The second MP to speak in the House of Representatives debate on Australian military intervention in Afghanistan – a debate held nine years after the intervention began – was the newly elected independent Member for Denison (Tasmania) Andrew Wilkie.
On October 19, Sydney Stop The War Coalition activist Marlene Obeid was dragged out of the parliamentary public gallery as Australia's Prime Minister Julia Gillard announced that Australian troops would be "engaged in Afghanistan at least for the rest of this decade". "They are war criminals", said Obeid as she was dragged off by Parliament House security guards. She was right but, until the new Greens MP Adam Bandt spoke (see full speech below) , her stifled protest was the sole voice for peace and justice in the House of Representatives chamber.
On October 19, at exactly 3.30pm, the Lib-Lab politicians suddenly went from smirk to sombre as the Afghanistan “debate” finally started – nine years too late. I was sitting in the public gallery, along with fellow activists from Sydney Stop the War Coalition, watching “question time” – where backbenchers ask “Dorothy Dixers” of their “senior” front benchers. We were becoming increasingly irritated by the major parties’ self-important MPs filling up the time with ridiculous antics while being ineffectively berated by the long-suffering speaker.
BP abolishes safety ombudsman “BP is disbanding the external safety ombudsman it set up after a fatal explosion at a company refinery in Texas in 2005 despite a growing number of concerns raised by the oil company’s employees. “More than half the issues raised since the office was established in 2006 relate to BP’s operations in Alaska. “BP said it would not extend the office’s tenure beyond June. “The move comes less than a fortnight after the company announced it was setting up a new internal safety function, led by its head of safety and operations, Mark Bly.
The rescue of 33 miners in Chile on October 14 is an extraordinary drama filled with pathos and heroism. It is also a media windfall for the Chilean government, whose every beneficence is recorded by a forest of cameras. One cannot fail to be impressed. However, like all great media events, it is a facade. The accident that trapped the miners is not unusual in Chile and the inevitable consequence of a ruthless economic system that has barely changed since the dictatorship of General Augusto Pinochet.
In the aftermath of a failed coup attempt on September 30, left-wing Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa has vowed to deepen his “citizen’s revolution” in the small Andean country. After the coup attempt by sections of the police and armed forces failed amid pro-government protests, Correa’s approval rate has surged to 75% in some polls. In response, Correa, said his government had not done enough to implement its pro-people program and would radicalise its project to build a “socialism of the 21st century”.
Factory workers from the Venezuelan chemical and lubricant company Veneco held a demonstration on the evening of October 10 in Carabobo state to show their support for the company’s nationalisation. President Hugo Chavez announced the nationalisation that afternoon. Jose Martinez, the general secretary of the Venoco workers’ union, said: “We are endorsing this takeover that will bring us many benefits. “It will bring a change from the capitalist mode to the socialist mode and we are going to strengthen our company.”
Australia’s big banks would like you to think they care about climate change and the environment. But don’t believe them. A new report by Greenpeace Australia has revealed the “big four” — Westpac, ANZ, Commonwealth and NAB — are investing billions of dollars in Australia’s dirty coal boom. Burning coal for energy is Australia’s single biggest contributor to climate change, making more than a third of the country’s greenhouse gas pollution. Australia is also the world’s biggest coal exporter — and the export trade is growing fast.
The Australian-led Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands (RAMSI), involving involves police and soldiers, is set to continue its occupation of the Pacific island for at least “five to six years”, despite a change of government in the Solomon Islands. Danny Philip was elected prime minister of the Solomon Islands by parliamentary vote on August 25, the Solomon Star said, after the August 4 general elections in which 25 out of 50 seats changed hands.
About 40 people attended the launch of a No New Coal campaign by Safe Climate Perth on October 10. The launch took place as part of the 350.org “global work party” — an international day of action involving more than 7000 events around the world. As part of the campaign, activists aim to get 10,000 signatures in 10 weeks on a petition opposing new coal developments in Western Australian.
Union and community opposition has firmed against Labor Premier Anna Bligh’s bid to privatise Queensland Rail National (QR), as the government prepares to launch shares in the rail freight corporation on November 22. QR National, a 140-year-old public asset, will be sold off at an estimated $2.50-$3 a share, raising up to $7.3 billion, ABC’s Lateline said on October 11.
On his TV show Alo Presidente on October 3, Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez drove tractors and inspected corn crops as he pledged to accelerate land reform and increase the government’s share of food production and distribution. Chavez announced the nationalisation of the agricultural supplies company Agroislena and the Venezuelan properties of the British Vestey Group. The show took place in Guarico state, where Chavez’s United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) won most of the state seats in the September 26 National Assembly elections.
On October 3, US authorities warned US citizens travelling in Western Europe that there was an increased threat from Islamist terrorism. The same day, British authorities cautioned their citizens travelling in France or Germany. France, for its part, issued a warning for French nationals visiting Britain. The nature of the supposed terrorist threat was unspecified. The media breathlessly speculated about planned “Mumbai-style” attacks.
The political situation in France is dominated by the struggle against the proposed reform of the pension system to raise the age of retirement, among other things. This reform is at the heart of French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s austerity policy. Although presented as a demographic necessity, it is increasingly opposed by the public. The struggle has been growing since the start of the mobilisations in May and the first day of action in June. Since the beginning of September, three days of strikes and demonstrations have brought out about 3 million people on each occasion.
Workers and students mobilised in their millions on October 12 in the fourth and largest day of action in the past month against laws that will reduce workers’ pension entitlements. The protests and strikes came as the Senate passed aspects of the pension bill that will see an increase in the retirement age from 60 to 62 years of age and increase the period of time workers must work to receive a full pension. The protests show growing polarisation over who should pay the price for the economic crisis in the lead up to national strikes on October 16 and 19.
No legally-binding agreement to cut greenhouse gas emissions will be made at this year’s big United Nations climate conference in Cancun, Mexico from November 29 to December 10. And that’s just the way the rich nations want it. Few world leaders are even expected to turn up to the Cancun talks. For months, key players have tried to dampen down public hopes that the summit will mark a shift away from business as usual. The British Guardian columnist George Monbiot wrote on September 20 that it was time for climate action campaigners to accept the UN process was dead.