Issue 690

Australia

About 100 people rallied on the steps of Flinders Street station during rush hour on November 9 to call on Premier Steve Bracks’ Labor government to make public transport free and put it back into public hands.
“The revelation that Sydney’s Labor powerbrokers are determining exactly what their Newcastle Labor candidate says to the media offers a glimpse into how the Labor candidate would be handled if she were elected in March”, Michael Osborne, the Greens candidate for Newcastle, said on October 29.
In elections held last month for officers and councillors in the Victorian branch of the Australian Education Union (AEU), all state councillors who are members of the opposition grouping Teachers Alliance (TA) were returned. The group’s candidates won an average overall vote of 25%.
On November 9, Nicole Watson, an academic from the Jumbunna Centre of the University of Technology, Sydney, condemned the culture of police violence against Indigenous people in Queensland. She was addressing a public meeting at James Cook University attended by 100 people.
Newcastle City Council voted on November 7 to recommend that the NSW government cap coal exports through the Port of Newcastle at present levels. Greens councillor Michael Osborne moved the motion, which was supported by Labor councillors.
On November 10, the Federal Court ordered the reinstatement on full pay and conditions of two retrenched National Union of Workers (NUW) delegates because their employer was unable to prove that its decision to dismiss them was unrelated to their union activities.
The Environment Centre of the Northern Territory and the No Waste Alliance have written to the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) urging it not to grant a waste discharge license for a new mine near the town of Batchelor, about 100 kilometres south of Darwin.
On November 3, the NSW Industrial Relations Commission (IRC), while directing the NSW Teachers Federation (NSWTF) to lift its bans on public school teachers using A-E gradings in end-of-year school reports, refused to grant an order sought by the state Department of Education and Training that subjected the union to fines if it failed to lift the bans.
Community activists have bolstered picket lines at Botany Cranes (Exell St, Banksmeadow) and Thompson’s Roller Shutters (Henderson St, Turella) on several mornings over a period of several weeks.
For most of us, if you lose your job you’re in serious financial trouble. Not so for recently sacked US defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld.
EM>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. GLW is committed to the union and community campaign against the Howard

World

Under an historic November 8 agreement between the ruling Seven Party Alliance (SPA) and the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist), the Maoists will dissolve their parallel government by November 26 and join an interim government that will be set up no later than December 1. The CPN(M) waged a 10-year guerrilla war seeking to end Nepal’s feudal monarchy. It has established a parallel administration in some 80% of the country.
Just as a five-month-old campaign to oust him was losing momentum, President Chen Shui-bian was rocked on November 3 when the public prosecutor indicted his wife, Wu Shu-chen, and three other people for allegedly embezzling US$450,000 from a special diplomatic fund.
A fundraising appeal by the Labour Party Pakistan (LPP) to raise US$4200 to continue publishing the weekly magazine, Mazdoor Juddojehad (Workers’ Struggle), has been successful.
On November 9, for the 15th year in a row, the UN General Assembly called on the US government to lift its 44-year-old “economic, commercial and financial embargo against Cuba.”. The non-binding resolution was approved by a record 183 votes, with only four countries (the US, Israel, Marshall Islands and Palau) voting against, and only one (Micronesia) abstaining.
On November 1, Venezuela and Guatemala announced they would both support Panama as the Latin American country to fill the vacant position on the United Nations Security Council, according to a November 2 Venezuelanalysis.com article. The two nations had been competing for the seat, with Washington campaigning strongly for Guatemala, which has one of the worst human rights records in the region.
Scottish Socialist Party MP Rosie Kane was released from Cornton Vale women’s prison on November 8 after serving half of a 14-day jail sentence. The sentence was imposed when Kane refused to pay a £300 fine for participating in a 2005 anti-nuclear weapons protest at the Scottish parliament
A five-kilometre-long “mega-march” of hundreds of thousands of protesters took place in the state of Oaxaca on November 5. It demanded the resignation of the hated state governor, Ulises Ruiz Ortiz (known as URO). Only a few days earlier, on November 2, there was a battle to keep control of Benito Juarez University from federal troops that occupied the city of Oaxaca, the state’s capital, on October 29. These were just the latest events in a popular revolt in the southern Mexican state aimed at ousting the governor after he used savage repression to curb a teachers’ strike in July.
An Iraqi prisoner cowering naked and terrified as a US soldier sics a dog on him. This photo — along with others, for example, showing a hooded prisoner hooked up for electric shocks — exposed the barbarism of the US occupation of Iraq for the world to see.
Before we descended into the mine, our mini-bus (or micro) dropped us at the local “miner’s market” so we could buy sticks of dynamite, bags of coca leaves and a few 2-litre bottles of soft drink. These were gifts for some of the miners we were about to visit underground who still work the Cerro Rico — the famous mountain of silver that towers over the city of Potosi, located 4100 metres above sea level in the Bolivian Andes.
A simple petition initiated by rank-and-file US service members has caught on and begun to attract a mass sentiment of GI opposition to the continued US occupation of Iraq.
Venezuela has alleged there is a new plot backed by the US to destabilise the left-wing government of President Hugo Chavez in the lead-up to the December 3 presidential elections. According to independent polls, Chavez has a huge lead over opposition candidate Manuel Rosales.
Despite a relentless campaign by the Bush administration to derail his election, Sandinista leader Daniel Ortega won Nicaragua’s November 5 presidential election.
Michael Lebowitz is a director of the Centro Internacional Miranda (CIM), a Caracas-based foundation for analysis and discussion of Venezuela’s Bolivarian revolution; professor emeritus of the department of economics at Simon Fraser University, Canada; and author of several books on Marxism and socialism, including his newly published Build it Now: Socialism for the Twenty-first Century. He spoke to Green Left Weekly’s Coral Wynter and Jim McIlroy about the unfolding revolution in Venezuela.
Within hours of the November 7 mid-term US congressional elections, in which voters expressed their disaffection with the US-led war in Iraq by ousting a raft of Republican legislators, US war secretary Donald Rumsfeld fell on his sword, handing President George Bush his resignation.
“In practice, it has been a shabby affair, marred by serious flaws that call into question the capacity of the tribunal, as currently established, to administer justice fairly, in conformity with international standards”, Amnesty International spokesperson Malcolm Smart told journalists in London after the Supreme Iraqi Criminal Tribunal (SICT) imposed the death sentence on Saddam Hussein and two of his seven co-accused on November 5.
In the deadliest single attack on Palestinians in four years, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) killed 19 civilians at Beit Hanoun in the northern Gaza Strip on November 8. Seven homes were bombed in the early hours of the morning as the victims slept and, according to the Gaza-based United Nations Relief and Works Agency, more than 60 civilians were injured in the attack.

Analysis

More than 600 delegates representing 2 million union members met for the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) congress on October 25-26.
On September 28, Victorian construction workers enjoyed a well-earned barbeque and a few beers for the traditional shutdown weekend prior to the AFL grand final. On a construction site in Geelong, workers and union officials gathered to also celebrate and commemorate union legend John Cummins’ life.
Only a foolish punter looking to lose their hard-earned cash would back an upset at the state elections on November 25. Although polls indicate a narrowing of Premier Steve Bracks’ lead, the state Labor government is likely to be returned with a comfortable margin.
On November 18-19, the G20 meeting in Melbourne will bring together the finance ministers of the powerful G8 group of nations with those of Australia, the European Union and 10 of the largest Third World economies, along with the heads of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.
Like a large part of the continent, Victoria is in the grip of unprecedented drought. Across the state, dams are rapidly emptying and river flows are at record lows, cities and towns face drastic restrictions and farmers confront an uncertain future. The water crisis gives the question of global warming and catastrophic climate change a new immediacy, and is a major issue in the November 25 state election.
A new “security pact” between Australia and Indonesia, to be signed on November 13 in Lombok, will strengthen Canberra’s military and economic alliance with Jakarta, at the expense of the peoples of both countries.
As the November 7 emergency water summit of federal and state parliamentarians was told that the current drought is the worst in 1000 years, the opposition parties criticised the governments for fiddling while the drought worsens. Greens Senator Rachel Siewert claimed the summit “shied away from making the tough decisions at a time when urgent action was sorely needed”.
John Howard’s new industrial laws contain a raft of penalties for workers and unions taking “unlawful” industrial action. Workers can face individual fines of $6600 ($22,000 for those in the building industry), and unions face $33,000 or more. One result has been a decline in industrial disputes since Work Choices was enacted in March.
The October release of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation’s (ASIO) annual report reveals that it is concentrating in great detail on protest actions, even small ones.

Letters

North Korea The imposition of sanctions on North Korea by the United Nations is another small victory for John Bolton, United States' ambassador to the UN, in his avowed campaign to either make the UN a mouthpiece for the US or to destroy its

Resistance!

After having supported the May 20 international day of action in solidarity with Venezuela and Cuba, the National Union of Students (NUS) has taken a retrograde step by voting against giving support to the international week of solidarity with Venezuela starting on November 12.
The ABC announced on October 31 that it was axing the popular satirical TV panel show The Glass House — one day after NSW Liberal Senator Connie Fierrvanti-Wells attacked the show in a parliamentary estimates committee hearing examining “ABC bias”.

Culture

Who Killed the Electric Car? exposes the scandal involving oil companies, car manufacturers and the US government in killing the EV1 - the battery-powered electric car produced by General Motors in 1996. The EV1 was clean, non-polluting, cheap and efficient, and could have contributed to saving the environment.
Limited Sedition
The Molotov
SCART
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Send $8.00 to SCART, PO Box 432, Chirn Park, 4215, QLD
The arrival of the 43 West Papuan asylum seekers in Australia in January forced Australians to confront two blights on this country’s history: the government’s appalling treatment of refugees and the same government’s ongoing support for the Indonesian occupation of West Papua. The nation held its breath (and some of us kept up the protests) while Canberra sent the West Papuans off to Christmas Island and decided on what to do next.
When history is denigrated, such as in these times, Renato Redentor Constantino’s book of essays, which brings together an array of little-known facts about the history of imperialism — from the Philippine-American war, World War II, Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq — is a welcome and refreshing read. The sharp analysis is delivered with passion, humour and style. Underlying his writing is the commitment of an activist involved in the struggle for social change.
Message Stick: A Line in the Sand — The story of the Palm Island community as it prepares for the second anniversary of Mulrunji's death in custody. ABC, Friday, November 17, 6pm. Science: The Age of Aids — After a quarter of a century of