This Time is Different: Eight Centuries of Financial Folly By Carmen Reinhart & KennethRogoff Rrinceton University Press, 2009, 496 pages Review by Barry Healy Australia has had a lucky escape from the Global Financial Crisis (GFC) our noble leaders and economic pundits tell us. Not so, says 800 years of economic experience assembled in This Time Is Different: Eight Centuries of Financial Folly.
Sixty thousand public-sector workers from across Romania rallied in central Bucharest on May 19 to protest against government plans to slash their wages and benefits under a loan deal with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and European Union (EU). Civil servants, teachers, doctors and retirees blew whistles and yelled “Down with the lying government!” and “You have pawned our future”, as they protested outside government offices in Victoriei Square.
Dozens of campaigners have hit Melbourne’s streets to campaign for the Hazelwood power station to be shut down. Climate action groups in the inner city are doorknocking thousands of homes every weekend to get the message across. Hazelwood is Australia’s most polluting power station. Climate campaigners have targeted it with protests since the state government extended its operating licence until 2030. It was originally meant to be closed down and replaced in 2005.
On May 24, foreign minister Stephen Smith announced that an unnamed Israeli diplomat was to be expelled from Australia. This was in response to revelations that Israel’s spy agency, Mossad, had stolen the identities of four Australia citizens to create cloned passports. The passports were used by Mossad agents involved in the January 20 murder of Hamas activist Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in Dubai.
With a mass general strike on May 20 in the private and public sectors and a large demonstration in Athens and other cities, the workers of Greece continued the struggle to overturn an austerity program imposed by the Greek government, European Union (EU) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Participation in the strike was as big in the private sector as in the public sector, which is the target of most of the austerity measures.
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.
The obscenely wealthy have been celebrated again with the release of Business Review Weekly’s annual Rich 200 list. Sitting in top spot is Westfield Group chairperson Frank Lowy, whose personal fortune is estimated to be $5.04 billion. That's about 17,000 times our 2010 fighting fund target here at Green Left Weekly.
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 18, during proceedings in Fair Work Australia, negotiations ended between Ford and the Electrical Trades Union and Australian Metal Workers Metals Division over the “Ford Australia Enterprise Agreement 2009 (Skilled Trades)”. The content of the agreement has been the subject of a dispute that has involved two 24-hour strikes.
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.