Issue 694

Australia

The decision this month by Bankstown City Council, in Sydney’s western suburbs, to cancel the venue for the January 27 Khilafah Conference “speaks volumes of the empty rhetoric surrounding the supposed noble epitomes of western liberal democracy”, said Wassim Doureihi, spokesperson for Hizb ut-Tahrir Australia, in a January 10 media statement.
Last September, Queensland’s acting state coroner Christine Clements ruled that Senior Sergeant Christopher Hurley, a police officer working on the Palm Island Aboriginal community, had caused the death of Aboriginal man Mulrunji while in his custody
Climate action group Rising Tide Newcastle wants the proposal for the contentious Anvil Hill mine proposal to be assessed under Commonwealth law. Apart from its impact on species and ecosystems protected under the Commonwealth environment act, Rising Tide believes that the proposed mine would impact on World Heritage areas protected under the act.
Pressure is mounting on the federal Coalition government to bring David Hicks home. On January 2, the Australian Defence Force director of military prosecutions, Brigadier Lyn McDade, described the treatment of Hicks as “abominable”. A week or so later, Attorney-General Philip Ruddock and PM John Howard said that they were concerned that Hicks had still not been tried, but that they were certain he would be charged in the next few weeks.
The Textile, Clothing and Footwear Union (TCFUA) has won its drawn-out dispute over carpet manufacturer Godfrey Hirst’s attempt to force more than 300 Feltex workers to sign AWAs (individual contracts) with reduced rights and conditions in order to keep their jobs.
The “Climate Change, Despair and Empowerment” roadshow, which will tour the east coast of Australia from January to March, is based on the highly successful “Endangered Species” roadshow organised by the Rainforest Information Centre in the run-up to the 2003 NSW state election.
The 2007 Socialist Summer School was a great success. Sponsored by Resistance and the Democratic Socialist Perspective (DSP), both affiliates of the Socialist Alliance, the event was held at Sydney University’s Women’s College from January 4-7. Some 210 people attended the four days of talks, workshops, meetings and social events.
December 14 marked the 100th day since the unfair dismissal of Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) construction division delegate Barry Hemsworth from his job at Botany Cranes. The managers used the federal government’s new anti-union laws to sack Hemsworth for the purported crime of “insubordination” — in fact because he was defending the occupational health and safety standards at the company.
George Browning, the Anglican Bishop of Canberra and Goulburn, said on January 11 that it would not be morally responsible to vote in the next federal election for any party that did not have a credible climate change policy. He was speaking at the “Australia as a Neighbour” conference in Melbourne, organised by Initiatives of Change, Australia, and attended by 300 people from 17 countries.
The Wilderness Society has called for more government funding and support for the Indigenous Protected Area program following the release on January 9 of an independent report that concludes that IPAs are one of the most effective initiatives in environment protection in Australia.
As the bulk carrier, Pilion, docked in Geelong on January 9 with phosphate from Western Sahara, the Australia Western Sahara Association (AWSA) called on the fertiliser company Incitec Pivot to stop violating UN regulations by importing phosphate from Western Sahara, the last colony in Africa.
Oliver Ressler, Austrian artist and co-director (with Dario Azzellini) of Five Factories - Worker Control in Venezuela, will be in Australia in January to host screenings of his new film, followed by discussion.

World

Parliamentarians from the Scottish Socialist Party (SSP), the Dutch Socialist Party, the Greens and the Welsh nationalist Plaid Cymru party were arrested on January 8 following a protest at the Faslane nuclear submarine base on the River Clyde. The protest was organised by Faslane 365, which is promoting a year-round blockade of the base.
Saddam Hussein was rushed to the gallows as 2006 ended — a former dictator put to death under instructions from his one-time supporters in the US government.
Sending shockwaves through the corporate elite, on January 8 Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez declared his government’s intention of reversing the privatisations that had been carried out by previous governments. Declaring “We’re on our way to socialism, and nothing and no-one can prevent it”, Chavez insisted, “All that was privatised, let it be nationalised”, according to a January 9 Associated Press report.
Mision Vuelvan Caras, literally “about-face”, is a social project — or mission — launched by the revolutionary government of Venezuela in 2004 to train and offer employment to thousands of people. It is changing the lives of a large number of the country’s citizens, many of whom previously had no formal education or jobs to rely on.
On December 5, after weeks of speculation, the commander of the Republic of Fiji Military Forces, Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama announced that he had overthrown the government of Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase in Fiji’s third military coup in the past 20 years. On January 4, the military restored the powers of President Ratu Josefa Iloilo, so that he could swear in an interim government with Bainimarama as PM.
In what seems to be becoming a signature atrocity of US President George Bush’s “war on terror”, US air strikes hit a Somali wedding ceremony, according to a January 10 BBC Online report. Up to 31 people were killed. The BBC quoted the account of an elder in Banka-Jiira, a grazing area, who told the news service’s Somali branch: “There have been air strikes carried out by American planes in these areas since Sunday. Here in the Banka-Jiira area, which is the largest grazing area in the Juba Valley region, we have been hard hit. There have been several air strikes over nearby Booji grazing area too. The most unfortunate incident was an attack on a big wedding ceremony …
On January 10, US President George Bush unveiled his government’s new plan for prosecuting Washington’s almost four-year-old counterinsurgency war in Iraq, which in a December 20 interview with the Washington Post he for the first time acknowledged the US was “not winning”.
It seems like an overly cliched script with a plot so tired that even Hollywood’s dross-marketing machine might think twice about touching it: a Mid-East nation led by an aggressive regime with a record of violating human rights whenever it feels like (which turns out to be often) threatens countries in the region with its arsenal of weapons of mass destruction. But, in a twist unlikely to make it into the next blockbuster, according to a January 7 article in London’s Sunday Times, it’s the Israeli military that’s planning to use nuclear weapons, not the “mad Arabs” that are the more conventional WMD-toting movie villains.
Almost nine years since the fall of the dictator Suharto, one word continues to dominate discussions of the widespread social discontent in Indonesia: “fragmentation”.
More than 30 Palestinians have been killed in the past month in violence between Fatah and Hamas that flared up after Fatah-aligned President Mahmoud Abbas called on December 17 for new presidential and legislative elections. Hundreds more have been wounded in the violence, which intensified in the Gaza Strip late last year and has now spread to the West Bank.

Analysis

Woodchipping giant Gunns Ltd’s proposed $1.4 billion pulp mill in northern Tasmania continues to be the subject of controversy. Gunns has expressed impatience over the delays in the assessment process and threatened to axe the project if government approval is not given within six months.
For the first time since the foundation of the National Union of Students (NUS) 15 years ago, Labor’s right-wing student faction, Unity, was ousted from the office of general secretary at the NUS annual conference, held in Ballarat on December 4-7.
Three more people, including a teenager, have been charged following the November 19 protests against the G20 financial ministers’ summit in Melbourne, bringing the total number of participants charged to 11. The following is an abridged version of a statement Resistance issued in response to the arrests.
While starving Australia’s public education and health services of funding, the Coalition government is planning to spend well over $200 million on the annual talk shop dressed up as a “leaders’ summit” of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) scheduled for Sydney this September.
Pro-choice activists are angry that the federal government has subcontracted parts of its $51 million National Pregnancy Telephone Hotline contract to anti-abortion groups.
With climate change posing as one of the gravest threats to capital accumulation - not to mention humankind and our environment - in coming decades, it is little wonder that economists such as Sir Nick Stern, establishment politicians like Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown and US Democrat Al Gore, and financiers at the World Bank and in the City of London have begun warning the public and, in the process, birthing a market for carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions.
The carbon offset industry was all about growth in 2006. The high-profile, Britain-based CarbonNeutral Company reported an annual turnover of £2.7 million, while the global market sold an estimated £60 million, and this figure was estimated to increase five times over in three years.

Editorial

US President George Bush used a January 10 “address to the nation” to declare that 2007 will be another year of war. His decision to send 21,500 more troops to Iraq — despite opposition from the overwhelming majority of people in the US, including sections of the military — indicates his government’s arrogance, and its unwillingness to learn any lessons from history.

Letters

Nuclear power I No nuclear plant in the World has survived without massive taxpayer subsidies. It's not an energy solution, it's corporate welfare. John Howard's more interested in pork barrelling his wealthy mates than providing Australians with

General

Invasion Day — January 26
Pat Robinson of Oatley won the first prize — a spectacular $350 hamper — in Sydney’s 2006 Green Left Weekly end-of-year raffle. She told GLW that her win was a “total surprise” because she didn’t even know that she’d entered the raffle. The winning ticket was purchased as a gift by GLW subscriber and Socialist Alliance member Noel Hazard.

Culture

Committing Poetry in Times of War
Directed by stavros
With Bill Nevins and Priscilla Baca y Candelaria
<http://committingpoetry.com>
I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning
Bright Eyes
Saddle Creek Records
Fearless: Stories from Asian Women — In India, where the caste system has created apartheid-like discrimination, child labour is common and women have few rights. SBS, Friday, January 19, 3.30am. Global Warming: Bush's Climate of Fear — In
Reflections on the Marxist Theory of History
By Paul Blackledge
Manchester University Press, 2006
218pages, $4.95
“The History Question: Who Owns the Past?”
By Inga Clendinnen
Quarterly Essay, issue 23, 2006
72pages, $14.95
Last year marked the 30th anniversary of 3CR, a community radio station established to provide a voice for those denied access to the mass media, particularly the working class, women, Indigenous people and the many community groups discriminated against in and by the mass media. Unlike almost all other media organisations in Australia, 3CR is genuinely owned by the community — by the groups and individuals who broadcast, and by the people who listen to the station.
James Brown treated rhythm like a mad scientist with test tubes full of chemicals — always reinventing, trying new combinations and creating more powerful potions. Brown — the Godfather of Soul, the Hardest-Working Man in Show Business, Mr Dynamite, Soul Brother No. 1, and the Minister of Super Heavy Funk — died December 25 of congestive heart failure at the age of 73.