PM John Howard’s new “intervention” policy in the Northern Territory has begun with federal and state police storming into Indigenous communities.
On July 5, anti-war activist Peter McGregor confronted Attorney-General Philip Ruddock at a University of NSW symposium and served him with a warrant for war crimes. Police arrested McGregor, a retired academic from Newcastle, and charged him with “unlawful entry on inclosed lands”. The warrant charged Ruddock, along with PM John Howard, foreign minister Alexander Downer and defence minister Brendan Nelson with crimes including “Planning, preparing, initiation or waging a war of aggression or a war in violation of international treaties, agreements or assurances”.
My university, the University of Technology, Sydney (UTS), has given 22 student and staff records to the Australian Federal Police, the NSW police and the Australian Taxation Office.
“Australian Defence Minister Brendan Nelson has admitted that securing oil supplies is a key factor behind the presence of Australian troops in Iraq.” This was how the BBC reported Nelson’s July 5 comments to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation on the release of a review of Australia’s “defence strategy”.
The June 30 election has resulted in neither of the two main contenders — the ruling party Fretilin and the recently formed CNRT (National Congress for Timorese Reconctruction) — gaining an outright majority for a new parliament. Fretilin secured 29% of the vote, followed by CNRT with 24%. After the result was announced by the National Election Commission on July 9, a process of wrangling ensued within the East Timorese elite over how the government shall be composed and who shall lead it.
Pressure from unions over the exploitation of foreign workers employed under the 457 visa scheme for temporary workers has forced the Howard government to tighten some of the regulations.
In last month’s elections in the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union (AMWU), the Workers’ Rights team took all positions against a ticket led by an alliance between the union’s print and vehicle divisions. Some Workers’ Rights candidates received over 80% of the vote. In the Victorian branch, where most positions were strongly contested, 40% of members voted.
Fifteen of the 20 workers at the Esselte site in Minto, in Sydney’s south-west, have been on strike for four weeks. The stationary company has been trying to force its employees onto Australian Workplace Agreements (AWAs — individual contracts) for two years.
On June 27, Tony Blair finally stepped down as prime minister, exiting Downing Street to the sound of loud jeers from anti-war protesters and families of soldiers killed in Iraq. His successor, former Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown, gave a brief speech at the door of Number 10 in which he used the word “change” no less than eight times. Many British trade union leaders have been hoping that Blair’s departure and Brown’s ascendency may signal a move away from the neoliberal agenda pursued by three successive Blair governments. This was always a vain hope, as Brown was Blair’s treasurer for the entire 10 years of his reign and architect of many of New Labour’s most reactionary policies, including the infamous Private Finance Initiatives that have brought many National Health Service trusts to the brink of bankruptcy.
Fifty delegates from the Queer Collaborations student conference, held in Hobart from July 9 to 13, rallied on July 12 in solidarity with Northern Territory Indigenous communities that are being invaded by federal police. The conference voted to support the Indigenous community in the NT against the Howard government’s interference. The rally then marched to Liberal Senator Eric Abetz’s office to hand him the statement written by the elders of the Mutitjulu people, which asked for community assistance but not police intervention.
The 10th national Labour History Conference on June 4-6 delved into the labour movement’s past, but also featured interesting debates about present-day concerns.
Coinciding with the release of a report by Human Rights Watch exposing endemic human rights abuses in West Papua and the refusal to allow a member of the US Congress to visit the province, protests featuring the Morning Star flag were held.