Issue 689

Australia

The construction of the giant Alcoa aluminium processing plant in Pinjarra, south of Perth, was held up for several hours on November 1 as the local community protested against sackings at the site.
In an action called by Regional Community Watch, 300 people marched on November 3 against the impending closure of a rehabilitation unit at the local St Vincent’s hospital, delivering a petition signed by 2000 residents and 100 local doctors to the North Coast Area Health Service. Speakers argued that the proposed smaller, relocated unit at Ballina will be inadequate and inaccessible. The protesters highlighted the role of NSW Premier and former health minister Morris Iemma and current health minister John Hatzistergos. After the rally, the hospital board agreed to reopen negotiations on the unit’s future.
On November 3, 450 people packed the Brisbane Convention Centre to hear a lunchtime address from US Marine Corps Major Michael Mori, the US military-appointed lawyer for Australian Guantanamo Bay detainee David Hicks.
More than 300 workers at Feltex Carpets are being pressured to sign individual contacts (Australian Workplace Agreements — AWAs) as a condition of employment by the company’s new owner. If they refuse, they will lose their jobs and receive no redundancy entitlements.
Opening an October 23 public forum organised by Reproductive Choice Australia, Leslie Cannold, Melbourne Age columnist and author of The Abortion Myth, said that Victorian Labor Premier Steve Bracks had stated he favoured keeping the status quo on abortion, even though the ALP’s election platform calls for its decriminalisation.
The Young Unionist Network (YUN) and the Rock for Your Rights at Work coalition are bringing together artists and cultural workers to stage five huge gigs here in the lead-up to the November 30 national day of action against the Howard government’s anti-worker laws. Ranging from hip-hop to heavy metal, the gigs aim to maximise support for the campaign against Work Choices.
Three Filipino workers sacked for speaking out about their and 37 other Filipino workers’ treatment by Ipswich welding firm Dartbridge Engineering have been found alternative employment by their union, the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union (AMWU).
Staff at the University of NSW mail room are the latest victims of the university’s cost-cutting and corporatisation. Mail services at UNSW including internal mail and courier services were put out to tender via an advertisement in the November 1 Sydney Morning Herald.
The women’s room, and the women’s, Indigenous and queer officer positions will not exist next year at the Bendigo campus of Latrobe University.
Large rallies were held around Australia on November 4 as part of an international day of action to protest government inaction on climate change. Organisers of the “Walk against warming” estimated that the number of people who participated was up to: 47,000 in Sydney, 30,000 in Melbourne, 5000 in Hobart, 3000 in Canberra and Perth, 1500 in Brisbane, 1000 in Adelaide and Wollongong, 800 in Newcastle and 300 in Cairns.
November 18 will be the second anniversary of the police killing of Mulrunji in Palm Island’s watchhouse. On that day, members of Queensland’s Aboriginal community and their supporters will rally in Brisbane to demand an end to Aboriginal deaths in custody.
Green Left Weekly is calling on supporters to help get the paper into thousands of new hands on November 30 — the ACTU-called national day of action against Work Choices.
Forty-nine workers at the largest workshop in the Latrobe Valley have been locked out for almost three months by Mechanical Engineering Services (MES). As soon as he’d locked out the workers, the company owner, Anthony Elliott, went overseas for several weeks.
November 30 is a truly national day of protest, with more than 300 rally points across metropolitan and rural Australia. Regional Victorian workers are being encouraged to come to Melbourne on November 29 to be ready for an early start the next day at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, or the “G”.
Terry Hicks, the father of Guantanamo Bay detainee David Hicks, spoke to Green Left Weekly's Leslie Richmond about the implications of the new US Military Commission Act.
"If there's an organisation that can lead the trade union movement to where it should be going, it's this one", Chris Cain, Western Australian state secretary of the Maritime Union of Australia told the opening plenary of the 5th Socialist Alliance national conference held at Geelong Trades Hall on October 29.

World

In the face of a general strike called by Shiite militants in Baghdad’s northeastern Sadr City district, home to 2.5 million people, US troops ended their week-long siege of the district on October 31.
The US, Britain, Italy, France, Australia and Bahrain began two days of joint naval exercises in the Persian Gulf on October 31, including marine boardings of ships 32 kilometres from the Iranian coastline. Iranian foreign ministry spokesperson Mohammad Ali Hosseini told reporters in Tehran: “We are watching their movements very carefully. We do not consider this exercise appropriate. US moves go in the direction of more adventurism, not of stability and security.”
Six miners were killed by the Special Operations Unit of the Venezuelan Armed Forces (TO5) on September 22 in the remote jungle area of La Paragua, 200km south-east of Ciudud Bolivar in the eastern state of Bolivar. Fourteen soldiers landed their helicopter at the El Papelon de Turumban mine, destroyed the miners’ heavy machinery and shot them in the back, according to a report in the October 8 Ultimas Noticias.
As fellow media makers and artists, we are writing to honor the memory of independent journalist, filmmaker, and respected activist Brad Will, who was brutally murdered while filming the grassroots popular movement in Oaxaca, Mexico.
“We’re showing the world that no multinational company can just come here to humiliate Venezuelan employees”, Nixon Lopez, a Venezuelan workers’ leader, told BBC News on October 24. Lopez was referring to the actions of over 10,000 former employees at the Coca-Cola Femsa bottling company, the second-largest soft drink bottling company in the world.
Thousands across Canada took to the streets on October 28 against the country’s military intervention in Afghanistan. In wind, rain and in some cases snow, people turned out in more than 30 communities to stand against the mission. Forty-three Canadians have died in Afghanistan since 2002. The country has around 2300 troops serving there.
Many of the 2.6 million US soldiers who served in the Vietnam War have contracted cancer and a cocktail of serious health problems that they believe to be directly linked to their exposure to the dioxin-contaminated defoliant Agent Orange. The US military sprayed Agent Orange heavily in some parts of Vietnam for 10 years during the war.
On October 30 primary and preschool teachers went back to the classrooms, ending seven weeks of strikes and actions, with their key demand of a 40% wage increase unmet. They will continue their campaign for wage justice with 24-hour strikes and education rallies on November 3 and 9.
Bolivia, a country with a majority indigenous population, now has its first indigenous president, Evo Morales. Morales, who won the December 2005 presidential election, doesn’t just identify as indigenous, he is a fighter for the indigenous cause. His presidency is a massive step forward for indigenous rights — not only in Bolivia, but in Latin America, and possibly even the world.
A Congolese prosecutor has called for three former managers of the Perth-based Anvil Mining corporation to be indicted for “complicity in war crimes” — involvement in the massacre of up to 100 people in the village of Kilwa in October 2004. The slaughter, committed by Congolese Armed Forces soldiers ferried to the scene by Anvil-chartered planes and company-owned trucks, took place 50 kilometres from the company’s Dikulushi silver and copper mine in the south-east of the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Ruhel Ahmed, Asif Iqbal, Shafiq Rasul and Monir Ali, from the English midlands town of Tipton, travelled to Pakistan in late 2001 for a wedding and a backpacking holiday. All except Ali were captured in Afghanistan by the Northern Alliance and turned over to the US military, which wrongfully imprisoned and tortured them at Guantanamo Bay for more than two years.
The drive to oust Taiwanese President Chen Shui-bian has been put on hold as the major parties jostle to win the December 9 mayoral and city council elections for the major cities of Taipei and Kaohsiung.
Arab MPs demonstrated outside the Israeli parliament (Knesset) calling on other countries to impose sanctions on the Zionist state as Avigdor Lieberman, the openly racist anti-Arab leader of the Yisrael Beiteinu (“Israel is our home”) party, was sworn into PM Ehud Olmert’s cabinet on October 30.
Israeli cabinet minister Jacob Edery admitted on October 22 that Israel had used white phosphorus, a substance that burns when it comes into contact with air, during its 34-day July-August war on Lebanon.
In the final countdown to the November 7 mid-term congressional elections, Democrats.com has already begun celebrating. Calling for candlelight vigils outside polling stations across the nation on election night, the website says its blue-clad supporters will bear moral witness against voting fraud during the historic moment when the Democrats are expected to retake Congress (well, at least the House of Representatives), with the “Republican Revolution” finally unraveling after 12 long years.

Analysis

What sort of dogmatic free-market ideologue would use poor people’s (often socially constructed) desire for credit to justify shrinking the already beleaguered welfare policies of wretched Third World states?
“I’m just, I’m a little concerned with all this hysteria over this greenhouse gases and the environment, that the Liberal Party is not selling your message the way you sold it now to Leon, and that it’s not getting through to the average man in the street” — this is what “Emile”, an “unashamed supporter” of Prime Minister John Howard, had to say to the PM on November 2, during Leon Byner’s talkback show on Adelaide’s Radio 5AA.
Fadi Rahman from the Independent Centre for Research’s youth centre in Lidcombe, Sydney, spoke to Green Left Weekly’s Emma Clancy about the impact on young Muslim Australians of the media attack on the entire Islamic community in the wake of Sheikh Taj el-Din Al Hilaly’s comments about women and sexual assault.
How hard is it to raise $76,500 before the end of this year? Not hard at all for some organisations. As the November 1 Sydney Morning Herald reported: “Opposition Leader, Peter Debnam, took to the harbour last night for a fund-raising cruise with the property industry aboard a luxury cruiser owned by a developer, Greg Gav.
The plight of Australian Guantanamo Bay prisoner David Hicks continues, as the government's arrogance and subservience to the US shows no sign of abating.
On October 21, two days after the anniversary of the sinking of the SIEV-X, shadow minister for immigration Tony Burke announced that he would recommend that the ALP change key aspects of its refugee policy.
Geelong Trades Hall was packed with unionists on October 28 exchanging ideas and experiences about surviving and fighting Work Choices. Some 130 unionists travelled from Victorian country centres such as Port Campbell, Portland, Hamilton and the Latrobe Valley to join unionists from across the country.
In its first national minimum wage decision on October 26, the Australian Fair Pay Commission (AFPC) handed down an increase of $27.36 for workers earning under $700 per week and $22.04 for those earning more than $700 covered by awards.
"When hypocritical old sexists like PM John Howard, Treasurer Peter Costello and radio shock-jock Alan Jones start delivering pious sermons about the rights of women, something very suspicious is happening", Pip Hinman, the Socialist Alliance's anti-war spokesperson, told Green Left Weekly.
Along with his contemptible "catmeat" analogy, Sheikh Taj El-din Al Hilaly's assurance to his congregation last month that, "If a woman is in her boudoir, in her house and if she's wearing the veil and if she shows modesty, disasters don't happen" was, of course, absolute bullshit. One in five Victorian women report being physically or sexually abused by an intimate partner at some time in their adult lives (VicHealth 2004). More than 20% of homicides involve intimate partners (Mouzos 2000). An estimated one in four children and young people have witnessed intimate partner violence (Office of Women's Policy 2002).
The strong parliamentary vote of confidence in Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare is a sign that the Howard government's Pacific intervention strategy is facing collapse.
A Congolese prosecutor has called for three former managers of the Perth-based Anvil Mining corporation to be indicted for "complicity in war crimes" - involvement in the massacre of up to 100 people in the village of Kilwa in October 2004. The slaughter, committed by Congolese Armed Forces soldiers ferried to the scene by Anvil-chartered planes and company-owned trucks, took place 50 kilometres from the company's Dikulushi silver and copper mine in the south-east of the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Advocates of justice for asylum seekers and refugees were relieved when the government was forced to withdraw its proposed amendments to the Migration Act, amendments that would have meant that any asylum seeker arriving by boat in Australia would be deported to Nauru to be processed.
Cuban Consul-General Nelida Hernandez told supporters on October 24 that Cuba will again ask the United Nations General Assembly on November 8 to support a motion to lift the 45-year-long economic embargo imposed by the US government on Cuba.

Editorial

As of November 2, 2825 US military personnel and 232 other allied foreign troops had died in Iraq since the country was invaded on March 20, 2003, by US, British and Australian forces.

Letters

Howard speech The October 4 Sydney Morning Herald printed an extract of John Howard's speech to the Quadrant 50th anniversary celebration the night before. I wrote a letter about it. Unsurprisingly, the SMH has not printed it: "Of Howard's two

Resistance!

Bono is at a U2 concert in Glasgow when he asks the audience for some quiet. In the silence, he starts to slowly clap his hands.

Culture

God On My Side
Directed by Andrew Denton
In cinemas now
Children of MenScreenplay by Alfonso Cuaron and Timothy J SextonDirected by Alfonso CuaronWith Clive Owen, Julianne Moore, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Clare-Hope Ashitey and Michael CaineIn cinemas now
Asbestos House: The Secret History of James Hardie IndustriesBy Gideon HaighScribe, 2006442 pages, $39.95 (pb)
Message Stick: NSW Lands Council What do the proposed changes to the NSW Aboriginal Lands Council mean for the local lands councils and traditional owners? ABC, Friday, November 10, 6pm. Goodbye Lenin! Excellent drama/comedy about the fall of
The Last ValleyDirected by Peter VaughanCapitol Theatre, 113 Swanston St, MelbourneNovember 14, 8pmentry $10/7conc.>
Gathering Ground: history ceremony protestThe Block, RedfernNovember 16-18, from 7.30pm