Issue 688

Australia

In a referendum held on Sydney University on September 20-21, 90% of the 3000 participating students voted for the university to reduce its contribution to climate change by purchasing a minimum of 20% clean, renewable energy. Currently the university uses 52 million kWh of electricity each year, all of which is generated by coal-fired power stations.
“I want to switch the lights on. I want people to see that there is a chance for a change.” This is how Aboriginal rap artist and social justice campaigner Jakalene X-treme describes what she wants to get out of the Socialist Alliance campaign for the March 2007 NSW state election. Jakalene was selected as an upper house candidate at the Socialist Alliance state conference on October 7.
On October 13, 50 people from the local Your Rights at Work campaign group protested outside a real estate agent’s office over his attempt to pressure Gail Austin, a long-term employee, to sign an Australian Workplace Agreement (individual contract) that “would have slashed [her] income by $30,000”, according to Workers Online. Austin said that she was told to sign the agreement or quit. Mark Ptolemy from the Your Rights at Work group said: “This company has done nothing illegal, but that doesn’t mean its actions are not highly immoral.”
Youth Rock the Block, held in Redfern on October 14, featured young community performers expressing their culture and raising money for a local women and children dance studio. The day included singing in the Indigenous Darug language, original dance pieces, renditions of well-known Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal pop songs and hip-hop.
Peter Bray from Rising Tide has questioned the independence and make-up of the “independent expert panel” set up to assess the proposed coal export terminal in Newcastle, branding it a “coal-dependent export panel” designed to ignore climate change.
On November 18-19, Melbourne will host some of the world’s most brutal warmongers and economic rationalists. They will be meeting under the auspices of the G20, with this year’s meeting chaired by Treasurer Peter Costello. A chief architect of the US war on Iraq, Paul Wolfowitz, will also be present, in his capacity as World Bank president.
On October 20, 65 people attended a public meeting to discuss the campaign to make the Newnes Plateau and other areas around the Gardens of Stone National Park, on the western edge of the Blue Mountains, a state conservation area. David Brazil from the Colong Foundation explained that the area has the highest density of rare plants in the Blue Mountains, contains important sites of Aboriginal heritage and provides a refuge for cool-climate species as global warming increases.
CBD office cleaners in cities across Australia and New Zealand staged protests on October 18 as part of the Clean Start: Fair Deal for All Cleaners campaign. About 70 cleaners and their supporters rallied outside the Tasmanian parliament marching to the Town Hall to present a letter to the city council.
On October 16, 250 people attended an early morning community picket outside Botany Cranes to support sacked delegate Barry Hemsworth. Sixty picketers returned the following day, blocking cranes from leaving the company’s yard until they were moved on by police.
According to an October 19 media release from the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU), workers under the age of 15 are now signing Australian Workplace Agreements (AWAs — individual work contracts) under the Howard government’s Work Choices legislation, which came into effect at the end of March.
Around the country, campus and high-school environment activists are focusing on getting young people to participate in the November 4 Walk against Warming international day of action on climate change.
Union Solidarity-led community picketers halted the construction of the Otway gas plant for a day on October 20. The picketers came from Melbourne, Geelong, Warrnambool, Hamilton and Portland to support the workers at the site. For two years, construction at the site has proceeded without a single day of industrial action. In June, a site agreement was negotiated between unions and the construction company, Technip.

World

On October 16, the Mexico’s national ombudsman, Jose Luis Soberanes Fernandez, delivered the recommendations of his report into the killing of two young men and the detention of another 207 people by municipal, state and federal security forces on May 3 and 4 in the municipalities of Texcoco and San Salvador Atenco. The clashes were sparked by attempts to remove flower venders without licences from a market.
Thousands of people flocked to the La Rinconada area, south of Caracas, on October 15, to hear socialist President Hugo Chavez inaugurate the new “Ezequiel Zamora” train line from Caracas to Cua, in the Valles del Tuy — the first new above-ground train line constructed in Venezuela for more than 70 years.
“We guarantee that all Venezuelans will receive free education, to the highest level, as a promise of the revolutionary government. This [event] demonstrates the importance that the [Bolivarian] revolution gives to education”, Hugo Chavez declared on October 8. The Venezuelan president was officially re-opening the Andres Bello high school, situated in the metropolitan centre of the Caracas. The high school has been extensively renovated and upgraded to provide for a student population of 1700, the October 9 Ultimas Noticias reported.
At an October 6 public meeting in Boston, US dissident intellectual Noam Chomsky gave the following remarks on the threat posed to the radical governments of Venezuela and Bolivia by Washington in response to an audience member’s question.
On October 15 Ecuador went to the polls. Having seen eight presidents in 10 years, three of whom were overthrown by a population frustrated by the corruption, ineptitude and nepotism that characterise Ecuador’s elite, the chances of any government lasting out its mandate seem pretty slim. However, the challenge could be in getting one of the pool of 13 presidential candidates even legitimately elected.
On October 17, a US federal appeals court upheld the US State Department’s 2004 designation of Kahane Chai, an Israeli-based spin-off of US ultra-Zionist Rabbi Meir Kahane’s Jewish Defence League (JDL), as a “foreign terrorist organisation”.
The “What we think” column from the US Socialist Worker, newspaper of the US International Socialist Organization, argues that although the Republican Party stranglehold on the US Congress may end in the November 7 elections, the Democrats have an abysmal record of trying to “out-Bush” the Republicans.
In a further assault on the sovereignty of the Solomon Islands, its Australian-appointed police commissioner, Shane Castles, had Solomons immigration minister Peter Shanel arrested on October 17 over the alleged illegal entry of Fiji-born Australian lawyer Julian Moti.
The United Nations Independent Special Commission of Inquiry released its report on October 17 into the violent conflict in April and May in East Timor. The 79-page report found that the “frailty of state institutions and the weakness of the rule of law” were to blame for the conflict that erupted following the sacking of almost 600 soldiers from the Timorese Defence Force.
On October 14, five days after North Korea announced that it had carried out its first nuclear weapons test, the UN Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution imposing a ban on trade with North Korea in “luxury” goods, some conventional armaments, and materials “related” to its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs.
On October 16, the UN Office of Humanitarian Assistance’s IRIN news service reported that electricity and clean water are now “luxuries for most Iraqis”. For example, Baghdad, a city with 6 million residents, gets no more than four to six hours of electricity a day.
October 12 was marked in Venezuela as the “Day of Indigenous Resistance” to the arrival of Spanish colonisers. On October 12, 1492, Christopher Columbus first landed in South America, beginning more than 500 years of genocide and oppression of the continent’s indigenous inhabitants. The day is a national public holiday in Venezuela and was previously designated Christopher Columbus Day.
On May 1, the day the Bolivian government announced the “nationalisation” of the country’s vast oil and gas reserves, I went out to witness the symbolic takeover of a former Bolivian refinery that was privatised in the late ’90s.

Analysis

Ever since the federal Coalition government introduced Work Choices, the trade union movement has been united behind the demand that the legislation be repealed. The debate has been over what alternative industrial relations system the movement should advocate.
Almost four decades later, the image can still make hairs rise on unsuspecting necks. It’s 1968, and 200-metre gold medalist Tommie Smith stands next to bronze winner John Carlos, their raised black-gloved fists smashing the sky on the medal stand in Mexico City. They were Trojan Horses of Rage — bringing the Black revolution into that citadel of propriety and hypocrisy: the Olympic games. When people see that image, their eyes are drawn like magnets toward Smith and Carlos, standing in black socks, their heads bowed in controlled concentration.
In October, ALP leader Kim Beazley sent a letter to households that expressed his support for the withdrawal of troops. Below is Beazley's letter and a reply by anti-war campaigner Pip Hinman, who argues that Australian troops shouldn't be taken out of Iraq just to be re-deployed to Afghanistan.
Bernadette Peters is a part-time cleaner and a full-time activist. She is also the partner of Mal Peters, one of the “Leighton Kumagai 107", who were fined $22,000 by the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC) for a strike in February in defence of a sacked health and safety delegate.
Melbourne’s public transport system is in crisis — despite a huge increase in subsidies since privatisation. Delays, cancellations and standing room only — this is the reality for passengers across the system. And on top of the bad service, Melbourne has the most expensive fares of any Australian capital city.
At a Just Peace meeting on October 20, it was proposed by Wade McDonald, a leader of the International Socialist Organisation, that all “paper selling” be banned outside an upcoming forum on Islamophobia co-hosted by Just Peace.
Millions of people on low-lying islands and lands in the Asia-Pacific region will become refugees in the next 40 years due to rising sea levels induced by climate change, according to a CSIRO report issued on October 8. The report was written by scientists with CSIRO’s marine and atmospheric research division, and was commissioned by aid and conservation agencies forming the national Climate Change and Development Roundtable.
Caroline Lund, a lifelong fighter for socialism, workers’ rights and women’s liberation, died at her home in Oakland, California, on October 14, aged 62. She will be sorely missed by her friends and comrades in the US and around the world, especially her lifelong partner and comrade Barry Sheppard.
On October 27, women and their supporters will rally in many cities, towns and rural areas around the world to protest against sexual violence against women and children. Over the past 28 years, Reclaim the Night rallies and marches have encouraged women to protest against violence and sexual assault.
Al Gore’s documentary An Inconvenient Truth has helped focus attention on the threat posed by fossil-fuel driven climate change. Gore’s film was met with a predictable barrage of criticism by right-wing pundits. For example Herald Sun columnist Andrew Bolt wrote in a September 13 article that the “former US vice-president’s ludicrous scaremongering contains exaggerations, half-truths and falsehoods”.
Biofuels such as ethanol have been presented by alternative energy entrepreneurs and many environmentalists as a “clean, green” alternative to fossil fuels. But recently a growing chorus of scientists have warned of the dangers of biofuels.
“Liberal Senator Gary Humphries has attempted to reignite a 50-year-old political fear of reds under the bed”, reported the Canberra Times on Thursday October 12. The article was referring to an October 10 speech in the Australian Senate, during which Humphries launched an attack on socialist Cuba and Australian supporters of the Cuban Revolution.

Editorial

Why did PM John Howard pre-empt his own inquiry, and a universal Australian corporate view that it makes no economic sense, to declare himself “very strongly” in favour of nuclear power last week?

Letters

Tamil struggle I The article "SRI LANKA: Tamil struggle born from oppression" by Chris Slee (GLW #685) was well written and well researched. He does not feel threatened by any parties when he calls a spade a spade. He is exactly right when heTamil struggle I The article "SRI LANKA: Tamil struggle born from oppression" by Chris Slee (GLW #685) was well written and well researched. He does not feel threatened by any parties when he calls a spade a spade.

General

Welcome to the new Green Left Weekly website. GLW is taking a one-week break — our next issue will be dated November 8.
If the Green Left Weekly Fighting Fund is going to make its target of $250,000 by the end of this year we will have to raise $95,000 over the next 10 weeks. That is a challenge, but we’ve made this sort of dash before and we can do it again.

Culture

Mary River - childhood home
In the Shadow of the Palms
Produced and Directed by Wayne Coles-Janess
In selected cinemas now
Marx’s Das Kapital: A Biography
By Frances Wheen
Allen & Unwin 2006
130 pages $22.95
The climate is changing. The time for squabbling and petty excuses is over. Now is the time for governments to take urgent and serious action to reduce greenhouse pollution and create a clean-energy future.
Nearly 40 years after his death, John Coltrane remains one of the most important figures in jazz history.