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Green Left Weekly is taking a short break. The next issue will be dated April 18.
The CFMEU ACT Rank and File Action Group met on March 14 to discuss the state of the ACT branch of the union. Reports were presented about the CFMEU federal office investigation of the branch, the group’s campaign for a clean and strong union that is accountable to its members and the state of industrial organising in the ACT.
According to Prensa Latina on March 24, Venezuela has replaced some 45 million incandescent light bulbs with white light thrifty bulbs, benefiting more than 4 million households. The move is part of an energy saving program, the Energy Revolution Mission. More than 3000 activists have been involved in carrying out the bub changes, and are aiming to replace about 54 million in total. The mission is also expanding renewable energy sources such as solar and wind and beginning to replace petrol with gas to supply cars. Prensa Latina points out that while Venezuela is the fifth-largest exporter of hydrocarbons, it is encouraging the use of less contaminating energy sources.
Following a decision by Fiji’s interim government to cut public servants’ pay by 5% and reduce the retirement age from 60 to 55 years, a range of unions have conducted ballots for strike action. The Fiji Public Service Association and the Fiji Nursing Association voted in favour of the strike and the Fiji Teachers Association will soon conclude its ballot. On March 30, more than 90% of Fiji Post and Telecommunication Employees Association members voted in favour of a strike. Public Service secretary Taina Tagicakibau claims the government’s decision is non-negotiable and that any strike action would be illegal and result in job losses. The military has also threatened to intervene if the strike goes ahead.
SYDNEY — On March 31, the Australia-Venezuela Solidarity Network’s Sydney committee annual general meeting forged plans for expanding the campaign to invite Venezuela’s socialist president Hugo Chavez to tour Australia this year — an antidote to US President George Bush’s scheduled September visit. Guest speaker Venezuelan charge d’affaires Nelson Davila underscored the popular changes transforming Venezuela out of poverty and towards socialism. The meeting also decided to embark on monthly films, forums or street actions in support of Venezuela to build momentum towards the Latin American and Asia Pacific International Solidarity Forum being held in Melbourne this October. To get involved phone Kiraz on (02) 9690 1977.
The NSW Minerals Council has backed away from legal action against Rising Tide, a community group campaigning against the expansion of the coal export industry in the Hunter region.
On the National Day of Shame — March 26 — more than 100 supporters of voluntary euthanasia from across Australia came together at Parliament House, chanting “Not the church, not the state, let the people decide their fate”. A Freedom Ride from Sydney to Canberra marked the 10th anniversary of the federal government’s overturning of the Northern Territory’s Rights of the Terminally Ill Act.
The major parties’ “green” credentials were again put to the test on March 22 when Greens Senator Christine Milne introduced Australia’s first climate change bill. Despite some high profile backing for the bill — which attempted to set legally binding targets for cuts to greenhouse gases — the major parties refused to support it, giving the lie to their concern about climate change.
Tasmanian Labor Premier Paul Lennon’s Pulp Mill Assessment Bill, which fast-tracks approval of timber giant Gunns Ltd’s proposed $1.5 billion Tamar Valley pulp mill, was passed by the Legislative Council, the state parliament’s upper house, on March 29. Seven days earlier the bill had been passed by the lower house.
For a number of years Washington has been threatening Iran for its alleged pursuit of nuclear weapons. Until now, the consensus has been that to undertake military action against Iran was so crazy that even President George Bush would not attempt it. But whenever questioned about whether military action or the use of nuclear weapons is under consideration, Bush’s officials repeat that “all options” are on the table.
After five years of solitary confinement in a small metal cell, David Hicks pleaded guilty on March 26 to one of the two charges brought against him by US military prosecutors on March 1, to finally get out of the notoriously brutal US military prison at Guantanamo Bay. Hicks’s case has revealed just what a sham the US-led “war on terror” really is.
With the 15-year resources-led boom stimulating the economy, inflation at about 3% and official unemployment at just under 5%, Australians should have little to complain about. But, according to Tony Vinson of Sydney University’s Department of Social Work, the social divide between the rich and poor is deepening and increasing.
A March 28 forum of 150 people, organised by the Refugee Action Collective, was told that a new detention centre being built on Christmas Island will have the capacity to hold 800 people under 24-hour surveillance, and that detainees will have to wear electronic ID tags and be tracked at all times.
While all eyes have been focused on the terrible plight of David Hicks, Willie Brigitte has been convicted and sentenced in France, nine Muslim men are undergoing a committal hearing in Sydney, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed has allegedly confessed to a multitude of terror attacks and calls to ban the Muslim group, Hizb ut-Tahrir, in Australia have become more strident. This is all cause for concern, not because of a sinister threat by “terrorists”, but from the government-driven “war on terror”.
Emboldened by the current right-wing security environment, spy agencies are attempting to recruit at Australian universities.
A hunger strike of 35 detainees in the Villawood immigration detention centre was initiated on March 28, sparked by the actions of Global Solutions Ltd (GSL) guards under the instructions of the immigration department. GSL guards snatched a Chinese woman from her bed in LIMA, the single women’s compound at Villawood. Dressed only in her pyjamas, she was dragged screaming from the compound and was deported only hours later.

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