The River: A Journey through the Murray-Darling Basin By Chris Hammer Melbourne University Publishing 2009, $34.99 pb Canberra journalist Chris Hammer has spent over a decade reporting on the crisis facing the Murray-Darling river system, and the communities that rely on it for their livelihoods. To write The River, however, Hammer actually travelled from tail to tip of the river system — from Cunnamulla to Dubbo and Echuca, from Bourke to Menindee and the Murray Mouth — and witnessed first-hand a river system in terminal decline.
How much is QR National worth? With the sell-off of the massive freight and rail infrastructure part of Queensland Rail launched on October 10, will the “investment community” here and overseas gobble up at least 1.46 billion of the 2.44 billion shares on offer at between $2.50 and $3? If it does, the float will be worth between $6.1 billion and $7.32 billion for Queensland’s coffers (including at least $1.525 billion in QR National shares) and QR National’s managers, like those of Goldman Sachs and Merrill Lynch, will have “earned” $65 million in fees.
In a first for the post-Howard industrial relations system, the Fair Work Ombudsman has granted the National Union of Workers (NUW) the right to enter and inspect time and wage records of all workers at Adelaide’s Lilydale chicken factory. The company was investigated by ABC’s Lateline on October 21. It showed the sacking of Sudanese migrant Anyoun Mabior and the terrible conditions at the factory. These conditions included underpayment, bullying, harassment, racism and breaches of health and safety laws.
Colombian trade unionist, Parmenio Poveda Salazar, is touring Australia to denounce human rights violations in his country. His visit is being organised by Peace and Justice For Colombia (PJFC). Poveda is a representative of the Federation of United National Agricultural workers unions, FENSUAGRO, the largest peasant and farm workers’ union federation in Colombia.
The signing of the much-anticipated “Forest peace deal”, an agreed statement of principles between some conservation groups and the timber industry, was announced on October 19. Most of the statement of principles had already been leaked. Still up in the air was the two last minute demands made by the Forest Industries Association of Tasmania. These concerned recognition of already existing supply contracts from publicly owned native forests and the use of forests for wood-fired power station.
Mike Smith, the CEO of the ANZ Bank has fumed about Liberal-National shadow treasurer Joe Hockey’s recent populist rhetoric against the four big banks that increasingly dominate the Australian economy. “The Liberals’ economic credentials have been hijacked by out-there proposals”, Smith said in the October 29 Sydney Morning Herald. “Mr Hockey seems to be on some kind of personal vendetta. It would appear he has been taking economics lessons from Hugo Chavez.” Has Hockey been taking lessons from Venezuela’s socialist president?
In a win for community campaigners and the environment, BHP Billiton has dropped plans for a massive long-wall mine under the pristine Dharawal State Conservation Area (DSCA) on the NSW south coast. The decision came on October 26 after a review by the NSW Planning Assessment Commission that said society would be better off without the mine. Importantly, the review backed up the argument made by community groups that “remediation”, where the company would take responsibility for cleaning up the site, is a myth in these circumstances.
The first stage of the national school curriculum is scheduled to begin in 2011, and not many people are happy about it. The idea of a national curriculum was initially raised by the Hawke Labor government in the late 1980s, and later echoed by Coalition prime minister John Howard.
Not so long ago, the polar ice sheet made it almost impossible to circle the North Pole by sea. But in June, two boats set off to do just that. By mid October, both returned to port successful — the first ships to sail around the pole in a single summer season. It’s likely the feat greatly tested the crews’ skill and endurance. But their achievement is no cause for celebration. The Arctic is often called the “planet’s refrigerator” because of the role it plays in regulating the Earth’s climate. Now, it’s clear the refrigerator is breaking down due to global warming.
Review by Graham Matthews
Capitalism and Workers’ Struggle in China By Chris Slee Resistance Books, Sydney, 2010, $5 www.resistancebooks.com China enters the 21st century as something of an enigma.
My Name is Rachel Corrie is a play based on the letters and diaries of the US peace activist killed by an Israeli military bulldozer in the Gaza Strip in 2003. The play will run in Melbourne over November 3-14. This follows a sellout season at the 2010 Adelaide Fringe Festival. In January 2003, Rachel Corrie travelled to Palestine as part of the International Solidarity Movement. She was part of a nonviolent protest against the State of Israel’s policy of demolishing Palestinian housing to expand Jewish settlement in the Occupied Territories.
Six fighters from the private army of Afghan warlord, drug trafficker and highway robber Matiullah Khan were recently in Australia for training with the Australian Defence Forces, the October 29 Sydney Morning Herald said. Khan’s power base is in Oruzgan province, where most Australian forces in Afghanistan are stationed. Such is Khan’s reputation for criminality and violence that Dutch forces, who before their withdrawal in August were the largest foreign contingent in Oruzgan, refused to work with him.