Issue 692

Australia

More than 2000 people are expected to rally in Cairns on November 30 against Work Choices, according to the Cairns Provincial Council of the Queensland Council of Unions. This would be the largest such demonstration yet in far-north Queensland.
Over the first three weeks of November, participants in a 35-strong Australian solidarity brigade to Venezuela have been arriving in Caracas.
The NSW Council of Social Service (NCOSS) and Homelessness NSW/ACT have criticised the Iemma state government for not doing enough for the homeless, following the government’s November 14 release of a 10-year plan to tackle the problem.
On November 15, 2000 members of the Electrical Trades Union packed Dallas Brooks Hall to discuss an initial response to the federal government’s denial of a common law agreement between the ETU and National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA) that covered 10,000 workers and about 1000 employers.
One of the biggest lies that the corporate media has relentlessly pushed for many years is that the trade union movement is a “special interest group”. They argue this because only 23% of workers are members of trade unions today. However, studies show that the great majority of workers look to unions to defend their rights at work, would join unions if given the opportunity and if they didn’t risk being penalised by their boss.
John Parker, secretary of Victoria’s Gippsland Trades and Labour Council, condemned the findings of the federal government’s panel of so-called experts on nuclear energy. “Any attempt to build a nuclear power plant in Gippsland will be strongly resisted”, he said on November 22.
Victoria’s Labor premier, Steve Bracks, claimed victory in the state election on the evening of polling day, November 25. Bracks said that the result was a message to the federal government “To stop dictating about nuclear reactors, and industrial relations, and start listening to families right around this country”. With 75% of the vote counted, the ALP had won almost 44% of the vote, a swing against it of around 4.3%.

World

Manuel Rosales faces almost certain defeat in Venezuela’s elections but he has told his supporters: “It is true, we are winning.”
Militant labour groups in the Philippines united to condemn the assassination on November 21 of Andrew “Bok” Inoza, the union president at the Alaska Milk factory in San Pedro, 30 kilometres south of Metro Manila, in the province of Laguna. Inoza was also the chairperson of the Laguna branch of the leftist Partido Manggagawa (PM, Workers Party).
Anyone who has visited this giant city of some 6 million people will know that one of the major social problems here is basura (rubbish). For years, the complaints of the population have mounted, along with the piles of garbage in the streets. Now, the Venezuelan government and the municipal council have launched a drive to tackle the problem.
Up to 20,000 people mobilised for a four-hour march through Caracas on November 20. The demonstration, led by campesinos (peasants), was in support of the reelection of revolutionary Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez in the December 3 election.
Text and photos by Julie Webb-Pullman.
Memorial meetings were held on November 11 in Oakland, California, and on November 18 in New York City to celebrate the life of revolutionary socialist and union activist Caroline Lund. She died on October 14 from ALS, Lou Gehrig’s disease.
Scottish Socialist Party MSP Frances Curran has described as a “democratic outrage” a decision by the Scottish Parliament’s Communities Committee to block the SSP’s bill to provide every schoolchild in Scotland with a free nutritious meal each day.
More than 12,000 young people rallied in the Poliedro Amphitheatre on November 17 to express support for the re-election of socialist President Hugo Chavez in the December 3 presidential election. The members of numerous social and political organisations chanted, sang revolutionary songs, and displayed placards, balloons and banners expressing their support Chavez and the Bolivarian revolution he leads.
A closely guarded review of the US war in Iraq being conducted by a Pentagon commission has outlined three basic options: send in more US troops, shrink the US occupation force but stay longer, or pull out, the November 20 Washington Post reported.
The November 21 assassination of industry minister Pierre Gemayel has provided a focus for US-backed Lebanese politicians to rally their supporters for a possible confrontation with the Hezbollah-led opposition bloc. Gemayel served as the representative of the Christian-based far-right Phalangist party in Prime Minister Fuad Siniora’s government.
In an article for the November 27 New Yorker magazine released in advance on November 19, veteran investigative journalist Seymour Hersh reported that a highly classified assessment by the CIA had “found no conclusive evidence, as yet, of a secret Iranian nuclear-weapons program running parallel to the civilian operations that Iran has declared to the International Atomic Energy Agency” (IAEA).
Open warfare erupted between Baloch nationalists and the Pakistani military in December 2005 following decades of what the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) described as a “simmering insurgency”. An HRCP investigation conducted in December 2005 and January 2006 detailed ongoing summary executions, disappearances, torture and indiscriminate bombing and artillery attacks against the people of Pakistan’s south-western province of Balochistan. Baloch nationalist fighters, mainly from the Bugti and Marri tribes, continue to attack Pakistani military and paramilitary forces and sabotage gas pipelines and other infrastructure on a daily basis.
Tonga’s pro-democracy movement has attacked the Australian and New Zealand governments for sending more than 150 soldiers and police to the Pacific nation, demanding the intervention end. The foreign forces have ostensibly been sent to help “restore law and order” in the aftermath of rioting sparked by Tonga’s monarch, King Siaosi Tupou V, announcing the closure of parliament for the year without implementing widely demanded democratic reforms.
Eva Golinger is a Venezuelan-American lawyer and author of The Chavez Code, which exposed US government involvement in a 2002 military coup that briefly overthrew Hugo Chavez, Venezuela’s left-wing president, before he was reinstated by a popular uprising. She spoke to Green Left Weekly in late October. Golinger’s latest book is Bush vs Chavez: Washington’s War on Venezuela. (The first part of this interview appeared in GLW #691.)
On November 18, the UN General Assembly voted 156 to seven, with six abstentions, to support sending a UN fact-finding team to Gaza to investigate the November 8 massacre of 19 sleeping Palestinians in Beit Hanoun by an Israeli artillery barrage. Israel, the US and Australia voted against the resolution, along with four Pacific Island states.
On November 17, President Hugo Chavez unveiled Mission Energy Revolution, a social project aimed at reducing energy usage in Venezuela. The program was launched in the state of Nuevo Esparta by Chavez, energy minister Rafael Ramirez, other ministers, and representatives of the Cuban government. Ramirez said the mission was aimed not only at rationalising residential electricity consumption, but more fundamentally usage by the industrial and commercial sectors, the November 18 Ultimas Noticias reported.
Michael Lebowitz, author of Build it Now: Socialism for the Twenty-first Century and professor emeritus of the economics department at Canada’s Simon Fraser University, is a director of the Centro Internacional Miranda. The CIM is a Caracas-based foundation for analysis and discussion of Venezuela’s Bolivarian revolution — the radical process of social change led by the country’s socialist president, Hugo Chavez. Lebowitz spoke to Green Left Weekly about the challenges facing the revolution (the first part of this interview appeared in GLW #690).

Analysis

Question: How do we bring our troops home? Answer: In the same planes and ships we took them in!
Among the proposals included in the Australian Council of Trade Unions’ industrial relations legislation policy, adopted at its October conference, were provisions for unions to be able to hold elections to win recognition in workplaces where the boss refuses to bargain with them. These ballots are aimed at addressing the lack of a mechanism whereby unions can make an employer negotiate a collective agreement for workers. Such ballots have been a feature of the US industrial relations system for over 70 years.
“A visit by US officials has raised fears on Christmas Island that an immigration detention centre could be turned into a Guantanamo-style prison”, the November 17 Melbourne Age reported.
Debate continues over how guest workers and those on 457 visas should be treated. The WA branch of the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) passed a resolution at its July state conference that recommends avoiding falling into the federal government and bosses’ divide-and-rule trap.
More than three thousand people had a somewhat surreal experience on November 18. They attended a rally, called by the Melbourne Stop the War Coalition and Stop G20, to oppose the genocide by poverty being promoted by the finance ministers’ meeting, and the warfare that makes the corporate plunder of the Third World possible.
Australian unionists have a wealth of experiences to draw on in the fight against the Howard government’s Work Choices legislation. Lessons can be drawn not just from the historic victories and defeats of the union movement in this country, but also from the experiences of working-class struggles in other countries.
Drasko Boljevic was abducted and assaulted in Melbourne on November 19. Chief commissioner Christine Nixon confirmed on November 20 that a man had been mistakenly arrested, saying that he was released “because he wasn’t the person we thought he was”. Below, Eleonor Palacio, the partner of the man that was mistakenly arrested, describes what happened. It has been abridged from Melbourne Indymedia.
The Australian Safeguards and Non-Proliferation Office claims that nuclear safeguards “provide assurances that exported uranium and its derivatives cannot benefit the development of nuclear weapons”. In fact, the safeguards system is flawed in many respects, and it cannot provide such assurances.
Below, Dr Jim Green, Friends of the Earth anti-nuclear campaigner, summarises the EnergyScience Coalition’s critique of Ziggy Switkowski’s Uranium Mining, Processing and Nuclear Energy Review released on November 21.
The role of mining companies overseas is often shrouded in secrecy. Residents of my country Malawi, in the “warm heart” of Africa, are learning first hand about Australian mining companies as four of them are currently exploring for uranium.
Senate estimates hearings in November revealed that the federal government’s plans for a nuclear dump in the Northern Territory are not running smoothly. The site evaluation is lagging six months behind schedule and, as a result, Canberra wants to conduct environmental assessment and site licensing processes concurrently.
Kim Beazley’s speech to the Australian Council of Trade Union (ACTU) Congress on October 25 illustrated the limitations of the Labor Party today regardless of who ends up being its federal leader. Beazley told the delegates that he will “govern in the interests of all Australians, never just for the vested interests of a few”. This is the same sort of language that PM John Howard uses, but what exactly does it mean?
The worst drought in 1000 years means that water shortage is as burning issue across Australia, cutting across the city-country divide. A Morgan poll, back in October 2005, found that 80% of Australians believe governments are not doing enough about water conservation, a view that has since been reinforced. But just how well will restrictions, water saving devices such as dual-flush toilets and rainwater tanks, and water trading schemes tackle the problem?
The Howard government’s anti-worker Work Choices laws have placed a powerful weapon in the hands of bosses, which they are using to drive down wages and eliminate hard-won conditions. Figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics released on November 16 showed that average weekly earnings for full-time workers had fallen by 1.2% in real terms since Work Choices became law — an average loss of $13 a week.
Unions NSW is promoting a campaign, including shopfront stickers and advertising in union journals, to encourage small businesses to promote themselves as union-endorsed “fair employers”. The union body is spending time and money on advertising through union journals. But this campaign detracts from our efforts at mobilising workers and the community against Work Choices and bosses who use these new laws.
Workplace Relations Act (1996) This law stripped allowable matters in industrial awards back to 20, restricted the right of union officials to enter workplaces and introduced individual contracts (AWAs). Trade Practices Act (1974) Sections

Letters

Packer protesters trial The abbreviated report on the trial of Packer protesters in GLW #689 may have given some readers the impression that everything is rosy. In fact, only one charge was dropped — the charge of failure to obey a police

Resistance!

The following statement was issued on November 25 by the socialist youth organisation Resistance.
The founding conference of the Australian Youth Climate Change Coalition (AYCCC) was held in Melbourne on November 20-22. The meeting involved representatives from 30 organisations, including the Australian Student Environmental Network, United Nations Youth Association, Oz Green, GetUp!, the Oaktree Foundation, the Greens and Resistance. There were also representatives from government youth councils, high school activist groups and university student councils, as well as university-based environmental and social justice groups.

Culture

The final 18 dance graduates from the University of Western Sydney (UWS) have been dancing their outrage in graduation performances and theatres in the west of Sydney. The graduates are the last of the Bachelor of Performance Theory & Practice course, which will be “retired” after 20 years of success. “Retired” is the university’s word for no new student intake for 2007. The course is one of four to go for reasons of space allocation and low attendance according to inside sources.
Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan
Directed by Larry Charles
With Sascha Baron Cohen and Kevin Davitian.
Riot or Revolution: The Eureka Stockade 1854 — The Eureka stockade told through re-enacted monologues by the characters of Hotham, Huyghue and Carboni. ABC, Sunday, December 3, 5pm. Compass: The Other Zionists — A group of older Jewish women
10 Excellent Reasons not to Join the Military
Elizabeth Weill-Greenberg (ed)
The New Press, 2006
157 pages, $24 (pb)
Female Chauvinist Pigs: Women and the Rise of Raunch Culture
By Ariel Levy
Schwartz Publishing, 2005, $29.95