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Esperance Port Authority workers and residents angry at the heavy metal contamination scandal affecting the town and Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) workers have banned handling lead through the port. More than 700 residents packed the Esperance Civic Centre on March 26 to hear reports of a pattern of bureaucratic buck-passing on the lead and nickel pollution.
After the NSW elections it looks very much like your time’s up, John Howard.
HOBART — The Howard government has promised to spend $200 million on an international fund to halve the rate of deforestation in Indonesia and the Asia Pacific as part of Australia’s contribution to stopping climate change. However the government hasn’t mentioned putting an end to the 20,000 hectares of native forest that are clear-felled and burned each year in Tasmania. Greens leader Bob Brown highlighted this hypocrisy on March 30.
Greenpeace has revealed that an independent report into safety testing by genetic engineering giant Monsanto was ignored in the lead-up to a vote on whether the company’s new genetically engineered maize would be approved for consumption in the European Union.
Workers and concerned community members are continuing to hold rolling protests outside Preston Motors sites across Melbourne after the company’s refusal to negotiate a wage increase for its warehouse employees.
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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