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On March 22, some 1500 protesters on Parliament Lawns denounced Tasmanian Labor Premier Paul Lennon’s push to fast-track the building of a $1.5 billion pulp mill in Bell Bay, in northern Tasmania’s Tamar Valley.

Midnight on March 26 is the deadline for a power-sharing executive to be formed from the newly elected Northern Ireland Assembly so that devolution of power from Britain to the Belfast-based assembly can proceed. In the Stormont assembly elections, held on March 7, Ian Paisley’s ultra-loyalist Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) won 36 of the assembly’s 108 seats and Sinn Fein won 28. The traditionally dominant Ulster Unionist Party won only 18 seats and the Social Democratic Labour Party won 16. Voter turnout was approximately 63%, out of a total population of 1.7 million.

Over the last few weeks, the family of Mamdouh Habib, former Guantanamo Bay prisoner and independent candidate for the seat of Auburn in the NSW state election, has been subjected to greater police harassment.

On March 8, Greenpeace announced that a community campaign had stopped the construction of Mighty River Power’s Marsden B coal-fired power station, which would have been the first coal-fired power station to be built in New Zealand in 30 years. The campaign, launched in 2004, involved the local community, indigenous people and environmental organisations.

Activists gathered on March 22 to discuss the campaign to free David Hicks. The meeting, called by the Geelong Anti-War Coalition, was chaired by Socialist Alliance member Bronwyn Jennings and heard from Amnesty International, the Greens and Civil Rights Defence (CRD).

Below is an abridged account by Tim Davis-Frank of the police raid on his home and his arrest in Sydney on March 14. His “crime” was to take part in the protests outside the G20 meeting in Melbourne last November. Davis-Frank is the University of Sydney student representative council’s global solidarity officer. Four G20 protesters from Sydney went to court on March 19, and will face court again in Melbourne on May 11.

Around 400 people also rallied and marched in Brisbane, calling for troops out of Iraq and Afghanistan and the release of David Hicks. Margaret McPherson from the Stop the War Coalition, which organised the rally, urged support for the April 21 national day of action to free Hicks. Australian Democrats Senator Andrew Bartlett and Greens member Willy Bach also addressed the rally, which was part of a global weekend of action.

On march 19, the Madhya Pradesh government agreed to meet some of the demands of the survivors of the 1984 chemical explosion and deadly gas leaks at the Union Carbide plant in Bhopal, which killed thousands of people and left tens of thousands with severe health problems. After hunger strikes by survivors and an international solidarity campaign, the government agreed to provide clean water, medical care and rehabilitation to victims, as well as to release information about the water and soil contamination around the abandoned factory site and to construct a wall to contain it. Pragya, a Bhopal activist, said following the decision, “Thanks to all who sent their prayers and faxes and other good vibes. Bhopal remains not only ground zero of the chemical industry’s global wounding, but also ground zero for the fight for people’s basic human rights to live in a poison-free environment, to drink water that is free of toxic chemicals, and receive basic medical care for their injuries.” If the government fails to implement its promises, protests will take place in India and around the world during April and May. For more information visit <http://bhopal.net>.

Workers from across Melbourne have thrown their support behind National Union of Workers (NUW) members who are on strike at Preston Motors in Campbellfield.

The deputy commander of Fiji’s military has threatened public sector unions — including the Fiji Public Service Association, the Fiji Teachers Union and the Fiji Nurses Association — that it will intervene to stop a planned strike against a 5% pay cut and reduction in the retirement age from 60 to 55. According to Fijilive.com on March 17, Teleni said that it will enforce the Public Emergency Regulations, which restrict strikes and public gatherings. He also declared that workers would lose their jobs if they joined the strike. The March 23 Fijionline.com quoted Fiji Nurses Association general secretary Kuini Lutua as saying her union would continue to fight until the government withdraws the proposed pay cut. “Currently I have 98 per cent of support from members of the association and when we plan to go on strike nothing will stop us.”

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