Australia

Labor Treasurer Wayne Swan’s third budget, delivered on May 11, continued the neoliberal austerity agenda of the previous Howard government. Delivered in the shadow of the Henry tax review, released by the government on May 2, Labor’s budget continues to grind away at social and environmental spending in the name of fiscal conservatism.
Say what you will about coal, but at least it stays where it’s put. On its way to the user, coal doesn’t gush from the rail trucks, spreading itself through the atmosphere and warming it at about 70 times the rate of carbon dioxide. Natural gas is different. A new draft study provides evidence that, in the US, enough natural gas leaks into the air to give gas-fired electricity, megawatt-hour for megawatt-hour, a bigger greenhouse impact than electricity from good-quality steaming coal.
As Tiger Woods returns to golf, not all his affairs are salacious headlines. In Dubai, the Tiger Woods Golf Course is costing $100 million to build. Dubai relies on cheap Third World labour, as do certain consumer brands that have helped make Woods a billionaire. Nike workers in Thailand wrote to Woods, expressing their “utmost respect for your skill and perseverance as an athlete” but pointing out that they would need to work 72,000 years “to receive what you will earn from [your Nike] contract”.
Members of the Iranian community and their supporters protested outside the NSW state parliament on May 13 after the executions of five union activists in Evin prison in Tehran on May 9. Shirin Alam-Houli, Ali Heydarian, Mahdi Islamian, Farzad Kamangar and Farhad Vakili were hanged after being convicted of Moharebeh — “waging war on God”. Four of the activists were members of Kurdish opposition groups.
May 17 is International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia. On May 15, thousands around Australia marked it by marching in support of equal marriage rights. In Melbourne, 3000 people from diverse organisations rallied at the state library. Among the speakers were the director, cast and crew members of the current production of Waiting for Godot, including well known actor Ian McKellen.
An angry Prime Minister Kevin Rudd told the May 12 7:30 Report that he was “passionate about acting on climate change”. Yes, we know. But if only he’d stop acting and start doing. The demise of the Rudd Labor government’s proposed Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (CPRS) is not the problem. It’s a good thing. The problem is that the government still has no serious climate change policy.
Socialist Alliance is planning an ambitious socialist ideas conference in Perth for the last weekend in June. Featured guest speakers include Socialist Party of Malaysia member of parliament Jeyakumar Devaraj. He will speak about the role of socialists in parliament and the link between parliamentary work and community organising.
On May 6, women gathered in Melbourne dressed in pyjamas and hair curlers, ready for the Mothers’ Day breakfast in bed that they never get because of poverty and the stress of being a single parent. The action was to call for an end to poverty for single mothers. Council of Single Mothers and their Children (CSMC) project worker Kerry Davies told the protesters that “single mothers and their children are Australia’s poorest families and are now the single highest group of homeless people in this country”.
On March 13, five women, the oldest aged 69, began walking 1400km from Brisbane to Canberra to take a message to the prime minister that we should take steps towards a nuclear-free future. The women will arrive at the Aboriginal Tent Embassy in Canberra on May 24. They proudly carry a message stick presented to them by elders of the Turrabul and Yuggera people of Brisbane, which conveys a story of sustainability and will be presented to Prime Minister Kevin Rudd on May 25.
The conspicuous presence of barbed wire in Australian immigration detention centres, such as Rudd’s newly re-opened Curtin detention centre, is a reminder of the inhuman pedigree of these grim despair factories. It is no accident that barbed wire — or the “devil’s rope” as the First Nations people of North America called it — has accompanied and facilitated many of the worst crimes against humanity of the modern era.

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