More than 55,000 BT (formerly British Telecom) workers could walk out on strike this month unless the telecommunications giant bows to their demands and improves its “derisory” pay offer. Communication Workers Union delegates voted unanimously on May 26 to give BT until June 4 before serving formal legal notice of the union’s intention to ballot for industrial action. The decision came just hours after BT’s annual financial report revealed that its chief executive, Ian Livingstone, and three other directors raked in bonuses totalling £2.7 million last year.
On May 25, 70 people protested outside the Thai embassy in Jakarta in solidarity with the pro-democracy Red Shirts in Thailand. The protest was jointly called by the Working Peoples Association (PRP), the People’s Democratic Party (PRD), the Confederation Congress of Indonesia Union Alliance (Konfederasi KASBI); the Indonesian Nasional Front for Labour Struggle (FNPBI); the National Student League for Democracy (LMND)
The president of Haiti’s Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) announced on May 24 that presidential and parliamentary elections would be held on November 28, the constitutionally prescribed date. “The CEP is up to the task of organising general elections in the country”, said Gaillot Dorsinvil, who is also the handicapped sector’s representative on the nine-member council, handpicked by President Rene Preval. But tens of thousands of Haitians don’t agree and have been demonstrating in the streets in recent weeks to demand a new CEP — and Preval’s resignation.
To guarantee access to essential foods amid price inflation and supply shortages in some items, the Venezuelan government recently nationalised a major flour producer, granted low-interest credits to small and medium-sized producers, opened new subsidised food markets, sanctioned price speculators and hoarders, and is in the process of reforming its land reform law.
Plans are well underway in some states for the “Justice Bus Trips” in July to Alice Springs, where a gathering in defence of Aboriginal justice and human rights activities is being organised. Support for the Aboriginal rights movement has increased steadily over the past year, spurred in no small part by the historic Alyawarr people’s walk-off. In July 2009, the Alyawarr people walked off their community of Ampilatwatja, which was prescribed as part of the Northern Territory Emergency Response — better known as the NT intervention.
Ten activists from Thai Red Australia, plus Guatemalan and El Salvadoran activists from the Latin American Social Forum, were part of the 80-strong Socialist Alliance NSW state conference on May 22 in Sydney. The conference launched Socialist Alliance’s federal election campaign. In the opening session, Senate candidate Rachel Evans outlined a “people’s budget” that puts the environment and people’s wellbeing over militarism and profiteering.
“Break the war alliance” is one of the key messages anti-war groups will send to US President Barack Obama when he visits Australia in June. Protesters plan to focus on the stepped-up US war drive in Afghanistan and Pakistan. They will also demand of Obama and Prime Minister Kevin Rudd that the occupying troops leave. Compared to the Bush administration, total US defence spending is projected to rise from US$534.5 billion in 2006 to $663.7 billion in 2010 according to Congressional budget papers.
More than 200 people rallied to call for an end to the Northern Territory intervention at Sydney Town Hall on May 28. Monica Morgan, from Amnesty International, told the crowd the intervention was forcing Aboriginal people off their lands and taking away their culture. Morgan said this was the outcome of an ongoing process of assimilation that began in Sydney in 1788 and spread across the country. She said ongoing solidarity was necessary for Aboriginal people to survive as a culture.
The real sordid scandal in New South Wales Labor politics is not transport minister David Campbell’s visit to a gay Kensington bathhouse or Channel 7’s secret videoing of it — it’s the homophobic bigotry that continues in Premier Kristina Keneally’s government. If Campbell had left his ministerial position because of Sydney’s public transport mess, rather than being caught at Ken’s of Kensington, it would have been justified.
BRISBANE — Fifty people, Iranians and supporters, rallied in Queens Park on May 22 to protest against the execution in early May of five Kurdish nationalists by the Iranian regime. The protesters held photos of people disappeared and killed during the movement for democratic rights over the past year. Community representative Fazil Rostam said: "Kurds are 10% of the Iranian population, but make up 50% of the prison population. Fifty percent of executions are of Kurdish people."
It took nearly six months to organise, but on May 21, representatives from seven anti-war groups finally met defence minister Senator John Faulkner to request he re-consider a Greens’ initiative to amend the Defence Act. The amendment would require that MPs vote on whether or not Australian troops are sent to war. While the lobby, spearheaded by Nick Deane from the Marrickville Peace Group, did not change the senator’s mind, Deane told Green Left Weekly that he felt the exercise was still worthwhile because Faulkner heard a range of views.
On May 18, the Queensland Crime and Misconduct Commission (CMC) announced it would take over primary responsibility for investigating all deaths in police custody in the state. This followed the recommendation made by deputy chief magistrate Brian Hine when he delivered his findings on May 14 to the third coronial inquest into the 2004 death of Aboriginal man Mulrunji Doomadgee in the Palm Island watch house. On November 19, 2004, Mulrunji was walking home when sergeant Chris Hurley, driving by in his police vehicle, arrested him on a drunk and disorderly charge.
In the seemingly endless wave of disgusting prejudice that flows out of the sewer pipe that is the mainstream media, sometimes it can be pleasantly surprising how things turn out. On May 20, Australian Football League (AFL) star Jason Akermanis said in a Herald Sun column that the football world was not ready for openly gay players, and that those thinking about outing themselves should stay in the closet. On the same day, David Campbell resigned as NSW minister for transport after being outed by Channel 7 News, who filmed him exiting an all-male sex club.
MELBOURNE — On May 25, about 50 people attended a forum on Burma's election, which is due to occur this year. The forum was addressed by Debbie Stothard, coordinator of Alternative ASEAN Network on Burma, who noted the many undemocratic structures set up by the military junta. She said: “The 2008 constitution will guarantee military control over the election and resulting parliament. Election commissioners are handpicked by the regime, political parties must exclude ‘convicted persons’ such as Aung San Suu Kyi and there is severe censorship and restrictions on campaigning.
SYDNEY— One hundred and fifty people took part in a pro-choice rally on May 29. The rally called for the repeal of anti-abortion laws and for charges against the Cairns couple facing prosecution for having used RU486 to be dropped. Labor MLC Penny Sharpe and Greens MLC Lee Rhiannon echoed the views of pro-choice activists in saying the laws were draconian and needed to be repealed. The protest, called by Women's Action Abortion Campaign, was timed to coincide with a Right to Life conference, which ended up not going ahead.
At the G20 Economic Forum in Pittsburgh in September, President Barack Obama said his administration would combat climate change by phasing out the US government’s grandiose subsidies to the fossil fuel industry. But a report released on April 13 by Synapse Energy Economics (SEE) said Obama hadn’t followed through on his promise to cut dirty energy handouts.