Since October 12, France has been gripped by intensifying mass opposition by workers and students to proposed counter reforms to the country’s pensions system by the right-wing government of President Nicolas Sarkozy. Public opposition to the attack has been highlighted by three national strikes each involving millions of people, two national student strikes and a growing wave of indefinite strikes in a range of industries — most notably the crippling shutdown of the oil industry.
WOLLONGONG — The Illawarra's peak union body, the South Coast Labour Council (SCLC), has called on the Australian government to pull troops out of Afghanistan and pursue an independent foreign policy. “In recent decades Australia has been dragged into quagmire after quagmire — blindly following the United States into military disasters that have resulted in hundreds of thousands of military and civilian casualties”, Arthur Rorris, SCLC secretary, said on October 22.
“Nothing! Nothing! We’ve seen nothing!”, chanted a crowd of internally displaced people (IDP) on October 6. They were pursuing former US president Bill Clinton from his photo-op in their squalid camp on his way to the third Interim Haiti Reconstruction Commission (IHRC) meeting in downtown Port-au-Prince. The crowd protesting against Clinton was from an IDP camp on the golf-course of the former Petionville Club, a bourgeois enclave created by US Marines when they first occupied Haiti from 1915 to 1934.
Malalai Joya, now 32, was the youngest woman elected to the Afghan Parliament in 2005. A feminist activist who has defied the Taliban, Joya is also an outspoken opponent of the US/NATO occupation of Afghanistan. Joya says the war is a crime against her people that is propping up corrupt warlords and fundamentalists no better than the Taliban.
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.