Extinguishing Native Title – Keating 2011

Extinguishing Native Title through 10-point Plan  (June 1  2011    Sydney Morning Herald)

The 10-point plan that undid the good done on native title – Paul Keating

As prime minister, the pastoral lease question was a vexing and torrid one for me. And for this reason: notwithstanding that the Commonwealth government’s legal advice was that the Mabo (No. 2) judgment had the effect of extinguishing native title on lands subject to pastoral leases – I did not agree with that advice. That is, I did not personally agree with the logic behind the advice.

I had lots of supposedly good people urging it upon me; like the former leader of the National Party Tim Fischer, who was doing his level best to turn pastoral leases into quasi-freehold titles at the expense of Aboriginal people.

I knew there was a massive potential loss here for Aboriginal people – because in 1993 a very large proportion of the land mass of Australia was subject to pastoral leases. In Western Australia it was 38 per cent of the state, in Queensland 54 per cent, South Australia 42 per cent, NSW 41 per cent and the Northern Territory 51 per cent.

Given the scale and importance of it, I was determined not to deny Aboriginal people the chance to test this question before the High Court. So to keep the naysayers at bay and to fend off the opportunists, I decided to record in the preamble of the bill that on the government’s view, past leasehold grants extinguished native title.

I had these words in the second reading speech and in the preamble to the act but I refused to make extinguishment a fait accompli under the operating provisions of the act.

I knew that the whole idea of pastoral leases over Crown land arose because squatters decided to move on to land for which they had no title and where their activities, grazing or otherwise, were uncontrolled. The motivation for the legislative regime, first in NSW in the late 1820s, was to put some control on squatters without conferring on them a freehold title to vast tracts of the country; country largely occupied by Aboriginal people. So I understood that when the various colonial and state governments came to issue pastoral leases they did so knowing that the pastoral activity would occur over lands where Aboriginal people were still conducting a traditional way of life.

I told officers of the Attorney-General’s Department at the time that I regarded their advice as black letter property advice, wherein they failed to understand how and in which ways the High Court was peering through the common law to the development of native title rights over the course of Australian history following European settlement.

As it turned out, in the Wik decision of 1996, the High Court held that the grant of relevant leases did not confer on the lessees exclusive possession of land under lease and correctly, in my view, made clear that, in the case of the Wik and the Thayorre people, that a relevant intention to extinguish all native title rights at the time the grants were issued was not present. That is, the grants did not necessarily extinguish all incidents of the native title rights.

Of course, that decision of the High Court was attacked mercilessly by the Howard government. That villain Tim Fischer boasted that there would be bucket loads of extinguishment, in the Howard government’s response to the decision.

Many will be familiar with the sorry tale that became part and parcel of the Native Title (Amendment) Act 1998. That amendment arose from the Coalition government’s so-called 10-point plan, a plan facilitated in the Senate with the support of Senator Brian Harradine under the advice of the Jesuit priest Frank Brennan.

As an aside, and as a Catholic, let me say, wherever you witness the zealotry of professional Catholics in respect of indigenous issues, invariably you find indigenous interests subordinated to their personal notions of justice and equity: because unlike the rest of us, they enjoy some kind of divine guidance. And so it was with the Wik amendments.

The amendments were titled ”Confirmation of past extinguishment of native title”. But it was never clear that all freehold grants and leasehold grants permanently extinguished native title. Mick Dodson said at the time: ”By purporting to ‘confirm’ extinguishment by inconsistent grants, the Commonwealth is purposely pre-empting the development of the common law – not allowing sufficient time to integrate the belated recognition of native title into Australia’s land management system. This does not require the obliteration of indigenous interests so as to favour non-indigenous interests.” Quite so.

The Howard government’s 1998 amendments cut across the spirit of the Keating government’s 1993 act; the notion that the legislation was, first and foremost, of a beneficial kind – enacted to redress historic inequities, rather than to compound ones sanctioned by earlier acts.

Paul Keating was prime minister from 1991 to 1996. This is an edited extract from the Lowitja O’Donoghue Oration delivered at the University of Adelaide yesterday.

 

Demonising Native Title rights for indigenes

Following the decision by the High Court in the Wik case that a pastoral lease did not necessarily extinguish native title; and that, in some cases, some native title rights can survive the grant of a lease, farmers and pastoralists on Crown pastoral leases sought ‘certainty’ for themselves, by the federal government formally extinguishing native title.

Certainty also means the freedom to diversify their operations beyond the terms of existing leases. This would effectively make the leases de facto freehold, independently denying any native title right. Since many of the leases are reportedly already being used for a wide range of purposes, the question is how a pastoral lease, which is surely for pasturage of cattle, allowed full scale farming (as distinct from farming for sustenance). More intriguing was the claim that certain governments had ignored the law in granting mining leases.

The federal government then contributed to the panic that followed. What about our backyards, swimming pools, and tennis courts; can they take them too? This was asked by the newest demagogue then. The threat of Aboriginal intervention under native title will reduce the transfer value of the leases — this was yet another whinge. Apparently this has not happened yet. The federal government did little to allay these fears. Indeed, many of us realised that the government was actually fuelling irrational fears.

A white female pastoralist was reported in the late 1990s to have been fearful when her property was the subject of a native title claim by an Aboriginal community. She thought that, if successful, the Aborigines would simply take possession of her property. After she had met the claimants, she knew otherwise. Why had not the government or the media made this clear? Were they in cahoots with the powerful pastoralist lobby groups? It seems so.

She learnt that the Aborigines’ aim was co-existence.  They only wanted access to significant sites to conduct cultural activities for young people. She was quoted in the press as saying: “When sheep and cattle were moved in, the land the indigenous people lived off was badly affected. They had to find other ways to survive, and the problems were compounded by the aggressive acts of the pastoralists and the local white authorities. During the 1920s and 1930s indigenes were herded together in designated Aboriginal reserves, with little shelter and no water. The communities were split up, their culture fragmented. They gravitated towards the edges of towns … ended up outcasts, on the fringes of white society”.

Where politicians had promised ‘certainty’ to the pastoralists, she reportedly felt that she had been kept in the dark, misled, and betrayed. She was further quoted as follows: “… people like me were being used as tools, in what was obviously a political agenda being used to continue the hurt and dispossession of people who have been hurt their whole lives”; and “… there are people fanning the flames and spreading misinformation”.  She also quoted the Prime Minister of the day as claiming publicly that it would be possible for 78% of Australia to be under ‘veto’ (for development) by Aborigines. Has the government resiled from this ridiculous claim?

Her comment to that was: “I’ve no doubt that most Australians would have believed him. If I hadn’t informed myself, I’d have believed him as well”. Her final comments are noteworthy. “I did not hunt the (Aborigines) off their land: but what I have today I have partly because others did. If I inherited the fruits of the pioneers’ achievements, I also inherited a debt to those they dispossessed”.

That says it all. And what a wonderful human being — a beacon of light. This enlightened white lady has reached out to the Aboriginal people. She is also educating people in her situation about the need to work with Aboriginal people.

As asked by a respected academic in another, but comparable, context: “If lying comes to seem an acceptable political means to a worthwhile end, what will prevent democracy degenerating into a struggle between elites whose relationship to the electorate goes no deeper than the conduct of an auction …?” In any such auctions, the Aborigines will not be viable bidders.

(The above extracts are from my book ‘Hidden Footprints of Unity.’ Since the book was published only in 2005, I do not believe that the Australian Constitution will be mended any time soon to recognise the Australian indigenes as the First Nation Peoples of Australia.)    

 

 

The demise of terra nullius through Native Title

The High Court opened up a very large can of worms when it determined (in the Mabo case in 1992) that the Torres Strait Islanders (TSI) and, by implication, the Aborigines, had native title rights under common law. This did not help to contribute land to an Aboriginal or TSI nation. A native title right refers simply to a residual right to share in the use of land, but only in a customary way. Under the High Court’s later determination (in the Wik case in 1996), the rights of the Aboriginal community are subordinate to that of the lessee.

In the Mabo case, the Court said: “Where a clan or group has continued to acknowledge the laws and … to observe the customs based on the traditions of that clan or group, whereby their traditional connection with the land has been substantially maintained, the traditional community title of that clan or group can be said to remain in existence”.  Native title refers to the common law rights of access and use of traditional land by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. The rights include hunting, gathering, fishing, ceremonies, and just living.

The High Court thus put away for good that useful argument favoured by settlers and Australian jurists that Australia had been an empty land (‘terra nullius’) when occupied by Britain, contrary to all the evidence against that view.

The Court, by finding that the indigenes of Australia had indeed been in possession of their lands, brought the law in relation to Aboriginal land rights into line with current standards of justice. As the eminent historian Prof. Henry Reynolds said, “Terra nullius was out of step with international standards of human rights, on the one hand, and with fundamental values of common law, on the other …”. Mr. Justice Deane of the High Court (subsequently Governor-General of Australia in the late 1990s) remarked back in 1985 that “The common law of this land has not reached the stage of retreat from injustice”, in relation to the nation’s recognition of native title.

However, justice did arrive at last — at least, in the legal realm. In the mid 1990s, the High Court again upset the conservatives, the racists, and sundry fellow travellers. The resulting outbursts were most illuminative, displaying a range of bitter and irrational assertions, suggesting that professed beliefs in law and justice by many in influential positions (including parts of the media) are not deeply held. As Thomas Carlyle said “Can there be a more horrible object in existence than an eloquent man not speaking the truth?”

The High Court, by a majority decision (in the Wik case), held that a pastoral lease did not necessarily extinguish native title. In some cases, some native title rights can survive the grant of a lease. However, in any conflict between the pastoralist’s rights and native title rights, the former rights prevail.

Reportedly, the decision took into account an official policy dictated from the UK in 1848 that the grant of a pastoral lease gave “… only an exclusive right of pasturage for their cattle and of cultivating such land as they may require …”, but that the lease was “… not intended to deprive the Natives of their former right to hunt over these districts, or to wander over them in search of subsistence, in the manner they have been hitherto accustomed”.

Following the Wik decision, farmers and pastoralists on Crown pastoral leases sought ‘certainty’ for themselves, by the federal government formally extinguishing native title. Certainty also means the freedom to diversify their operations beyond the terms of existing leases. This would effectively make the leases de facto freehold, independently denying any native title right. Since many of the leases are reportedly already being used for a wide range of purposes, the question is how a pastoral lease, which is surely for pasturage of cattle, allowed full scale farming (as distinct from farming for sustenance). More intriguing was the claim that certain governments had ignored the law in granting mining leases.

(The above is an extract from my book ‘Hidden Footprints of Unity.’ Is it surprising that Australian politicians and their acolytes see no need for human rights legislation? Have Mabo and Wik empowered the TSI and Aborigines in any meaningful way? Have Native Title rights been undermined by officialdom since Wik?)    

 

 

 

Racial discrimination law presents confusing concepts

Australia’s racial discrimination legislation successfully confuses acts of discrimination and words indicating prejudice, a feeling. Discrimination involves treating an individual or group differently from others, generally less favourably. Examples would be: a denial of equal opportunity, or paying wages below a legal entitlement. There may be no antipathetic feeling associated with the act of discrimination.

Whereas prejudice can be displayed in looks of disdain, or in spoken words, such as those used by bullies (or idiots) in a playground or in a work situation.

Denial of a right or entitlement will hurt – emotionally and materially. The effects can be very long term. Do read my 2 posts titled ‘The myth of racial discrimination’ to fully appreciate what actual discrimination is all about.

The discrimination I had to endure in not only the White Australia era but also in the 1980s was substantial, not imagined or coined. Initially, the discrimination I experienced reflected responses to my skin colour and to my being foreign. Latterly, the trigger was tribo-religious (‘not one of us’); and I had to ‘go with the flow’ to be allowed to work in peace. I thought it wise to retire prematurely.

Words uttered by rude people – mainly through ignorance or stupidity – can hurt, but only if one allows that! Why would one want to do that? Would one feel hurt and humiliated were the heavens to open suddenly, and deposit cold water on one’s head? Of course, one would feel chastened and a little hurt were a parent or a teacher or one’s boss to be rude in correcting one’s attitude, behaviour, or quality of work.

The Australian Aborigine has had to put up with more than 2 centuries of oral abuse! Has racial legislation provided significant protection? Yet, some recent coloured immigrants have allegedly spoken about being hurt and humiliated by nasty people addressing rude words at them. Is it time to adopt this adage: “The dogs may bark but the caravan moves on”?

Legislation should legitimately focus – and be restricted to – acts of discrimination (ie. to a denial of rights), and be couched in semantically and legally clear terminology. However, the current legislation in Australia offers the opportunity for harmless words of disapproval to be posited as harmful and humiliating.

Immigrants are traditionally ‘adventurers,’ displaying resilience and fortitude in travelling to another nation, and integrating with those already in the country they chose to enter. Some of them can, of course, be opportunistic.

 

Separate legal rights for minority populations? (2)

By the third generation, an immigrant cultural group will have accepted the host nation’s institutions and adapted to prevailing social mores. While institutions are necessarily durable, social mores will be an on-going feast, with mutual adaptation.

The cohesive influences in this process are public education, habituation (that is, being  comfortable in  on-going contact through sport or just socialisation with those whose ancestors may once have been ‘them, not us’), and that innate or instinctive reaching out displayed by very young children who have not been taught any prejudice about skin colour, language and other irrelevant matters.

Most importantly, in Australia, everyone is free to pray as they wish, to cook, dress and eat as they wish, and to speak their language freely.  They are only required to accept the host nation’s institutions and social (ie. behavioural) mores, and to respect all other cultural communities.  Immigrants know all about this as they seek to enter Australia.  On what basis, by what right, can they then seek to have the host nation’s institutions altered, especially when religion has been successfully kept separate from governance?

Different laws and different institutions for each separatist ethnic minority immigrant community?  How quaint!

In my second book ‘The Karma of Culture,’ initially published under my birth name Arasa, I deal with the cross-cultural impacts of a diverse immigrant intake, and the potential for Asian cultural and spiritual values to influence Western thinking about democracy, human rights, and societal values.

The book also teases out the implications for immigrants who choose to retain their cultural values and practices unaltered, in terms of a possible diminished access to the prevailing equal opportunity; and examines the consequential benefits of relinquishing inconsistent behaviour and attitudes. 

I am an 88-year old bicultural Asian-Australian who had published three experience-based narratives with analysis on ethnic affairs, multiculturalism, citizenship, refugee entry, and migrant settlement assistance; and a memoir which overlays a blend of history, sociology, and personal experiences with an Asian spirituality onto an integrated Australian persona, under my conjoined Westernised name. 

 

International laws – why bother?

The recent development in the USA, the nation of exceptionalism, of a policy of ‘America first’ has implications for the future of international laws. The following extracts from ‘Lawless World: America and the making and breaking of global rules’ by Philippe Sands, an eminent former professor of law and a practising barrister in the UK, seems pertinent.

“In the 1940s the United States and Britain led efforts to replace a world of chaos and conflict with a new, rules-based system.  … …  they hoped to make the world a better place, free from fear or want. They proposed new international rules to place limits on the use of force, promote the protection of fundamental human rights, and enshrine free trade and international economic liberalisation.”

“Over the next fifty years the mission to deepen and develop international law was, broadly speaking, successful. … … But it may have been too successful a mission. The rules which were intended to constrain others became constraining of their creators.”

“At the opening of the twenty-first century the world was a very different place from the one restructured by Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill half a century earlier. International law had wrought a revolution, with rules reaching into the nooks and crannies of everyday life. … … With the election of George W. Bush in November 2000, a US Administration took office that was outspoken in its determination to challenge global rules. Soon it turned into a full-scale assault, a war on law.”

“I trace the efforts of the first George W. Bush Administration to remake the system of global rules, from the abandonment of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court and the Kyoto Protocol on global warming, through the attempt to disapply the Geneva Conventions and other human rights norms at Guantanamo and other places, to the virtual disavowal of the United Nations’ prescriptions prohibiting the use of force. … … Faced with this onslaught the British Government was often silent or, in certain respects, a willing handmaiden to some of the worst violations of international law. Together the two countries were trying to remake the global rules.”

The above extracts were from the Preface. The following extract is from the back cover of the book.

“ … America has reneged on agreements governing war, torture and the environment – with Britain often turning a blind eye or colluding in some of the worst violations. In recent years, America had abandoned the Kyoto Protocol and the Statute of the International Criminal Court, ignored human rights standards at Abu Graib and disregarded the UN’s prohibition on pre-emptive force. Are we on the verge of a new world order where the most powerful nations can put aside the rules that no longer suit them?”

“Leading international lawyer Philippe Sands has been involved in high-profile cases including Guantanamo and Pinochet.”

From p. 238 Final chapter

“There are usually good reasons why international laws have been accepted. For the most part they work reasonably well. Imperfect as some of the international rules may be, they reflect minimum standards of acceptable behaviour and, to the extent they can be ascertained, common values. They provide an independent standard for judging the legitimacy of international actions.”

A personal comment.

As a former colonial subject, I am inclined to believe that rules have never applied to, or restrained, the powerful in the history of mankind. Even if agreed international human rights standards are ever established, there has to be a balance between the integrity of sovereign borders and the accountability of international agencies and courts.    

My interview on ABC Radio

I received a surprising invitation this week from Fiona Wyllie of ABC Western Plains (based in Dubbo, NSW) to talk on air as to whether state governments or the federal government have responsibility for immigration policy; and could I also comment on the broader issues involved. She referred to my past as Director of Settlement Services, as well as all other related areas, in the then Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs.

Fiona had interviewed me, on behalf of ABC South Coast, 20 years or so ago, about my first memoir ‘Destiny Will Out: the experiences of a multicultural Malayan in White Australia.’ A scheduled 4-minute interview ended 22 minutes later.

Apart from my own settlement experiences, I had worked (as a Director) in all of the following policy and operational areas: ethnic affairs (and multiculturalism); citizenship (and national identity); refugee and humanitarian entry; and all areas of migrant settlement assistance (viz. migrant hostels – including childcare and recreation; the grant-in-aid scheme and migrant resource centres; community-assisted settlement – CRSS; and language services – translation and interpretation.

When I wrote that book, I was probably the only person in the country with direct experience of all these wonderful efforts to guide immigrants and refugees to integrate into a nation which offered equal opportunity. It was not surprising that the Department bought a copy of the book; it was, according to the senior academics who offered accolades, the first time that all of these policies had been set out and explained in a single package. As well, the policies had been interwoven into an Asian immigrant’s personal story of cross-cultural interaction.

Fiona also wanted to know why a prominent businessman had said that he would talk with a State Government about an immigration matter. Did State Governments have any responsibility for immigration approval?

My comments to Fiona were as follows:

  • Only the federal Minister for Immigration has responsibility for migrant entry to Australia
  • She would have to ask the businessman why he would approach a State Government about an immigration issue;
  • Anyone in the community could ‘make representations’ to federal immigration officials or the minister about the entry of non-residents;
  • That immigrant, refugee and humanitarian entry had, in my day, been stringently controlled. Applicants were assessed during a personal interview by immigration officials as to their ability to settle successfully in Australia.
  • I am unsure whether there is now reliance on immigration agents in the country of departure to vet an applicant’s claims; that is, whether Australian officials actually sighted an applicant.
  • With equal opportunity available to all accepted entrants, and a barrage of settlement assistance offered, settlement has been successful, resulting in a cosmopolitan nation, tolerant or accepting of cultural difference.
  • I had previously questioned the need for a multiculturalism policy, with the government telling us how to relate to one another; and the expensive, parallel, ethnic community-based settlement assistance.

I did not point out to Fiona that PM Howard and Premier Carr had been correct in replacing the emphasis on cultural diversity (and its retention) in favour of a shared citizenship; or that all entrants had to accept and adapt to Australia’s institutions (especially the law) and its social mores.

In the light of my experience and observations of immigrant integration, I counsel against broad assertions about experiencing prejudice (which relates only to words and attitudes) and discrimination (acts actually denying equal opportunity on the basis of skin colour or culture). How prevalent and generalised are these? One can be unduly sensitive.

 

Does international law override national sovereignty?

‘One of the phrases now frequently heard in public debate in Australia is that some conduct of a government, usually the federal government, is “contrary to international law”. … …

The problem about the phrase “contrary to international law” is that it is essentially meaningless when a nation-state is observing its own domestic law. There may, of course, be different questions when one country takes action against another without the authorisation of the UN Security Council. As was demonstrated, however, when Russia annexed the Crimea in 2014, there may be nothing the UN can do about such an action.

Otherwise, however, every nation-state is governed by its own domestic laws and cannot be directed by any international organisation, such as the UN, to override those laws. It is certainly possible for a nation-state to adopt the provisions of an international treaty and make them part of its domestic law. Australia has entered into hundreds of treaties in recent decades and some of these have been used as the basis for federal legislation. … …

This use of international treaties by the commonwealth has long been disapproved of by the states on the ground that, when the Constitution was drafted in the 1890s, such treaties were extremely rare and it was never envisaged that they would become a major source of commonwealth power and allow a significant diminution of state powers.

As in many other areas, however, the High Court has endorsed a wide meaning for the external affairs power in the Constitution and upheld this substantial increase in federal authority. … …

… … It is important that the ultimate responsibility for the laws that apply in any country rests with the legislators who have been elected by the members of that community. It would be quite unsatisfactory for any international body, including the UN, to be able to override domestic laws when they are not accountable to the electors of the country in question.

There is a view, however, among many of the international civil servants who work for those organisations and in the ever-growing ranks of human rights lawyers that the rulings of international bodies such as the UN should take precedence over the laws of any particular country.

Many of those who hold this view have no real attachment to any individual nation and do not see why national communities should have the final say over their own destinies. … …’

(The above paragraphs are extracts from ’Assange ruling: international law no match for sovereign states’ by Michael Sexton in the ‘Weekend Australian’ of 11February 2016. Michael Sexton SC was described in the paper as the author of several books on Australian history and politics. I remember him as a Solicitor-General)

 

 

 

 

 

The benefits and dis-benefits of colonialism

A few years ago, www.ezinearticles.com published the following article of mine – ‘The pros and cons of British colonialism’. It has attracted attention continuously ever since. At about 800 words in length, it is easy to read.

It is, of course, strange to have an anti-colonial, a former British subject, acknowledge any benefits to subject peoples from colonialism. I instanced the English language as a significant benefit. It is now an international language. My relatives, by blood and marriage, are now well-entrenched citizens of the USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia and Singapore – as part of the Ceylon Tamil diaspora.

Regrettably, some of us have lost our heritage – except in our minds. Some of us speak only English, have no knowledge of our distant origins as Dravidians, and have little appreciation of the literary wealth of our distant forbears, the Tamils of India. These are the ‘cons’ of modernisation, offsetting the ‘pros’ derived from mastery of the English language.

Looking at the level of education experienced by my Australian children and grandchildren, I came to realise how well educated I was by the colonial British. I received a broader and deeper education than did my descendants! That the British people at home are significantly more tolerant than many (most?) of our colonial rulers in British Malaya was proven by 2 of my sisters who acquired valuable qualifications in Britain after WW2. As a schoolboy, I remember my elders referring to the ‘upstarts’ who ruled us.

Other benefits were British law and Western democracy. Codified law, drawing upon precedents, does offer a clearer path from the past to the present. However, I believe that the adversarial system in courts, and which allows lawyers to obfuscate issues and ‘play games’ (I write from experience)  diminishes prospects for justice. Pros and cons in balance!

Then, there is that so-called democracy. Every adult has a vote. Our political representatives (federal, state, and local government) are, however, not accountable to voters, and certainly never consult us. I write from experience as a resident in Australia over 65 years as an adult. At federal and state levels, political parties rule openly, their main objective being to hold office.

Today, we seem to be governed by Vaticanites. How so? Compassion is suppressed by Papal Bull, for example. Western democracy is indubitably a con!

The pros and cons offered by the hegemonic empire of the USA, based on indirect controls, await judgement.

Cosmic justice

Justice on Earth for humans is relatively rare. People suffer injustice, without remedy, in all manner of forms, of varying intensities, all over the world.

I became deeply aware of injustice as a boy growing up in colonial times. Even today, some third-generation descendants of poor immigrants behave as if they were born to ‘lord it’ (a term I learned from Nehru) over the ‘lower orders’ (a term borrowed from the class-ridden English) in developing nations. ‘New money’ may not come with ‘manners.’

Having successfully ignored attitudes and utterances reflecting prejudice in my early years in Australia, near the end of my career, I experienced on-going discrimination; but there was little I could do to receive justice. Once, however, I was able to discourage a senior official by pointing to the sky (I do not know why I did that), saying ‘One day you will be judged.’

Recently, a neighbour cut down 3 of my trees, and fenced the land they had occupied. A policeman said that it was not a crime. A lawyer said that I could ‘take him to court.’ Privately, a court official warned about the financial cost of any recompense I might receive. The Mayor said that this is a common problem. My local member of parliament ignored my plaint. So much for my legal rights! Justice?

For a while, I enjoyed this thought: as a (future) resident of the Recycling Station, I would have my 3 (conifer) trees chase my neighbour down the street during repeated dreams by him. But my Buddhist friend dissuaded me from what should have been enjoyable.

I realise that it is not my prerogative to seek to impose justice or to judge someone’s behaviour. Since I do believe in cosmic justice, I will leave it to the Cosmos to offer appropriate lessons.

My belief is strengthened by the current plight of some of those small nations which caused hideous damage to so many people all over the world in the colonial era. Sadly, while the nations now suffer, it is the current populations which pay the price; that is not quite fair.

We do need cosmic justice – for individuals. Perhaps it operates through the reincarnation process.