Muslim violence in Australia doesn’t rate

It seems we in Australia may have an over-exaggerated view about the level of violence in Sydney, at the recent anti-video protests.

A fair and comprehensive report by Al Jazeera shows it has quite a different definition of what constitutes violence. Al Jazeera reports contained the following comment.

“Days later, violent protests broke out in two Muslim nations,” namely Pakistan and Libya, and the cause of the Libyan protest is not entirely clear.

‘Al-Qaeda’s Yemeni branch says the deadly attack on US diplomats in Libya was in “revenge” for the killing of its number two, Sheikh Abu Yahya al-Libi, in a drone strike in June. The Libyan government says the attack on the US consulate was pre-planned.’ Al Jazeera again.

Protests across the Muslin world, from Al Jazeera reports, ranged from a little less severe than the Pakistani riots to peaceful protests. It appears the vast majority of demonstrations were peaceful or had limited displays of “agitated anger”.

Riots were severe in Cairo, Tunis, Yemen and Sudan where deaths and injuries occurred to protesters.

Sizes varied with the largest being 10,000 (according to organisers) in Southern Lebanon, a few in the thousands, and most smaller, in the hundreds. These peaceful protests and demonstrations occurred in Afghanistan, Bangkok, Bangladesh, Gaza Strip, Germany, Iraq, Iran, Kabul, Kashmir, Lebanon, Morocco, Ramallah, Sri Lanka, southern Beirut, Tyre, Zaria, and Yemen. The main points here being they were generally not massive outpourings, nor extensive geographically nor violent. There are after all 1.6 billion Muslims across the world.

Of course there was much outrage from clerics and Muslim leaderships across the world which was reported by various media. But that’s not violent protest. It is a demonstration of feeling and attitude. Some did call for protest, violence and murder, happily all with apparent little effect.

In south Asia several relatively minor demonstrations took place in Indonesia and Malaysia. Violence was nonexistent even though claims of injuries were made in Jakarta.

Al Jazeera failed to report on either our violent protest nor the protests in Malaysia and Indonesian. To be fair, that might be nothing other than Al Jazeera itself. It is after all a Mid East media organisation.

Our home grown protests while having elements of violence were at worst less violent than most of our more famous protests in the past. Compare Cronulla riots and the retaliation to them, Or the Grollo blockade.

Or what about the Waterfront War of 1998, the Union attack on Parliament house of 1996, the Battles of Brisbane in the 1940’s and, oh dear God, the Eureka Rebellion of 1854. For all of which video footage isn’t readily available.

My point is that Australians regardless of religion, and like many other countries in the world, have a record of violent protest.

So what makes the recent protests different? Is it religious or xenophobic issues or just how it plays in the media? Is it a combination of all three? It is the media reporting that I have most issue with.

Australians can no longer be described as xenophobic, although a relic does exist among us. We have had Muslim communities among us for over 100 years without problem. While we are Christian based and a liberal democratic society those Muslim communities have adapted over time and have tended to accept our over-riding culture while maintaining their religious practice.

At best I’ve found the mainstream reporting of our ‘violent’ protest exaggerated and sensationalist. It more than matches the many screaming and unfounded headline claims of ‘violence right across the Muslim world’ in the international media.

At worst Australian reporting has had anti-Muslim bias and at best it has been irresponsible. It is clearly unfair. Even though I have seen many reports of Muslim clerics and leaders condemn the violence, the slur of violent Muslim protests, in the headlines, remains in my consciousness. I think that would be common with most Australians and is evidenced in talkback radio and the letters pages of our newspapers.

We need to change the demonstrated bias with our usual rational and sensible debate and an absence of headline sensation.

Keith Kennelly   28 September 2012

The deluge was totally predictable, so why weren’t we warned?

I have listened to and read much of the media information and comment in regards to the recent tragic floods in the Toowoomba region. I have had a great deal of interest but have been left looking askance at many of the irresponsible assertions regarding the cause being cast about in the media.

I am sorry to be critical but so much serious and “informed” comment by many in the media is just plainly wrong. I understand the real problem is not what is written or said by journalists but what is erroneously or superficially passed off as expert comment by many “educated experts”.

I am a sailor and have taken an avid interest in meteorology over the last few years. While I am an amateur I understand my viewpoints result from much theoretical reading, detailed observation and personal experience.

I predicted to friends, on Monday morning, “Toowoomba would be subjected to a huge deluge within a day or two”.

Many might have been surprised by this at the time and no doubt it would surprise many now, especially since the “facts” have all now been supplied by “authoritative” figures.

I hotly dispute many of the common assertions.

The Bureau of Meteorology’s reported description of Toowoomba’s rain as a “Superstorm” or a line of storms was wrong and simplistic. It was something quite different.

Experts have correctly described the La Nina as the cause of the floods but that is too general and is a somewhat vague explanation as to why so much rain fell in Toowoomba and surrounds, while similar was not experienced in other parts of Southeast Queensland.

Some have claimed what happened in Toowoomba was a once in a century event. Toowoomba over the years has experienced similar, although not as intense nor as severe, flash flooding.  I.e. The general pattern of the Toowoomba flooding, as excellently described and shown in the media, but after less severe deluges, has had the same general flood pattern.

But most of all I totally reject the assertion the floods in Toowoomba were not predictable. This has been a mantra used by people, from the Queensland Premier Anna Bligh down. An examination of the circumstances and weather over the Southeast of Qld clearly shows all the events were eminently predictable. The Bureau of meteorology maps and synoptic charts of the period, all on the public record, do give supporting testament to my conclusions.

What specifically has occurred over Southeast Queensland since before Christmas is a series of perfectly normal weather occurrences. Nothing has been particularly unusual about any of them.

Initially we were subjected to a traditional monsoonal trough. It descended from North Queensland and hung about for a few weeks before Christmas and this was what had led to a saturated and drenched Southwest Queensland, Darling Downs and Southeast Queensland. Secondly Brisbane, since Christmas, had been subjected to a rain depression and it was moving slowly westward. This depression had been caused by the quite fierce, in excess of 33 knots, coastal “South East Trade Winds”. They had blown for over a week.

Do you remember the storms in Bass Strait during the Sydney to Hobart? That’s where they originated. These rain depressions are a quite normal event for Queensland coasts and hinterlands.

Third an upper level Australian East Coast Low had formed over Christmas off Bundaberg.  These commonly form in Harvey Bay or off the coast at Coffs Harbour and usually blow themselves out at sea or can track south west inland. They act very similarly to cyclones in many ways but without the extreme winds. Winds can blow up to 50 knots.

Cyclones typically deposit most of their rain not on the coast but about 100 kilometres inland. It takes a little while for the air to cool sufficiently for condensation to form (See later). This Low was a result of the cooler SE trades coming into contact with The Australian East Coast Current flowing down from the warmer Coral Sea. This current warms the air, causes it to rise, in turn causing further cool air to come in, rapidly, whipping up the sea spray and causing it to warm and rise.  They do pick up huge amounts of sea water.

On a personal note I was once caught in a yacht in Harvey Bay while one of these East Coast Lows formed. The winds gusted up to 50 knots. The lasting impression I had, besides the humidity, was that I could not see beyond the pulpit of the yacht from the cockpit because of the spray coming off the ocean. The amount of moisture in the air was astonishing.

This latest current Low had travelled up and down the coast for a week, until it went ashore at Fraser Island last Monday, tracked southwest from TinCan Bay, through Maryborough, Blackbutt Ranges, Sommerset and Wivenhoe Catchments, the Lockyer Valley, Toowoomba, Bremer catchment and Dalby through to the Granite belt. It deposited the greater part of its massive load, about 100klms inland, over the Lockyer Valley and Toowoomba.

Here I feel it appropriate to explain how rain is caused. Rain/precipitation is condensation. If you look at your car windscreen you will often see condensation (warm air cooling) but there are no rain drops in your car.  To form raindrops/precipitation, condensation must form on something. Usually it is dirt or dust particles in the air. In most rains at sea and in particular tropical cyclones it is salt particles in the air, from the evaporated and warmed water, that enables raindrops/precipitation to form.

So what happened at Toowoomba was a combination and an unusual convergence of three quite normal Queensland weather events. Principally an East Coast Low crossing the coast at Fraser Island and Tin Can Bay and tracking southwest through Toowoomba, second a SE Trades rain depression tracking westward from Brisbane to Toowoomba and third the previous severe soaking effects from a traditional North Queensland Monsoonal trough.

Questions do need to be asked.

Why wasn’t the deluge in Toowoomba predicted by the Bureau of Meteorology? Why were local “Severe Weather Warnings” not issued to the media and broadcast before the Toowoomba deluge, as had been regularly issued throughout the rains in other Queensland areas?

Why didn’t State Emergency Services undertake preparations for flooding?

It was obvious the East Coast Low had crossed the coast as downpours had flooded Tin Can Bay, Gympie and the North Coast Hinterlands on the Monday morning. It should be noted warnings were issued in Gympie enabling retailers to remove stock.

It also needs to be asked why many, from the Queensland Premier Anna Bligh down, in the media are now saying the downpour in Toowoomba wasn’t predictable?

We pay these people to protect us. They miserably failed many people in the Toowoomba and Lockyer Valley regions.  They are all covering up a great omission and shortcoming.

They do need to be correctly informed and to hold those in error to account. We all deserve as much.

Many accounts in the media, and particularly radio and television, focus on easily quantified river levels, major and minor flood levels and the input from expert hydrologists. It occurs to such an extent, to me, it appears to be a sports scorecard and at times seems to be an attempt to portray the current Queensland weathers as a single extreme event somehow related to and proving climate change. At the same time there is a paucity of information regarding rainfall. To me it seems, with the emphasis on the rivers, many of the media and the experts have forgotten that rivers don’t cause floods.

Floods are caused by rain… which is what happened in Toowoomba … in a cyclonic volume.


Keith Kennelly   14 January 2011


Uncertainty is creating and driving fear

Few Australians understand the workings of the US financial system nor the manipulation and undermining of the institutions and processes that have lead us down the path to economic ruin. Even fewer have a clear understanding of the extent of the impending doom.

Briefly, these are my perceptions of some of the recent events and a brief outline of an understanding of the key structure, the US Federal Reserve. Some details may be incorrect but overall I think the thrust might be fairly accurate.

Federal Reserve is a semi government body. It has a 12-person Board of Governors, which makes all the significant decisions affecting the economy. It forms monetary policy and is charged with overseeing the effective operation of the US banking system.

Appointments to its Board are made by the US President. He appoints the Chair and vice Chair. One member he appoints must come from one of the 12 Regional Federal Reserves, usually from the New York Regional Federal Reserve.

It is supposedly independent of the government and the banks. It is the government’s banker. It is the depository for the private banks reserves. These reserves are a percentage of all deposits into private banks. Its level is set by the Board.

A key component of the Federal Reserve is the Federal Open Market Committee, (FOMAC). This is the real guts and power of the Federal Reserve. It’s where the levers are pulled on interest rates, money supply, discount rates, credit availability, deposit reserve levels and so on.

It is a 12-member committee. Seven members must come from the Board of Governors. One of those is always the Board of Governors member from the New York Regional Federal Reserve.

One other member must also always be appointed from the New York Regional Federal Reserve and the other four are appointed on a rotating basis from the other 11 Regional Federal Reserves.

Regional Federal Reserves are important in maintaining the power and influence of the Federal Reserve. There are 12 of them, the major one being the New York Regional Federal Reserve. As stated earlier The New York Regional Federal Reserve always has, in practice, two permanent seats on the FOMAC and that reflects the importance of its influence.

The Regional Federal Reserves operate under the supervision of the Federal Reserve Board of Governors. Their primary role is to collect and provide information to FOMAC in order assist in forming policy, and especially to influence the setting of interest rates, provision of credit and so on.

Members of Regional Federal Reserves are private banks, credit institutions etc. They appoint the members of the Regional Federal Reserves.

Many believe, including the perennial presidential candidate Ralph Nader, the Federal Reserve has become manipulated by the big banks and is now an abomination. It is often claimed it stole from Congress the power of printing money. This power is expressly given to Congress by the US Constitution. The Federal Reserve has used its power to create credit to distort growth in the economy, especially during and since former Chairman Alan Greenspan’s and President Bill Clinton’s time. It is believed to have linked money supply to the value of shares and property … and in the current crisis the real crunch is coming, when inflation must eventually soar through the roof, simply because of the oversupply of money, and interest rates will rise.

It has abdicated its role in overseeing the operation of the banking system. This occurred initially in the 1990s when Greenspan warned of the impending problems with Fanny Mae’s lending policies – and the Federal Reserve did nothing. I believe it did nothing because the large banks saw massive profits for themselves. The Federal Reserve sat on the sidelines and merely watched when Clinton and a bipartisan Congress changed the Glass Steagall Act in 1998 and allowed what had been previously outlawed – trading in mortgages.

I believe both Greenspan and current Chairman Bernanke are greatly influenced by the larger New York based banks.

Similarly, the current Secretary of Treasury Henry Paulson is bathed in the New York cronyism. He worked for Goldman Sachs until a year or so ago. He was once the member of the Federal Reserve Board of Governors from New York.

I believe Benanke’s and Paulson’s proposed US$800 billion bailout was originally intended to be distributed to those New York banks. I believe the Republican revolt where Congress initially refused to pass the bailout, absolutely prevented that course. Later changes to the package have resulted in Treasury and the Federal Reserve having to deal responsibly with taxpayers’ funds.

Clinton, in 1998, did away with the Glass Steagall Act. During this process the re-enforcement of President Jimmy Carter’s Community Reinvestment Act was included. The Glass-Steagall Act was enacted after the Great Depression of the 1930s. Among other things, it prevented investment banks from trading in mortgages: that same law also prevented trading banks from selling and parcelling mortgages. And that’s exactly where the big banks of the Federal Reserve recognised the possibility of future massive profits.

I opine they encouraged Greenspan to do nothing. Carter’s Community Reinvestment Act was an utter stupidity. Its purpose was to encourage lending organisations to lend to the poor and disadvantaged so they could enter the home ownership market. They, I believe, never had a hope of repaying any loans in the longer-term. These two rather simple acts were where the corruption of the system began.

The mechanic’s of the melt-down were complex. Fannie Mae and the two abovementioned Acts was at its heart. Fannie Mae was formed to only buy mortgages that had been executed between banks and borrowers. The repeal of the Steagall-Glass was a Republican proposal; bi-partisan approval was gained in Congress and was followed by Clinton’s approval. As a trade off the Democrats gained a strengthening of the Community Reinvestment Act, that included punitive clauses. This proposed that financial institutions provide loans to people who wouldn’t ordinarily gain home loan approval. It was directed towards minorities and the poor. Clinton also approved this Act.

The specific effects were: Clinton pressured the banks to initiate these altruistic CRA loans and Fannie Mae accommodated them. Fannie Mae under Franklin Raines was the first financial institution to parcel and on sell them as derivatives. That enabled refinancing as the loans defaulted. As the banks realised they had no liability for these bad loans naturally they embraced the process with gusto. They were getting great fees with no liability.

Daniel Mudd, Franklin Raines successor at Fannie Mae, oversaw the massive expansion of the parcelling and selling of the derivatives and naturally trading in them on Wall Street was raised to a fine art and exploded across the world.

The mortgage brokers’ role was simple, for they presented very plausible reasons for people to enter into agreements for the low start loans. They were not dealing with idiots. The two reasons were, first, repayments initially for the first two years were lower than rents and, second, as the market values of houses increased many loans were refinanced, with the increased equity as deposit, or they were sold before the bust with windfall profits to the buyer.

In 2006 and 2007 The Federal Reserve increased interest rates. What followed was a stall in the housing market, housing prices fell and the inevitable happened. When values and sales prospects fell, refinancing became a huge obstacle. This, coupled with the incremental interest and end of the low-start period (after two years) of non-repayment of principal, made it stupid for most sub-prime borrowers to keep their house.

In the US mortgage liability ends with the mortgaged house and any short fall in debt at the repossession sale is carried as a loss by the bank (in most early cases it was Fanny Mae). This is why almost all sub-prime, Alt-A and Jumbo loans are suspect.

Previous to this Fanny Mae had, on occasion, experienced severe liquidity problems. To overcome this Fanny Mae used Clinton’s law changes to parcel and on sell the now defaulting and predicted future toxic loans. This enabled Fanny Mae to liquefy the loans and continue in business lending more and more and of course on selling more and more.

Therein lay the original hive, drones and Queen Bees of the current crises.

The Carter Administration and the Clinton Administration planted the seeds. The Republican controlled Congress proposed the legislation enacted by Clinton. It was passed in Congress with bi-partisan support. The Democrats support was conditional upon reinforcement of Carter’s folly. As an aside Fanny Mae was and still is widely recognised as an arm of the Democrat party.

Wikipedia gives a comprehensive synopsis of the legislation and processes here.

John Montgomery in The Australian recently gave a very good, albeit a bit partisan, explanation of this part of the mess.

An article “They Warned Us About the Mortgage Crisis” in Business Week published last week gives a grand account of the details of what was occurring across the US and is easily read.

It gives a detailed account of the extent of the problem and how it spread to the “Main Street” and “Wall Street” banks.

The Bush Administration and Republican Congress oversaw this spread from the original corruption in Fanny Mae. What happened from there was plain stupidity and raw greed.

These institutions, watched by the well aware Federal Reserve and Federal Government Overseers, jumped aboard the out-of-control sub-prime express. They were well aware of the “profits” earned by Fanny May and its management, well aware of the loans toxicity risks, but fearful of missing the massive profits available, and hoping to have “passed the parcel” before the current inevitable wreck occurred. They were enthusiastic participants and made the corruption a fine art.

They were somewhat successful at “parcel passing” and that’s why many banks across the world are failing.

The most recent Democrat controlled Congress prevented re-regulation and curtailment of the abominable lending practices as little as three years ago. The cheer leader in this monstrosity is Barney Franks, Chairman of the House Financial Services Committee. Up until March of this year he was spruiking the great financial standing of Fanny Mae and encouraging continued investment in this lender. Again Wikipedia is good for background.

The irresponsible actions and inactions Franks, along with all the major shareholders of the banks of the Federal Reserve – especially those of the New York Regional Fed Res, as well as Greenspan, Benanke, Bush, Clinton, Carter, Paulson and Raines have wrecked a finance and banking system that had served us well for nearly 80 years through times of war, social dislocation and massive social and economic growth and change.

The banks should be allowed to fail, for I opine that eventuality cannot be avoided.

The extent of these toxic loans is given in the Business Week article. The authors estimate US$7 trillion. I am on record as estimating it to be nearer US$8 trillion. The proposed bailout was for US$0.8 of a trillion and on the basis of that figure the world has gone into recession.

Contemplate the impact of 10 times that amount.

As a further perspective the US GDP is US$13 trillion per annum. I have seen two figures for the number of empty or repossessed houses in the US. One is five million the other is 10 million. I think the truth is closer to the lower figure and at an average loan of US$200,000 that’s about US$10 trillion. The US has built, during the last 10 years and throughout the Fanny Mae fiasco, roughly one million houses a year. The US economy is likely to be in recession or depression until the building industry recovers.

Locally, PM Kevin Rudd in his speech to the Press Club on October 15, 2008 stated the extent of the US toxic debt is estimated at $1.3 trillion. If his AUD$10 billion, bailout is predicated on that basis it is a case of “spitting into a hurricane”.

There is only one other dreadful fact. It is well known the sub-prime loans were loans made to people with no assets, no income and often bad or no credit rating. They had a low-start period of two years and were reported as up to an estimated 15 per cent of the loans market. They were on sold as sub-prime loans. It is acknowledged we were thought to be through that glitch by March of this year.

Now here is the real ugliness.

The next level of mortgage loans are Alt-A loans. These loans comprise a reported 40 per cent of the US housing loans market. These loans differ from sub-prime loans in that they were given to people with no assets, no income but with a credit rating. They had a low-start period of five years. They are about due to start making their appearance … everywhere. They were on sold as prime loans and it is these that, I believe, caused the collapse of Lehmann Bros.

No one knows how many of these Alt-A loans are parcelled with “fair dinkum” prime loans so all such “assets” held by businesses, banks , financial institutions, city councils, universities, government bodies and governments across the world are suspect. And that’s the cause of the non-lending by the banks.

In the current climate uncertainty is creating and driving fear. If certainty was encouraged and all the facts generally well and widely known that fear would be replaced by a dreadful terror.

Everybody owns some of the truth, but often bits and pieces of the truth obscure the whole truth. This article covers the history of this thing as I’ve watched it unfold over roughly the past eight years.

Politically it won’t matter who the Americans elect at the next election for they’ll get a right wing government which supports the status quo. The Republicans are the representatives of Southern rich elites and the Democrats are the representatives of Northern rich elites … both are beholden to their respective bankers.

Keith Kennelly  21 October 2008

Respecting culture – allowing abuse

The front page story of The Australian on Wednesday January 23, 2008 – “Abuse Victims become Predators” – contained the allegation that the Queensland Department of Child Safety is still returning children victims to dysfunctional families in remote Queensland Indigenous communities.

In Tony Koch’s pre Christmas articles his sources laid the blame for the repeated return, serial rape and eventual gang rape of the Aurukun child, at the feet of misguided social workers rather than the Queensland Department of Child Saftey. According to one of Koch’s sources, a senior departmental official:

“But two new social workers were appointed to the north and they expressed the view, which was repeated many times to the investigating committee, that putting an Indigenous child with white foster parents was another stolen generation.

“They convinced the department with this rubbish and the girl was taken from Cairns to Aurukun – back to where she was being abused previously and where she had contracted syphilis as a little child – and she was unsupervised, with the result that she was constantly raped.”

Koch’s article claimed Department of Child Safety workers were responsible for the child’s second return after the rape in 2002 at age seven but had no information regarding the child’s return after the first rape in 2000 at age five. The departmental official continued:

“The report sets out how every step of the way the Child Safety Department did everything wrong, and all because they were told that a safe, white environment was ‘another stolen generation’.”

But the former Queensland Families Department, not the Department of Child Safety, had jurisdiction over the child’s welfare from 2000 until 2004.

Koch’s source described the “stolen generation” thinking as rubbish. If Koch’s article is correct in the apportioning blame then such terrible repeated abuses should have ceased with the dismissal and suspensions of the lower level social workers. But that’s contrary to what his most recent article says is occurring now. So it is now reasonable to ask: why are these harmful returns still occurring?

An examination of the former Families Department Policy and the Practice Manual of the Queensland Department of Child Safety reveals the more likely cause of the ongoing return of these tiny victims to dysfunctional and dangerous environments.

In 1999 Anna Bligh the Qld Families Minister endorsed the Queensland Child Protection Strategic Plan 2000-2003 and it contained the following statement ;(PDF 170KB):

… child protection services must recognise cultural and ethnic diversity and different values about family life and child rearing. In particular, due to the detrimental effect State intervention has had historically on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander family life, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander identity and cultural practices are respected to ensure that child protection services are supporting, and not undermining, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Family and community values.

How close is this statement to the thinking and arguments described in Koch’s article as rubbish? But this isn’t the arguments of low level departmental social workers, it is the policy statement issued by the relevant Queensland Minister.

Bligh’s strategic plan followed the 1998 Forde enquiry into abuses of children in the care of the Queensland Families Department. That department was superseded by the Department of Child Safety in 2004. The Crime and Misconduct Commission (CMC) had conducted a further enquiry during October 2003 into the activities of the Families Department after further reports children in care had been abused.

There has been no minister who has contradicted Premier Bligh’s original policy statements. In fact those statements have been highlighted and endorsed by subsequent ministers. Judy Spence the Family Services Minister in October 2003 stated:

… with the Aboriginal Child Placement Principle. Essentially the purpose of this was to preserve the sense of identity by maintaining their own family, community and culture.

Mike Reynolds, as Minister for Child Safety and current Qld Parliamentary Speaker, stated in January 2006, two years after the Crime and Misconduct Commission’s (CMC) enquiry:

… the needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and their families had been carefully considered in all aspects of reforming the child protection system during the last two years. “The government has strengthened the Indigenous Child Placement Principle to better ensure that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children are cared for in a way that respects their culture and assists them to maintain their cultural identity”.

The original policy of the former Families Department has never been clearly rejected. A reading of the Practice Manual of the new Department of Child Safety, first applied in 2004, shows the adherence to cultural issues ahead of child safety when it involves Indigenous children in care.

That department’s Practice Manual is still in use today.

Clearly since The Australian now has stories claiming abused children are still being returned to dysfunctional and unsafe environments something more than the arguments of over-zealous lower level employees is in play. The cause is more likely the Government Policy. Koch’s sources are right, the “Stolen Generation” rationale is rubbish.

The current Minister Margaret Keech should direct the Queensland Department of Child Safety to scrap the policy and Keech should oversee a re-write of the Practice Manual.

Keith Kennelly   31 January 2008

‘Mr Kennelly, you have cancer …’

Cancer is a fearful word for many, especially those who grew up in an era when such a diagnosis was a virtual death sentence. Men pay little heed to their health, unlike women. Until, that is, a man encounters severe symptoms and a serious threat to life, his life. Part of the cause for these fears and men’s reluctance to seek out health care, I believe, is a lack of knowledge and a hidden modesty.

After passing a large amount of blood which reoccurred periodically over a four or five week period and suffering highly irregular bowel movements for about the same time, I reluctantly dragged myself off to my very busy local GP. A bloke I’d had as little to do with as I possibly could over the preceding few years.

Vince is a lovely bloke, a man’s man and easy to talk with. His only liability was being in a line of work I found I wanted little to do with. Now I needed him. He was warm and a little philosophical. After going through all the symptoms and assorted seemingly irrelevant questions he dryly quipped, “Blokes, – up to 40 you think you’ll live forever, then you decide you want to and you come here looking for advice, but do little. Then at 50 you do something about it but only after you suddenly find you’ve contracted something that can kill, which could have been avoided if you’d taken the advice offered at 40”.

It was said with a wry smile. We both knew he was right. He held the evidence: my entire medical history in his hands. I didn’t feel at death’s door and said so. Vince was very kind. “You will if you don’t do as I bloody advise.” Knowing I’d been a complete dill I nodded and meekly submitted. Vince rang “his” specialist and arranged an immediate colonoscopy.

Fear was my greatest emotion. I’d lived through the era when cancer was a certain death sentence. Within days and having followed the dieting, abstinence and drug regime I presented at the local private hospital and paid the $350 bill up front. A bill for tests followed, all but $50 was covered by Medicare. The staff were beaut, including the admissions and clerical, but especially the female anaesthetist.

On awaking after the “service” I was fronted by the specialist, another lovely bloke, but given his line of work, I just didn’t seem to be able to regard him as a man’s man. He broke the bad news to me: “a lower bowel cancer … rectal cancer”.

It was a terrible shock, even though I’d prepared myself for such an eventuality. All I could say was, “will it spread?”. Gently I was told all cancers can spread, and having realised the real intent behind my vague question he added, but if people follow the procedures most will survive cancer. However his manner made me realise, even through the mists of anaesthesia, it was serious and surgery was not just a possibility but was going to be an eventuality.

The specialist referred me to the local public hospital and a colorectal surgeon. My appointment was within a week. I said I’d prefer private but I was given some very good advice. Cancer treatment is given priority in the public system and unless I really wanted to spend at least $15,000 I was probably better saving my money for something else. My northern English and Scottish heritages kicked in and frugality won out over a need for privacy. Public it would be.

I had my appointment in the Colorectal Oncology Department two weeks before Christmas. Examination confirmed a cancer but not its size, whether attached to the bowel wall or organs adjacent to the bowel, or its spread to the lymph system or other organs.

The examination was conducted, not by the specialist, but by a newly qualified surgeon, the surgeon’s registrar. Yet another lovely bloke, a youngish man from an Asian background, he had a very gentle manner. Again he was frank as any man would want and he explained all the possibilities, from removal of the cancer and a small part of the bowel, through to removal of a large part and “reshape” of the bowel; removal of large part of the bowel and the anus and the need for the dreaded “bag”; removal of part of the bowel and part of liver, the need for chemotherapy and radiation treatment; the possible spread to the lymph nodes or other organs; and finally the possibility of not doing anything – which of course would  result in death. Everything was explained … in detail.

I needed a CT scan immediately and later a sigmoidoscopy. Those would reveal the probable extent of the cancer. There was a two-week wait for a CT scan in the public hospital. I made an appointment at a private hospital for the next day. Its cost $550 but carried a Medicare rebate of over $400. Two days later I underwent the sigmoidoscopy in the public hospital.

The surgeon attended and when he visited me later, he explained the size of the cancer and its probable spread. He diagnosed a stage two cancer with the possibility it may have spread or was getting ready to spread to the lymph system. He made an immediate appointment for the oncology, chemotherapy and radiation departments. The surgeon was a distant sort of chap and was very clinical. I imagined he was very busy. I respected and liked him immediately.

My treatments were planned and scheduled. The oncologist, a youngish Asian woman, was reserved and private. We eventually broke down our age and sex barrier and became respectful of, and warmed to, each other. It was from her I learned I needed to listen to my body and from her I learned most about cancer, its development and its treatment.

My simple questions never once annoyed her and she was always straightforward and plain in her answers. Her treatment involved a seven-day infuser (a pump) renewed each Wednesday for six weeks. I saw her periodically during my treatment, usually only when something appeared amiss. Two weeks after the start of the chemo I was to receive 28 days radiation, five days a week with two Friday “rest” days.

My radiation oncologist was another Asian woman, oldish. She had a great sense of humour and we often shared a joke … usually at my expense. She was forthright and decent. I held her in the highest regard.

Two days before the Christmas break all was settled, my treatment would begin on January 31, 2007. I shared my bad news with my family and friends on Boxing Day. During this break I researched as much as possible, on the Internet, about my condition.

I’ve kept a day-to-day diary of events as they unfolded. In the interests of “men’s health” and as an intimate appraisal of our much criticised health system I’m going to share the “ride” and the details. That’s only fair. After all you’re paying for the largest part of it.

I’ve never had health insurance. I’ve put and kept money aside instead. I’ll let you know when it runs out.

My first treatment was a course of chemotherapy. I attended an introductory course on January 8, 2007, with my son. The course explained all I needed to know about the application of chemo, its effects, the staff and surroundings. Others were present. I spied a brochure describing catheters and quickly picked it up. To my horror the co-ordinator spotted me and said “Keith you won’t need that, you’re getting a pic-line”. That to my relief, I discovered much later, was a line feeding into me and not one draining me. My embarrassing secret was safe.

My first appointment was January 31, 2007. Here I learned about the insertion of a “pic line”. A line was thread into a vein on my upper arm and extended to my heart. “That must have been bloody hard job, too small to find easily”, was a common quip among so-called friends. Later a seven-day chemo infuser was attached. It contained the treatment and a pump fed it into me at a rate of 0.5ml/hr for a week. It was hung on a cord around my neck.

I felt trapped. I suppressed a panic attack. My son was with me again and both he and I just didn’t want to be in the Oncology Day Care. There were too many sick people there.

I was only there for 20 minutes and was able to recover my composure after walking in the hospital gardens and talking with him about the events and feelings of the morning. It is something we do regularly now. Talking together … I’ve found at 22 he’s sensitive and a real manly bloke. He’s quite special.

I went to chemo every Wednesday for six weeks. Each visit I had the obligatory blood tests and a brief visit to an oncologist. They often changed and I only saw “my oncologist” twice in that period. I suffered no great side effects from the chemo at all, apart from a very mild dose of nausea and one dose of diarrhoea. My oncologist had anticipated those and had prescribed medicines for both. The nausea I got over easily but took four pills for the other. I over-dosed and suffered constipation for a few days. I have had no problem since.

After the initial six weeks my oncologist met me and I was told that since I had handled the chemo so well I would be rewarded by continuing the treatment till the end of the radiation. Some reward indeed. I have still not got over my aversion to attending Day Care simply to have the infuser changed. I found a method of putting the pump in my pocket. That greatly alleviated my feeling of being trapped. The Day Care unit is an awful place and it was only the nursing staff that made it tolerable. I made little contact with other patients, most seemed sick, all seemed to be undergoing quite different treatments. Seldom was there any laughter in that place.

I started the radiation after two weeks of chemo and had daily doses.

My initial appointment involved tattooing the target points. The radiation treatment is scary. I was laid on a table, in an isolation room, had the machine lined up and as all the radiation therapists left I was told not to move. I can still hear the giggles of the women as I pointed out that since the machine was targeted at a fraction above my groin it was extremely unlikely I would dare move or even breathe.

The radiation therapists were all quite young and I felt they enjoyed my good humour. I had witnessed during the treatment that the other patients were treated with great dignity and tenderness. I’d still had no side effects and felt well. I behaved as I felt. However the last three radiation treatments did cause substantial tiredness. At the outset I was assigned a nurse. She was an absolute treasure. With her I discussed all aspects of my treatment and it was she who attended my annoying sore spots. I had weekly appointments with my radiation oncologist.

Up to this point I found the nursing staff, dieticians, therapists, physios, doctors and specialists exceptional people. They were friendly, caring and good humoured. Never once did I feel embarrassed or had any aversion to discussing any aspect of my cancer or its treatment. All contributed in different ways to my overcome my modesty. They undertake a difficult task well.

My only criticism … a few of the administrative staff were inattentive and amateurish. It was at their hands I was left waiting in oncology, on two occasions, once for four hours and once five hours.

I had my appointment with the surgeon. We discussed many things. He described all the options regarding my tumour removal. So much is still quite “up in the air” and much will be decided on the operating table. I know at the end of the day if I come out with a tube from my left side I’ll be having a temporary bag and if on my right … well I’ll never be buying toilet paper again. One of the worst scenarios, after a premature death, is I may lose my reproductive and sexual ability. Although that is apparently no great loss as I’ve often been reassured I was never any good it anyway!

I had my final radiation a week or so ago. They also disconnected my chemo and removed the pic-line. Everyone got a little personal bag of Easter eggs. For the first time I was allowed to wait in the TV lounge. I spoke briefly with a woman whose brother was receiving treatment for throat cancer. During our talk, about literature and sailing, another cancer patient quipped that the more he asked about his cancer, the more he knew and the easier it became to handle the whole situation.

It was a basic truth. I simply agreed and acknowledged the sad look in the eyes of my new friend. During the last eight weeks I’d become pretty self-absorbed but that look stung me with a realisation of how lucky I really was. She had intimated earlier, unbeknown to the other patient, her brother was deaf.

My op is scheduled for May 11, 2007. I’ll be in the public hospital for at least a week, with at least a month for recovery on discharge. And thanks to my surgeon that date allows my son to run my business without disrupting his mid year exam study for exams. Sometimes understanding and a little empathy has great rewards.

Keith Kennelly  5th April 2007

So what’s changed since the most recent war?

“Then we will see who is for peace and who isn’t.”

Those were the words of the US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice when world opinion forced peace on Israel during its destructive excess in Lebanon. What followed was ominous. First there was Israel’s forced withdrawal from Lebanon. Then its apparent defeat … if not militarily then certainly by propaganda.

Time holds the truth to Rice’s statement. Rice expected, as did many others, Israel would continue to be attacked by terrorists raining down rockets from havens inside surrounding occupied territories and countries.

A review of the actions of all participants in the Middle East since the Lebanon debacle truly shows who is and who isn’t for peace.

Those captive Israeli soldiers, Israel’s spark for the war, have still not been freed in Gaza or Lebanon although negotiations are taking place. Israel still has thousands of Palestinian detainees, detained without trial.

Hezbollah has taken no military action against Israel. Hezbollah wasn’t destroyed and given its push for increased power within the Lebanese Government its position has strengthened. Undoubtedly, regardless of any UN force, it still controls Southern Lebanon. Israel admits it couldn’t stop Hezbollah’s rockets with military action and presumably Hezbollah still has that capability.

Lebanon is incapable of even defending itself let alone launching action against Israel. Internally its attempt at democracy may be sliding into disarray mainly because of the imbalance created by Hezbollah’s increased popularity and support. The next election, if there is one, will determine the long-term prospects for stability in Lebanon.

Syria and Iran continue as ever, with Iran preaching its particular brand of extremism and Syria still supporting Hezbollah albeit with less prominence. But Syria’s President Bashir al-Assad has said, recently in a BBC interview, Israel and Syria could live together in peace. However negotiations over the return of the Syrian Golan Heights would be a perquisite. They of course are still Israeli occupied and are home to illegal settlements.

Palestinian territories are still occupied.

Gaza is still base for Hamas extremists and some terrorists still fire rockets into Israel. Israel after withdrawing, since the war, staged a further incursion into Gaza and yet the rockets still fall. Obviously the same type of military action failed in both Lebanon and Gaza. Israel continues to blockade Gaza with closure of all borders between Israel and Gaza, and Egypt and Gaza. Gaza, as has periodically occurred in the past, is once again merely a giant internment camp.

The West Bank is still occupied. The 400 or so Israeli checkpoints are still operating. The “defensive wall” still encircles pockets of Palestinian lands. Palestinians are still picked up and held without trial by Israeli military authorities. The illegal settlements still exist. Palestinians still throw rocks and now paint murals on the wall.

Half the elected Palestinian Government still languish without trial in Israeli jails. The Palestinian PM, Ismail Haniyah, is in exile in Egypt.

Terrorist organisations, Iranian and Syrian officials still chant the mantra of destruction of Israel. Although al-Assad’s anti Israeli rhetoric is probably for home consumption.

Egypt and Jordan still have defined borders and peace treaties which accept Israel’s right to exist. The Arab League’s 2002 peace proposal on the basis of accepting Israel’s right to exist and a return to the pre ’67 war borders is still on the table. Even Hamas before the democratic and UN supervised Palestinian elections dropped the destruction of Israel demand from its election manifesto. We in the west all understand the meaning of that significant action.

Israel still maintains Arab Governments including the Palestinian Government wish to destroy Israel. The Israeli Government still, since the democratic election of Hamas, retains the taxes gathered from Palestinians and refuses to pass the money on to the elected Palestinian Government.

So what’s changed since the recent war? Very little, except Israel, within weeks of the end in Lebanon, auctioned Palestinian land and has expanded its existing illegal settlements using a device called thickening. During the Christmas period the Israeli Government sanctioned and established a new illegal settlement.

This occurred at the same time as it’s leader Ehud Olmert held hands, in a peace seeking exercise, with the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. Olmert spoke sentiments of peace and condescended to pass on to Abbas some of the taxes collected from Palestinians. Abbas has indicated he will use the money to pay only those Government employees who are Fatah loyalists.

Do these to actions by the Israeli Government indicate a desire for peace? No. They show Israel’s aggression. They indicate Israel’s desire to stir trouble and divide Palestinians? Does the Israeli Government think its simplistic meddling will lead to the ousting of the elected Palestinian government leader and to eventual peace? Does it think building new West Bank settlements are the way to peace?

In the Middle East land is the crucial issue. Provocatively taking the lands of the Palestinian people is not only outlawed internationally but is the largest single cause of Arab discontent. With past concessions and showing a generous disposition to negotiate, Arab Governments have long since proved they indeed do seek peaceful resolution to the problems of the region. Israel on the other hand has only ever begrudgingly acceded to the process as it continues its demands for retention of Palestinian land and continues to illegally expand into Palestinian land.

So who wants peace? The answer, unfortunately demonstrated in their actions, seems to exclude the Israeli Government, some Arab terrorists and a minority of Arab states. However the firing of a few rockets by a few terrorists from Gaza and rhetoric in far away capitals is far outweighed in seriousness and provocativeness by the official Israeli Government actions of illegally settling and retaining Palestinian land. The morality of withholding the Palestinian taxes and the blockading of Gaza are also highly questionable and surely can only lead to further discontent.

In the West there is a widening of the realisation of Israel’s aggression. It will bring about a watershed.

Israel won’t and shouldn’t be abandoned, nor her legitimate defence relaxed. However as good friends the West, especially the US, would do well to counsel Israel wisely and exert sufficient influence to bring about a just resolution for the Palestinians.

That would necessarily include a return of all Palestinian lands and a reasonable basis for such, as suggested by the Arab League, would be the pre ’67 war borders. It would be reasonable for all Arab governments to recant the calls for Israel’s destruction and for terrorist violence to be curtailed by individual governments. Those are the central issues and they need to be settled. It would be reasonable that any other demands would be negotiable.

Rice and her fellow Americans might yet prove to be Israel’s good friends. Israel needs to be told it is out of step with world opinion and decency and that its practise of denying the basic rights to freedom of the Palestinians is reprehensible. Rice might like to look, for guidance, to the words and thoughts of some of America’s greatest leaders.

Abraham Lincoln: … Our reliance is in the love of liberty which God has planted in our bosoms. Our defense is in the preservation of the spirit which prizes liberty as the heritage of all men, in all lands, every where. Destroy this spirit, and you have planted the seeds of despotism around your own doors. From the September 11, 1858 Speech at Edwardsville.

And: Those who deny freedom to others, deserve it not for themselves, and, under a just God, can not long retain it. From the April 6, 1859 Letter to Henry Pierce et al.

Benjamin Franklin: They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety. Historical Review of Pennsylvania.

Finally and prophetically from George Washington in his farewell address: … Nothing is more essential than that permanent, inveterate antipathies against particular nations and passionate attachments for others should be excluded, and that in place of them just and amicable feelings toward all should be cultivated. The nation which indulges toward another an habitual hatred or an habitual fondness is in some degree a slave …

Peace might be yet found in the region if the US acts with the same sense and convictions of its founding fathers as well as with the resolution, fortitude and generosity shown by generations of Americans.

Keith Kennelly  11 January 2006


Multi Culturalism: a simple defence

Amid the raging commentary surrounding the violence in Sydney, I have seen and heard many people espousing in fanciful and glowing terms, or rejecting in somewhat ungracious language, the benefits or ills of Australia’s multiculturalism. There seems, depending upon the point of view being expressed, more than one definition of multiculturalism or, more precisely, emphasis upon only parts of what we could all reasonably accept as a definition of multiculturalism.

Before offering any opinion I thought it is reasonable to seek a definition from the source of the policy. The official Australian government policy currently defines multiculturalism in the following terms:

“Multicultural” is a term that describes the cultural and linguistic diversity of Australian society. Cultural and linguistic diversity was a feature of life for the first Australians, well before European settlement. It remains a feature of modern Australian life, and it continues to give us distinct social, cultural and business advantages.

The Australian Government’s multicultural policy addresses the consequences of this diversity in the interests of the individual and society as a whole. It recognises, accepts, respects and celebrates our cultural diversity.

The freedom of all Australians to express and share their cultural values is dependent on their abiding by mutual civic obligations. All Australians are expected to have an overriding loyalty to Australia and its people, and to respect the basic structures and principles underwriting our democratic society. These are: the Constitution, parliamentary democracy, freedom of speech and religion, English as the national language, the rule of law, acceptance and equality.

In 1999 the current government formed the Council for Multicultural Australia to assist in the implementation of this policy. Little has changed since the policy’s inception with the forming of the Australian Institute of Multicultural Affairs in 1977 by Malcolm Fraser. What has changed is our overall commitment to multiculturalism. As a nation we are more committed to and embrace multiculturalism more comfortably now than at any point in our history.

For the last 28 years our multicultural policy has been an outstanding success. It has allowed the settlement and acceptance of great diversity within Australia. It has assisted markedly in changing beliefs held by Australians which had in the past led to the White Australia Policy dominating our immigration policies for over 50 years. It has made us a much more open and welcoming people than we once were.

With the current imbroglio in NSW, many are questioning this policy. That is a mistake. The runs are on the board. Multiculturalism simply works. It has worked to the benefit of us all. It is not a victory for any ideological or sectional groups nor is it a defeat for traditionalists. It has been a maturing for all our people.

While those who tend to view things through economic eyes can no doubt point to economic benefits, I simply look at the others around me and see acceptance of the “other”. I would assert that this has made our lives much richer than in mere economic terms. The major effect has been on all of us, both new and old Australians. It has changed the way we view our worlds, our places in it, and our views of ourselves.

While it has undoubtedly threatened us, most have courageously risen to the challenge. It has caused us all to evaluate and reinforce all those intrinsically good values we hold. It has also aided most of us to reject outdated and fanciful notions. It has made some of us egalitarian, some of us more egalitarian and all of us much more aware of our egalitarianism than ever before. It has made us evaluate and reinforce belief in the traditional democratic traditions. That has made us perhaps more stable and a damn sight more conservative than was our tradition.

One of the “hidden” benefits is how we look at our Indigenous people. This has changed for most of us over the last 30 years. I would assert that our evolving acceptance of the diversity of immigration has heightened our awareness and acceptance of Indigenous people and their diversity.

It is remarkable how there has been so little tension between the great diversity of communities within Australia over the last 30 years. We are a conservative people but we have always adapted to change – slowly – as do many of the migrants who make their home here. Our multiculturalism accepts this dual condition. That was the precursor to us acquiring a new tradition and the single greatest benefit of multiculturalism. It has led many Australians, both old and new, to leave their prejudices behind and to become tolerant. It is becoming a great Australian trait, a new tradition.

So why is it different in Sydney today? I am biased in my answer. I think we all are in some way. But I am cheeky and I have concluded the above definition suits my multiculturalism and reflects the multiculturalism of most, but not all, Australians. Multiculturalism has led many Australians, both old and new, to leave their prejudices behind and to become tolerant. That tolerance is becoming a great Australian trait, a new tradition.

I personally am very proud and jealous of my new found tradition. Sometimes I even think I have always been tolerant. It is akin to the adherence to faith by a convert. I’d simply add intolerance, any intolerance does not sit comfortably within our newly acquired tradition.


Keith Kennelly  30 January 2006

Nguyen Tuong Van is not alone.

While the media focus is currently on Singapore and the impending execution of Van Nguyen, it should be remembered that there are about 75 countries around the world which have legislation allowing for, and which practice, capital punishment.

Presently we are experiencing a classic case of what we don’t see doesn’t interest us. While a young Australian awaits death by hanging in Singapore, there are many others in jails around the world awaiting execution. In fact, Amnesty International reports during 2004 there were 3,797 people executed and 7,395 sentenced to death. According to Amnesty in that year, 97 per cent of all known executions took place in China, Iran, Vietnam and the US.

Although I object to the likely execution in Singapore, I am also mindful of other countries’ attitudes and practices on this issue. While the media, to sell advertising, focus only on the Australian interest, I think it behoves our politicians to focus not just on the Van Nguyen case but also on the subject of the death penalty in all countries. Decency demands pressure be brought to bear on countries which use this unjustifiable penalty: and especially on those which use public and the more barbaric forms of execution.

Again from what appears to be the authoritative source of Amnesty International, here is a list of some of the methods:

  • beheading (in Saudi Arabia, Iraq);
  • electrocution (in US);
  • hanging (in Egypt, Iran, Japan, Jordan, Pakistan, Singapore and other countries);
  • lethal injection (in China, Guatemala, Philippines, Thailand, US);
  • shooting (in Belarus, China, Somalia, Taiwan, Uzbekistan, Vietnam and other countries); and
  • stoning (in Afghanistan, Iran).

One of the most despicable of practices is the execution of minors. Again Amnesty tell us:

Eight countries since 1990 are known to have executed prisoners who were under 18-years-old at the time of the crime – China, Congo (Democratic Republic), Iran, Nigeria, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, USA and Yemen.

While China, Pakistan and Yemen have abolished the death penalty for those under 18, the US has executed approximately one a year since 1990. In 2004 there were three in Iran and one in China; and in Iran, six in 2005. All figures are taken from the referenced Amnesty website.

The Amnesty focus is mostly on the US, and information on some other regions, notably Africa, is sparse. It appears Amnesty has an anti-US bias and it is amply demonstrated later. However as at 2005, again from Amnesty, the following countries in Africa still retain and use the death penalty:

Botswana, Burundi, Cameroon, Chad, Comoros, Congo (Democratic Republic), Egypt, Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, Gabon, Guinea, Lesotho, Libya, Nigeria, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Sudan, Uganda and Zimbabwe.

No statistics are supplied. However, and for the anti-US brigade, on this site there is a comment and a link to a site critical of the US for the treatment of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay.

A report on an African news site, Afrol News, predictably states the obvious: “Numbers for Africa were very (sic) unsure …”

However it seems probable there were at least 204 official death sentences handed down in 17 African countries during 2004, with 100 in the Sudan. Verification of actual numbers executed is difficult and most sources clearly state a belief that actual numbers are far greater than governments report. But of biggest concern, in Africa, is the number of extra-judicial executions that takes place annually. Of course no figures are kept and rather surprisingly none of the human rights organisations make much or any mention of these extra-judicial executions. The number of children executed is also unknown.

Finally we arrive at the nub of the disgrace: the 97 per cent of known executions which take place annually are in China, Vietnam, Iran and the US. Since the figures for Africa are inaccurate and appear grossly understated any claim of 97 per cent is somewhat debatable. However for an ideological perspective, a report from Hands Off Cain contained in a site claiming to be an Iranian news site, which is probably at the very least US-sponsored, asserts the following:

Of the 63 countries worldwide retaining the death penalty, 48 are dictatorial, authoritarian or illiberal states. These countries accounted for at least 5,525 executions, or 98.7 per cent of the world total reported executions in 2003. One country alone, China, carried out at least 5,000, or 89.3 per cent of the executions that took place during 2003.

It is unclear whether Singapore is included in the 48. It also held Iran responsible for at least 154 and the report continues:

Vietnam carried out 69 executions; Saudi Arabia 52; Kazakhstan at least 19; Pakistan at least 18; Singapore at least 14; and Sudan at least 13.

Many sources claim the Chinese figure to be in excess of 10,000. This effect on the cited percentages should be obvious to even the worst mathematician. The reason for the great discrepancy in the figures cited for China by the various sources is a mystery that is beyond my limited capabilities, but I’d hazard a guess at government obsfuscation, reporting bias or a combination of both. Nevertheless the numbers of Chinese executions are substantial and my point is not obscured whether they are 3,700 or 5,000 annually. It should also be noted the above Iranian site report is limited as it has no reference to the US figures and only carries the official statistics for Africa.

With the various claims one wonders at the extent of the numbers of executions in the US. So for a little realism, and I hope a lack of a biased ideological input, the figures worldwide in 2003 from the online encyclopaedia Wikipedia are:

China 3,400+; Iran 159+; Vietnam 64+; USA 59; Saudi Arabia 33+.

And the only other country to reach double figures in 2003 was Pakistan with 15+. Again these figures take no account of the extra-judicial executions throughout Africa.

As a geographical aside, there are roughly four countries in the Americas which employ the death penalty. US and Cuba are two, I don’t know the others. There is one in Europe, Belarus. The other 60 or so are in Africa, the Middle East, Asia and two Pacific islands.

Finally returning to Singapore and one final fact from Wikipedia:

According to the United Nations Secretary-General’s quinquennial report on capital punishment, the highest per capita use of the death penalty is Singapore, with a rate of 13.57 executions per one million population for the period 1994 to 1999.

Most executions were for drug-related crime. Those two facts should destroy any claim capital punishment acts as a deterrent. It clearly doesn’t work in Singapore.

Although the statistics have great variations, this article might present a clearer picture of the use of the death penalty around the world. While one unjustifiable death in Singapore is highlighted in the media, we should all be shamed at the lack of attention to the thousands of other equally tragic executions that take place annually and at the lack of concerted criticism of the governments that carry them out. One execution is too many and dreadfully wrong, for the myriad of oft argued reasons, but the forgotten thousands are an abomination and should be a blot on the consciences of all thinking people.


Keith Kennelly 1st December 2005