Issue 686

Australia

ACT government ACTION bus drivers held a snap strike on September 20 to protest against service cutbacks that would reduce some drivers’ extra shifts and pay. The action was taken following the failure of negotiations with the ACT government’s municipal services department and despite a Transport Workers Union warning that the strike would be illegal and could result in fines of $4000 for each worker.
Workers at the Tronics factory in Thomastown voted to return to work on October 6 after management agreed to an 11.5% pay rise over three years, maintenance of existing conditions and an acceptable disputes-settling procedure. During the preceding three weeks the workers had taken strike action for a total of eight full days and three half days.
MELBOURNE — On October 5, 80 people from a range of trade unions protested outside the new Australian Industrial Relations Commission headquarters in Exhibition Street. The opening was attended by federal workplace relations minister Kevin Andrews. Protest organiser Dave Kerin from Union Solidarity told the rally that workers will fight the Howard government’s unfair laws all the way, and that bad laws needed to be broken.
A gay rights rally was held at Newcastle University on September 27 as part of gay pride week. The 40 protesters demanded an end to all laws that discriminate against queers, and equality for all regardless of sexuality.
Fed up with Australia Post’s cuts to country jobs and services, country postal workers and supporters protested outside Australia Post’s Melbourne headquarters on October 6.
On September 23, the Australia-Cuba Friendship Society and Green Left Weekly held a public screening of Power of Community — How Cuba Survived Peak Oil. Around 90 people attended.
On September 23, Jayme Magana, a young activist in El Salvador’s Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front, addressed a community meeting about the oppressive conditions in El Salvador. A short documentary by Salvador Castro about political struggles in the country was also shown.
Around 250 people gathered on September 23 to voice their anger at the ongoing occupation of Iraq, Palestine and Lebanon by the imperialist “coalition of the killing”. A letter to the crowd on behalf of Jack Thomas’s family said: “If Jack had not been targeted it would be someone else. This is why solidarity with the Muslim community is so important right now.” The rally marched to Trades Hall, where a fundraiser for Doctors for Iraq and Human Appeal International was held later that afternoon.
A September 1-3 Newspoll survey commissioned by the progressive lobby GetUp revealed that more than 91% of people in Australia believe Guantanamo Bay detainee David Hicks deserves a fair trial without delay. Only 24% believe he will receive a fair trial at Guantanamo Bay. Visit ><http://www.getup.org.au>.
Melbourne-based human rights group Civil Union Action! held a snap action on October 6 outside the Victorian ALP headquarters to denounce Premier Steve Bracks' confirmation that the state government opposes civil unions for same-sex couples. The Labor government has ruled out a debate before the November 25 state election on independent MP Andrew Olexander's civil unions bill.
The third annual national gathering of the Australian Coalition of West Papua Support Groups on September 16-17 affirmed the right of the people of West Papua to self-determination and decolonisation.
On October 4, student anti-war campaigners were threatened by security guards with being kicked off the University of Technology Sydney campus.
Nelson Davila, Venezuela’s charge d’affaires in Australia, addressed a 100-strong meeting on September 22 organised by the Socialist Alliance and the Lebanese Communist Party in Australia (LCPA), held at the Lebanese Cultural Centre in Brunswick.
The 1999 abduction of Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Ocalan by Turkey’s National Intelligence Agency (MIT) while he was in Kenya set a precedent for the CIA’s post-9/11 practice of “extraordinary rendition”, Ocalan’s lawyers told the first Australian Conference on the Political and Human Rights Dimensions of the Kurdish Question, held in Melbourne on October 3.
Walk against Warming is an international day of action to bring the issue of global warming to the attention of governments. This year it is happening on November 4 and rallies will be held around Australia demanding: more support for renewable energy, no nuclear and no new coal-fired power; better public transport; and that the Australian government ratify the Kyoto protocol.
Around 50 people — including the brother of Mulrunji, who died at the hands of police in the Palm Island watch-house in November 2004, many other Murris and representatives from Australians for Native Title and Reconciliation, the Greens, the Democrats and the Socialist Alliance — gathered on October 5 at Jagera Hall to plan a march on state parliament on October 10 to demand justice for Mulrunji.
When Indigenous activist and socialist Sam Watson talks about "serious political business" he means just that.

World

“A strong majority of Iraqis want US-led military forces to immediately withdraw from the country, saying their swift departure would make Iraq more secure and decrease sectarian violence, according to new polls by the State Department and independent researchers”, the September 27 Washington Post reported.
In a report released on September 5, the Senlis Council, an international policy think tank with offices in Kabul, London, Paris and Brussels, said that Taliban forces fighting the US-led occupation of Afghanistan have regained control over the southern parts of the country.
Claire English, a former National Union of Students queer officer, attended the August 3-13 Queeruption convergence in Tel Aviv. Below is her account of some of her experiences.
Thailand’s September 19 “tanks and flowers” coup quickly turned nasty, as a military junta imposed media censorship, banned political gatherings of more than five people and prohibited the formation of political parties.
On September 24, a Swiss referendum overwhelmingly validated two anti-immigration laws. The laws received 68% support.
Although still three years away, citing the need to prevent Indonesia’s 2009 general elections from becoming “overly fragmented” by a plethora of new political parties, legislators are seeking to limit the number of parties that can participate.
On September 12 Venezuela’s left-wing President Hugo Chavez announced the expansion of the Development Bank for Women — Banmujer — during a meeting in the Teresa Carreno Theatre to celebrate five years since the bank’s founding. Chavez offered another 100 billion bolivares (A$65 million) in resources to the bank.
The Indonesian government recently issued a ministerial decree to implement a citizenship law passed in July. The law will clarify the status of hundreds of Indonesians studying abroad during the alleged 1965 coup attempt who had their citizenship stripped by the Suharto regime after the overthrow of President Sukarno for alleged links to “subversive movements”. People’s Democratic Party chairperson Dita Indah Sari argues that dealing with the exiles’ status should not be an administrative question, but one of justice for victims of Suharto’s New Order regime.
Incumbent President Luiz Inacio “Lula” da Silva came first in Brazil’s October 1 presidential elections, scoring 48.6% of the vote. His nearest rival, Geraldo Alkmin, the main right-wing candidate and a member of the Brazilian Social Democratic Party (PSDB), scored 41.64%. Early polls suggested Lula could win an outright majority, however since no candidate won over 50% there will be a run-off election between Lula and Alkmin on October 29. Polls suggest that Lula is likely to win in the run-off.
As part of Canberra’s campaign against the government of Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare, on September 29 the Australian Federal Police had Solomons attorney-general Julian Moti arrested by Papua New Guinean police at the Port Moresby airport while he was flying back to the Solomons from Singapore. A PNG magistrate released Moti on bail that evening.
Last year the Chilean polling firm Latinobarometro published results from 20,000 face-to-face interviews in 18 Latin American countries. Venezuelans, more than any other nationality polled, described their government as “totally democratic” and expressed an optimism in their country’s future that outpaced any other. This response sits in stark contrast to what would have been found just a decade earlier if a similar poll had been conducted. To understand this phenomenon we must take a look at Venezuelan politics before President Hugo Chavez came on the scene.
The September 20 United Nations speech by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, in which he slammed US imperialism and referred to US President George Bush as the devil, has led to a fresh outburst of attacks on Venezuela from the US government and media.
Speaking at the United Nations General Assembly on September 19, Bolivia’s first indigenous president, Evo Morales, said that previous Bolivian governments had “massacred people that struggled for their economic demands, for their natural resources” and that “perpetrators of genocide, corrupt criminals, escape in order to live in the United States”.
On October 1, Alexander Ivanko, the chief spokesperson for the UN peacekeeping force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), denied Israel’s assertions, made earlier that day, that all Israeli troops had been withdrawn from southern Lebanon. He told a Lebanese radio station that Israeli troops were still occupying Ghajar — a village with 1800 residents the UN recognised in 2000 as straddling the Lebanon-Syria border.

Analysis

The Australia-Venezuela Solidarity Network national consultation decided to support the relaunch of an Australian campaign in support of the “Cuban Five” - five Cubans convicted in the United States in 2001 on charges ranging from conspiracy to commit murder to endangering the security of the US. The Cuban Five are being held in maximum security prisons across the US.
The rising tide of enthusiasm for Venezuela’s Bolivarian Revolution is reaching Australia. This was seen at the Fourth National Latin American Solidarity Conference held in Sydney on September 29, the biggest such solidarity gathering in over a decade.
Academics may be given limited access to books banned under anti-terrorism laws, federal attorney-general Philip Ruddock said on October 2. His comments came after University of Melbourne vice-chancellor Glyn Davis wrote to Ruddock seeking clarification on the laws.
Members of the Victorian branch of the Australian Education Union (AEU) will have a choice in this month’s union elections. The current leadership is being challenged by the Teachers Alliance.
Despite ALP election commitments to “oppose any new uranium in South Australia”, on September 30 Premier Mike Rann’s Labor government announced final approval for Southern Cross Resources to expand uranium mining operations at the Honeymoon site, 75 kilometres north-west of Broken Hill. The announcement came just three days after the 50th anniversary of the first nuclear bomb test at Maralinga in SA.
Debts owed by students for university fees are growing by about $2 billion a year, according to the federal education department. Reporting the finding, the September 13 Melbourne Age observed that if the debt rise “continues at this rate, the amount owed will double in six years, from $10.2 billion in 2003-04 to more than $20 billion by 2009-10".
A group of Aboriginal leaders supported by the West Australian Social Justice Network has initiated a campaign in the wake of what “appears to be an orchestrated attack by the federal government and sections of the media on Aboriginal culture” and leaders.
Willem (Wim) Zonggonau died in Royal North Shore Hospital, Sydney, on October 2 after suffering what is believed to be a massive cardiovascular event. He was 64 years old.
In a damning report released on September 27, Queensland’s acting state coroner, Christine Clements, has criticised the initial investigation into the 2004 Palm Island death in custody of Mulrunji, saying that it failed to meet appropriate guidelines. Clements also found that Senior Sergeant Christopher Hurley caused Mulrunji’s death and accused the police of failing to investigate his death fully.
“Dear reader, civilisation as we know it is coming to an end soon.” This is how the Peak Oil: Life After the Oil Crash website introduces itself. Peak oil is the theory that the world’s oil supplies will soon reach their highest output, their peak, after which there will be a rapid decline in output. The website argues that “the consequences (if true) would be unimaginable. Permanent fuel shortages would tip the world into a generations-long economic depression. Millions would lose their jobs as industry implodes. Farm tractors would be idled for lack of fuel, triggering massive famines. Energy wars would flare.”
Motahar Hussein is a Bangladeshi man seeking asylum in Australia. He has been languishing in the Villawood refugee detention centre for two years because the Refugee Review Tribunal (RRT) has twice refused to accept that he will face homophobic persecution if he is forced back to Bangladesh. Green Left Weekly’s Rachel Evans spoke to Hussein in Villawood.
The following is abridged from a talk presented to the Beyond Nuclear Initiative (BNI) symposium in Melbourne, September 15-16.
The Socialist Alliance is campaigning for the defeat of the Howard government in the next federal election and against the Liberal opposition in the November 25 Victorian state election. However, we have little confidence that the election of Labor governments in Victoria or federally will result in improvements in working people’s conditions of life.The Socialist Alliance is campaigning for the defeat of the Howard government in the next federal election and against the Liberal opposition in the November 25 Victorian state election.

Editorial

On October 3, North Korea’s foreign ministry issued a statement announcing that US “threats of nuclear war, sanctions and pressure compel the DPRK [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea] to conduct a nuclear test, which is essential for bolstering its nuclear deterrent and as a corresponding measure for defence”. Western spy agencies estimate North Korea has enough plutonium to make up to 10 nuclear bombs.

Letters

Climate change Lachlan Malloch reviewed Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth in GLW #683, concluding: "The film's suggestion of individual and largely apolitical actions, mute what could have been a clarion call for radical global change." Citizens

Culture

The stout, broadly smiling chief editor ushered me into his small office. From the wall, the face of forbidden fruit — stern theoretician, military leader and organiser of the Red Army, “sorcerer” Leon Trotsky — stared defiantly down at me.
Poets for PalestineDeadline for submissions November 10, 2006Email ><Poets4Palestine@gmail.com> or mail to P.O. Box 255 New York, NY 10013, USA
The Other Side of the Frontier: Aboriginal Resistance to the European Invasion of AustraliaBy Henry ReynoldsUNSW Press, 2006245 pages, $29.95 (pb)
Vietnam Symphony — In 1965, as the Vietnam War intensified, Vietnamese music students and teachers built an entire campus underground, creating a maze of hidden tunnels, connecting an auditorium and classrooms. SBS, Thursday, October 13, 8.30pm. Message Stick: Wave Hill Concert — A major two part commemoration and celebration of the 40th anniversary of the 1966 Wave Hill Walk Off featuring prominent Aboriginal bands who performed during the three day event. ABC, Friday, October 14, 6pm. Cuban Missile Crisis Declassified — Presents a compilation of authentic historic images, eyewitness accounts from the United States, USSR, Cuba, Germany and the Vatican. SBS, Saturday, October 15, 7.30pm. Ordinary People — Follows One Nation candidate Colene Hughes through two election campaigns in Ipswich as her belief in the party is sorely tested and her idealistic fervour slowly turns to disillusionment. ABC, Monday, October 16, 2.25am. The Dark Side of Democracy — Drawing on more than 40 interviews and thousands of documents, the documentary provides a step-by-step examination of what happened inside the councils of war in the US. SBS, Tuesday, October 17, 8:30pm. How Vietnam Was Lost — In October 1967, in a jungle in Vietnam, a National Liberation Front ambush nearly wiped out a US battalion, prompting some in power to question whether they could win this war. SBS, Tuesday, October 17, 10pm. The Price Of Victory — Chronicles a three-month period in Baghdad seen from the perspective of US soldiers from the 27th Field Artillery Regiment. SBS, Wednesday October 18, 2pm.