Barry Hemsworth, a Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union member and workplace delegate, was sacked unfairly from his job at Botany Cranes in Sydney’s eastern suburbs in 2006, made possible by the Howard government’s unfair dismissal laws. July 2 will mark the 300th day that Barry has held vigil outside the gates of his former employer with the support of the union movement.
The headline of the June 21 Adelaide Advertiser blared “Unfair pay” and for once, most fair-minded people had to agree with the paper. The headline was referring to a pay rise for the state’s already overpaid members of parliament.
'Speciesism' Richard Bulmer (GLW #713) presents a well-reasoned case against capitalist livestock meat production on environmental grounds, but in doing so he makes what I believe to be two errors. Firstly, it is inappropriate to use words like
The ABC’s June 18 Four Corners program on Telstra was a damning expose of the anti-worker policies being implemented by Australia’s largest employer, Telstra. “Tough Calls” featured interviews with the family, friends and loved ones of two former Telstra workers who were driven to suicide by the relentless pressure of Telstra management to meet unrealistic performance targets.
Many people in Aceh remain traumatised two years after a peace deal ended almost three decades of war. If left untreated this could trigger violence, according to a recent report by the International Organisation for Migration, the Indonesian government and the Harvard Medical School. Some 85% of nearly 2000 people interviewed were still plagued by fears and deep insecurity. The report said 35% of people interviewed suffered depression, 10% post-traumatic stress and 39% anxiety. Almost three-quarters said they had been exposed to combat, with 28% reporting they had suffered beatings and 38% that they had lost a friend or a relative in the conflict. “These memories are alive in the community, and they have the tremendous power to reproduce that violence”, said Harvard’s Byron Good. Limited resources remain a major obstacle for those requiring treatment, with most aid being dedicated to tsunami recovery and little to post-conflict rehabilitation.
More than 3 million people in Vietnam are estimated to be still suffering from the devastating health effects of Agent Orange, a herbicide that the US used extensively during the Vietnam War. In 2004, these victims sued nearly 40 US chemical companies for their role in supplying the deadly chemicals, but the case was rejected by a US court. An oral presentation of the appeal by the Vietnamese victims started on June 18 in New York City. US veterans held a vigil in San Francisco on June 19 in support of the appeal. On June 15, on conclusion of a visit to Vietnam, Ricardo Alarcon, the president of Cuba’s parliament, also expressed his support for the Agent Orange victims’ appeal case.
Since the Australian government’s decision to declare a “war on terror” in the wake of the terrorist attacks on the US cities of New York and Washington on September 11, 2001, federal parliament has enacted no less than 26 pieces of legislation that form so-called anti-terror laws. The justifications for the laws ignore that acts such as murder, hijacking and blowing things up have never been legal. The laws’ real purpose is to criminalise political dissent and to create the impression of a “terrorist threat” to justify military aggression overseas.
On June 20, 30 people attended a public forum to launch a campaign for an August 12 national day of action for same-sex marriage rights. The NDA is being built around three slogans: “Repeal the ban on same-sex marriage”, “Give us civil unions” and “Hands off same-sex adoption”, and so far, rallies are being planned in Sydney, Melbourne, Lismore and Perth.
Not for the first time in recent years, politics in Bolivia has spilled out of the official institutions and onto the streets. With the constituent assembly entering into its decisive phase — less than two months from its official deadline to draft a new constitution to present to the people in a referendum — Raul Prada, a delegate from the Movement Towards Socialism (MAS, the party of Bolivia’s indigenous president, Evo Morales), told La Razon on June 18: “it has become sufficiently clear that the issues this assembly is dealing with will not be resolved only inside the assembly, but rather outside”.
More than 4000 teachers, school support staff, parents and students rallied outside the South Australian parliament on June 14. The rally, called by the Australian Education Union (AEU), protested the “efficiency dividends” announced in the recent state budget, which will result in funding cuts of $50,000-$100,000 to most schools.
The University of Western Sydney’s Board of Trustees has officially proposed closing UWS’s Blacktown Nirimba campus by 2009. The university administration claims that the closure is due to a decline in student numbers (not surprising since the administration has cut most degrees at the campus) and financial constraints (despite a $36 million surplus in 2006). According to a June 16 report on ABC’s Stateline, Blacktown has one of Australia’s fastest growing populations.
Reporters Without Borders (RWB). The name, modelled on that of humanitarian organisation Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders), conjures the idea of an organisation that monitors global standards of press freedom, offers insightful and hard-hitting investigative reports on world conflict and defends the safety of courageous journalists in war-torn countries. One would imagine that such an organisation would lend its support to one of the few countries in the world that is taking major leaps in democratising the media by breaking the existing monopoly of corporate domination.
The Tasmanian state Labor government has rejected a claim by public sector nurses to bring their pay and conditions in line with their mainland counterparts.
Socialist Worker (SW-NZ), an organisation of revolutionary socialists in New Zealand, has sparked a new round of debate among socialists internationally over how to understand and relate to the socialist revolution in Venezuela, led by the government of President Hugo Chavez. On May 1 SW-NZ issued a statement arguing the Venezuela’s revolution is of “epochal significance”.
Proposed laws introduced into the NSW parliament mean that the greater Sydney area will become a police state for two weeks around the APEC summit. The APEC Meeting (Policing Powers) Bill 2007 is expected to be passed without significant amendments.
Federal education minister Julie Bishop has announced a tender process to trial performance-based pay in schools. Australian Education Union (AEU) federal president Pat Byrne described the scheme as “cash-for-grades”, and called for more federal funding for state education.


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