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In a daring and audacious move, Matt McCarten, General Secretary of the Unite Union, announced his candidacy in the Mana By Election in Wellington earlier today. Matt has had a quarter of century's experience fighting for New Zealand's poorest workers, and was a founding member of both the New Labour Party and the Alliance. Now standing as a member of the Independent Left, he would make an excellent champion for the thousands of low-paid and unemployed workers in Mana.
Greens federal parliamentary leader Senator Bob Brown spoke in the parliamentary debate on the Australian military intervention in Afghanistan on October 25. His speech came amidst reports of growing unease in the Australian Labor Party ranks over the conservative line being implemented by the Gillard Labor minority federal government and an associated rise in support for the Greens to a record 14%.
On October 20, Wollongong Students Against War occupied the University of Wollongong’s Defence Materials Technology Centre (DMTC), bringing its operations to a halt for a few hours. SAW is waging a campaign against military research on campus, such as the DMTC’s work on the Joint Strike Fighter project with the US. SAW also organises opposition to the occupation of Afghanistan. For more information visit studentsagainstwar.wordpress.com.
Mark Fordham, an Aboriginal activist from the Northern Territory and member of the Liquor Hospitality and Miscellaneous Workers Union, is touring the east coast to raise awareness about the jobs with justice campaign. The campaign aims to force the government to provide real jobs and services to remote Aboriginal communities in the NT (see article page 7). In Sydney, Fordham spoke to waterside workers with Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) officials. He thanked maritime workers for their solidarity with the Gurindji workers who walked off Wave Hill station in 1966.
During UN Disarmament Week (October 24-31), a bill to enact the UN Convention banning Cluster Munitions is to be tabled in the House of Representatives. However, it is unlikely to contain a provision prohibiting financial institutions from funding manufacturers of cluster bombs. It has been found that the ANZ bank has provided loans of $136.5 million to producers of cluster bombs.
On October 20, 200 people gathered in the community of Kalkarindji to protest against the policies of the Northern Territory intervention, launched in 2007 by the Howard Coalition government. Under the intervention, Aboriginal welfare recipients in the NT have half their pay “quarantined” onto a Basics Card, which can be used only in approved stores and only for food, clothing and medical supplies.
More than 100 landowners from the Madang Province of Papua New Guinea have said they want to join a court battle to stop millions of tonnes of mine waste being dumped into the sea, the Ramu Nickel Mine Watch website said on October 17. The challenge was launched by 37 landowners, with others indicating their intent to join the case.
Over October 16-17, 120 people participated in lively and informative discussions at the Latin America Solidarity Conference. “Challenging corporate globalisation: people’s power is changing the world” was organised by the Latin America Social Forum. LASF brings together the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN — Australia), Guatemala Human Rights Committee, Ibiray-Fondo Raul Sendic (Uruguay), Honduras’ National Front of Popular Resistance (FNRP), Australia-Venezuela Solidarity Network and Socialist Alliance.
On October 20, the committee of the WA parliament tasked to look into the proposed Criminal Investigation Amendment Bill 2009 reported its findings. A majority of the committee opposed the bill, which would drastically expand police stop-and-search powers at the expense of civil liberties. The report was delayed twice due to the controversial nature of the bill and disagreements on the committee. Protests against the proposed laws were held this year by the group, Search For Your Rights.
Just 8% of the world’s population owns 79.3% of the world’s total wealth, a new study by the research wing of the giant Swiss bank, Credit Suisse found, Sam Pizzigati said on the A World of Progress blog on October 18. Further, 35.6% of all wealth is held by just 0.5% of the world’s 4.4 billion adults. On the opposite end of the scale, 68.4% of the world’s adults get to share just 4.2% of global wealth.
More than 150 people packed into a Wollongong university lecture theatre on October 21 for the Wollongong launch of the Zero Carbon Australia 2020 Stationary Energy Plan (ZCA2020). Launches of the plan in Melbourne and Sydney that attracted about 700 and 1000 people respectively, and on October 15 it won the Mercedes-Benz Australian Environmental Research Award. The plan is the product of a collaboration between the University of Melbourne Energy Research Institute and Beyond Zero Emissions (BZE).
Anna Baltzer is a US activist who worked in Palestine with the International Women's Peace Service documenting human rights abuses. She is author of Witness in Palestine: A Jewish American Woman in the Occupied Territories.
One hundred people gathered in Brisbane’s King George Square on October 22 to commemorate the tragedy of the SIEV X, an Indonesian fishing boat bound for Australia, which sank on October 19, 2001, drowning 353 asylum seekers — 146 of them children. The rally and the march through the city was organised by the Refugee Action Collective (RAC). A RAC statement said: “The Australian government knew of this disaster and allowed these refugees, fleeing war and persecution, to die.
PERTH — Jewish American author Anna Baltzer spoke to a packed audience of more than 100 people at a forum hosted by Friends of Palestine WA on October 21. She began by explaining that there were differences between the words "Jewish" (relating to faith or kinship), "Israeli" (relating to citizenship in the state of Israel) and "Zionist" (a political ideology). Most of her presentation documented the illegal occupation of Palestinian land sponsored by the state of Israel and the effects of that occupation.
The federal Labor government has announced plans to move some children and families out of refugee detention, but will not change its policy of locking up unaccompanied children who arrive in Australia by boat. The October 18 announcement followed a concerted campaign by refugee advocacy groups to end mandatory detention and a Greens bill to release all 738 children presently in detention.
Boats — an enemy evoked by major Australian political parties to win elections — have become a symbol of international resistance to Israel’s blockade of the Gaza Strip. This is particularly the case since Israeli commandos attacked an aid flotilla headed for Gaza in May, killing nine people. With this in mind, the Berlin Coalition for Gaza (BCG) launched a one-boat “flotilla” through an inner-city Berlin canal on October 15.

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