Less than a week after Australians learned about the death of the 22nd Australian soldier killed in Afghanistan, Corporal Richard Atkinson, footage aired by Channel 7 on February 8 showed opposition leader Tony Abbott caught with his pants down. “Shit happens,” Abbott told a US general during an August visit to Afghanistan as they discussed the circumstances surrounding the death of another Australian soldier — Lance Corporal Jared MacKinney. MacKinney’s family had questioned whether the standard of the Australian Defence Force’s equipment contributed to his death.
At a packed Leichhardt Town Hall candidates meeting on February 7, education minister Verity Firth all but conceded that the Labor state government would not be returned on March 26. Firth said she was looking forward to rebuilding the ALP from the opposition benches. She was unconvincing. Firth told the meeting she joined the ALP when she was a 15-year-old idealist. “Genuine lasting change is about more than slogans,” she said. “When you’re in government you cannot just issue a press release or organise a protest rally ... because governing is far more complex.”
I do not support women being forced to wear the burqa. I see it as one manifestation of the myriad of ways women are oppressed in this patriarchal society. But I want to make it clear that I do not support a ban on the wearing of a burqa. Banning the wearing of a burqa would simply mean that the person who wears it — voluntarily or otherwise — is criminalised. It would not, as some female supporters of the ban argue, help women extricate themselves from patriarchal control over their lives.
Tough talk by the warmongers at the November 20-21 NATO conference in Lisbon, Portugal, obscured the growing opposition in the US and Europe to the nine-year occupation of Afghanistan. Ten thousand people took to the streets of London on November 20 to protest the war. Angry at the British government’s recent cuts to services and pensions, many carried “Cut war not welfare” placards.
The big “greenwash” of gas as the new “green energy” isn’t going down well in inner-city Sydney. On November 14, the Sydney Morning Herald revealed gas exploration would start within two months in the inner-city suburb of St Peters. The article said said Macquarie Energy, which is owned by Apollo Gas, received state government permission for exploration in March. The community had been kept in the dark; even the Marrickville Council, which partly covers the area, knew nothing.
Construction workers marched through the Sydney CBD on November 3 to call on the state government to protect pay entitlements and safety standards on the $6 billion Barangaroo development on Sydney’s former wharves. Construction Forestry Mining Energy Union (CFMEU) state secretary Mal Tulloch told the rally that the development could play a critical role in turning around the NSW building industry’s race to the bottom in safety standards and decent working conditions.
Six fighters from the private army of Afghan warlord, drug trafficker and highway robber Matiullah Khan were recently in Australia for training with the Australian Defence Forces, the October 29 Sydney Morning Herald said. Khan’s power base is in Oruzgan province, where most Australian forces in Afghanistan are stationed. Such is Khan’s reputation for criminality and violence that Dutch forces, who before their withdrawal in August were the largest foreign contingent in Oruzgan, refused to work with him.
On October 19, at exactly 3.30pm, the Lib-Lab politicians suddenly went from smirk to sombre as the Afghanistan “debate” finally started — nine years too late. It was a farce. Despite most Australians opposing being involved in the US-led occupation, Prime Minister Julia Gillard said Australian troops could remain for 10 years — which is longer than even the US government predicts.
On October 19, at exactly 3.30pm, the Lib-Lab politicians suddenly went from smirk to sombre as the Afghanistan “debate” finally started – nine years too late. I was sitting in the public gallery, along with fellow activists from Sydney Stop the War Coalition, watching “question time” – where backbenchers ask “Dorothy Dixers” of their “senior” front benchers. We were becoming increasingly irritated by the major parties’ self-important MPs filling up the time with ridiculous antics while being ineffectively berated by the long-suffering speaker.