Australia

Outstanding service Fairfax columnist Gerald Henderson quotes Australian Workers’ Union leader Paul Howes concerning the family background of Greens Senate candidate Lee Rhiannon in the July 27 Sydney Morning Herald. I knew her parents, Bill and Freda Brown, since 1944, and I was privileged to be Bill’s campaign director when he stood for the federal parliament on several occasions.
Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s catch phrase for this election is "sustainable". No longer, according to Gillard, should we look to a big Australia, but a "sustainable" population. In a speech in western Sydney on July 21, Gillard emphasised the squeeze on health services, transport, roads and infrastructure. She hinted her "sustainable population" mantra would ease the squeeze. Apart from rhetoric largely designed to pander to irrational fears of immigrants and prejudices against asylum seekers, Labor has failed to explain what it means by "sustainable".
The Stop the War Coalition Sydney held a picket outside ALP MP Tanya Plibersek’s office on August 5 to call for an end to Australian support for the war in Afghanistan. The STWC has condemned the Australian government’s purchase of 18 unmanned spy drones and training packages worth $175 million. Spokesperson Marlene Obeid said: “The drones are part of an offensive weapons system that, almost certainly, will be linked to US systems in Afghanistan and Pakistan. In other words, Australia will be subsidising US assault operations, which will kill more Afghan women and children.”
A growing number of unions across Australia have backed the international boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign targeting Israel. The campaign demands that Israel ends its apartheid-like policies towards Palestinians. The National Council of Churches in Australia (NCCA) said in a July 20 statement that it would “continue to add its voice to the call for an end to Israel’s occupation of Palestine and condemning all acts of terrorism”.
WYONG — Climate action activists confronted Prime Minister Julia Gillard on August 3 when she appeared at a soccer club in Wyong on the NSW Central Coast. She was handed a statement from the local climate action group about transitioning as soon as possible from fossil fuels, to renewable energy and a copy of the Zero Carbon Australia plan by Beyond Zero Emissions. Activists held placards that said: “Fund solutions not pollution” as Gillard was speaking. They then confronted Gillard as she left the soccer club.
More 150 people turned out in Darwin on August 3 for the launch of the Australian Greens Northern Territory Senate campaign. The Greens are running two Aboriginal candidates: country music performer and Arrente man Warren H. Williams and Aboriginal rights activist Barbara Shaw A big part of their campaign is opposition to the NT intervention, launched in 2007 in response to allegations of child abuse and neglect in remote Aboriginal communities.
Conservation groups from Tasmania, Victoria, Western Australia, New South Wales, Canberra and Queensland took part in local actions on August 5 to highlight the threats to biodiversity that burning native forests for electricity will create.
Dismayed by the Labor government’s inaction on climate change and looking for an alternative? Don’t look to the Liberals. If the ALP has been dodgy on the issue, Tony Abbott’s party has been dodgier. Sincere commitment on the issue is hard for Abbott. At a public meeting last September, he said global warming was “absolute crap”. But the Liberal leader is remarkably consistent on one thing — the “need” to funnel large amounts of public money to big business.
The Socialist Alliance proposals for the federal election, detailed at www.socialist-alliance.org, won’t come cheap. They include lifting welfare payments above the poverty line, ending the 200,000 public housing waiting list, achieving 100% renewable energy by 2020 through a plan of public investment, boosted public transport including inter-city high-speed rail, and closing the gap in Indigenous health, education and housing.
Brami Jegan, a young campaigner for social justice who is standing for the Greens in the New South Wales Senate, is very critical of the ALP’s policies on asylum seekers and the war in Afghanistan. Jegan told Green Left Weekly she understands the challenges migrant communities face in settling in this country. She also had first-hand experience of the devastating impacts of war. “During my visits back to Sri Lanka between 2002-2006, I was able to spend time with Tamils affected by the war.”

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