Issue 698

Australia

On February 2, ABC News Online reported the laying off of 110 workers by Melbourne carpet manufacturer Feltex. A spokesperson for Godfrey Hirst, which took over Feltex late last year, said the workers’ jobs would go with the closure of the Feltex factories in Tottenham and Braybrook in Melbourne’s west. This “vindicated” workers and unionists who had resisted attempts by Godfrey Hirst to take away their redundancy entitlements, Textile, Clothing and Footwear Union media officer Tommy Clarke told Green Left Weekly.
On February 6, 400 people converged on the lawns outside the national parliament building in Canberra to protest of the continued detention of Australian citizen David Hicks at the US military prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
The queer rights activists of Community Action Against Homophobia (CAAH) believe that Peter Jensen, the Anglican archbishop of Sydney, should condemn a highly oppressive anti-gay law being introduced in Nigeria that is being backed by the Anglican Church in that country.
Fifty people heard leading Queensland Aboriginal activist Sam Watson announce at a February 7 public meeting held in the Sydney inner-west suburb of Leichhardt that Queensland Police Sergeant Chris Hurley was formally charged on February 5 with manslaughter and assault occasioning bodily harm for the 2004 death in custody of Palm Island Aborigine Mulrunji Doomadgee.
Anti-nuclear campaigners from the Medical Association for Prevention of War, the Australian Conservation Foundation, the Wilderness Society, Friends of the Earth, the Australian Student Environment Network and campaign groups in all mainland states were among the 30 people who attended a national strategy meeting on February 3-4 in the Blue Mountains.
“We have just spent the most exciting year of our lives residing in Venezuela. It’s the heartland of the most important radical political upheaval of our time, and centre of the project for socialism in the 21st century”, enthused Jim McIlroy who, along with Coral Wynter, spent 2006 in Caracas reporting on the Bolivarian revolution for Green Left Weekly.
The February 6 Sydney Daily Telegraph reported that “Australians yet to establish a view on the Venezuelan president will have the opportunity to do so in person if the organisers of an online petition inviting him to visit get their way”.
Australian Council of Trade Unions secretary Greg Combet expressed “great pride” in the role played by trade unions and union members in achieving justice for the victims of James Hardie’s asbestos products.
The action was in response to threats by federal Attorney-General Philip Ruddock to have the governor-general disallow proposed ACT legislation on same-sex civil unions. In June 2006, the federal government disallowed an ACT bill on civil unions because it could have “undermined” the “institution of marriage”.
Seven-hundred people crammed into the Melbourne City Conference Centre on February 8 to hear radical journalist and film-maker John Pilger’s call for mass action against the invasion of Iraq — “the paramount war crime against humanity from which all other war crimes follow”.

World

In recent years “making poverty history” has become the fashionable cause for ageing rock stars such as Bono and Sir Bob Geldof. As global poverty means that each year 9 million children die of preventable diseases, the need to achieve this goal is undeniable.
An emergency February 7-8 Mecca summit sponsored by Saudi Arabia that brought together the leaders of rival Palestinian factions Hamas and Fatah resulted in a power-sharing agreement between and a plan to form a national unity government. Palestinians hope a unity government can achieve the international recognition required to lift the crippling economic embargo against the Palestinian Authority that has been imposed by the West since Hamas won control of the Palestinian Authority (PA) in last January’s elections.
A report from the bipartisan US Congressional Budget Office (CBO) on the costs of the Iraq war released on February 1 revealed that US President George Bush’s plan, announced on January 10, to deploy an additional 21,500 US troops to Iraq this year could result in up to an extra 48,000 troops being deployed.
Green Left Weekly has received a desperate appeal from Papernas (the National Liberation Party of Unity) in Indonesia for emergency solidarity in the wake of severe floods in Jakarta and surrounding heavily populated areas.
The Kosova people’s eight-year wait for the same right to independence allowed to other peoples of the former Yugoslavia some 15 years ago has finally reached … anti-climax.
For more than six months, the people of Oaxaca in southern Mexico have been mobilising to oust the hated state governor Ulises Ruiz Ortiz. The repression of the uprising has been severe, with ongoing savage attacks — including killings — on movement activists by the military-style Federal Preventative Police.
Since his January 15 inauguration, President Rafael Correa has set about implementing his plan for changing Ecuadorian society, centred on a “citizens’ revolution” to refound the country and begin the construction of a “socialism of the 21st century” by investing economic wealth in social spending on health, education, housing and the environment.
The January 27 demonstration in Washington DC was the largest anti-war protest in the US since September 2005.
A man released without charge after a week in detention as one of the latest batch of police “terror suspects” has branded Britain as “a police state for Muslims”. Abu Bakr, one of nine men arrested in high-profile raids in Birmingham on January 31, made the comment on the BBC Newsnight program following his release on February 7. One other man was released along with Bakr; another seven are still being held in police custody.
Critics of Venezuela’s socialist president, Hugo Chavez, “finally feel vindicated (again)”, Venezuelanalysis.com editor Gregory Wilpert wrote in a February 6 comment piece. “The Venezuelan dictatorship that they have been predicting for the past eight years has, according to them, finally come to pass — for the sixth or so time.”
Nepalese PM Girija Prasad Koirala has vowed to amend the country’s constitution to meet the key demands of Madheshi protesters from the country’s southern plains, BBC News reported on February 8. He pledged to introduce a federal system of governance and more representation of the southern plains in the parliament.
The United States is planning what will be a catastrophic attack on Iran. For the Bush cabal, the attack will be a way of “buying time” for its disaster in Iraq. In announcing what he called a “surge” of US troops in Iraq, George W. Bush identified Iran as his real target. “We will interrupt the flow of support [to the insurgency in Iraq] from Iran and Syria”, he said. “And we will seek out and destroy the networks providing advanced weaponry and training to our enemies in Iraq.”

Analysis

Debate about public transport and its decline is raging in NSW in the lead-up to the March 24 state election. The NSW public transport system is plagued by delays, reliance on old equipment, breakages, lack of staff and, as a consequence, inadequate services to remote and poorer areas. As yet, neither Morris Iemma’s Labor government nor the Liberal opposition has proposed adequate solutions to the crisis.
Australian coal-mining companies and Prime Minister John Howard are promoting “clean coal” as a technology that will enable the coal industry to continue its exports while supposedly cleaning up the greenhouse-gas emissions from the burning of this coal.
In his first two months since being elected federal ALP leader on December 4, Kevin Rudd has made subtle, but significant changes to federal Labor policy in its “battle of ideas for Australia’s future”. As if following a dictum not to be “wedged” — politically outflanked from the right by PM John Howard’s Coalition government — Rudd is moving significant sections of Labor policy in a more rightward direction and attempting to position Labor as the defender of “the fabric of Australian family life”.
According to former French intelligence security chief Alain Chouet, the terrorism-related charges against Willie Brigitte, who is being tried in France, are “weak”. Quoted in the February 5 Australian, he said Brigitte is a “person without importance whom the Australian authorities continue to play on to create fear”.
It was with much disgust and sadness that I watched the demolition, on February 6, of perfectly good public housing on the Macquarie Fields public housing estate.
The release of the fourth assessment report by UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) on February 2, and the dire predictions in it of the impact of global warming on Australia, was seized on by PM John Howard to push his “solutions” to global warming. These have less to do with saving the environment than protecting corporate profits, with the main prongs being defence of the coal mining companies and support for an expanded nuclear industry.
Prime Minister John Howard created a stir in late November when, in Vietnam for the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation forum, he publicly defended the Australian role in the Vietnam War. Howard said, “I supported our involvement at the time and I don’t intend to recant that … I supported the reasons for Australia’s involvement and nothing has altered my view that, at the time, on the assessments that were made then, I took that view and I took that view properly.”
As with other environmental issues, Australia’s water crisis has reached such an extent that mainstream media and politicians are being forced to abandon their traditional policy of denial. However, true to form, politicians are proposing solutions that are a mixture of the half-hearted, the irrelevant and the destructive. In common with the debates on global warming and Third World poverty, there is an underlying assumption that the water crisis can be overcome by the very thing that created it — the market economy.

Letters

Ecosocialism blog Readers of Green Left Weekly may be interested in Climate and Capitalism, a new blog, edited in Canada, that aims to present Marxist perspectives on climate change, and to provide socialists with the information and analysis they

General

Due to mistakes introduced during the sub-editing of Lynda Hansen’s obituary for Phil Perrier (GLW #697), he was wrongly described as a “Queensland Aboriginal activist”, rather than a “Queensland Aboriginal rights activist”, and the concluding section of the eulogy made by Sam Watson at the February 2 “Sorry” ceremony were mistakenly attributed to Bernie Neville.
On February 2, I had a heart attack. All of a sudden, I was spun into the emergency health system. Over the next four days I received the most amazing health care from the ambos to the nurses and doctors at the public Royal Prince Alfred Hospital. It was a powerful rebuttal of the narrow-minded idea that society has to be based on material self-interest, profit and greed.

Resistance!

Hobart Resistance organiser Mel Barnes took part in the Australia-Venezuela Solidarity Network brigade to Venezuela in December, to see the revolutionary process for herself. The brigade was timed to coincide with the presidential election in which President Hugo Chavez won another landslide victory as people voted to deepen the Bolivarian revolution.
The scale of the death, misery and horror unleashed on Iraq since the 2003 US-led invasion is almost beyond comprehension. In October, British medical journal The Lancet published a study conducted by Iraqi physicians in conjunction with Johns Hopkins University that put the death toll among Iraqis as a result of the war at 655,000. Hundreds of people are being killed, wounded or abducted each day. According to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Iraq is the fastest-growing refugee crisis in the world, with 1.6 million Iraqis internally displaced and almost 2 million refugees having fled the country altogether.
When US President George Bush visits Australia in September for the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation forum, thousands are expected to hit the streets in opposition to the man perhaps most known for his extensive war crimes and suspect election “victories”.
The announcement that charges have been laid against 31-year-old Australian man David Hicks, who has now been held in US military custody in Guantanamo Bay for more than five years, has been welcomed by the Howard government, which is unable to charge Hicks with any crime under Australian law.
This year marks the 40th anniversary of the referendum that acknowledged Aboriginal people as citizens in their own country. Forty years seems like a long time — so how much has really changed?
Following years of a sustained campaign by the ruling elite to vilify Islam, the 2007 federal election is shaping up to be a “Muslim” election, with the two major parties trying to out-do each other with racist slurs against Arabs and Muslims.

Culture

Second Sydney Latin America Film Festival
Chauvel Cinema, Paddington
Seymour Centre, Darlington and Club Marconi, Bossley Park
February 22-March 4 http://www.sydneylatinofilmfestival.org
Radio Gratis
Independent. Local. Queer.
<http://www.radiogratisonline.org>
EM>Ratbag Radio Network

(07) 3333 1805,
Environmental Principles and Policies: An Interdisciplinary Approach
By Sharon Beder
UNSW Press, 2006
336 pages, $54.95 (pb)
Forever Lenin: The Secret Story of a Mummy — The adventures of Lenin's embalmed body throughout the 20th century reflect the history of the Soviet Union. SBS, Friday, February 16, 2.30pm. Saddam's Road to Hell — A Kurdish doctor searches for
STRONG>Neshan
The Australian international exhibition of the badge, the logo and the coat of arms
Pine Street Creative Arts Centre, Chippendale
June 5-9