ISSN 1440-9828
                                                                   No 400




From the Middle East to Asia Pacific:

Arc of Conflict


Dialogue of Cultures and Religions?


Seventh Annual Conference
Globalization for the Common Good:

An Interfaith Perspective


30 June – 3 July 2008

Trinity College

University of Melbourne


Fredrick Töben introductory comment: I attended the conference specifically to hear what speakers had to say about matters Jewish Holocaust-Shoah and to assess what prominence this historical episode would assume in these proceedings. What follows below is the actual program listing speakers and topics canvassed during this conference, interspersed with some of the notes I made at the time. In particular, when Dr Abrahamovich and Mr Jones made their presentations that their canvassing of things Holocaust-Shoah, I noted their stories of Jewish suffering did not anymore penetrate the psyche of those who were fully aware of what Jews at this very moment are doing to Palestinians. Generally then, the 150+ conference attendees were concerned citizens who came from all over the world and who all were imbued with that burning desire to contribute something towards making this world a little safer – through DIALOGUE and not through CONFRONTATION.


*Monday 30 June: 3.00 – 5.00 pm - Registration - Evan Burge Building, Trinity College.


7.00 pm   OFFICIAL LAUNCH – PUBLIC FORUM - Sidney Myer Asia Centre, University of Melbourne - Chair: Prof Joseph Camilleri, Centre for Dialogue, La Trobe University, Melbourne

Welcome: Campbell Bairstow, Trinity College, The University of Melbourne

In a few words Mr Bairstow stated how the university college is pleased to be hosting the conference.


Introduction: Dr Kamran Mofid, Founder, Globalisation for the Common Good Initiative, UK

Dr Kamran Mofid was proud that Melbourne is hosting this 7th conference  and he hoped all participants from all over the world who have arrived in Melbourne to attend this conference will find it fruitful and informative.


Keynote speakers: Justice Michael Kirby, High Court of Australia: People of the Book - Reconciling religious fundamentals with universal human rights.

Justice Kirby spoke well on how the marginalized had won some human rights and how tolerance began the process of acceptance – but more needs to be done, especially within the Abrahamic faiths, Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Disagreements, especially about beliefs, are normal and he pointed out that he and his partner of 40 years have disagreements on many issues as well.


Message from His Excellency Mohammad Khatami, former President of Islamic Republic of Iran

H. E. Khatami’s message was read out on his behalf because owing to internal politics he could not be present. He is pleased that this 7th conference is being held because when he made the statement on the Dialogue of Civilizations to the United Nations General Assembly in September 1998, he had hoped it would develop into an annual international event. This happened when UN Secretary General Kofi Annan declared 2001 the International Year of Dialogue Among Civilizations.


Prof Muddathir Abdel-Rahim, International Institute of Islamic thought and Civilisation, Malaysia: Islam and the West: Striving for more effective dialogue and cooperation for peace.

Although satisfied with the fact that a conference has been held in seven consecutive years there is frustration in that Dialogue has only dented basic issues


of peace and security not to mention educational and cultural problems especially problems that beset interfaith relations.


Concluding Remarks: Prof Joseph Camilleri, La Trobe University, Melbourne

As one of the driving forces behind multicultural and interfaith dialogue endeavours in Australia Professor Camilleri enthused all participants to become involved during these next few days. 



Tuesday 1 July: 9.00 am - Plenary Session - Buzzard Lecture Theatre, Trinity College - Moderator: Maureen Postma, General Secretary, Victorian Council of Churches.


Opening Remarks: George Lekakis: Chairperson, Victorian Multicultural Commission

Mr Lekakis showcased Victoria as a successful multicultural state where people from all parts of the world  have made their home. This is one of the reasons that well qualifies Melbourne in hosting next year’s World Parliament of Religions.


Keynote Addresses: 30 min presentations, followed by question and answer session

Prof Amin Saikal, Australian National University: Afghanistan and Iraq: Between democracy and radical Islamism.

Prof Saikal sketched the problem facing the USA in its endeavour to impose a pro-western democratic model on to Pakistan and Afghanistan, which is antithetical to Islamic teachings where western secularism  is seen as a threat to social cohesion, among other things. The only way out of this is to have a meaningful dialogue and thereby eliminate terrorism and extremism that will continue to flourish if the USA does not open itself to the world of Islam.


                       Dr Ali Khoshroo, Former Deputy Foreign Minister of Iran: Secular, religious dialogue and controversy.

Dr Khashroo stressed that Islam shapes the minds and deeds of its believers – Oma – it is a way of life.

Modernity undermines the unity presented by Islam in that it introduces the ideology of secularism, which essentially is a cultural invasion wherein western democratic values are propagated rather than Islam absorbing such values and digesting them.

Fredrick Töben asked: Is the intellectual and spiritual decline of the West a result of science becoming a substitute religion? – I attended a climate change conference in Canberra: ‘Imagining the Real Life on a Greenhouse Earth’, 11-12 June 2008. A number of speakers claimed to be agnostics, sceptics, if not atheists, but propounded their views as dogma and labelled those who refused to accept is as ‘climate change deniers’. Dr Khoshroo responded with insight as befitting the Islamic world view.


10.30   Morning tea

I was confronted by one of the organisers of the conference that I had asked a stupid question and that Global Warming was an undisputable fact. I replied that in science we have hypothesis and theories that capture reality, which breaks down, as it did in Marxist social theory, when we move away from nature, etc.


11.00 Concurrent Sessions: Each session: three papers, 20 minutes each, followed by Q & A       

Session A - Sharwood Room - Moderator: Rev Merrill Kitchen, Churches of Christ Theological College, Melbourne.                                                            


Prof Neil Ormerod, Australian Catholic University: Virtues in a globalized context.

Professor Ormerod introduced the Bernard Lonergan taxonomy of individual, social and cultural virtues as a useful model to reframe old and generate new virtues, then from a Christian tradition brought into consideration the virtue of hope that somewhat dissipates the cultural delusions prevailing our globalized world.


Dr Tahereh Ebrahimi-Far, Islamic Azad University, Tehran: Globalization, women and     dialogue of culture.

Dr Ebrahimi-Far developed a narrative where women work together with men in a co-operative atmosphere of open dialogue – raising and educating children – where women are the facilitators of that dialogue. She stressed that globalisation and dialogue will transcend geographic and cultural boundaries and produce a culture of peace through co-operative focus on economic, social and cultural  problems.


Question from Fredrick Töben: How does Iranian society cope with the radical feminists’ dialectic of death that pits women against men, where men are blamed for producing every evil imaginable?

Dr Ebrahimi-Far said she did not understand the question, and Töben stated that that actually answers his question, i.e. that feminists have as yet not undermined the Iranian social order as is the case in western democratic societies.


Sayyed Nadeem Kazmi, Al-Kholi Foundation: Conflict or dialogue? Reconciling religion and modernity through a multicultural reality.

Mr Kazmi stressed that as Muslims the task confronting multicultural societies is not only to respond specifically to a possible Islam versus ‘liberal and democratic West’ dichotomy but rather to cope with the challenges that emerge out of their own communities – without embracing a ‘parochial and regressive vision’  that leaves ‘a void in religious intellectualism’.


Dr Chandi Prasad Chapagain, Imagine Nepal & Plan Nepal: Application of positive approaches in enhancing human capacities and sustaining a human friendly global society.

Dr Chapagain presented a delightful talk that began with a visual presentation of Nepal, its physical beauty and appreciative inquiry, among others, as a driving force to transform and create a new society where harmony reigns.


Session B - Drama Room - Moderator: Ian Fry, Melbourne College of Divinity.

Prof Abdullah Saeed, University of Melbourne: Rethinking the charge of distortion of Jewish and Christian Scriptures: A contextualist reading of relevant Qur'anic texts.

Professor Saeed detailed how positive references in the Qur’an to Judaism and Christianity have been distorted through the doctrine of tahrif, which needs to be re-thought.


Dr Peter T. Chang, La Trobe University Bendigo: A comparative analysis of the Confucian and Christian worldviews.

Dr Chang asked whether the Christian West and Confucian East have enough commonality for peaceful co-existence. At the hand of works by Confucianist Wang Yang-ming and Anglican bishop Joseph Butler he traced the differences and similarities, then concluded that indeed their respective world views contain subjective differences , which however would not be an impediment to reach understanding on basic moral assumptions operating in both religions.


Mudassar Aziz, Ahmadiyya Anjuman, Lahore: Concept of God in religions of the world.

Mr Aziz’s essential message was that there is not a God of the Jews, Christians or Muslims but that there is only one God of all religions and the concept of universal Brotherhood is the foundation for any interfaith dialogue. He says an 86% commonality exists within all major religions of the world and thus ‘hating and shunning one another’ is unproductive.


Session C – Postgraduate Panel - Junior Common Room - Moderator: Andrew Wicking, Melbourne College of Divinity & Trinity College the University of Melbourne

Elyse Rider, Monash University: Multiple cultures on colonised land: An ethical framework for interculturality in an Australian city.

“A post colonial critique and ethical framework will be revealed as crucial to the integrity of intercultural ecology.”

Elizabeth Chittock, University of Tasmania: Difference matters.

‘Religious tensions arising with the globalisation process suggest that the experiences and stresses of encountering and adapting to difference are not always understood or managed well by individuals.’



Suma Parahakaran, University of Sydney: Thailand’s border conflict – its implications in the global scene: Conflict resolution and ongoing dialogue through human values education.


1.00 Lunch


2.00   Concurrent Sessions

Session A - Sharwood Room  - Special Panel – Women and the Interfaith Movement: Women's Issues, Women's Roles - Moderator: Perle Besserman, author of several books on women and faith, Zen practitioner

Jessie Kaur Singh: Sikh perspective

Revd Janet Turpie Johnstone: Indigenous perspective

Rachel Woodlock: Muslim perspective

Isobel Crombie: Hindu perspective

Di Hirsh: Jewish perspective.


Session B - Drama Room - Moderator: Dr Luca Anceschi, La Trobe University, Melbourne

Dr Dvir Abrahamovich, University of Melbourne: Breaking the ice: Reconciliation initiatives between Jews and Muslims, Israelis and Palestinians.

Dr Abrahamovich stated that a two-state solution is the only solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He gave an example of successful collaboration where Palestinians and Jews together visited Yad Vashem to familiar themselves with the Holocaust, then take a trip to Auschwitz to see the place where 1.5 million Jews were killed, where the ‘diabolical selections for the gas chambers’ were made, hear testimony from Birkenau survivors, place a candle at the wall where Jews were shot and have the Arabs reading out the names, ‘a walk to the sauna where Jews were deloused and shorn of their hair’, ‘together they shed tears and sang traditional songs of the Holocaust’.


Afterwards a brief question time elicited one from a lady who indignantly asked about Israeli ethnic cleansing tactics. The response was waffly and I sensed that I didn’t really have to ask a question because there were other critical voices in the audience.


Ian Fry, Melbourne College of Divinity: Middle East conflict: Implications for inter-faith relations.

Urbane and softly-spoken Ian Fry traced the development of the Middle East conflict, the modern era beginning with the Balfour Declaration, through to World War Two/Holocaust, Yom Kippur/Ramadan War of 1973, 9:11 and the second US attack on Iraq in 2003.

Reassessment of fundamental religious understanding indicates that we are entering a new phase of human history.


Michael Shaik, Australians for Palestine: An open wound: The Israel-Palestine conflict as a driver of interfaith discord.

Mr Shaik stated that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will last through this century the pattern of creating an apartheid state is evident by Israel unilaterally annexing Palestinian lands. He claims that the two-state solution is now lost and there is only now a one state solution that will bring peace to the area. The settler ideology cannot be maintained anymore because they behave as if they are above the law. They claim that God gave the Jewish people the land – forever. Also, Jewish people are free of the sin of murder, for example the ethnic cleansing of Hebron and the Operation Defensive Shield begun on 29 March 2002.


FT comment: During Mr Shaik’s presentation Dr Abrahamovich read a paper, then fiddled with his mobile phone, then walked out and did not return. It seems that Mr Shaik’s clear presentation was devastating to what Dr Abrahamovich suggested should be done to achieve a two-state solution to the problem. Dr Shaik stressed how Dr Abrahamovich was merely fiddling around the edges of the problem, all the time ensuring that an apartheid-like structure continues to be established in Palestine, something that inevitably will lead to a one-state solution. See his letter on page 8.


Session C - Junior Common Room - Moderator: Elyse Rider, Monash University.

Dr Hasan Ugur, Fatih University, Istanbul: Educational system in universities supports globalization for the common good.

Dr Ugur stated that university students will be the ones pushing the globalisation agenda by supporting healthy interactions that foster tolerance. ‘The globalized university supports healthy interactions and creates mutual positive effects …character education.’


Dr Gregory Lewis Bynum, State University of New York: Kant’s critical humanism applied to selected issues in cross-cultural and interfaith human rights thought and education.

Dr Bynum’s talk was perhaps one of the most demanding presented at the conference because he qualified the Kantian ‘critical humanism’ approach by retaining the Categorical Imperative, balancing rationalism and empiricism by ‘holding a practical attitude’ and embedding all this within a responsive and responsible context of human rights. C S Peirce would perhaps recognize his abductive-hypothetical approach emerging therefrom.


Dr Felicity Rawlings-Sanaei, University of New South Wales: Cultural and religious diversity: the challenges and responsibilities for Australian higher education.

Dr Rawlings-Sanaei’s aim was to address the problems of social cohesion emerging in a pluralistic society, and how universities  attempt to create the ‘global citizen’ by structuring their curriculum accordingly.


3.45   Afternoon tea


4.10   Close of session

5.00 Reception at Government House with the Governor of Victoria, HE Jan de Kretser


7.30 Multicultural Evening hosted by the City of Moreland


Wednesday 2 July     

9.00 Plenary Session - Buzzard Lecture Theatre, Trinity College - Moderator: Dr Melanie Landau, Monash University.


Most Rev Dr Peter Carnley, former Anglican Primate of Australia: Ecumenism, other faiths and the peace of the world.


Rabbi Melissa Weintraub, Chairperson, Encounter, United States: Warriors, prophets, peacemakers, and disciples: Peace-building leadership in the face of religious-inspired violence.


10.15    Morning tea


10.45    Plenary Session - Buzzard Lecture Theatre, Trinity College - Showcase Victoria: Multicultural policy in action. Moderator:  Bruce Meagher, SBS Director - Strategy & Communications – Introduced by Ian Fry, Melbourne College of Divinity.


Yasser Soliman, Victorian Multicultural Commission.

Hass Dellal, Exec Director Australian Multicultural Foundation.

Commander Ashley Dickinson, Victoria Police.

Nuangwong Boonyanate, Vic Department of Education.

Rabbi Jonathan Keren Black, Jewish Christian Muslim Association .

Michael Ulbrick, CEO, City of Darebin.

Sam Afra, Chair, Victorian Ethnic Communities Council.



12.45 Lunch


1.45  Concurrent sessions

Session A - Sharwood Room - Moderator: Dr Bruce Duncan, Yarra Theological Union.


Prof G Maddox, University of New England, New South Wales: Surmounting the wall.


Dr Anthony Steel/Prof Jude Butcher, Australian Catholic University: Engaging beyond differences.


Judith Dunne, Victoria Goodwill Unit: Understanding the causes of the conflict in the Middle East and the use of cross-global meditation and subjective visualisation for the promotion of peaceful resolution of service.


Session B - Drama Room - Moderator: Andrew Wicking, Melbourne College of Divinity & Trinity College the University of Melbourne.


Nasya Bahfen, Muslim Community Co-operative, Australia Ltd, RMIT University, Melbourne: A global growth industry: Australian media and Islamic finance.


Amzad Hossain, Curtin University, Perth: Regional conflicts and technologies: Positioning Australia and Bangladesh.


Prof Muhammed Iqbal Anjum, Islamabad: Illusive and regressive globalization: issues and challenges for Pakistan’s economy.


Session C - Junior Common Room - Moderator: Larry Marshall, La Trobe University, Melbourne.


Dr Ali Omidi, University of Isfahan: The challenges between Iran and the West.

Dr Omidi stated that there must be more bi-lateral dialogue between Iran and the West on human rights, democracy, Arab-Israeli conflict and terrorism.

Fredrick Töben made a statement to clarify what the Iranian President, Dr Ahmadinejad had said about Israel, i.e. that the racist, Zionist state will dissolve like the Soviet Union disintegrated. FT also stated that he had attended the December 2006 Teheran Holocaust Conference, which was not a revision but a review, and that it showed up western hypocrisy: you can question anything, nothing is sacred. You can even deny the existence of God but you cannot question/deny the details of the Holocaust.


Dr Erica Ehrenberg, American Institute of Iranian Studies: American-Iranian dialogue.


Dr Natalie Mobini-Kesheh, Australian Baha’i Community: Islam’s encounter with post-Islamic religion: the case of the Bahai’is.


3.30 Book Launch - Dining Room, Trinity College

A Non-Violent Path to Conflict Resolution and Peace Building: Essays from Globalisation for the Common Good 6th Annual Conference, Istanbul, edited by Kamran Mofid, Alparslan Açikgenç, Kevin J McGinley and Şammas Salur. To be launched by Prof Dr Alparslan Açikgenç, Vice Rector, Fatih University, Istanbul.


Afternoon Tea


4.15  Plenary Session - Buzzard Lecture Theatre, Trinity College. Moderator: Dr Ruwan Palapathwala, Trinity College & Melbourne College of Divinity.


Reverend Professor James Haire, Charles Sturt University, NSW: The search for communities of peace: An international reflection on Christian – Muslim relations.

Reverend Haire’s presentation  attempted to present a common world view


His Royal Highness Prince Hassan of Jordan – video: Ensuring security without borders: Global commons for the common good.


5.30   Close of Session


7.00   Conference Dinner – Trinity College Dining Room



Thursday 3 July     

9.00 Plenary Session - Buzzard Lecture Theatre, Trinity College. Moderator: Jim Kenney, Interreligious Engagement Project, United States.


Prof Chaiwat Satha-Anand, Thammasat University, Bangkok: Bejeweled dialogue: Illuminating cultural conflicts in the twenty-first century.


Jeremy Jones, Co-Chair, Australian National Dialogue of Christians, Muslims & Jews; former President of Executive Council of Australian Jewry: Internationalisation of tension / Internationalisation of hope.

Mr Jones stated that there are two types of people: the sane and the insane, and he claimed to hate attending conferences. He mentioned the 2001 UN conference on racism in Durban where he was prevented from presenting his paper.

Responding during question time, Prof Chaiwat Satha-Anand, , said that he has a problem with the sane-insane divide because ‘I’m not sure which side I’m on’.  He also stated that the win-lose divide is the wrong way to think because ‘we must dialogue between the sane and insane’.

After the session Töben asked the moderator why he did not accept Töben’s question. ‘The Rabbi asked me not to take a question from you!’ So much for a conference where dialogue was supposed to be preferred over confrontation. It smacked of hypocrisy, but then that is how Jeremy Jones has been operating since 1996 when he began his campaign of legal persecution against Töben.                               *

10.15   Morning tea


10.45   Concurrent Sessions

Session A - Sharwood Room - Moderator: Dr Michális S. Michael, La Trobe University, Melbourne.


James Quilligan, Centre for Global Negotiations, United States: Making the great adjustment: coalition for the global commons.


Rev Merrill Kitchen, Churches of Christ Theological College, Melbourne: Holding hands and bearing arms: Global challenges for Christian communities of faith in the 21st century.


Jim Kenney, Interreligious Engagement Project, United States: Crossing the divide.


Session B - Drama Room - Moderator: Dr Jonathan Ritchie, Deakin University, Melbourne.


Dr Ruwan Palapathwala and Andrew Wicking, Melbourne College of Divinity & Trinity College the University of Melbourne: From Middle East to South East Asia: Buddhist elements in conflict and dialogue.


Prof Toh Swee-Hin, Griffith University: A Buddhist in Mindanao: Reflections on conflict, violence and the building of a culture of peace in the southern Philippines.


Rev Dr Ji Zhang, Centre for Theology and Ministry & the Confucian Institute, the University of Melbourne: Christian and Buddhist/Daoist dialogue in the 7th century Tang China: A comparative study of the Nestorian Stele.


Session C – Postgraduate Panel - Junior Common Room - Moderator: Dr Luca Anceschi, La Trobe University, Melbourne.

Bob East, University of Southern Queensland: The Abu-Sayyaf: Terrorism in Sulu Province.


Laeticia Anderson, University of Sydney: Issues in Australian Perspectives towards Islam.


Grace Sharon, Trinity College, University of Melbourne: Islam, Christianity and Judaism: Conflict resolution in Jerusalem and beyond.


12.30  Plenary Session  - Buzzard Lecture Theatre, Trinity College - Announcing the 2009 Globalisation for the Common Good Conference (Chicago).


Dr Kamran Mofid, UK, Jim Kenney, Interreligious Engagement Project, United States, Prof Yahya Kamalipour, Purdue University, United States.


1.00 Lunch


 1.45   Concurrent sessions

Session A, Sharwood Room - Moderator:  Craig Woolley, La Trobe University, Melbourne.


Prof Abdel-Hady, Qatar University:  Reconstructing Muslim identity in a globalised world.


William Shwe, Program Director, Karen Marist Mission: Burma and the Karen experience on the Thai-Burma border.


Dr Jonathan Ritchie, Deakin University, Melbourne: Nation Building in the Pacific: Comparisons with the Middle East?


Session B - Drama Room - Moderator:  Ian Fry, Melbourne College of Divinity

Professor Ismail Albayrak, Asia-Pacific Centre for Inter-religious Dialogue, Australian Catholic University: Breaking the Ice: Reconciliation initiatives between Jews & Muslims, Israelis and Palestinians.


Hussein Tahiri, Monash University, Melbourne: Dialogue: The Kurdish question in the Middle East.


Assoc Prof Michael Hamel-Green, Victoria University, and Ms Jessica Morrison, ICAN: A vision of a nuclear free Middle East.


Session C - Junior Common Room - Moderator:  Margaret Papst, La Trobe University, Melbourne.


Shamin Samani, Curtin University, Perth: Cultural means and media in family violence mitigation.


Dr Miriam Ehrenberg, City University of New York: Applying psychotherapy techniques to ethno-religious conflicts.


Dr Ann Hallock & Prof. Bahman Dadgostar, Hope Consulting Institute, United States: Psychological aspects of prejudice.


Session D - Buzzard Lecture Theatre - Special Panel – Fostering Global Harmony: An Interfaith Dialogue. Moderator: Professor Yahya Kamalipour, Purdue University, United States.

Professor Fred Woods, Brigham Young University.

Rev Merrill Kitchen, Churches of Christ Theological College, Melbourne.

Melanie Landau, Monash University.

Professor Toh Swee-Hin, Director, Multi-Faith Centre, Griffith University.

Swami Shankarananda, Shiva Ashram, Melbourne. 


3.30   Afternoon tea


4.00   Plenary Session, Buzzard Lecture Theatre, Trinity College. Moderator: Dr Ruwan Palapathwala, Melbourne College of Divinity & Trinity College, University of Melbourne - Arc of Conflict or Dialogue of Cultures and Religions? Future Directions

Prof Chandra Muzaffar, Universiti Sains Malaysia, Penang.  

Perhaps the best speaker who succinctly summed up the world's problems was wheelchair-bound Professor Chandra Muzaffar. He focused on power politics and how the drive for hegemony includes strategic groups, which gives rise to the question/problem of Israel. The other problem is CCC: Casino Corporate Capitalism and the question of whether liberal capitalism can continue to operate in the way it does, for example 94% of it is unproductive and consists of speculations. Unfortunately the world media does not help to expose the truth of what is going on. Universities should re-organize their economics curriculum and reject liberal capitalism and teach spiritual values. Attitudes need to be transformed through education, law, public policies and through institutions.


Prof Joseph A. Camilleri, La Trobe University, Melbourne.

Professor Camilleri maintained that the decline of the empire – Imperial Centre – needs to be treated with calmness and without tantrum…


Close of Conference - Group Photo at lunchtime


Israel’s refusal on borders

Michael Shaik, Australians for Palestine, Hawthorn Victoria

The Australian Financial Review, 25 June 2008.

Vic Alhadeff of the New South Wales Jewish Board of Deputies is incorrect when he claims that the Arab world’s refusal to accept Israel’s right to exist lies at the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian problem 9Letter, June 20).

In 2002, the Arab League unanimously offered full normalisation of relations and comprehensive peace agreements with Israel if it would withdraw from the Occupied Palestinian Territories and return to its recognised borders. Last year the League repeated the offer.

On both occasions Israel ignored the offer and pressed ahead with its program of expanding Jewish settlements through the West Bank and Palestinian East Jerusalem.

In March, the Israeli Housing Ministry acknowledged that it was using the period of “calm” that followed the Annapolis Peace Conference to accelerate the expansion of Jewish settlements in and around East Jerusalem.

In his book, Palestine: Peace not Apartheid, former US President Jimmy Carter wrote: “The bottom line is this: Peace will come to Israel and the Middle East only when the Israeli government is willing to comply with international law, with the Roadmap For Peace, with official American policy, with the wishes to the majority of its own citizens – and honour its own previous commitments – by accepting legal borders.”

It is Israel’s refusal to do so, not Arab intransigence, that lies at the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.


Talk: With Chris Kenny : Stick to the facts and rational debate

The Advertiser, 9 July 2008

The term climate change “deniers” is vial abuse used by climate change proponents who are not prepared to debate the facts. It is distasteful because the only other time we hear the term is in relation to extremists who deny the Holocaust.

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s climate change guru, Ross Garnaut, used the standard tactics of climate-change fanatics this week. He ran a fear campaign to justify the ideological position, telling us “we’ll all be ruined”. Then, when leading Labor realist and New South Wales treasurer Michael Costa injected some reason into the debate, Professor Garnaut retaliated with the “denier” abuse. If Professor Garnaut, an economist, is so sure of his fact, he should stick to rational debate rather than emotional and distasteful invective.

There are four main reasons the climate-change lobby choses not to stick to the facts.

First, the facts don’t suit them. Recent statistics on global average temperatures don’t support the apocalyptic scenarios. The measurements from the UK’s Hadley Centre, an institute of choice for climate change believers around the world, show global average temperatures have dropped since 1988. Don’t take my word for it: look at figure 5.1 in Professor Garnout’s report. To be scrupulous, the Hadley Centre still says global warming is happening but advocates have to make the awkward argument, while temperatures have been dropping or plateau for the past decade, they will rise again soon.

Second, the burden of climate change measures on our economy will be taxing. The push to reduce carbon emissions through levies, emissions trading or subsidising renewable energy will always cost us more. Climate change action means higher costs. It is as simple as that. They have arguments to justify the costs but they are difficult to sell. So they stick to emotion.

The third reason to avoid the facts is, in many ways the clincher; no matter what Australia does, it will make no difference. Australia produces only 1.5 % of global emissions. We could shut our whole nation down, scrap our cars, close our factories and huddle at home under blankets, and global carbon emissions would continue to grow strongly. China’s economic growth would add our national carbon emissions to its own annual output, forever, within a year. So climate change enthusiasts are faced with telling us to pay more for power, petrol and food, yet our paying will, most likely, make no difference.

The fourth reason the facts go missing is politics. Labor has invested so much political capital in the issue that it is locked into supporting the fanatics. Labor rode the Al Gore-inspired climate change wave of fear to the election, linking the drought to climate change and promising that ratifying Kioto would make a difference.

The politics of climate change has been so powerful that, until recently, the Liberals were determined to match Labor’s excesses. Politics has made the facts, indeed, inconvenient. But as it transpires, politics is much easier to predict that climate. A month ago on this page, I predicted the political maelstrom looming for the Rudd government over its climate change policy and suggested the Liberals “might see the sense of stepping back and letting Labor ride this runaway car alone”.

The Liberals are starting to do this, at least realizing the madness in Australia getting ahead of the rest of the world, penalising ourselves for no environmental gain. The Liberals should go further, express informed scepticism about the issue and debate some of the facts outlined above. But they won’t show that amount of spine because they don’t want to be dubbed “deniers”. Instead, they will agree the planet is heading for disaster but just promise a more cautious approach. That alone, however, could be enough to deliver them government in 2010.

Chris Kenny is a journalist, author, and former advisor to state and federal governments.


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