In recent weeks, media commentary on the use of illicit drugs by professional sports players has exploded again. The first cause was the recently retired Australian rules football star and recovering drug addict Ben Cousin’s documentary Such is Life: The Troubled Times of Ben Cousins. It aired on Channel 7 on August 25 and 26. The second was the overdose on GHB of Travis Tuck, a player for Australian Football League (AFL) club Hawthorn, on August 27.
With the symptoms of social and environmental crisis all around us — runaway climate change, Third World poverty, seemingly endless wars — it is sometimes easy to feel discouraged about our ability to change “the way things are”. We can forget that millions of ordinary people have many times over said “enough is enough” and come together to take action to change history.
Local residents in Marrickville are opposing the proposed expansion of Marrickville Metro Shopping Centre. The Metro Watch group has developed a website, held information stalls, collected signatures on petitions, door-knocked the local area, and held protests. The effectiveness of this local campaign was demonstrated by the fact that a full-page ad promoting the expansion appeared on the second page of the September 2 Inner West Courier.
Review by Mat Ward
Fit to Print: Misrepresenting the Middle East By Joris Luyendijk Scribe Publications, 250 pages, $29.95 If you've ever felt like shaking your fist in anger at some of the reporting that comes out of the Middle East, this very honest book by a disillusioned Middle East correspondent will make you shake your head in wonder. Joris Luyendijk says he had no journalistic experience when he was hired by a newspaper in his native Netherlands to report on the Middle East. He was taken on solely because he could speak Arabic.
Undoubtedly the best thing about the election result was that people — everywhere — were talking about politics. Some of the discussion was about the hung parliament where neither major party won majority support. Because the result wasn’t clear, it gave everybody an opening to form and express an opinion about what should happen next. Other parts of the discussion surrounded the sudden emergence of political issues that had been completely ignored in the “boring” election campaign. The war in Afghanistan is the best example.
It is a film that advocates peace, yet the head of the ABC decided it was too controversial to be viewed by the Australian public. In May, the ABC pulled the plug on an independent film documenting daily life of Palestinians living under Israel’s military occupation in the West Bank. Now, thanks to the power of public pressure, the ABC is reconsidering whether to broadcast Inka Stafrace’s documentary Hope in a Slingshot. Letters are flying thick and fast to the ABC, asking the broadcaster to air Stafrace’s film.
Socialist Alternative’s Corey Oakley thinks many on the Australian left have got the federal election wrong. There is nothing positive about the balance of power being held by four independent MPs and one Green, he wrote in an August 27 article on the Socialist Alternative website. He said the left should be fearful of the independents, but some activists were wrongly celebrating the new role of these reactionary politicians.
The 2010 federal election campaign was notable as being one of the most tedious in the history of modern elections — at least the campaigns the two major parties dished up were. The field of youth affairs was among the direst, with both the Coalition and ALP using young people as a political football to appeal to older and more conservative sections of the population. Coalition leader Tony Abbott reconfirmed his status as an out-of-touch, patronising, old white man, encouraging young people to conform to conservative values.
In 2007, federal election candidates made much of the seven vultures that were feeding on the carcass of the Howard government as it flailed around shifting further and further to the right. Those seven vultures were: • the denial of climate change; • touting of the war in Iraq; • Work Choices; • policy failure on education spending; • poor vision of infrastructure; • destruction of research and development; and • persecution of refugees with the Pacific Solution.
The Copenhagen City Court ruled on September 2 that climate activists Natasha Verco, a 32-year-old activist from Australia, and Noah Weiss, a US student, were innocent of the charges against them. The two climate activists had been charged for organising “illegal activities” during the United Nations climate summit in Copenhagen in December 2009. Verco and Weiss had been accused of planning violence against police, disturbance of public order and vandalism. The charges could have lead to several years of prison and deportation. But the charges didn’t stand up in court.
The United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) slammed the policies of the Northern Territory intervention in a report released on August 27. The report said that despite Australia seeing itself as a country without racism, laws such as the NT intervention showed that racism had become “embedded” in Australian life. The committee said the NT intervention “continued to discriminate on the basis of race as well as the use of so called special measures by [Australia]”.
On September 1, Luke Foley, the newest Labor member of the New South Wales Legislative Council, rose to make his inaugural speech to the chamber. Foley began: “It is with pride and humility that I enter this place, Australia’s oldest Parliament, as a representative of Australia’s oldest, and greatest, political party — the Australian Labor Party.” Oh dear. What a day for Foley to praise the ALP in NSW.
In scenes reminiscent of the Nazi German occupation, French police rounded up almost 1000 Romani people (sometimes called Gypsies) in August and deported them to Romania and Bulgaria. The mass deportations were foreshadowed by President Nicolas Sarkozy in July in a series of inflammatory speeches in which he accused Romani people of being in an “unacceptable situation of lawlessness” linked to “illicit trafficking, deeply unworthy living conditions and exploitation of children for begging, prostitution or crime”.
After a long hiatus, the Broad Left Collective has reformed in Wollongong. Broad Left played a valuable role in circulating left and progressive news in the Illawarra community from its inception in 1987 until its dissolution over the course of 2002-3. At a meeting held in June this year to discuss reforming the collective it was agreed that Broad Left could continue to play a valuable role in linking up left and progressive people and groups across the Illawarra.
The scientific community has never been more united in its conviction that climate change is well on the way to rendering planet Earth a vastly less hospitable place for most species, including our own. Yet doubt about the gravity of the problem is, paradoxically, on the rise. Recent polls in the US, Britain and Canada reveal that fewer people take the threat of climate change seriously than five years ago.
A bill legalising same-sex adoption passed the lower house of NSW parliament on September 2. Western Australia and the Australian Capital Territory already have laws supporting same-sex adoption. Put to a conscience vote, the bill passed with 46 votes in favour and 44 against. Labor Premier Kristina Keneally supported the bill, as did Liberal leader Barry O’Farrell. Nationals leader Andrew Stoner voted against. On August 31, Christian Democratic Party leader Fred Nile organised a rally against the bill. According to his press release, 300 people attended.