Peter Boyle

Saturday September 8 was another red banner day for people’s power.

Whenever a socialist from the generation whose political ideas were shaped by involvement in the global movement against the US-led Vietnam War pay their first visit to Vietnam, it is a bit like a pilgrimage. It is an encounter with a symbolic home of our political hopes and convictions.

A report released on August 30 by the Australia Council Of Social Services (ACOSS) shows that the number of Australians living in poverty has increased over the past 10 years. Using an international poverty line of 50% of median income, the numbers increased from 7.6% to 9.9% of the population between 1994 and 2004, or nearly 2 million Australians. This measure is used extensively in OECD countries. Using the same poverty line used in the UK and Ireland, 60% of median income, poverty has risen from 17.1% of the population in 1994 to 19.8%, or 3.8 million Australians, in 2004.

In a desperate attempt to justify the criminal and disastrous US war of occupation in Iraq, President George Bush has chosen to wrestle the ghost of the US defeat in the Vietnam War.

Debra Jopson is an investigative reporter with a conscience and a very good record for exposing the crimes that continue to be committed against Indigenous people of Australia. Her latest expose, in a series of articles in the Sydney Morning Herald on August 21-22, was of a multi-million dollar robbery of funds allocated to address the Third World-like conditions of Indigenous Australians. And who was the robber? The Howard government.

On August 8, I attended a noisy demonstration by trade unionists in Malaysia who were demanding that the government bring in a minimum wage of 900 ringgit (A$300) a month. I had come to the picket with a group of some of the country’s lowest-paid workers — rubber-plantation workers whose ancestors had been brought from India generations ago by the former British colonial rulers as indentured labourers.

For the last week, I’ve woken up each morning at five to join ordinary Hanoi residents exercising in Lenin Park, which surrounds one of several huge lakes in the centre of the city. The first time I went out of curiosity, but it was such a buzz I’ve returned every morning.

It has been 37 years since the Vietnam War ended, but you don’t have to look far to see the scars of that war — people who have lost limbs, people suffering deformities from the extensive use of chemical defoliants such as Agent Orange by the US military.

Australians Brendan Hurst and Justin Saint were recently killed in a roadside attack near Baghdad. They had been working for the Queensland-registered security firm BLP International as contractors training Iraqi police.

I am sure readers would agree that the real swindlers were exposed in the discussion after the much-watched screening of Martin Durkin’s Great Global Warming Swindle on ABC TV last week.

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