Issue 693

Australia

On December 11 the Textile Clothing and Footwear Union said that the Australian Industrial Relations Commission’s (AIRC) second consecutive rejection of carpet manufacturer Godfrey Hirst’s sub-standard AWA (individual contract) is a clear message for the company to scrap it plans to strip existing rights and conditions from more than 300 Feltex workers.
“Reports from refugee advocates indicate that six people at the Baxter detention centre have attempted to end their lives in separate incidents over the last four days by hanging”, WA group Project SafeCom announced on December 12. “Some of them have also slashed themselves with broken glass and mirrors.”
Workers at the Braeside bolt-making factory of Ajax Fasteners are waging a struggle to protect their redundancy entitlements. The company has gone into liquidation. The workers have been stood down and fear they will soon be sacked.
Four thousand Gold Coast workers rallied on November 30, in one of the biggest protests ever seen in the city. Even threatening grey skies didn’t lessen the turn-out. However, threatening business owners and bosses did cause the numbers to dwindle as 9am approached and many were forced to leave for work.
Despite generally being smaller in number compared to last year’s November anti-Work Choices protests, many of the November 30 city-wide rallies were as lively.
On November 23, the SX News websire reported that Penrith City Library, in far western Sydney, had tentatively rejected a DVD promoting the “ex-gat movement” donated to its collection by the right-wing Christian Democratic Party.
Pressure from workers and students forced the University of Western Sydney’s Board of Trustees to review its rejection of a $250,000 SRC funding proposal on November 29. The proposal is designed to help UWS Student Association (UWSSA) survive federal “voluntary student unionism” (VSU) legislation and came on the back of UWSSA having its budget slashed from $2.5 million to $450,000 for three years.
In a November 27 media release, the WA-based Project SafeCom refugee right group, renewed its call for the abolition of Australia’s temporary protection visa (TPV) regime following a report in the same day’s Australian newspaper that an Iraqi asylum-seeker sent home by Australian officials was assassinated in Baghdad after being accused of being an Australian spy.
A significant ruling in the Federal Court on November 28 upheld the right of workers to use their leave as they see fit. The ruling prevents public sector organisations from issuing blanket bans on when employees can, or cannot, take leave.
The return of ALP leader Steve Bracks for a third term at the November 25 Victorian election was less a vote for the state ALP government than a vote against the federal Coalition government. It was also a rejection of the legacy of former Liberal Premier Jeff Kennett, whose 1992-1999 government was responsible for wholesale privatisation and the slashing of public services. While Labor campaign ads reminded Victorians of the Kennett legacy, Bracks has not bought back into public ownership any of the privatised assets, including public transport. Labor won 55 of the 88 lower house seats.

World

While turmoil in the southern Mexican state of Oaxaca has been in the headlines for weeks, little media coverage has noted that at its centre is a crusading newspaper, Noticias (The News). The daily’s sportswriter is now a leading spokesperson for the teachers, doctors, nurses, newspaper workers and others who have joined together to call for greater democracy, and a new direction for the state’s economy. David Bacon interviewed Noticias’s Jaime Medina in northern Mexico, where the writer was seeking support from the Coalition for Justice in the Maquiladoras.
Trent Hawkins is a leader of Resistance, an Australian socialist youth organisation, who participated in the December solidarity brigade to Venezuela organised by the Australia-Venezuela Solidarity Network. Below is his account of the December 3 presidential election and its aftermath.
Sixty-three Women Of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA) members were arrested on November 29 during a peaceful launch of its People’s Charter. They were taken to Bulawayo Central Police Station. WOZA leaders Jenni Williams and Magodonga Mahlangu were among those arrested.
The November 7 US mid-term congressional elections were a massive repudiation of the US-led war against Iraq and of the administration of President George Bush. But while the majority of US voters have turned against the war, most of the politicians of both Democratic and Republican parties have a clue about what to do.
In the January 16 New Yorker magazine, investigative journalist Seymour Hersh reported that the Pentagon has begun updating its plans for an invasion of Iran. Hersh reported that, "Strategists at the headquarters of the US Central Command, in Tampa, Florida, have been asked to revise the military's war plan, providing for a maximum ground and air invasion of Iran."
The Latin American left had its fifth electoral victory of the year on November 26, when Rafael Correa, a supporter of Venezuelan socialist President Hugo Chavez, won Ecuador’s presidential run-off election with the largest margin in almost 30 years.
The outcome of the December 3 presidential election was a resounding endorsement of Hugo Chavez and the Bolivarian revolution, and a rebuff of Washington and the right-wing opposition. Now, Venezuelans face the threat of violent attempts to destabilise the country by the US and the opposition. Chavez’s government has already had to defeat a military coup and massive economic sabotage.
December 3 — Wild celebrations have broken out here as the National Electoral Council (CNE) has announced that left-wing incumbent Hugo Chavez has won the Venezuelan presidential elections with a vote of over 60%. In pouring rain, thousands of cheering supporters have flocked to the Miraflores presidential palace to applaud the president, who has spoken to the people from the balcony of the palace.
“The atmosphere in the early evening has been a big celebration already, with fireworks and loud music in the city streets, and a large crowd already gathering near Miraflores Palace”, according to Jim McIlroy and Coral Wynter, correspondents for Green Left Weekly’s Venezuela bureau who were in Caracas on the day of the December 3 presidential election.
Sunday, November 26th, 2006 Friends, Tomorrow marks the day that we will have been in Iraq longer than we were in all of World War II.
New York City police pumped 50 bullets into a car carrying three unarmed African-American men in the early morning hours of November 25, killing one man on his wedding day.
Nicaragua’s Sandinistas will never forget the night of November 5 and the four days of street celebrations that followed. The first official results of the election came in around 11pm. They foretold that Daniel Ortega, presidential candidate of the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN), would win on the first round. Partisans of the Sandinista movement, which led the popular revolution of 1979, had waited 16 long, trying years for this day, ever since the Sandinista government went down to bitter defeat in February 1990.
Final approval at the UN General Assembly of the declaration on indigenous peoples’ rights was blocked on November 28 by a group of African countries led by Namibia, and supported by Australia, Canada, New Zealand and Russia.
On December 1, up to 2 million people attended a rally in Beirut called by Hezbollah and its allies to demand the resignation of US-backed Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Siniora’s government.
As was widely expected, the year-long Cole inquiry, while finding that Australian monopoly wheat exporter AWB Ltd deliberately concealed from the UN $290 million in bribes it paid to Iraq in 2000-03 to secure wheat contracts, cleared PM John Howard and his ministers of any wrongdoing.
Early morning on September 5 security guards burst into the sleeping quarters of Colnbrook immigration detention centre in west London. The guards had come to take 32 Iraqi Kurdish men away. Barefoot, handcuffed, with the guards swearing at them, the 32 were taken to RAF Brize Norton airforce base. Their threatened forced deportation to Arbil in northern Iraq was imminent.
Houston janitors have claimed victory after a four-week strike in a battle that was widely regarded as a test for organised labour in the low-wage, non-union South.
Marta Harnecker is the Chilean-born author of Understanding the Venezuelan Revolution (Monthly Review Press, 2005) and other books dealing with revolution and Latin America. She has been an active participant in Venezuela’s Bolivarian revolution and an adviser to that country’s socialist president, Hugo Chavez.
A Gaza ceasefire was negotiated by Israeli and Palestinian officials on November 26. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said it is aimed at ending the firing of Qassam rockets into Israel by armed Palestinian resistance groups, and providing the basis for negotiations regarding the release of captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. Palestinians, for their part, hope the ceasefire will provide some relief for the people of the sealed Gaza Strip, who have faced a relentless Israel Defense Forces (IDF) campaign since late June.
Pakistan’s south-western province of Balochistan has been the site of an intense struggle for self-determination against the federal government. Despite the province being rich in natural resources, the Baloch remain economically marginalised and receive little benefit from development in Balochistan. In its efforts to counter the Baloch struggle, Pakistan’s government has employed summary executions, disappearances, torture and indiscriminate bombing and artillery attack. The first part of this article was published in GLW #692.
Marta Harnecker, a Chilean-born author, intellectual and participant in Venezuela’s Bolivarian revolution, spoke to Green Left Weekly’s Coral Wynter and Jim McIlroy about the significance of Venezuela’s December 3 elections, in which socialist incumbent Hugo Chavez faces right-wing, US-backed candidate Manuel Rosales.

Analysis

With the advent of the industrial revolution society underwent significant changes. The age of steam had arrived and a huge new source of energy was unleashed upon society. The immediate effect of this new source of energy was to bring about a qualitative change in the productive forces. The method of production became social in character.
In their article “No to carbon trading: make the polluters pay” (GLW #691), Tim Stewart and Pip Hinman argue against the use of carbon pricing in general, and emissions trading in particular, as an important tool for reducing Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions.
Dick Nichols was elected national coordinator of the Socialist Alliance (SA) at its 5th national conference held in Geelong at the end of October. Green Left Weekly interviewed him about the challenges and opportunities for the SA in the year ahead.
The old adage “one step forward, two steps back” encapsulates the experience of the refugee movement in 2006. Despite some positive changes to refugee policy, the result of consistent campaigning by refugee rights activists and organisations over a number of years, the Howard government has pushed on with its regressive immigration agenda, especially the treatment of refugees.
Mick “Hoppy” Rangiari, one of the last surviving members of the historic 1966 strike by Aboriginal pastoral workers at Wave Hill Station in the Northern Territory, died on November 12.
December 9, the fifth anniversary of David Hicks’ capture by the US, will be marked by national protests calling for his immediate return.
A year after the ratification of the Kyoto Protocol, which involves 166 countries and commits 36 industrialised nations to binding CO2 emission cuts of 5.2% by 2012, global emissions are rising faster than ever. This is because Kyoto promotes carbon trading as the key mechanism to reduce CO2 emissions. Today the global carbon market worth US$22 billion is being called a “green goldrush”.
The federal government’s Uranium Mining, Processing and Nuclear Energy Review, released on November 21, had only one real purpose — to provide John Howard with “evidence” for championing the nuclear power cycle. What other conclusion can we come to, when the review made its assessments while ignoring Australia’s most spectacular renewable energy resource — the “hot dry rock” geothermal energy of the Cooper Basin and other regions.
Jim Casey was elected senior vice president of the NSW Fire Brigade Employees Union (FBEU) in its May elections. Casey, a socialist, was part of a left ticket of four, running with an ALP member, a syndicalist and a rank-and-file unionist with a history in of activism in the Maritime Union of Australia. The team decided to run an executive ticket of four people, with recommendations for the other nine positions on the committee of management.
UNSW redundancies I Your article "Student organisation imposes AWAs" (GLW #691) contained a glaring inaccuracy. The UNSW Student Guild did not give staff 24 hours notice of their redundancies as reported. If you had checked the enterprise
Activists from Sydney-based Community Action Against Homophobia (CAAH) went to Melbourne to form a queer bloc for the November 18-19 G20 protests. The bloc called for money for AIDS care not war.
“Reproductive rights embrace certain human rights that are already recognised in national laws, international human rights documents and other consensus documents. These rights rest on the recognition of the basic right of all couples and individuals to decide freely and responsibly the number, spacing and timing of their children and to have the information and means to do so, and the right to attain the highest standard of sexual and reproductive health.
As annual negotiations on the Kyoto Protocol were about to begin on November 7 in Nairobi, Kenya, Senator Ian Campbell, federal environment minister, claimed that the Kyoto signatories had agreed that a new agreement was necessary as the old agreement was not working. Campbell asserted that Australia would be going to Nairobi to begin negotiations on a “New Kyoto”.
Commissioned by the British government, the October 2006 Stern report on global warming was greeted sceptically by PM John Howard, and lauded by the ALP and green organisations. But does the Stern report go far enough, or is it an unholy compromise between the science of climate change and the economics of responding to global warming while trying not to rock the foundations of capital’s global order?
On November 20, a meeting initiated by the NSW Greens marked Transgender Remembrance Day. Below is an abridged presentation by Rachel Evans, co-convener of Community Action Against Homophobia, National Union of Students female queer officer and NSW Socialist Alliance upper-house candidate.
Across Australia on November 30, hundreds of thousands of workers answered the Australian Council of Trade Unions’ call to protest against Work Choices. The ACTU estimated that around 270,000 people took part, the majority hooked up to the Sky Channel broadcasts from the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG).
Despite increasing recognition about the problem of violence against women, most refuges, community and non-government organisations devoted to helping women and children in crisis, allocate a good deal of their stretched resources to writing submissions for limited funding. This is because both the state and federal governments have a piecemeal, short-term approach to the problem.
The Stern report makes recommendations that will allow for a temperature rise of around 3°C, but this is likely to be devastating for the planet. George Monbiot says that, “Two degrees is the point at which some of the most dangerous processes catalysed by climate change could become irreversible”.
Last Friday, as I sat down to write this, a progress report on the Green Left Weekly fighting fund was emailed in from Will who heads our small but serious finance team. More than $16,000 came in from our supporters the previous week (donations and fund raising events), taking the total raised this year to $203,815.

Letters

Arterial Bloc I agree with some aspects of some of the critiques of what the Arterial Bloc did at G20, however this call by Socialist Alternative is wrong: "[All the left should] politically oppose anyone coming to protest rallies wearing masks or

General

This will be the final issue of Green Left Weekly for 2006. The first issue of 2007 will be dated January 17. However we will continue to update our website In the meantime, including with more information on the aftermath of the Venezuelan elections. Thanks for all your support in 2006!
An error in "Organising against NT waste dump plans" (GLW #692), should have said that Natalie Wasley from the Arid Lands Environment Centre is concerned about the implications of amendments to the Commonwealth Radioactive Waste Management Act
Socialist Alliance in Sydney is appealing for help finding a ute that can be used in the NSW election campaign. The idea would be to mount a mobile display profiling our “Stand up for your rights” message. The ute could also be used as a platform for protests and rallies.

Resistance!

If greenhouse gas emissions continue to spiral, scientists predict ecological disaster: melting ice sheets, erratic and destructive weather patterns and increasing desertification. All this will turn hundreds of millions of people into refugees.
Almost a year ago, in the same week the Howard government’s industrial relations “reforms” were passed by the Senate, most of the media’s attention was focused a series of “anti-terror” raids that targeted a group Muslim men in Melbourne. Despite all the media surrounding the arrests, the men were not charged with conspiring to commit any specific terrorist act. The media hysteria helped fuel the racist Cronulla lynch mob attacks in December 2005.
Venezuela’s socialist President Hugo Chavez spoke for people the world over at the United Nations General Assembly in September when he attacked US imperialism’s attempt to dominate the world and subjugate its people. Referring to US President George Bush’s speech the day before, Chavez said: “The imperialists see extremists all around. No, it’s not that we are extremists. What is happening is that the world is waking up and people everywhere are rising up. I have the impression Mr Imperialist Dictator that you will live the rest of your days as if in a nightmare, because no matter where you look we will be rising up against US imperialism.”
In the lead-up to the November 7 US Congressional elections, President George Bush’s Republican Party tried to terrorise the US public into voting for the party responsible for leading the country into the disastrous Iraq war.

Culture

Mao: A Life
SBS TV
Parts 1 & 2 of 4, Friday December 8 and 15, 8.30pm
Murder in Samarkand: A British Ambassadors Controversial Defiance of Tyranny in the War on Terror
By Craig Murray
Mainstream Publishing 2006
400 pages $59.95 hardback.
As It Happened: Mao — A Life — Tells the story of Mao Zedong, born to a country farmer and raised among peasants, who went on to become a brilliant scholar, a member of the Congress of the Chinese Communist Party and, ultimately, CCP Chairman.
Two soldiers had been captured They'd crossed to the other side Two soldiers taken prisoner Several others died This is how it started So said the Jewish state Forget about 96, 82 67, 48 Two soldiers taken hostage And by the Sea of
The Islamic Friendship Association of Australia’s Keysar Trad has launched his music career with rock band Andorra and young Arabic artists Manelle Ibrahim and Susan Chamma at the Sydney Festival for Peace (Pioneer Park Leichhardt, November 25). Andorra will play the Cultural Dissent fundraiser for Green Left Weekly on Saturday December 16 at the Newtown Neighbourhood Centre, in Sydney.
Wayanad Misery in an Emerald Bowl Essays in the Ongoing Crisis in the Cash Crop Economy — Kerala
By T.G. Jacob
Published by Vikas Adhyayan Kendra, 2006
Available at <http://www.vakindia.org>
(For Specialist Mike Moriarty, Rahim Al Haj and all the Joes and Jills and all the Hadjis. This poem is inspired in part by the documentary film The War Tapes, which everyone should see.)