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A landmark Federal Court hearing for 96 Western Australian construction workers that begins on October 24 is the most dramatic demonstration yet of the impact of the Howard government’s draconian IR laws.
More than 400 people participated in around 65 workshops and 10 plenary sessions to discuss a myriad of national and international campaigns against imperialism and neoliberalism at the Latin America and Asia Pacific International Solidarity Forum held at Victorian Trades Hall and the RMIT on October 11-14. The participants included 33 activists and leaders from people’s movements and political parties in 20 countries, the most diverse left gathering hosted in Australia for years.
On October 16, events in more than 150 countries marked World Food Day, which commemorates the founding of the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation, with the theme of “the right to food”.
In his frantic bid to secure a fifth consecutive election victory for the Coalition, Prime Minister John Howard has fired up the amp and is loudly proclaiming his message that growth and increased private wealth will solve all problems. Howard is presenting his message — pump-primed by a lavish promise of personal tax cuts (largely for the already wealthy) and proclamations that economic growth can proceed unhindered (in spite of growing environmental concerns and increasing inequality) — like a spruiker at a country sideshow: enjoy the fairy floss and don’t mind the smell of bullshit.
Fractures have emerged in Respect — the Unity Coalition, a group formed in January 2004 by an alliance that drew together expelled Labour MP George Galloway (now Respect’s sole MP), the Socialist Workers Party (SWP) and anti-war activists. On August 23, Galloway issued a letter to Respect’s National Council titled “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times” criticising the group’s lack of organisation and “custom of anathematisation in the organisation which is deeply unhealthy and has been the ruin of many a left-wing group before us”.
On October 13, 450 supporters of the Burmese democracy movement, including members of Sydney’s Burmese community, trade unionists, and members of the Greens and the Socialist Alliance, rallied in Martin Place.
On October 12, PM John Howard announced his plan to hold a referendum to alter the preamble to the Australian constitution to include an acknowledgment of the original inhabitants of Australia. This is a departure from Howard’s historic position against “symbolic” gestures of reconciliation — a position that in the past has earned him the ire of Indigenous groups, who in 2000 literally turned their backs on Howard when he refused to apologise for previous governments’ complicity in the horrendous policies that led to the Stolen Generations.
On October 6, 40 people attended a public meeting on the Howard government's "emergency" intervention into Aboriginal communities in the Northern Territory and the development of independent political voices for Indigenous people to aid the defence of their rights. Sam Watson, Brisbane-based Aboriginal activist and lead Socialist Alliance Queensland Senate candidate was the guest speaker.
Writing in an Age of Silence
By Sara Paretsky
Verso, 2007
138 pages, $39.95 (hb)
#151; A special convention of Western Australian Civil Service Association delegates voted unanimously on October 17 to serve a claim for a 23% wage increase over three years on the WA government. The claim, known as GA4, would begin with a 9% rise in February 2008, when the current general agreement 3 expires.

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