For workers’, refugee rights and a safe-climate future

Renfrey Clarke

The Socialist Alliance has endorsed Dr Renfrey Clarke to run for the Senate in South Australia. Clarke was one of the founders of the Climate Emergency Action Network in 2008, and is a well-known activist and writer on environmental topics. He is a member of the Liquor, Hospitality and Miscellaneous Workers Union.

A specialist on Russia and Latin America, Clarke worked for many years as a foreign correspondent for Green Left Weekly and other progressive media.

Below, Clarke outlines the priority issues around which he campaigns.

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On climate change, there’s no room for excuses or half-measures. Unless determined action starts now, South Australia will be a dustbowl in coming decades. Climate modelling shows rainfall decreasing. By late in the century, summer temperatures in Adelaide will top 50° Celsius.

There’ll be no mid-north wheat lands and no Barossa grapes. Flows down the Murray River will be a trickle. Sea-level rise will have begun turning the Lower Lakes into the state’s third gulf.

Meanwhile, South Australia has stunning resources of renewable energy — wind, solar, geothermal and wave power. In its defence industries, Adelaide has a world-class science and engineering base. The defence complex must be converted to designing and manufacturing renewable energy equipment.

In the era of global warming, humanity can no longer afford war. Australia’s military budget must be mined to create a new, clean energy sector.

Many well-paid green jobs will result.

Australia’s role in the world needs to be fundamentally different.

We should stop teaming up with the US and Britain to police the world for giant corporations. All Australian forces should leave Afghanistan immediately.

History shows there’s no real security to be had from joining with oppressors against their victims. It’s the world’s oppressed — Afghans, Palestinians, Tamils and Tibetans, along with working people everywhere — who deserve Australia’s support.

Genuine security starts with having the respect and sympathy of the world’s popular masses. No one will campaign to defend imperial bullies.

For a developed country, enjoying the respect of the world’s masses requires having a humane, generous refugee policy. Australia should stop forcing refugees to risk their lives on the ocean. Claims for asylum lodged overseas should be processed fairly and promptly — within weeks, not years.

South Australia is where construction worker Ark Tribe is to go on trial next June, facing six months’ jail under Howard-era anti-union laws kept in force by the Labor government.

In May 2008, Tribe was a rigger on a Flinders University site where safety violations by the employer led to protests by workers and an eventual lock-out. After the violations had been dealt with and work had resumed, representatives of the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC) turned up, wanting to know who had said what about the safety issues and trying to haul workers in to answer questions.

Under this legislation, building workers face jail terms if they withhold information from the ABCC. But Tribe refused to testify against his workmates.

The ABCC and the laws that back it are like something from the McCarthy-era US. They’ve been condemned by the International Labor Organisation and the Australian Council of Trade Unions executive.

The fact that the Rudd Labor government keeps these provisions shows that if it has to choose between workers’ rights and the interests of big business, it will side with business — whatever the political cost.

If Tribe is jailed, no worker in Australia is truly free. An attack so basic must be met with a militant, whole-of-class response.


Hamid Karzai, the President of Afghanistan, visited the white house to discuss concerns regarding how to deal with the Taliban difficulty both countries are having. Afghanistan is very reliant on the American Government, and if something doesn't alter soon, will continue being just as dependent. However, they may have to figure things out for themselves because the Obama Administration is setting a goal of pulling our troops from Afghanistan by July of 2011. Weather that is going to really happen or not really is anyone's guess.