“The poisoning of groundwater near Kingaroy is just the tip of the iceberg with coal seam gas [CSG] extraction”, climate change activist and Socialist Alliance candidate for the seat of Brisbane Ewan Saunders told Green Left Weekly. The contamination of groundwater by toxic chemicals was revealed two weeks ago, sparking calls for urgent action against the CSG industry, which is rapidly expanding in south-eastern Queensland.
The Order of Mates celebrated beside Sydney Harbour the other day. This is a venerable masonry in Australian political life that unites the Labor Party with the rich elite known as the big end of town. They shake hands, not hug, though the Silver Bodgie now hugs. In his prime, the Silver Bodgie, aka Bob Hawke or Hawkie, wore suits that shone, wide-bottomed trousers and shirts with the buttons undone. A bodgie was an Australian version of the 1950s English Teddy Boy and Hawke’s thick grey-black coiffure added inches to his abbreviated stature.
Green Left Weekly spoke to Peter Boyle, the national convener of the Socialist Alliance, about the political climate of the 2010 federal elections. * * * Many progressive people are feeling depressed about the federal election. How do you see it? Labor and the Liberal-National Coalition are in a “race to the bottom”, as Socialist Alliance lead Queensland Senate candidate and Murri community leader Sam Watson aptly put it.
On July 31, 100 anti-uranium mining protesters rallied outside the Esplanade Hotel in Fremantle, which was hosting the Australian Uranium Conference. WA Liberal Premier Colin Barnett lifted the ban on uranium mining in November 2008 soon after winning office. There are no commercial uranium mines operating in the state but the Australian Uranium Association has identified eight major uranium deposits in WA. The Anti-Nuclear Alliance of WA (ANAWA), which organised the protest, said there are 137 mining companies with uranium interests in the state.
A draft program for the Climate Change Social Change conference, over November 5-7, has been released and is available on the conference website. Major conference sessions include topics such as: “A safe climate — what will it take?”; “Climate justice: their agenda and ours”; “Food sovereignty for surviva”l; and “The global economic crisis and the ecological revolution”.
A spectre is haunting the healthcare system — the spectre of Big Pharma. Fears over the side effects of a widely used diabetes medication in Australia have revealed the power of big money and its influence on the healthcare system. The medication — known as Avandia — is under fire for potentially causing heart attacks and strokes in patients. The manufacturer, GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), is accused of hiding evidence of the drug’s harmful side-effects.
This election campaign is crazy. It’s crazy that so much fear is being whipped up about the few thousand of the world's 43 million refugees and displaced people who manage to get on a leaky boat to Australia. But neither mainstream party is willing to stop sending troops to the decade-long military occupation of Afghanistan. This war is largely responsible for 2.8 million Afghan refugees worldwide — the same war is opposed by most in Afghanistan and most citizens of the countries whose armies occupy it.
In one of her first policy changes after replacing Kevin Rudd as leader of the Labor Party, Prime Minister Julia Gillard dumped Rudd’s idea of a “big Australia”. On June 26, Gillard said “Australia should not hurtle down the track towards a big population”. Instead, she called for a “sustainable population”. Almost four weeks on, however, Labor’s policy has no details — just lots of rhetoric designed to pander to fears that immigration (particularly asylum seekers) is causing a raft of social problems.
Forget about the climate science and the record high temperatures. Prime Minister Julia Gillard has decided she doesn’t need a serious climate change policy to win the federal election. In its place, she kicked off her election campaign on July 18 with a “sustainable Australia” policy. It promised a future of low population growth, which “preserves our quality of life and respects our environment”. Opposition leader and climate denier Tony Abbott was quick to say he fully agreed with this vision, but was even more committed to it than Gillard.
On July 17, 25 members of Justice for Palestine (JFP) Brisbane met in the CBD to launch their boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israeli goods and services. The target for the first BDS action was the Israeli Seacret cosmetics company that uses “mineral-rich mud and natural mineral salts of the Dead Sea”. It makes no mention of the occupied Palestinian land from which the minerals are extracted or the apartheid conditions under which Palestinians live every day.
Refugee Rights Action Network (RRAN) WA is organising a “Compassion Caravan” to the detention centre in Leonora, WA, where more than 30 families are being held, including more than 40 children. Some of these families’ applications have been “frozen” by the Gillard-ALP government in a political ploy to placate xenophobic sentiment toward refugees. This not only violates international law, but also punishes the bulk of refugees coming to Australia. To show that not all Australians agree with these policies, we will travel to Leonora to take gifts for the families being detained.
Brain science — neuroscience — is big business, big science and big research. Neuroscientists are offering to explain, mend and manipulate the mind. Many see no problems with this. For example, Eric Kandel, who won a Nobel Prize for his work on memory, said: “You are your brain.” This is an extraordinary, arid reductionism. This is the idea that you can collapse the complex phenomenon that goes on in the human mind into being simply the working of cells or molecules.
On July 22, Socialist Alliance Senate candidate Soubhi Iskander condemned the Australia First Party's leaflets attacking immigrants from Africa. The leaflets were letterboxed in the western Sydney suburb of Seven Hills. Iskander is a refugee from Sudan and lives in Seven Hills. “This is a call to incite racist violence against communities of colour", Iskander said. “Blaming Africans for the social problems in Sydney's west that are the result of a lack of employment, affordable housing and public transportation is wrong.