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The Edmund Rice Centre released the public statement below on January 26. ***** We, Australian organisations and individuals, unite to offer this statement to our nation. A “Memorandum of Understanding” (MOU) was recently signed between the Australian government, the government of Afghanistan and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, permitting the involuntary repatriation from Australia of unsuccessful Afghan asylum seekers back to Afghanistan.
New federal drug laws could make thousands of native and common garden plants illegal. The proposed legislation will place common plants under schedule II of the drug code along with plants such as marijuana and opium poppies. The most worrying aspect of the legislation is the sheer number of plant species that will be made illegal. Many of the substances produced by the plants are already illegal to manufacture or consume. However, there is not any significant market for making drugs from these plants and they are not sold or produced by organised crime.
Irish Taosiech (prime minister) Brian Cowen resigned as leader of the government Fianna Fail party on January 22. The move came in the midst of a political crisis caused by the Cowen government accepting an 85 billion euro bailout package from the European Union and International Monetary Fund. The package will be accompanied by savage spending cuts that will drastically deepen the austerity imposed on the Irish people in response to the financial crisis that hit the southern Irish state in 2008.
Wharfies employed by stevedoring company Patrick at four different ports across Australia took strike action in the last week of January in pursuit of a new enterprise bargaining agreement (EBA). It was the most significant industrial action on the wharves since the 1998 Patrick lockout. In recent ballots organised by Fairwork Australia, workers at the strike-affected ports voted (by margins of 94% to 100%) to take a range of different forms of industrial action to press their claim.
Four hundred people braved very warm weather to gather at the State Library of Victoria on February 4 to show solidarity with the recent democracy protests in Egypt. Mohamed Elmasri from the Federation of Australian Muslims and Youth told the rally that the peaceful protesters in Egypt were defiant in the face of the extreme violence from Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak’s regime. Nazeem Haussain of the Islamic Council of Victoria also defended the Egyptian protesters.
For a decade, Ireland was heralded by the most ardent partisans of neoliberal capitalism as a model to be imitated. The “Celtic Tiger” had a higher growth rate than the European average. Tax rates on companies had been reduced to 12.5% and the rate actually paid by the transnational corporations that had set up business there was between 3 and 4% — a CEO’s dream! By comparison, the company tax rate is 39.5% in Japan, 39.2% in Britain, 34.4% in France and 28% in the US. Ireland’s budget deficit was nil in 2007. In this earthly paradise, everybody seemed to benefit.
NSW planning minister Tony Kelly announced on January 18 he had approved plans by Delfin Lend Lease to build 4800 homes in Calderwood, west of Albion Park. The decision has angered many nearby residents. It also ignored strong opposition from Shellharbour council. Opponents of the development say it is unnecessary and will destroy prime agricultural land. The Calderwood development, which falls within the boundary of Shellharbour Council, was approved under Part 3A of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act.
Amanda Palmer Goes Down Under First single: ‘Map of Tasmania’ Amanda Palmer Available at www.amandapalmer.net/afp I first met US singer-songwriter Amanda Palmer when she was playing with drummer Brian Viglione in punk cabaret band The Dresden Dolls. Her song writing and performance was brutally honest, going places stylistically and thematically into which very few performers in today’s music industry venture.
There seems to be a misconception in the general community that there is something attractive or good about jobs in the mining sector. But as someone whose main career included 25 years in the refinery, mining construction and production industries, I can state quite emphatically that mining jobs are shit jobs. It wasn't always the case, but mining jobs have become progressively less desirable in the past 20 years.
Community group Save The Old Kings School (STOKS) held a protest in Parramatta in Sydney’s west on February 2 to demand the historic old Kings School site stay in public hands. Local residents, STOKS activists and members of the Greens and Socialist Alliance attended the action. The school site dates back to the early days of the colony. When the school relocated to North Parramatta in 1968, the site was sold to the NSW government. It has been unused for many years.
Venezuela’s petroleum corporation in the US, Citgo, announced on January 27 the start of its sixth year providing subsidised heating oil to low-income people in the US. An estimated 132,000 households across the US will benefit from the program this year, amounting to US$60 million of savings. The program is carried out with US non-profit group Citizens Energy Corporation. Joseph P. Kennedy II said: “Every year, we hear from families who struggle each and every day to put food on the table and heat their homes.
Sexism getting worse, not better Jess Moore, in her article “Raunch culture, sex and sexuality” (GLW#864), addresses some important issues affecting women today. I don’t disagree with her main conclusion (replace sexist heterosexual raunch culture with non-sexist and queer raunch culture) but feel it is a little simplistic (although I guess with word limits that’s hard to avoid). There has been a new wave of excellent books by feminist writers published in the last couple of years that critique current social trends.
The Sydney Peace Foundation awarded its “gold medal for peace with justice” to WikiLeaks editor-in-chief Julian Assange on February 2 in recognition of his “exceptional courage and initiative in pursuit of human rights”. This award is different from the foundation’s annual Sydney Peace Prize. The foundation has awarded the gold medal on only three previous occasions: the Dalai Lama in 1998; Nelson Mandela in 2000 and Japanese lay Buddhist leader Daisaku Ikeda in 2009.
In her January 26 speech to commemorate Australia Day, Prime Minister Julia Gillard took the opportunity to celebrate what she called the “bonds of mateship”, which had been “on such strong display” in the aftermath of the recent devastating floods. However, this year’s Australia Day celebrations were also marred by violence. This is not unusual. Police made 180 Australia Day-related arrests throughout New South Wales on January 26.
As momentous events in Egypt demonstrate, much of the world is calling to account an “old order”. These are exciting times for the possibilities of real change in the way our societies are run. One of the catalysts of the “people power” we see on our TV screens is the extraordinary disclosure of secret information that tells us how wars begin and governments manipulate and deceive in our name. In the tradition of courageous investigative journalism, WikiLeaks has blown the whistles that alert us to these injustices and lies, serving a basic democratic need.
David Kato Kisule, described by The New York Times on January 28 as the father of Uganda’s lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgender rights movement, was murdered in his home on January 26. Kato was advocacy officer for Sexual Minorities Uganda. The killing came as increasingly violent homophobic tensions continued to escalate in the east African nation. Kato, aged 46, was bludgeoned to death with two blows to the head from a hammer in his Kampala home. The attack was carried out by one or more male attackers.

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