtube by user jeffdjtube. It shows some of the gorgeous scenery in the Tarkine region.

This is a call for help.   

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Saving the Old Growth Forests

A face growing in an ancient, mossy tree
A face in the forest.  This used to be in Mt Field National Park.  It has now been logged.

Ever wondered what the world would look like without people?  I once answered that question by walking solo through unbroken old-growth forest for five days on a compass bearing.  Those forests are gone.  Forty years of industrial logging have taken their toll on the great forests of the world and Tasmania’s forests are no different.  I spend the better part of a decade fighting to save them. We are now in the end-game fighting over what’s left and there is still much to gain.  This photo essay is as relevant as ever since these sorts of forests are being logged as I type. 
Girl standing in front of a huge tree
This is the East Picton forest, now logged.
So am I against logging?  Where is the balance?  I’ll just say that after 200 years of land clearance and four decades of industrial logging it is time to protect what’s left of world heritage value and transition to plantation and re-growth, with some small scale carefully managed logging for furniture/craft timbers.  Meanwhile the timber industry is experiencing the collapse that academics and environmentalists predicted 20 years ago.
Woman sitting on tree stump looking out over logged forest
This wasn't protected by the Feds. Can you spot the lady?
Note that the Tasmanian government has actively suppressed development of industrial hemp as an agricultural industry in Tasmania.  Now even the Tasmanian Farmers and Graziers Association is asking for those restrictions to be removed so they can found a new industry.  We did it before with poppies and essential oils.  Only ignorance keeps us poor.

Ancient forest destroyed by Forestry Tasmania
Forestry Tasmania felt the need to regenerate this patch of old growth forest that had been there since the last ice age.
Where the road ends.  Logging road pushing west into virgin forest.
Get a birds eye view from the observer tree: www.observertree.org

Saturday, 18 August 2012

The Spice Islands - Indonesia

Jen was wildly popular with the village children
Why did a province held up as an example of religious and racial tolerance in the worlds most populous Muslim country explode into sectarian violence?  I spent two months in Ambon on a DFAT funded exchange program in the village of Tawiri and in the regional centre - Kota Ambon.  It was a wonderful experience where I met many wonderful people.  Afterwards I travelled solo across Java staying with people I met in the villages.  These pictures record that experience.  More than 10 years later I began to look for answers to what happened in Ambon.  I would welcome insight from anyone else with knowledge of those events.  What can we learn from them?

Brother Herson at church in Indonesia.  I do not know if he survived the violence
Some Muslim friends I made along the way took me to a local volcano

Happier Days

Saturday, 11 August 2012

A Little More About The Book

This recently released autobiography deals extensively with matters of faith, activism, and creation care. 

This story relates the experience of emigrating from Britain to rural Australia as a young child.  It chronicles my family’s faith journey after leaving the church and their adventures in home education and natural learning.  It tells a story of discovery in the Australian wilderness; of finding faith, and subsequent journeys through environmental activism, evangelism, and relationships. 

Follow the author’s journey as he takes you into the wilderness, helps found a political reform party, trains in non-violent direct action, and stands in the dock in the Supreme Court as a litigant against the State.  Travel with him back to the British Isles, to Indonesia under dictatorship, to the Cronulla race riots in Australia, and then back to his mountain cabin in Tasmania.

This is both a very personal story and an insider’s view of public life.  It chronicles and critiques religious and other fundamentalisms as they encounter the real world of human passions, greed, and real politic.

Often humorous, sometimes tragic, this is a very personal story of engaging with public life, about finding the divine in odd places, about social conflict, and about finding in the end those things that hold us together. It is about the strange ways that love finds us. It is a story of finding home.

Finding Home is available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble and all good e-book sellers.

It can also be puchased from the publisher Authorhouse UK.

Alternatively, your local book store can order it by quoting the following ISBN: 978-1-4670-0136-6

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Book Cover Art

Author in the South West National Park World Heritage Area

What do you think?

Finding Home is Launched

Finding Home

New Release Autobiography

At four years of age Erik emigrated from Britain to the island State of Tasmania with his non-conforming family. After living in the woods the family continued to home educate, helping to pioneer the home education movement in Australia. What followed was a long personal journey to find a place in a society undergoing rapid change. Intense religious experiences and hard edged political activism play out against a backdrop of ongoing conflict over the preservation and destruction of wilderness in one of the world’s special places. This gives a unique insider perspective on alternative education, nature and spirituality, social activism, and national identity. Often humorous, sometimes tragic, this is a very personal story of engaging with public life, about finding the divine in odd places, about social conflict, and about finding in the end those things that hold us together. It is about the strange ways that love finds us. It is a story of finding home.

Finding Home is available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble and all good e-book sellers. 

It can also be puchased from the publisher Authorhouse UK

Alternatively, your local book store can order it by quoting the following ISBN: 978-1-4670-0136-6