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On March 17, the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) approved the formation of a new Hamas-Fatah “national unity” government by 83 votes in favour and three against. The formation of the new government followed agreements reached in Mecca last month between Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, of Fatah, and Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, of Hamas.

The most important elections for many years in the Victorian branch of the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union (AMWU) are set for mid-April. This election will be a showdown between the incumbent unified Victorian branch leadership and the conservative vehicle division of the union and its supporters.

Tanya Reinhart, the Israeli linguistics professor and champion of Palestinian rights, died of a stroke in her sleep on March 17 in New York at the age of 63. Palestinian organisations issued a statement from Gaza on March 19, describing Reinhart as “a great indefatigable activist against the policy of the Zionist government of apartheid Israel towards us Palestinians”.

There was something very sad about the debate in federal parliament around the Labor opposition’s grand plan to bring Australia up to speed on internet broadband. Behind the noise and smoke of the furious jousting was the sobering fact that both sides of the House embrace the corrupt logic of privatisation.

As the ALP’s electoral fortunes lift with each new poll, unionists want to know exactly how a federal Labor government would carry out its promise to “tear up” the Coalition’s anti-worker Work Choices laws.

Lawyers acting for 12 of the “Melbourne 13”, a group of Muslim men who have been held in Barwon’s Maximum Security Prison for more than a year, argued on March 20 that the possibility of a fair trial had been jeopardised and applied for a stay in proceedings.

If the Howard government thought that it’s battery of anti-unions laws had completely intimidated workers not to take so-called “illegal” industrial action then they must be disappointed. For the first time in more than a decade all work on the nation’s waterfront came to a halt on March 23 when more than 11,000 wharfies walked off the job. The stop work coincided with the Melbourne funeral of Bobby Cumberlidge, who died in an industrial accident at Toll’s Westernport wharf on March 16.

Beijing’s drive since the early 1990s to pursue the restoration of capitalism in China received a boost on March 16, with the introduction of the controversial Property Law. Ironically, the law will take effect on October 1 — exactly 58 years since the founding of the People’s Republic of China. The law will safeguard the property of China’s burgeoning capitalist class, giving private property the same protection as state-owned assets. This includes the large number of formerly state-owned assets converted to private property in sleazy and underhand deals.

Build it Now: Socialism for the Twenty-first Century

By Michael A Lebowitz

Monthly Review Press, 2006

US$14.95, 127 pages

The Mack

Written by Sam Watson

Directed by Ian Brown

Judith Wright Centre for the Performing Arts, Brisbane

Until March 31

For tickets & information phone (07) 3872 9000

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