On May 10, British PM Tony Blair finally made his long-awaited resignation statement. Blair will stand down as prime minister with effect from June 27. He will also stand down as leader of the Labour Party, and preparations for the election of the next Labour leader — who will simultaneously become PM — got underway immediately.
In June, Australia will host the largest military exercises ever undertaken in peacetime. Talisman Sabre 07 will involve 12,400 Australian and 13,700 US troops converging on various locations for their biennial “war games”.
Led by the country’s socialist president, Hugo Chavez, the Venezuelan revolution is sending shockwaves through the corporate elite both within Venezuela and internationally. The Venezuelan people are waging a struggle to gain sovereignty over the country’s natural resources in order to rebuild the nation along pro-people lines.
Between May 16 and 24, almost 100 Palestinians died and more than 340 have were injured in Gaza through a combination of renewed Israeli military attacks and fighting between Palestinian groups Hamas and Fatah.
Big performer “Allan Moss is worth 446 construction workers, 669 graduate teachers, 335 GPs or 108 prime ministers. The head of Macquarie Bank, who was paid $33.49 million last year, is worth 747 times the average Australian worker, who was paid $862 a week. It would take Mr Moss just three hours to earn that worker’s yearly income of about $45,000… But Mr Moss only gets paid so handsomely if he performs. Virtually all of his pay is tied to the bank’s profit performance, and his day-to-day salary is just $670,819 a year.” — Sydney Morning Herald, May 16.
Just a week after Treasurer Peter Costello delivered the federal budget, which contained $31.5 billion in tax cuts over four years among other pre-election bribes, a Newspoll published in the May 15 Australian found that support for Labor had increased to 59% (on a two-party preferred basis) from 57% the previous month. Several other polls have since confirmed this trend.
On May 18 the International Transport Workers Federation (ITF) expressed its support for Iraqi railways workers, who on May 15 began an indefinite strike to win a pay rise and basic rights. The strike action, backed by the vast majority of rail workers, paralysed the country’s main north/south rail corridor. Workers wanted improvements in salaries and conditions, as well as improved safety, protection from attack and fundamental workers’ rights. The ITF’s Mac Urata commented: “It beggars belief that the dictatorial anti-union laws of the Saddam Hussein era are still in place. Legislation denying rail and other public services workers the right to strike and belong to a union must be removed immediately. The ITF fully supports this legitimate action.”
On May 23, Sydney’s Refugee Action Coalition (RAC) issued a call for support for a Chinese asylum seeker at Villawood detention centre who has been on hunger strike for 57 days. There are reports that the man was transferred to hospital from Villawood’s medical centre on May 22.
The standard of health of Aborigines lags almost 100 years behind that of other Australians, according to the World Health Organisation.
On May 22, a jury returned a verdict of not guilty in the trial of peace activsts Philip Pritchard and Toby Olditch (known as the ‘B-52 Two’). The two were charged with conspiring to cause criminal damage at RAF Fairford in Gloucestershire in 2003 when they tried to safely disable US B-52 bombers to prevent them from bombing Iraq. The court heard the two men acted to prevent damage to life and property in Iraq, as well as war crimes. It was the second trial for the two; the first, in October 2006, ended with a hung jury. During the trial the prosecution accepted that even delaying the bombers would have prevented civilian casualties, as it would have allowed those fleeing cities more time to escape. Visit <http://www.b52two.org> for more information.
In a Brisbane court on May 25, Palm Island resident Lex Wotton was allowed to withdraw his guilty plea in relation to riot charges, after Judge Phil Nase found that Wotton had been asked to plead illegally.
The Socialist Alliance has adopted radical greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets as part of its political program — 95% of stationary power emissions and 60% of overall emissions compared to 1990 levels by 2020, and 90% of overall emissions by 2030.