Gunns Limited and the entire forest industry in Tasmania is in crisis. Gunns chairperson John Gay, and fellow board member and former state premier Robin Gray have resigned from the company’s board. They were pressured to resign by major shareholders after Gunns posted a 98% loss in half yearly profit in February this year, the April 23 Hobart Mercury reported. Their profit was just $400,000 — down from $33.6 million at the same time last year.
Hundreds of Tamils turned out in Sydney’s Martin Place on May 18 to mark the first anniversary of the Sri Lankan army’s capture of the last bit of land held by the pro-independence Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam in the north-east of the country. In driving rain, families lined up to place petals in front of a statue of a grieving mother. They heard from community speakers, the Greens, the Council for Civil Liberties (CCL) and the Socialist Alliance.
On the first anniversary of Australia signing a key international treaty outlawing torture, an independent monitor of detention appears no closer, despite a recent surge in custodial deaths. The final report of UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, Professor Manfred Nowak, was released in February. It identified a global phenomenon of overcrowding, prolonged isolation and high numbers of pre-trial — all key issues for Australian custodial detainees.
Tamil and refugee rights groups have demanded the Rudd government reverse its suspension of refugee claims from Sri Lanka. This follows the release of an international report that provided more evidence that the decision to suspend the claims was based on a lie. The International Crisis Group (ICG) released War Crimes in Sri Lanka on May 17, a report into the Sri Lankan Army’s assault on the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam and the entire Tamil population in the country’s north and east between January and May last year.
A customs officer at Melbourne airport has said the passport of the Australian founder of Wikileaks will be cancelled “soon”. Julian Assange, formerly from Melbourne, now stays in several countries while running the high-profile Wikileaks website. He usually avoids publicity, but became famous in April when his site released a classified video of US forces laughing after killing 12 people in Iraq, including two staff from the news agency Reuters.
Five hundred farmers from the Darling Downs agricultural region attended a protest meeting at Cecil Plains, west of Toowoomba, on May 19. They protested against the expansion of coal seam gas mining on their properties. The May 19 Courier-Mail said the farmers called on the state government to place a moratorium on mining development while its environmental impacts are properly assessed. The protesters surrounded a paddock with a one-kilometre barrier of farm machinery in a demonstration of their abilityto stop the mining companies from entering their properties.
A great dinner and cultural event was held on May 8 in Lidcombe in Sydney’s west, bringing together progressive migrant groups, Socialist Alliance and Greens members and Green Left Weekly supporters. A lively crowd of 120 people attended. Eight migrant groups were present. Food was donated by Cafe Rare Treats and the Australian Palestinian Cultural Centre. Sudanese Communist Party member and Socialist Alliance Senate candidate, Soubhi Iskander, spoke about how refugees were being harmed and not helped by the ALP.
Since March 14, Bangkok has been paralysed by mass pro-democracy protests. The protesters known as “Red Shirts”, have demanded the resignation of unelected Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and new elections. Abhisit came to power in December through the overthrow of a democratically elected government by right-wing “Yellow Shirt” gangs, assisted by the military and elements of the royal family.
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”.
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.