From under the linoleum
Old newspapers show Mussolini's imperialism looked a lot like today's

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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Handled by experts

1 September 2004

So what are you working on at the moment?” Joadja asked, when she brought me some lunch from the Brushtail café.

“Well, I’ve been looking into a group called METAG that’s involved in the M4 East business. You know, where the Carr Government want to whack in a huge extension of the M4 motorway from Homebush to join up with the City West Link”, I replied, eagerly eying my vegetarian wrap.

“Me-tag? Sounds like a bunch of graffiti artists.”

“No light-of-my-life, it’s an acronym. The M4 East Tunnel Action Group. Anyway, it’s a Haberfield-based lobby group that sometimes sounds like it’s fighting the RTA but it actually seems to have a remarkable co-incidence of views with the RTA.

“So what’s really going on here, do you reckon?”

“Well, it looks to me like a political shadow-play. Remember, there were three options under consideration: a short tunnel, a long tunnel and a slot. The RTA originally stated a preference for the short tunnel, but right from the start, people familiar with the ways of the RTA said that the short tunnel was just there to scare residents in Haberfield, where all the traffic would come out – what the RTA really wanted was the long tunnel.

“Of course the RTA didn’t want to plug for the long tunnel because it’s the most expensive, but they set up a little performance to get their way.

“So it’s worked out well for the RTA that a community group is pushing for the long tunnel. It’s helped them sell that option to the politicians on the grounds that, well, they’re responding to the community.”

“But hang on, aren’t there a an awful lot of locals opposed to any motorway option at all?” Jo asked.

“The majority, probably, and they’re pretty vocal about it. But, at the very least, the existence of METAG has the effect of cancelling out the local anti-road groups. And it’s not just the locals – public transport is overcrowded and underfunded and public opposition to spending megabucks on motorways is growing.

“And I discovered that the two METAG convenors are interesting people. First, there’s Brian Welsh. He was the RTA’s General Manager, Community Relations, in the 1990s. Effectively, he was their head spin-doctor, managing stuff like public perceptions and advertising.

“Then there’s Rosanna Martinello. She’s an accountant and a senior finance executive with the sugar giant, Colonial Sugar Refinery.

“Are these people locals?

“Welsh lives in Five Dock. Martinello lives in Haberfield, just near where the short tunnel would come out, so she’d have a compelling reason to push for a longer tunnel, not that I think it’s a solution.

“Anyway, back to METAG. On 15 March this year the group provided a motion on their letterhead to hundreds of people at a public meeting at Ashfield calling on the community to reject all three options on the table (the long and short tunnels and the slot option), and lobby for …” (I scratched among the junk on my desk for the document) “‘… a comprehensive, thorough and independent review of the M4 East Options study to present more ecologically sustainable options."

“Sounds alright. Warm and green.”

“Yeah, and the motion was unanimously supported and METAG gained a lot of credibility as an anti-motorway group. But a couple of weeks later, in their submission to the RTA, METAG reversed their position and abandoned their demand for an independent review. Instead, they recommended ‘a more functional adaptation of the Long Tunnel Option for consideration by an Environmental Impact Study’.

“And then, on 8 June, Rosanna emailed members of the community asking them to persuade Ashfield Council to agree to RTA requests to drill in Haberfield as part of preparations for the motorway proposal. She reckoned this was a “promising sign”, because it suggested a “quasi-medium tunnel may be under consideration”. Despite her efforts, Ashfield Councillors rejected the RTA request to drill and they’re continuing to fight the proposals every step of the way.

“But guess what? On 26 June the RTA announced its preferred option was now a medium tunnel going past Haberfield, and roads minister Carl Scully said he was doing this because it was what the Haberfield community wanted.”

“I’d never have guessed. A simple submission, a few placards at a demo, and the mighty RTA rolls meekly over. What a ripping yarn? How does this Rosanna justify METAG’s position?”

“She says that the community unanimously supported the long tunnel at the March 15th meeting - but that isn’t what the meeting voted for. Regardless of what METAG wants, most residents in Haberfield do not want any tunnel, or any emission stacks or additional traffic in their suburb – which this motorway would bring. Ashfield and Leichhardt councils are both fighting the tunnel in any form.”

“Sounds like the community have been handled by experts.”