As Britain’s political class pretends that its arranged marriage of Tweedledee to Tweedledum is democracy, the inspiration for the rest of us is Greece. It is hardly surprising that Greece is presented not as a beacon but as a “junk country” getting its comeuppance for its “bloated public sector” and “culture of cutting corners” (as the British Observer said). The heresy of Greece is that the uprising of its ordinary people provides an authentic hope unlike that lavished upon the warlord in the White House.
Tamil and refugee rights groups have demanded the Rudd government reverse its suspension of refugee claims from Sri Lanka. This follows the release of an international report that provided more evidence that the decision to suspend the claims was based on a lie. The International Crisis Group (ICG) released War Crimes in Sri Lanka on May 17, a report into the Sri Lankan Army’s assault on the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam and the entire Tamil population in the country’s north and east between January and May last year.
Recently declassified documents from US archives have shed further light on the extent of US complicity in Guatemalan human rights crimes, one of Latin America’s most brutal examples of population control. The hard-working farmers of Dos Erres, in Peten department, had never asked for much — just a few acres of recently-cleared land from which to scratch a meagre living in a country racked by violence.
The decade-long campaign against the Bickham coal project, north of Scone in New South Wales, ended in victory on May 14, when NSW Premier Kristina Keneally announced the government would reject the proposed mine. The open-cut mine would have extracted 36 million tonnes of coal over 25 years. Keneally's decision came after the May 3 publication of the state Planning Assessment Commission's (PAC) report, which recommended the mine not proceed. It could be the first time the NSW government has ever blocked the development of a coalmine.
Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's proposed tax on mining industry super-profits has, to the surprise of no one, attracted a great deal of whining from the mining sector. Andrew Forrest of Fortescue Metals accused those who supported the tax of engaging in “class warfare” and threatened to sell his mining interests overseas if the tax goes ahead, reported the May 19 Herald Sun. On May 20, he said that he had shelved $17.5 billion in new mining projects as a result of the tax.
Dirty diesel? At Orroroo in South Australia, Linc Energy plans to gasify coal in underground seams to produce “syngas”. Piped to the surface, this will be turned partly into diesel via the Fischer-Tropsch process.
The new Ecological, Social Justice, Aboriginal Party is seeking federal, state and territory electoral registration, hoping to achieve it by the time the next federal election is called. If ESJAP is not registered, our candidates will contest as independents, coalesced under our banner. ESJAP will strive to ensure the undiluted Aboriginal voice in parliament — a voice sorely missing from Australian politics. There have only been 19 Aboriginal parliamentarians at the state, territory and federal levels. Ten of those 19 have been in the Northern Territory.
When voters celebrated the end of the John Howard years, many hoped the Rudd Labor government would usher in a new day of social inclusion, justice and fairness. The 2010/11 budget, delivered by treasurer Wayne Swan on May 11, dashes these hopes and shows the need to build a pro-people alternative to both Howard's Liberals and Rudd's Labor. Before the budget release, the Australian Council of Social Services (ACOSS) urged the government to increase payments to the more than 600,000 Australians currently unemployed.
A May 17 International Crisis Group report said there were “reasonable grounds to believe the Sri Lankan security forces committed war crimes with top government and military leaders potentially responsible” in the last five months of the 30 year long war against Tamil independence fighters. The report cited the intentional shelling of civilians, hospitals and humanitarian operations.
We supposedly live in a free country. But do we actually have free speech in Australia? Obviously, the situation here is completely different to an outright dictatorship. In some countries, there is no right to produce a paper like Green Left Weekly, no right to protest, and dissidents are jailed and tortured. In Australia, we do have some real and important democratic rights. However, there are severe practical limitations on effectively exercising these rights — that is, exercising them in a way that anyone actually hears what you're saying.