Issue 726

News

On September 26, angry workers picketed the Seven Hills offices of national trucking company McArthur Express, which has collapsed owing 700 workers across Australia an estimated $2.5 million in pay and entitlements.
The committal hearing for three Tamil men accused of offences under the “anti-terror” laws began in Melbourne on September 24. Aruran Vinayagamoorthy, Sivarajah Yathavan and Arumugam Rajeevan were arrested in May and are accused of raising funds for the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, a group fighting for self-determination for the Tamil people who are oppressed by the racist Sri Lankan government.
“We need someone to take the pressure off us”, an exhausted Liz Skerrett told an electorate officer outside PM John Howard’s Sydney office on September 25 during a protest by carers and the disabled calling for more government assistance.
On September 26, the NSW Greens called for an independent public inquiry into the actions of the NSW police during the APEC protests earlier in the month. It was voted down by the two major parties, as well as the Christian Democrats and the Shooters Party.
At least 20,000 Victorian unionists defied the federal government’s anti-worker laws and risked fines to show their opposition to Work Choices and the Australian Building and Construction Commission on September 26.
Maurie Mahoney, Textiles Clothing and Footwear Union (TCFUA) delegate at Wangaratta’s Bruck Textiles, is being targeted at work with disciplinary action that could result in dismissal, after speaking out against Work Choices laws allowing the company to pay some workers less then the federal government’s Fair Pay standards. Bruck management informed Mahoney that he had breached his terms and conditions of employment. He was directed that he must not speak about the matter with anyone other than his wife, who is one of the Bruck workers currently being paid under the Fair Pay standard.
Launching his new film War on Democracy at the Dendy Theatre on September 24, well-known progressive journalist, author and film-maker John Pilger described it as perhaps “my most optimistic film”.
Releasing a government-commissioned report on NSW’s future power needs that recommends privatisation of electricity production and distribution, Labor Premier Morris Iemma said on September 11 that his government would consider “part-privatisation” of the industry.
Some 230 people attending the Green Left Weekly annual dinner in the Marrickville Town Hall on September were the first to hear the news that Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has decided visit Australia.
Following a 500-strong vigil in Melbourne on September 27 protesting the Burmese military regime’s repression of pro-democracy protests, 600 people took to the city’s streets the next day in solidarity with Burma’s pro-democracy movement. They marched from Melbourne Town Hall to the claps and cheers of onlookers.
#151; After several protests and weeks of leafleting, the postal and telecommunications branch of the Communications, Electrical and Plumbing Union organised a public meeting on September 27 to stop the closure of Australia Post’s Fitzroy delivery centre and to save the jobs of 17 posties.

Analysis

Those who claim that Australia is not a land of deep and abiding racism live in a fairy tale. This willful denial of reality is abetted by the commercial media, self-serving politicians, bureaucrats and capitalists of all stripes — those whose interests are served by maintaining the divisions of racism while convincing us that no such divisions exist.
Job losses will result from 11 years of Coalition government policy on the environment, Gippsland Trades and Labour Council (GTLC) secretary John Parker told Green Left Weekly on September 26. He said Australia has been left 11 years behind in developing clean energy technology, which means instead of now being able to export these technologies, the industry has moved overseas. Employment opportunities are wasted and inevitably jobs will be lost as our own dirty industries are forced to close.
Two public education institutions in Sydney’s west — the University of Western Sydney’s (UWS) Blacktown campus and Macquarie Boys High in Parramatta — are set for the chopping block. The UWS board of trustees is trying to close the Nirimba campus at Blacktown in 2009. Additionally, on August 23, NSW education minister John Della Bosca announced the state Labor government’s intention to close Macquarie Boys’ Technology High School in Parramatta by 2009.
In early September, the NSW carbon trading scheme collapsed. Conspicuously absent from mainstream media coverage of this event, however, was any attempt to analyse the inherent problems of relying on market mechanisms to solve the global problem of climate change.
In February this year, a boat carrying 83 Tamil asylum seekers from Sri Lanka was intercepted by the Australian Navy. After being detained on Christmas Island for a month, the Tamils were transferred to Nauru.
Sydney University students and staff rallied outside Fisher Library on September 6 to protest against plans, announced by vice-chancellor Gavin Brown to open a new ,that will cooperate with the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO), in placing the university “firmly at the forefront of future developments in Australia’s nuclear related research”.
The Socialist Alliance supports the struggle for democracy in Burma, and stands in solidarity with the democracy movement activists, political prisoners and exiles bravely defying its military dictatorship.
On September 23, federal environment minister Malcolm Turnbull and industry and resources minister Ian Macfarlane announced a new national “clean energy target”.
The federal government announced on September 23 that it has — for the first time — adopted an actual target for energy generation from “clean” sources. Under the plan, 15% of Australia’s electricity would be generated from such sources by 2020, including renewable energy like wind and solar, as well as “clean, green” nuclear power and “clean coal”. Prime Minister John Howard heralded the plan as “a major cost saving and regulatory breakthrough”.

World

“The Venezuelan economy in the Chavez years”, a study released in July by the Centre for Economic and Policy Research, reveals massive social gains for the poor and working people in Venezuela as a result of the pro-people polices promoted by the government of socialist President Hugo Chavez. The study, by Mark Weisbrot and Luis Sandoval, also provides a detailed look at the state of the Venezuelan economy, which has experienced significant economic growth. The authors argue that, contrary to suggestions widely made in the corporate media (which the authors refer to as “conventional wisdom”), this growth is unlikely to end any time soon.
If lawyers are coming to the street, then something is very wrong, Ambiga Sreenevasan, the Malaysian Bar Council’s president, said on September 26 when she addressed bar members gathered at the Palace of Justice.
Human rights activists from East Timor and Indonesia have slammed the latest round of the Indonesia-East Timor Truth and Friendship Commission (CTF), which began hearings in Dili on September 24. The CTF was established with the support of the Indonesian and East Timorese governments in 2005, with the aim of establishing the truth of the events of 1999 in East Timor, when a reign of terror by Indonesian military-backed militias occurred before and after a vote in favour of independence in the UN-supervised referendum. To achieve this, amnesty is offered to perpetrators of human rights abuses in exchange for their testimonies.
Diego Montoya, who was arrested in La Paila, Valle del Cauca, on September 10, ranked second on the FBI’s 10 most-wanted fugitives list. He will shortly be extradited to the US to stand trial for cocaine-related racketeering offences. Predictably, the US State Department and much of the corporate media have hailed his arrest as a victory in the so-called “war on drugs”. Yet, despite this official posturing, it is undeniable that Montoya, like many other significant figures associated with Colombia’s multibillion-dollar cocaine industry, was a product of US Colombia policy.
Eleven Palestinians were killed and 20 others were wounded on September 27 when Israel resumed bombing the Gaza Strip. The bombings are widely seen as a precursor to a wide-scale invasion of the Gaza Strip promised by Israeli defence minister Ehud Barak earlier in September and came in the wake of Israel declaring the Gaza Strip an “enemy entity” on September 19.
What began on August 15 as protests against escalating fuel and transport prices and deteriorating economic conditions has developed into a mass uprising in Burma. From September 17, mobilisations by Buddhist monks and nuns emboldened thousands of Burmese to take to the streets in the largest protests since the pro-democracy uprising in 1988 that was brutally crushed, with over 3000 people killed, by the military regime that has ruled Burma since 1962.
Farooq Tariq, the general secretary of Labour Party Pakistan — along with 10 other LPP members — was arrested for the third time in three months on September 27.
The US-backed Iraqi government of PM Nuri al Maliki has dropped its demand for the expulsion of US security firm Blackwater, under investigation over the killing of 11 Iraqis on September 16, a government security official told reporters in Baghdad five days later.
By a vote of 53-2, the 51st general conference of the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency, held in Vienna on September 17-21, approved a non-binding resolution sponsored by Egypt calling on all Middle East countries to abide by IAEA safeguards against the development of nuclear weapons.
On August 15, the cities of Ica and Pisco located in the southern region of Peru were hit by a massive earthquake registering 7.9 on the Richter scale. This was the first quake recorded in living history in this area. It resulted in the loss of 540 lives, and immense physical destruction; 80% of buildings within the heart of Pisco collapsed, and more than 16000 people were left without housing and basic services.
The international campaign to free five Cubans wrongfully imprisoned in the US has intensified, with 115 participating in a coordinated month of solidarity between September 12 and October 8.
On September 21, the UN General Assembly supported by consensus a decision by the 22-member General Committee not to put Taiwan’s bid for UN membership on the assembly’s agenda. It was the island’s 15th application for UN membership in as many years. This year was the first time that the application was made in the name of Taiwan rather than the “Republic of China” (ROC), signalling a more aggressive independence push by President Chen Shui-bian’s government.

Culture

Gangster Capitalism: The United States and the Global Rise of Organised Crime
By Michael Woodiwiss
Constable, 2005
260 pages, $44.95 (pb)
Capitalist Networks and Social Power in Australia and New Zealand
By Georgina Murray
Ashgate, 2006
252 pages, US$99.95 (hb)
Seditious Delicious — A Portrait of John Howard
October 5 & 6, 8-9pm; October 7, 7-8pm.
Erwin Rado Theatre, 211 Johnston Street, Fitzroy
$22/$19
Bookings, ph (03) 8412 8777 or visit http://www.melbournefringe.com.au
Her name is Lucha, short for Luisa. It means “struggle”.
She wears a purple polera, down to her knees,
And carries her shop in the rainbow aguayo on her back
Her husband died 2 years ago,
She has 3 children
She is 26.
Lucha’s mass the rusted roads, the birthing soils.

General

Berlin-based Transparency International’s latest corruption perceptions report listed Burma and Somalia as the two most corrupt countries in the world. Then comes Iraq, Haiti, Tonga, Uzbekistan, Chad and Afghanistan. The three least corrupt countries were New Zealand, Denmark and Finland. Australia came in 11th, just after Canada but ahead of the US, which was 20th on the list.

Letters

Climate change You might be surprised that Clive Hamilton's book Scorcher: The Dirty Politics of Climate Change is actually an update of The Dirty Politics of Climate Change from 2001. For all the revelations he gives about Australia's

Resistance!

It isn’t hard to see why Che Guevara retains his relevance today. The need for the victory of ideas that Che fought for, his vision of a better world, the struggle for human liberation, has never been so great. Following the legacy of Che, revolution is once again back on the agenda in Latin America, led by Venezuela, showing that you can kill the revolutionary, but never the revolution.
A recent survey has suggested that young workers who were underpaid before the federal government’s Work Choices legislation will now be even worse off. This won’t be very surprising news to the majority of Australians.