Saturday, March 31, 2007

In Plea Deal, David Hicks Admits To Backing 9/11 Attacks, Withdraws Charges Of Gitmo Abuse

Sentenced To Seven Years For Meeting Osama Bin Laden And Fighting For The Taliban, For Two Hours

Back In Australia Within Weeks, Banned From Speaking To The Media For One Year

UPDATE : David Hicks' 7 Year Sentence Has Been Suspended.

Hicks will be transferred back to Australian within two weeks, and will serve nine months in an Australian prison.

Lawyers and politicians are claiming a "conspiracy" exists between the Howard government and the Bush government to remove the extremely controversial issue of David Hicks' treatment at Guantanamo Bay and why he was held for five years without trial, from the media agenda, as the Australian prime minister prepares for the coming federal election.

In even more remarkable news, claims have surfaced that Hicks' lawyers cut a special deal for the suspended sentence without the knowledge, or agreement, of the US military prosecutors, who were said to have been shocked when it was made public during last night's sentencing hearing that Hicks' would serve only nine months in an Australian prison, even though he admitted to training with Al Qaeda in Afghanistan after 9/11 and meeting with Osama Bin Laden.


David Hicks has admitted that he did take the side of the Taliban in the Afghanistan War, weeks after the September 11, 2001 attacks, and that he did go to the front lines.

For two hours.

He then fled, catching a cab back to Pakistan. He was then captured by the Northern Alliance and sold for a bounty to American forces.

As part of his plea deal, which meant the US military prosecutors did not have to ultimately present evidence to back up their claims in a court, Hicks has admitted to a fleet of so-called terror-related charges. Lawyers have claimed that none of the claims made against him by the US Military prosecutors were crimes in Australia or the United States when Hicks first entered Guantanamo Bay in early 2002.

One of the more surprising bits of news some media are reporting from today's hearing is that Hicks has agreed to provide information on other alleged terrorists and will testify against them.
Presumably, Hicks has already given interrogators this information, sometime during the five years he spent in Guantanamo Bay.

Almost as interesting as the charges he said "Yes" to in last night's military tribunal were the charges Hicks denied, during the course of the plea agreement negotiations, which the prosecution were then forced to drop.

In exchange for dropping some charges and claims, the US Military prosecutors got their conviction and Hicks has been sentenced to seven years imprisonment, five years of which are expected to be considered as time already served in Guantanamo Bay.

Hicks will now be returned to Australia in less than 60 days, possibly as soon as next weekend, and will serve the remaining two years in a maximum security prison.

Hicks was asked by the US Military judge, Colonel Ralph Kohlmann, if it was true that he had "never been illegally treated by any persons in the control or custody of the United States" during his time in Guantanamo Bay. Hicks said, "Yes."

Hicks will now not be able to legally pursue charges against the US government or US Military for torture or illegal imprisonment after he is released from prison.

He has also been banned from speaking to the media for twelve months.

Under oath, Hicks admitted that he had trained with Al Qaeda, but the prosecution were forced to drop the reference "advanced" in reference to at least one training camp, that specialised in surveillance.

The prosecution were also forced to drop the allegation that Hicks had met Richard "Shoe bomber" Reid in a training camp run by Al Qaeda, and another claim that Hicks was near, or in the company of, John Walker Lindh on the front line of the Afghanistan war.

Here's what Hicks admitted to :
* He heard a talk given by Osama Bin Laden, in Arabic, while at a training camp, and he told Bin Laden that there was a lack of "materials" written in English.

* He attended at least three Al Qaeda training camps in January, April and late 2001.

* He saw the September 11, 2001, attacks on a television while staying with a friend in Pakistan, and he had approved of the attacks.

* He had returned to Afghanistan after the 9/11 terror attacks on the United States, but he did not admit to having had "advanced knowledge" that terrorists were going to hit New York City and Washington, DC..

* When the US-led coalition invaded Afghanistan in October, 2001, he volunteered to fight with Al Qeada to support the Taliban. Hicks guarded a tank near Kabul Airport and spent a total of two hours on the front lines of the war, near Konduz.

* After two hours on the front line, Hicks then fled to Pakistan after selling his gun for the taxi fare.

Not exactly a stunning win for the prosecution, particularly considering the enormous trouble the US Military had in getting he hearings underway, after years of legal challenges, and a declaration by the US Supreme Court last year that Gitmo military tribunals were unlawful.

Remarkably, the list of charges Hicks admitted to are almost identical to the story told by Hicks through his letters home to his family in the documentary 2004 documentary The President Vs David Hicks.

Hicks will go down in the history of the 'War on Terror' as being the first person to plead guilty and be charged with providing "material support to terrorism" at a Guantanamo Bay military tribunal, created to try detainees picked up during the course of the war.

The full detail of the sentence imposed on Hicks should be announced over the weekend.

Hicks Father Says His Son Has No Plan To Sell History - Agent Estimated Hicks Story Worth More Than $1 Million

US Government Has Its First Certified Tried 'WoT' Terrorist, But Questions On Hicks Treatment Will Still Be Questioned

Foreign Minister Says For Schapelle Corby's Sake, Hicks Should Not Challenge US Sentence Back In Australia

The Gitmo Diet : Fruit, Juice, Sporks And 5000 Calories A Day

"Good Morning, Mr Hicks" : Haircut, Suit & Tie, He Looked Like He Was Going For A Job Interview

US Defence Secretary Robert Gates Wants Gitmo Closed Because It Has No International Credibility - Too Tainted For Trials

Hicks Withdraws Claims Of Abuse And Torture At The Hands Of Americans

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Howard To Form Global Coalition To Save Ancient The Forests

Except For The Ones In Tasmania

Australian prime minister, John Howard, has announced that his government intends to spend more than $200 million planting trees and trying to wind back deforestation in developing countries as a way of combating global warming.

Howard wants to form a "global coalition" to tackle deforestation in South East Asia, in particular the massive illegal logging now underway in Indonesia.

The government claims it has the support of countries like the US and the UK for their forests plan, but neither country has officially signed up, or committed to help funding the fight against deforestation.

This is the latest attempt by Howard to position himself well out from the federal election as a full-blown, forest-focused conservationist. If the look of distaste on his face when he announced the plans is any indication, Howard is still having a hard time adjusting.

"...20 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions come from clearing the world's forest and that's second only to emissions from burning fossil fuels to produce electricity and it's more than all the world's emissions from transport," John Howard said.

The plan will be John Howard's counter to the Kyoto Protocol, aimed at reducing global greenhouse gas emissions in an attempt to slow down global warming.

The more new trees planted, goes Howard's theory, and the less old trees are cut down, the less carbon and/or greenhouse gases go into the atmosphere.

Howard believes that if you can cut the rate of deforestation in half, and plant enough trees, you can notch up reductions in greenhouse gas emissions on the order of 10 times greater than would come from signing onto the Kyoto Protocol and meeting their projected targets for cuts.

The forests plan, announced on Thursday, is yet another example of how John Howard wants other countries to pick up the carbon slack so Australia doesn't have to shut any coal-fired power stations or dive too deeply into the renewable energies revolution sweeping through China and EU countries.

He claims Kyoto, and emissions targets proposed by the Labor opposition - cuts of 30% by 2020 - will cost Australia thousands of jobs and destroy the economy. His plan is better, he claims, because it will lead to great emissions cuts than those offered up by Kyoto without the loss of any jobs or the vast profits (and taxes) spawned by Australia's coal-rich resources boom.

But the vague proof Howard offers to back up his claims that emissions cuts of 30% by 2020 will cause an economic catastrophe in Australia is as questionable as the doom-mongery spouted by the most evangelical of global warming true believers.

By shouting in Parliament that Australia's economy and mining industry workforce is at dire risk from hard emissions cuts, Howard indulges in exactly the same kind of fear mongery that he accuses climate change alarmists of spouting.

"History is littered with examples of nations having overreacted to presumed threats to their great long-term disadvantage," Howard said, but did not cite one such example.

Primarily because the most obvious example of a nation overreacting to "presumed threats" is the United States under his good mate President Bush. The presumed threat being Saddam Hussein's non-existent WMDs.

Greens senators and Labor both picked up on the fact that Howard allows vast deforestation via clear-felling of ancient forests in Tasmania at the same time he is going to spend hundreds of millions of dollars trying to wind it back across South East Asia :

Greens Senator Christine Milne says it is hypocrisy to focus on South-East Asia when clearfell logging and regeneration burns continue in Tasmania.

"It's absolutely a last minute coming to recognise what we've all been pointing out for years, a loss of forests, deforestation, a major driver of climate change - start in Tasmania, Prime Minister," she said.

While few would argue against planting more trees and preserving ancient forests, John Howard is clearly still having a hard time adjusting to hearing such talk coming out of his own mouth, after a solid decade of mocking and attacking conservationists and green-orientated politicians.

But Australians are green-minded now in the vast majority, and global warming and climate change rank high as decisive election issues.

Howard must now be hoping he can make it to the next election without having to come clean on the fact that carbon trading, particularly centred around coal mining, coal exports, and coal-fired power stations, is already becoming the unofficial world currency. Australians are going to have to pay, and pay big, for getting wealthy off coal.

The World Bank is a key backer of Howard's forests plans, and their involvement adds another layer of credibility to the carbon credits as "world currency' theory.

Australia will eventually have to pay the rest of the world, probably via a carbon trading system run through the World Bank, to mine, export and burn coal at the rate we do today, and that price will see electricity costs skyrocket.

Howard has no one to blame but himself for the fact that he now has to play catch up and quickly re-brand himself as somewhat of a radical new conservationist, despite how distasteful he finds it all to be.

His own government's scientists and climate change specialists were trying to warn Howard & Friends for eight years that severe climate change was a reality, and global warming was likely to be most responsible for the coming changes. There were hundreds of reports that were locked away from the public, and the greater scientific community.

The Howard government successfully kept the views and warnings of their own scientists out of the public debate (for the most part) and locked up the government's own scientific agencies from having access to the media, and the public at large, to warn them of the horrors that they could all but verifiably prove were becoming an alarming, and dangerous, reality.

Howard left his conversion to climate change "realist" very late in the game, no doubt hoping that new, undeniable proof would emerge that humans are not responsible for global warming, but the proof never came.

Or, at least, the humans-are-responsible theory behind global warming became common currency and widely acknowledged as The Truth. Howard bet big that global warming would be exposed as a myth, a conspiracy theory, and he lost that bet.

Australia will soon have to pay for those savage losses, long after John Howard has retired to the United States and a cosy boardroom chair in Washington DC.

Telling Indonesia to do more to stop deforestation, while allowing it to continue in Tasmania is as ridiculous and hypocritical as playing down Australia's solar-powered future while demanding Australians accept that dozens of nuclear power plants will be needed to keep the country energy sustainable.

From 'The Australian' :

....the $200 million Australian initiative will operate outside the Kyoto climate change protocol and will be funded by other developed nations to help developing nations preserve forests.

Germany, Britain and the US are expected soon to contribute to the fund, which will have Indonesia as its prime target. The UN has identified Indonesia as having the world's highest rate of forest clearing.

The new world fund - with a similar structure to the six-party Asia-Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate created early last year - will give John Howard momentum on the climate change issue as Labor paints him as negative and reluctant on global warming.

The forest fund, to be managed by the World Bank, is designed to help developing countries start sustainable forest industries, plant new forests, stop illegal destruction of rainforests, provide monitoring of forest production, education in forest management and help communities dependent on illegal rainforest timber find alternative jobs.

Deforestation accounts for 20per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions and it is estimated that a tonne of CO2 can be sequestered - or taken out of the atmosphere - through tropical reforestation for just $US2, a fraction of the cost of other technologies.

The World Bank has estimated the mismanagement of forests costs the global economy $US10billion a year and says 85 per cent of the world's forests are not managed in a sustainable way.

From the ABC :

Mr Howard has rejected British economist Sir Nicholas Stern's proposal to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 30 per cent in 13 years, saying it would damage Australia's economy and cost thousands of coal industry jobs.

He says combating deforestation will make a real difference, but will not harm the economy.

"What this initiative will do in a shorter period time is make a greater contribution to reducing greenhouse gas emissions than in fact the Kyoto Protocol," he said.

It should be noted that while John Howard and government ministers talk up their forests plan as having "the support" of England, the US and other key countries, they are yet to get anything close to a firm commitment of additional funding, and signatures to this new protocol are a long way away, probably on the other side of the coming federal election.

Howard Talks "Global Warming Nonsense" - 75% Rate GB As A Personal Concern
April, 2004 : In The Tasmanian Forest With The Men Who Cut Down Ancient Trees

Green Groups Welcome Plans To Reduce Asian Logging, But Claim It Is Hypocrisy To Not Do The Same In Australia - "Our Prime Minister Is A Forest Fool"

Indonesia Struggles To Fight Organised Crime Involved Illegal Logging - Estimates Of $4 Billion In Losses To Indonesia Every Year

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

'Mutant' Cane Toads Spreading Fast Across Australia

'Toadzilla' Caught During "Breeding Frenzy"

It's more than 20cm long. It weighs near on a kilo. The people who caught it weren't far wrong when they described it as being "the size of a small dog".

This is one of the largest cane toads ever found in Australia. A volunteer group called 'Toadwatch' picked it up during a cane toad "breeding frenzy" in the Northern Territory.

'Toadwatch' night patrols see groups of locals hunting down the cane toads and destroying them, as they fight a front line war against the invasion.

So far 'Toadwatch' have had some great successes, capturing and killing hundreds in only a few hours of patrols. In total they've eliminated tens of thousands. While it may be all but impossible to completely eliminate the toads, the volunteers, including mums and dads and kids armed with torches, plastic bags and heavy gloves (the toad's skin is toxic), have managed to keep the toads out of a number of pristine Northern Territory environments.

But the toads are moving in on Darwin. They've reached near plague proportions in some areas of Northern Queensland - where 'toad golf' has long been popular (you simply smash the toad with a golf club) - and the toads have also been spotted just outside of Sydney.

Perth and Adelaide are now said to be within reach.

From the Sydney Morning Herald :

The 861-gram monster male is the largest to be caught anywhere in the Northern Territory, according to environmental group FrogWatch.

The warty pest was picked up by local volunteers during a community toad bust at Lee Point last night.

Measuring 20.5cm in length, the colossal male was one of 39 toads caught in the middle of "a breeding frenzy", said FrogWatch coordinator Graeme Sawyer.

He said NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) ToadBusts were finding low numbers of toads in the city, except for Lee Point and the Coastal Reserve.

First released in Queensland (in 1935 - ed), cane toads have since multiplied and marched across Australia, poisoning millions of native animals, including crocodiles in World Heritage-listed Kakadu.

Northern Territory crocodiles haven't had any natural enemies for millions of years, until the toads arrived. Cane toads are extremely poisonous, and if eaten the toxins are strong enough to knock even a crocodile in a coma-like state. And if you're a croc in the rivers of the Northern Territory and you can't move fast, you're a goner. Other crocodiles will eat you.

A new study from the University of Sydney claims cane toads have "rapidly adapted" to Australian climates over the past 70 years.

Put simply, the toads have evolved, and they've done it fast. It was once believed cane toads didn't have a chance of surviving, or spreading, through environments that were different to the South American habitats from which they originated.

Not so. 'Toadzilla' and his friends are surviving, and evolving, just fine. And they'll spread faster, the more non-tropical Australian environments get warmer, and wetter.

Blame Global Warming. Blame Climate Change.

You might as well. As the 'Toadzilla' story grips the nation, and the world, an GB/CC expert is right now putting together a research paper claiming exactly that.

Does anyone know how to turn cane toads into biofuel?

From :

One of the researchers, Professor Rick Shine, said the toads had evolved incredibly quickly because of the rich genetic diversity bestowed by a reproductive cycle in which they lay 30,000 eggs in a single clutch.

Their body shape has changed to enable them to move more quickly and they have become more resilient to cope with much higher temperatures.

“The toads at the invasion front are long-legged, very fast-moving animals and they move every day in pretty much straight lines,” Prof Shine said.

“Compared to the ones in the old populations, which have got relatively short legs and are much less active and tend to meander around.”

There you have it. 'Mutant' Cane Toads are now on the move across Australia.

Arm yourself with a golf club before it's too late.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

David Hicks : The Friendly Terrorist

Public Will Lose Interest As Feuding Over Justice Vs Injustice For Hicks Enters More Shrill Phase

David Hicks became the first 'terror' suspect to face what passes for justice at the Guantanamo military tribunal, and he will go down in the history books for that reason alone.

In the end, the military tribunal hearing, which was supposed to be the start of the first Gitmo terror trial, wasn't much of a show at all. It barely lasted a few hours in total.

Despite the charges against him, such as they were, it's hard to go past the convincing argument made by his father, Terry Hicks, that his son would plead guilty to just about anything if it meant he would be set free from his "living hell".

A huge slice of the Australian public would appear to be in agreement with Terry Hicks, if the thousands who commented on talkback radio and on media news blogs are to be believed.

In the long-term, Terry Hicks' argument for why his son pleaded guilty will over-ride the "justice delivered" claims now being made by the Australian and American governments.

That he pleaded guilty to get out of Gitmo and will settle in the long-term memories of most Australians as the reason why Hicks 'confessed' to giving material support to the Taliban and Al Qaeda in Afghanistan.

The US has now re-paid an Iraq War support favour to the Australian government by running Hicks through the military tribunal and allowing him to return to Australia before the Australian federal election campaign begins.

Hicks could be back home and in an Australian maximum security prison to serve out what might be a few months or a few years in a matter of weeks, if not days.

It's taken five years to get to this stage. But Hicks did exactly what the US and Australian governments hoped he would, or knew he would, if he was locked away without a trial for long enough. Hicks pleaded guilty to a terror-related charge. Come his sentencing on Friday, Hicks will officially be a convicted terrorist.

The Americans wanted the whole David Hicks fiasco to be over with years ago. That's why they offered Hicks back to the Australian government to do as they so wished, as they had offered to allow Saudi and UK suspects to go home without a trial.

But the Australian attorney general, Phillip Ruddock, refused to let Hicks return home to Australia without being tried by the US military.

The Howard government wanted the Americans to deal with Hicks because, as Ruddock repeatedly admitted, there were and are no laws in Australia to convict a suspected terrorist for undertaking actions in Afghanistan, or Pakistan.

Hicks' legal limbo lasted until the vast majority of the Australian public, surprisingly, started to back Hicks (to varying degrees) in mid-2006.

Prime minister John Howard then realised Hicks was going to be a dangerous liability at the next federal election, due towards the end of this year.

Howard publicly demanded action from the Americans, claiming he had talked to President Bush about Hicks by phone, but White House officials told the media Bush and Howard hadn't talked "in months".

In an attempt to placate the growing public anger and frustration, foreign minister Alexander Downer started complaining about how long it was taking for justice to be done. Downer's damp-down effort only ramped up the public's dismay at the US, and at the federal government.

When Howard heard Hicks was about to formally charged in February, he announced he had "set a deadline" for the American military to either charge Hicks or release him.

Naturally, they charged him, just as they were planning to do. Howard thought Australians would believe that he had shouted "jump" to the Americans and they had replied, "How high, sir?" He was wrong. Nobody believed him.

The US military charged Hicks with giving material support to terrorists, and it turns out this was the very least of his alleged crimes.


More blogs by Darryl Mason

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For years, Australians were told that Hicks had tried to kill people, that he was Osama Bin Laden's "mate", that he had tried to kill American soldiers in Afghanistan, that Hicks had conspired to commit acts of terrorism, and that he wanted to blow up his fellow countrymen back in Australia. Some of those claims came directly from government ministers like Alexander Downer, who never bothered to say "allegedly".

But despite the hype from the Australian and US governments, Hicks only ended up pleading guilty to to the lesser part of a double charge of providing material support for terrorism, and the US military prosecutor accepted this to get Hicks out of Guantanamo Bay and get him off the front pages of Australian newspapers.

The charge Hicks pleaded guilty to was a serious enough charge by itself. But it's a long way from earlier claims by President Bush, Australian foreign minister Alexander Downer and a cacophony of pro-torture, pro-war opinionists in Australia and the US who collectively claimed Hicks was "the worst of the worst" and an incredibly dangerous man.

But thanks to the (eventual) intervention of John Howard, David Hicks could now walk free within a matter of days.

If he is so dangerous, so virulent a jihadist bent on destroying Western society as they all had claimed, and such a threat to all, aren't John Howard and Bush Co. now putting Australian citizens at risk by allowing David Hicks to walk among us a free man?

The military prosecution were claiming as recently as four days ago that once the trial began, they would present evidence of Hicks' terror adventures that would change forever the opinions of those Australians who supported Hicks, and/or demanded he be given a trial or set free.

All that evidence will now, most likely, never see the light of day.

For the US military tribunals, this may turn out to be a good thing. For Hicks at least, the tribunal won't have to try and use evidence collected under torture and duress.

Providing material support for terrorism is serious, but it's also a weak and immaterial charge, compared to what he was alleged to have done.

Compared to claims he had attempted to murder American soldiers, and that he had intended to take an active part in terrorism, the charge of providing material support for terrorism is the kind of charge you might cop if you're a Muslim in the UK who has donated money to dodgy Palestinian charities and you've been busted with copies of John Pilger and Michael Moore DVDs next to your TV, and been spotted hanging hung out at mosques frequented by pro-jihadists, and written "We must destroy President Bush" at a few internet chat rooms.

Providing material support for terrorism is the kind of vague charge that is wide open to legal interpretation, and it's no doubt meant to be.

But regardless, Hicks is now a convicted, self-admitted terrorist.

So let the feuding begin :

The pro-Hicks crowd is right because the US Military decided to go with what amounts to a plea bargain, to get a victory for Bush and his war tribunal system, instead of having Hicks face the full charges they had long promised. Was justice delivered? No. Was there evidence of serious war crimes? No. Was Hicks tortured? Oh yes. Was what happened in Gitmo yesterday a farce of a trial held in a kangaroo court? You bet.

The anti-Hicks crowd is right because David Hicks pleaded guilty to a terrorism-related charge, he propagated Jews-Control-The-World conspiracy theories, he'd met Osama Bin Laden, praised Sharia law in Afghanistan under the Taliban and expressed his desire to die for Allah. And don't forget Hicks had also converted from being of the Christian faith to being of the Muslim faith back in the 1990s. And don't forget he also changed his name, from a Christian one to an Islamic one.

The arguments from both sides are about to get a whole lot more heated, louder, and more shrill, but not for long I suspect.

Once Hicks is home, and his requisite Major TV Interview is over and done with, interest in this story is likely to fade fast, even if Hicks' Australian lawyers work the local courts to try and get his American conviction dismissed, or recognised as legally null and void.

Nobody can expect this story to occupy the front and centre attention of most Australians for much longer. We all know the story, and know we all know the ending.

Hicks The Terrorist Vs Hicks The Victim Of Injustice has been relentlessly flogged by both sides for more than eighteen months solid now, and frankly I'm surprised that the public interest level has stayed so high, for so long.

It won't last. It can't last.

And after a short grace period, perhaps a day or two, you can expect Howard and Downer and their media mouthpieces to relentlessly ram home the fact that Hicks was charged with terrorism, and that he pleaded guilty.

Just as those who think Hicks was denied justice and used as a political tool in a dodgy war will bullhorn their version of what happened.

And on and on it will go.

Some details on the charge Hicks pleaded guilty to from The Australian :

Hicks’s US military lawyer, Major Michael Mori, entered the plea to the charge of material support for terrorism which was broken into two counts or specifications.

Major Mori rose and said Hicks pled guilty on specification one, and not guilty on specification two.

Specification one of the charge detailed at length Hicks's links to terrorist organisations and his activities in Afghanistan where he met Osama bin Laden and completed al-Qa'ida training courses.

Specification two simply alleged that Hicks entered Afghanistan from about December 2000 to December 2001 to provide support for terrorism and that he did so in “in the context of and was associated with an armed conflict namely al-Qa'ida or its associated forces against the United States or its coalition partners”.

The Age has a good story on the long-awaited father and son reunion :

Terry Hicks has told of his emotional reunion with his son, hours before David Hicks told a US court at Guantanamo Bay he was guilty of a terrorism charge.

"We shook hands, hugged and cried," Terry told reporters during a break in proceedings.

Terry and his daughter, Stephanie, today spent three hours with Hicks before today's first military commission hearing.

The 31-year-old was shackled by an ankle and was in his pale green prison uniform during the reunion.

"It was hard at the start because of all the emotions," Terry said. "Once we got going it was OK."

Asked if there were tears, Terry replied: "Too right, yeah. Of course there was. It's good to have emotions."

Many topics of conversation were covered, as Terry and Stephanie had not seen Hicks for almost three years.

Hicks was especially keen to hear how his children were.

"He just wants to try and get back to Australia, see his kids and have a normal life," Terry said.

John Howard and Alexander Downer spin the news with enthusiasm.

From the ABC :

"I'm pleased for everybody's sake that this saga has come to a conclusion," Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said.

He said Hicks could be back on home soil soon, under a prisoner exchange deal with the United States.

"We have an arrangement with the Americans whereby he can serve any residue of his sentence in an Australian prison," Mr Downer said.

Mr Downer admitted that the US legal process took too long.

"First of all there was the view that Hicks clearly couldn't have done anything wrong, and we hate the Americans and all of that," he said.

"There were people who thought David Hicks should just be strung up, he was obviously a horror.

"And there were people in the middle, which is where I was, really. My view was always that the legal process had just taken far too long."

Prime Minister John Howard has told Parliament the plea is welcome but he is still not happy the process has taken this long.

"The Government remains concerned at the length of time that has passed before reaching this point," he said.

"However, the Government does welcome the progress towards resolution of Hicks's case. It has always been our view that Hicks should face justice but we have been very concerned about the time that it has taken."

Howard and Downer claim they were concerned about the length of time the justice-facing took to become a reality.

Of course they were.

It was dragging the government down in the polls, giving highly flammable fuel to the Opposition to attack Howard and Downer, and Bush Co. and was making the government look like they were letting The Americans smack around a young, white Australian who didn't deserve what was he copping.

Last year, Howard and Downer were "concerned" at the time it was taking for Hicks to be charged and tried.

But they've been extremely concerned since polls earlier this year said at least six out of ten Australians thought Howard should demand the Americans try Hicks or release him.

It was the monumental shift in public opinion, and the fact that the David Hicks story was a media event that would not die down, that forced the Howard government to act.

They didn't want to. But they had to.


Despite the guilty plea from Hicks, the news that the first military tribunal hearing gained a "positive" result has not exactly set the American media on fire.

It will be interesting to see how Bush Co. try to capitalise on what happened yesterday, and if the public gets behind the military tribunals, which at the moment seems highly unlikely.

Coming Soon : David Hicks Arrives Home In Australia, Quickly Fades Into Relative Obscurity

Father And Son Reunited Before Military Tribunal Hearing

Hicks Will Be Home This Year, Suggest Prosecutor

Downer Claims He Was "Always In The Middle" On Hicks Guilt

Prosecutor Says Deal Cut For Hicks Was Not A Plea Bargain

Foreign Minister Downer Welcomes End Of Hicks '"Saga", Says Bush Co. Made Mistake In Not Creating Military Commission By Act Of Congress

'Tourist' Mementos From Guantanamo Bay

Commenters From 'The Australian'

Commenters From The Sydney Morning Herald

Commenters From Blogocracy

Commenters From The Road To Surfdom

Monday, March 26, 2007

Government To Bombard Australians With "Patriotic" Recruitment Propaganda

"Conscription" Raised As Way Of Fixing Defence Force Recruitment Crisis

Australia To Double Special Forces Troops In Afghanistan

Prepare yourself, Australia. You are about to get bombarded by an intensive propaganda campaign designed to guilt trip you into joining the Australian military.

Defence minister, Brendan Nelson has announced that igniting patriotism will be "an extremely important part" of a vast new military recruitment campaign. Nelson has long promoted his theory that the Australian soldier, or digger, is the defining iconic image of the Australian identity.

The Australian Defence Force is having enormous trouble finding new recruits in the midst of a booming economy. Young Australians may be thinking about joining the Army, or Navy, but they don't like the pay, the conditions, or the very real likelihood of being deployed into a warzone. Many simply want to go to university instead.

Tens of millions of dollars will be spent in the coming months on the extended series of television, print, internet and radio military recruitment ads that will dispense with trying to interest young people in joining the Army, the Air Force or the Navy because they want to be soldiers, pilots or sailors, and will attempt, instead, to rouse their sense of patriotism and a desire "to make a difference."

Nelson : "...we need to get away from just promoting defence jobs, to promoting the key values of the three service uniforms, and putting those in a contemporary environment so young people especially understand if you want to make a difference, there's no better way to do it than join the navy, army, or air force..."

It'll be interesting to see exactly what the "key values" Nelson mentions will turn out to be, and what exactly he is asking young Australians to "make a difference" to.

At the same time, Nelson has announced that Australians as old as 56 will now be able to join up, and the compulsory retirement age will be raised from 55 to 60 years old.

The ADF will no longer be so fussy when it comes to education qualifications in new recruits. In fact, you won't even have to finish high school if you want to get into the defence forces now.
"...we'll look at their aptitude, work and life experience," Nelson said. "We'll provide them with the necessary education and get them up to that sort of standard...."
Nelson gave a preview of what we can expect to see in the advertising blitz during an interview last Sunday :
"There is no group of Australians that has done more to shape our values, beliefs and identity than those men and women who have worn and today wear the uniform of the navy, army and air force..."
But do the majority of Australians really believe their "values, beliefs and identity" were formed by the Australian military's more than 100 years of international war-fighting? A long and brutal series of campaigns that killed more than 100,000 men and boys , disabled and injured hundreds of thousands more and robbed generations of children of their fathers and grandfathers?

Nelson is going to be treading on mine-filled ground if the coming recruitment ads try to rewrite the shocking fallout that World War 1, World War 2 and the Vietnam War had on Australian society.

ANZAC Day and Remembrance Day are not about celebrating victories in war for the vast majority of Australian, but are instead sombre, extremely sad occasions when we remember just how deeply successive wars have scarred and shattered Australian families and communities, particularly rural communities.

With a focus on "patriotism" and "values", the coming ads will also be in danger of drifting close to the kind of American-style cheesiness, flag-saluting and gung-ho militarism that makes most Australians laugh in dismay, or shake their heads in disbelief.

On a busy Sunday for Brendan Nelson, he also committed Australia to doubling its troop commitment in Afghanistan to almost 1000, most of whom are expected to be special forces.

Nelson, like prime minister, John Howard, refuses to acknowledge that the pullout of most Australian troops from Afghanistan in the second half of 2002, in preparation for the illegal invasion of Iraq, set the scene for a revival of Taliban strength which now has to be dealt with and is likely to result in Australian troops being killed and wounded.

"We believe there is a need (to redeploy)...we think that the Taliban will be mounting a very strong offensive shortly," Nelson said.

The Prescription For Conscription

In an interview with ABC News, influential defence industry expert Neil James, said that while improved wages and conditions will help to increase overall defence forces recruitment, national conscription could prove necessary should a serious conflict erupt in our region :

"It would depend on the likely duration of the problem. You'd have to say that conscription would have to be one of the things that would need to be considered," he said.

Rest assured that if Neil James is saying that, conscription is already being considered.

In a final bit of news related to the Australian Air Force, a new video flight simulator game is to be launched via Windows Live Messenger.

From 'The Australian' :
The game, Supreme Air Combat, developed for defence force recruiting, was launched at the Avalon Airshow by the RAAF's deputy chief, Air Vice Marshal John Blackburn.

The game features multi-player aerial combat, in which each player controls a small flight group and tries to outmanoeuvre an opponent to win.

It is based on fast turns, which its designers say is designed to encourage quick decision-making using a simulated F/A-18 jet fighter.

The game was also intended to emphasise that a career in the Australian Defence Force was "cutting edge", general defence force recruiting chief Brigadier Simon Gould said.

"It's demonstrating to young Australians that the ADF is fresh, innovative and involved in high technology. It will encourage people to join the team and "have a look at all the possible jobs we have to offer", he said.

Defence Minister Brendan Nelson : "We Are Not Going To Risk Our Own People" - Why Australia Turned Down American Request To Join Baghdad Troop "Surge"

Talibanisation - What Australian Troops Will Be Fighting In Afghanistan\

Tim Dunlop On Iraq Vs Afghanistan : John Howard's Dilemma

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Claim : Australian Terror Suspects Denied "Fair Go"

"Media Reports" Led To Prisoners Being Denied Physical Contact With Families, Locked In Cells For 18 Hours A Day

13 Australian terrorism suspects are before the Victorian Supreme Court in what is being billed by the media as "Australia's Biggest Terror Trial".

The charges they face relate to conspiracies to form a terrorist organisation, build bombs, finance terror activities and intent to undertake a terror attack.

From media reports about the charges and the prosecution's case, the documents for which now run to 60,000 pages of information, it is hard to assume these men are being charged with anything beyond intent, conspiracy and 'thought crimes', which on their own are crimes enough now to warrant lengthy prison sentences under the Howard government's anti-terror laws.

But the conditions under which the suspects are being held, which appear to be far beyond maximum security levels, are now threatening to distract the public from the actual charges these men face.

The defence barrister, Jim Keenan QC, claims that by the time a guilty or non-guilty verdict is handed down, these 13 men, many of whom have young children, will have been imprisoned for up to two and a half years, and that they are being treated "like convicted criminals".

As ABC News reported, Mr Keenan has claimed that the conditions they are undergoing are "offensive to any intuitive notion of a fair go".

...the court heard the men are locked in their cells for 18 hours a day, have little time with their families and are denied basic medical treatment.

The men say they cannot pray together and only get a one-hour non-contact visit a week.

In court earlier this week, the men appeared grouped together behind a sheet of plexiglass, surrounded by 16 prison officers. Or as the ABC put it, "drenched in security guards."

Justice Bernard Bongiorno commented, "I've never seen so many prison officers here before."

The prison services director, Roberick Wise, admitted to reporters that the accused men are being incarcerated under conditions which are "probably" more extreme than those endured by convicted criminals.

The court was told by Mr Wise that allowing the men access to group activities, education and hard copies of any of the 60,000 pages of prosecution documents in preparation for their July trial were actions all deemed to be "security risks".

The men's lawyer, Jim Kennan SC, told the court the conditions are contrary to Australia's Corrections Act and asked Mr Wise how Corrections Victoria had arrived at judgments about the security risk posed by the men.

Mr Wise said the decisions were based on a range of factors, including media reports.

Justice Bongiorno expressly asked Mr Kennan what he thought of the 16 prison officers in the court. Mr Kennan's answer was blunt.

"This doesn't give the impression of anything other than a very prejudicial image to the jury," he said.

"It's excessive and unnecessary, almost overwhelming."

Justice Bongiorno later said: "What seems to be missing here is any real assessment of the security risk. It seems to be assumed."

Labor Vows To Smash The Opium Industry That Funds The Taliban And Al Qaeda

Cutting Off Australia's Heroin Supply At Its Source

In an announcement that has barely registered with the Australian media, Labor's foreign minister, Robert McClelland, announced last night that if Labor wins the 2007 federal election they intend to do what John Howard and President Bush have so far refused to do in Afghanistan : smash the opium production industry that is buying weapons and recruits for the Taliban and funding international Al Qaeda terrorism.

McClelland claimed on ABC's Lateline that when the British asked the Howard government almost three years ago to commit resources and boots on the ground to eradicating the Afghanistan opium trade, the government took an entire year to get back to the Brits. When they did, the Howard government responded, according to McClellan, "with just four Australian Federal Police officers, two (officers) allocated to fighting the opium trade..."

Two federal police officers to actively fight an opium production industry that is said to be the root source of more than 85% of the world's heroin and a major source of funding for the Taliban and Al Qaeda?

And yet the Howard government will commit dozens of AFP officers and hundreds of millions of dollars to anti-heroin smuggling operations in our region, in conjunction with Indonesia.

Why not simply stop the opium from ever reaching the marketplace in Afghanistan and getting across the border into Pakistan?

McClelland said Howard's unenthusiastic response to Britain, and the Afghan government's, pleas for help was "not nearly good enough. We say that is a real priority. There is absolutely no question that the government has been neglectful in that area."

Labor should back suggestions raised by NGOs in Afghanistan and buy the opium produced by farmers to take it out of the Afghani marketplace, as well as ramping up eradication programs. The opium can then be destroyed or given to drug companies to manufacture morphine for Iraqi hospitals.

This way, the impoverished Afghani farmers still earn a living from growing opium, but the Taliban are unable to get their hands on most of the raw product. This would help to cut off a major source of funding for the Taliban and Al Qaeda terrorists across the world.

You have to wonder why John Howard and President Bush have all but ignored more than three years worth of calls by Britain and NGOs to seriously tackle eradication of the opium crops and to take the raw ingredient for heroin out of worldwide circulation.

How can you seriously claim to be waging a War on Terror when you refuse to take action to cut off a primary source of funding for Al Qaeda operations, propaganda and recruiting?

Labor will find much support in the Australian community if they fully commit to making such plans a central plank in their Afghanistan war fighting policy for 2008 and 2009. Particularly if they can show that buy-up and eradication programs in Afghanistan will reduce the amount of heroin that makes it onto the streets of Australia's capital cities.

Howard Announces New Australian Iraq Strategy : "Patience" And Total Commitment To Failed US War Policies

Devotes Most Of Iraq Anniversary Speech To Attacking Opposition, Pumping Fear And Hyping Terror Threat

Australia Must Stay In Iraq To Protect American "Power And Prestige"

Whatever President Bush decides to do in Iraq in the coming years, he can count on Australia to be right there with him, never questioning his judgement, never disputing his claims of progress, never daring to rock his world with the slightest hint of dissent.

Well, that's what Australia will be doing as long as John Howard remains prime minister. Which may not be much longer than the end of this year, if his terrible poll numbers are any indication.

Tonight, John Howard delivered what had been promoted as a key speech in the Australian history of the Iraq War.

It was supposed to be an informative, enlightening speech by Howard, to mark the fourth anniversary of the start of the illegal War On Iraq.

We were supposed to find out exactly how the prime minister was planning to get Australian troops out of Iraq, his version of an eventual exit strategy, and how he intended to ramp up pressure on the Iraqi government to take control of the country and deal with the sectarian conflict.

We were supposed to learn what the prime minister's vision was for how the coalition would deal with the next few years of the Iraq War.

What we got instead was a plea for "patience" and an insulting spew of fear, distortions and previously discredited talking points and near laughable NeoCon-approved conspiracy theories.

Howard claimed a pullout of the 500 or so Australian combat troops in Southern Iraq would mean an increased threat of terrorism to the Australian people and Australia's "national interest".

But worst of all, for Howard at least, such a troop pullout could mean a loss to America of "power and prestige."

What planet has he been living on?

As surely as it is recognised that Baghdad is the most deadly, most dangerous city in the world today, so it is an indisputable fact that the Iraq War has utterly destroyed America's international credibility and prestige.

Just as the incomprehensible failure of President Bush and Iraq War architects like Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney, to adequately prepare and plan for and then contain the insurgency, that Saddam Hussein himself announced before the war began would fight back against "the invaders" has shown every terrorist and wanna-be jihadist across the globe that America's military power is not as great nor as awe-inspiring as a thousand big budget action and war films had led them all to believe.

Howard didn't used this speech to explain to Australians why the war had gone so terribly wrong, or why he had been justified in spending more than $3 billion of taxpayers money in such a clearly desultory manner, and nor did he spell out in precise terms what Australia's role in the ongoing war would now be.

He gave no clear acknowledgement of the sacrifices made by Australia's defence forces in Iraq, nor did he adequately recognise how the war he promised would be over in months has impacted on thousands of Australian families as the conflict enters its fifth year.

No. He did none of those things that Australians were rightly expecting that he would.

Instead, Howard used the speech to air already widely discredited conspiracy theories about the global threat of "Islamist extremism" instead of explaining the reality of why there are multiple insurgencies and resistance movements across the world, many of whom are fighting back against military dictatorships, brutal totalitarian regimes and anti-democratic warlords.

Howard used the speech to try and scare Australians into thinking that a pullout of troops from Iraq would automatically mean we would face a greater, more vivid threat of being blown to pieces in the streets of our towns and cities.

After skipping all the detail Australians were waiting to hear, Howard then used the second half of his speech to play pathetic political games and to try and discredit his political opponents plans to encourage the Iraqi government to take control of their country and rein in the Maliki government-allied militias depopulating the country of rivals and tribal enemies.

Howard claimed that any staged withdrawal of troops from Iraq would leave our American allies "in the lurch".

Howard, however, failed to mention what impact the thousands of British troops now beginning their withdrawals from Iraq would have on American "power and prestige", and how much of "a lurch" Tony Blair's actions will leave the United States in.

As the Opposition government's foreign minister, Robert McClelland, has clearly spelled out, the Opposition's plan is to withdraw Australia's combat troops from Southern Iraq in stages, while leaving key naval support, transport and air support in place, all in consultation with the American allies.

The Opposition has a detailed plan for the future of Australia's role in the Iraq War.

Here's the prime minister's plan for how Australian will fight the Iraq War for the next few years :
"Success in Iraq requires a military and a political strategy, each reinforcing the other.

Security is the precondition for political and economic progress. That's why the international community must stay in Iraq. What the Iraqi people need most is our sticking power in their midst."

"We believe that restoring security in Iraq is critical to creating the space and time Iraqis need to find a lasting political solution. This means that we are opposed to a precipitate withdrawal. It means we are opposed to setting timetables for withdrawal."
That's it. That's all the strategy John Howard was willing to share with the Australian people after four long years.

When he wasn't making absurd cracks about Kevin Rudd, the Opposition leader, he was echoing President Bush's mantras, distortions and propaganda almost to the letter.

The prime minister did, however, remember to replace the word "America" in his replaying of recent Bush speeches on Iraq with the word "Australia".

For what that's worth.

Key quote from Howard's speech :
"I believe strongly that to signal our departure now would be against Australia's national interest, the stakes are extraordinarily high for Iraq, for the wider Middle East, for American power and prestige and ultimately for our region and our own national security."

Edited Text Of Howard's Speech

Prime Minister Attacks Labors Plans To Conduct Staged Withdrawal Of Troops From Iraq

Howard Addresses Australian Troops In Iraq

Press Conference For Howard and Iraqi Prime Minister

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

John Howard : "Who Do You Trust?"

Majority of Australians : "Not You, Mate"

John Howard used the mantra "Why Do You Trust?" so effectively in the 2004 federal election that US President George W. Bush borrowed the line, a few weeks later, for his own election campaign.

But the majority of Australians no longer trust John Howard, as recent polls clearly show.

And perhaps even worse, particularly for a politician who has expanded so much energy and time portraying himself as a "I'm just like all youse" non-elitist, salt-of-the-earth, true-bloody-blue Aussie, the vast majority of Australians now view the prime minister as an arrogant man.

John Howard is now being downgraded - monumentally, comprehensively - in the polls on key issues that were formerly his greatest political strengths : economic management, national security, trust and likability.

The Coalition government of John Howard is being shredded more than six months out from the federal election every time voters are given the chance to have their say in polling.

The Newspoll yesterday that showed the Labor Party 'alternative' government, led by Kevin Rudd, was leading Howard & Co. by 61% to 39% was shocking enough to reportedly cause scenes of near mayhem in the Coalition party room in Canberra yesterday. Clearly, government ministers and MPs are rightly terrified of losing their jobs, perks and power.

But the numbers in the new polls released today show are far more personal for John Howard, getting at the heart of all that he holds dear : how the Australian public views him as a man, as a leader, as a human being.

The numbers are so bad, you almost feel sorry for the guy.

Almost :

68per cent of voters have branded Mr Howard as arrogant. Just 29 per cent, by contrast, label Mr Rudd with the same description.

While the Government has attacked Mr Rudd's integrity and character, 67per cent of voters believe him trustworthy, up 10 percentage points since December.

Mr Howard, by contrast, has gone into negative territory for the first time, with just 49 per cent of voters believing he can be trusted.
John Howard will now have to stage the biggest comeback in Australian political history to win the next election, and few of his once loyal media lapdogs, and attack dogs, believe he can do it.

Kevin Rudd now has breathing space with the Australian public to make a few mistakes, take a few blows, and screw up in front of the television cameras. As long as he isn't busted robbing blind old-age pensioners in the stairwell of a nursing home, it is extremely unlikely that Rudd will dip below a 50% approval rating in the coming months.

The swamp-dwelling muck hunters of the Liberal Party have already combed over every aspect of Rudd's life and political career and they've got next to nothing to attack him with. But even if they did have the goods on Rudd, the Australian public has let it be known via a bullhorn siren that they don't want to see the coming federal election slide back down into the mud and filth slinging of the past few weeks, which was primarily the work of Liberal Party frontbenchers like Peter Costello and the loathsome Tony Abbott.

The Labor Party spin machine, meanwhile, don't have to go dirt-digging on Howard, and they don't have to chuck the mud his way. All they have to do is lightly refresh Australians memories of just a few of the foul and disgusting lies, fabrications and distortions that Howard & Co. have pummelled Australians with during each and every year of their 11 year long reign.

Howard, meanwhile, not only has to make the majority of Australians trust him again, when most already consider him untrustworthy and a liar to boot, but he has to spin his personal image so that they stop believing he is arrogant.

But Howard is an arrogant man. Few would dispute that.

But Australians are sick of him being arrogant. So he has to change.

The severe problem with that is when Howard tries to look all coy and humble, he merely looks pathetic and sad instead. Which is worse than him coming off as arrogant.

Restore the trust, then up it. Downshift the arrogance.

It's an incredibly tall order, and there are less people today in the media and in the halls of Parliament who will confidentially tell you that Howard can pull it off.

On the back of yesterday's stunning poll numbers, Kevin Rudd was asked how he felt about the Labor Party's unprecedented lead. Rudd could hardly hide his delight, and he said the following, through a broad, bright smile :
"You know what, I still see this huge mountain with a lot of snow on top and I see a very clever politician already up there and his name is Mr Howard..."
The snow up there, however, is thawing, and Howard is discovering its awfully slippery on top of that mountain.

All The Prime Minister's Men Question The Losing Strategy Of Rudd Bashing

Disgraced Howard Government Minister Quits, But Bigger And More Damaging Scandal Looms

Groundhog Day : Howard Plan To Portray Himself As 'The UnderDog' Yet Again

Howard Accussed Of Conspiring With Disgraced Minister To Cover Up Financial Landmines

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Cyclone Larry : One Year Later

The Queensland town of Innisfail before Category 5 Cyclone Larry struck on March, 2006

And after....

Twelve months ago today, a Category 5 cyclone ploughed into into townships in North Queensland.

Cyclone Larry was one of the most powerful cyclones to make landfall in Australia's recorded history. In just over seven hours, the cyclone exploded from a Category 2 storm to a Category 5, with a storm frontage more than 400kms wide.

The small north Queensland community of Innisfail was the hardest hit, with more than 50% of the town's houses, schools and businesses being all but destroyed. The cyclone absolutely devastated Australia's banana growing industry, robbing the newly homeless of jobs and livelihoods.

One year later, rebuilding in Innisfail goes on, while most of the banana plantations have been restored and farmers find themselves in the ironic position of having too many bananas and not enough people to harvest them.

There's a lot of good news in Innisfail today, but the cyclone has taken a heavy toll on locals, and for some, the rebuilding of their lives and homes still has a long way to go.

Here's a couple of stories detailing Innisfail today, and the one-year-later aftermath :

Cyclone Legacy Haunts Survivors

Queensland Residents Mark Cyclone Larry Anniversary

Farmers Still Feeling The Effects Of Cyclone Larry

Innisfail Looks To The Future After Larry

In the immediate aftermath of Cyclone Larry, on March 20, 2006, numerous incredible stories of survival came to light. There were also countless examples of Australia's enormous generosity to those who need the most help, as well as some prime examples of Queenslanders notorious black humour : international television audiences were stunned to hear locals cracking jokes as they picked through the wreckage of their lives.

Within hours of the devastation being aired on morning television, hundreds of electricians, plumbers and builders from across the country were driving, trucking and flying to Innisfail to volunteer their skills, materials and energy towards the recovery and rebuilding.

While the generosity, empathy and kindness shown was a perfect example of what means to be an Australian, there was also the appalling spectacle of Sydney columnist Miranda Devine and her sickening assessment of how the locals were coping in the week after the cyclone hit.

Devine called the young mothers who'd lost their homes, and then queued in the rain for days to get nappies and food for their kids, a pack of "whingers", because they had dared to complain about their terrible situation.

Devine, a professional writer, claimed they were afraid of "hard work".

The Innisfail locals dubbed Devine "Moet Miranda" and she was eventually pressured into apologising (sort of) by a torrent of mail and complaints.

The story of Cyclone Larry is the story of how a small Australian community survived just about the worst that nature could throw at it.

It is the story of how a small town in desperate need was embraced by the rest of the nation (with some exceptions), and how they coped with the shocking aftermath.

Below you will find a selection of stories from the blog we began twelve hours before Cyclone Larry made landfall. The 'Cyclone Larry : The Aftermath' blog covers the night and next day of the storm in detail, with regular updates during the following month as Innisfail began to recover and rebuild.

Cyclone Larry is an Australian story that should not be forgotten.

(You'll need to excuse some of the hideous formatting on some stories. This was our first major blog project, and a lot of it was done superfast)

Seven Hours To Landfall

US Warships Fled Cyclone Larry Path Three Days Before It Hit

Cyclone Larry Sweeps Into Innisfail

95% Of Australia's Banana Crop Destroyed, Claims Queensland MP

Innisfail Destroyed By Cyclone - Hundreds Of Homes Laid To Waste

Innisfail's Anger And Black Humour - International Television Audiences Stunned By Locals Cracking Jokes As They Pick Through The Wreckage

Australian Army Deploys 400 Into Disaster Zone For What Is Expected To Be Biggest Disaster Recovery Operation In Australian History

Thousands Left Homeless - Families Live In Tents, Collect Rainwater In Buckets As Supplies Slow To Arrive - Water Supplies
Dry Up

Hero Butcher Empties Entire Supply Of Meat Onto Barbecues In Town Centre As Families Queue For Ten Hours In Rain For Emergency Cash And Water

Military Nature Of Recovery Becomes Clear As Former Defence Chief Put In Charge Of All Operations - Rain Falls For Fifth Day As Emergency Supplies Queues Grow Longer

Banana Crisis : Australia's Most Popular Fruit Becomes Its Most Rare And Expensive

Cyclone Aftermath Crisis Exposes Terrible Plight Of Australia's Working Poor - Homes Destroyed, Families Sleeping In Cars, Leaving Destroyed Town With Only $300

The Staggering Loss Of Dignity, The Toll Of Destruction
"Moet Miranda" Devine Cops A Full Serve From The People Of North Queensland

Neighbours Pull Together To Get Started On The Hard Work Of Rebuilding

The Stunning Scope Of Cyclone Larry's Reach And The Tide Of Destruction

"Moet Miranda" Devine Apologises (Sort Of) For Abusing Cyclone Victims, Complains She Was "Verballed"

Recovery : The Good News Starts To Flow, More Money For New Jobs And Training