Issue 727

News

On October 4, the Australian Nursing Federation (ANF) Victoria had its application for a secret ballot to vote on taking industrial action rejected by the Australian Industrial Relations Commission (AIRC). The application was on behalf of almost 30,000 public sector nurses.
A coalition of 300 schools and churches from around Australia have asked that a memorial to the SIEV-X tragedy, currently standing on the Canberra lakeshore in Weston Park, be allowed to remain in place for a further 12 months. The SIEV-X boat sunk in October 2001 while en route to Australia from Indonesia, drowning 353 asylum seekers, many of them children.
Australia’s peak nature conservation groups — the conservation councils of NSW, Queensland, South Australia and Western Australia, Environment Victoria, the NT Environment Centre and Environment Tasmania — have launched a website to promote Walk Against Warming 2007, which will be held on the Sunday two weeks before this year’s federal election.
The committal hearing for three Tamil activists charged under the “anti-terror” laws began on October 1. Aruran Vinayagamoorthy, Sivarajah Yathavan and Arumugam Rajeevan are accused of raising money for and giving other assistance to the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), a group fighting for self-determination for the Tamil people of north-east Sri Lanka, who are oppressed by the racist Sri Lankan government.
Two public screenings of Constructing Fear have been held in Brisbane — the first on September 19 to an enthusiastic crowd of 200 people at the University of Queensland organised by the Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU). The film exposes the role of the Australian Building and Construction Commission, the anti-union taskforce set up by the Howard government following the recommendations of the Cole Royal Commission.
On September 19, 100 print and maintenance workers at printing company PMP’s Wacol site south-west of Brisbane took protected industrial action for 48 hours in a bid to bring the company to the negotiating table for a new enterprise bargaining agreement. The workers were supported by their union, the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union (AMWU), which formed a peaceful picket line at the workplace entrance.
In the latest attempt to intimidate forest protesters and restrict freedom of speech in Tasmania, the state government’s Forestry Tasmania agency is suing forest activist Allana Beltran, who is also known as the “Weld Angel”.
On October 5, 350 union members and their supporters marched through Fortitude Valley to rally at a park in the north Brisbane suburb of New Farm to protest the refusal of Foster’s Yatala brewery to negotiate with unions over the latest pay agreement.
The federal environment minister, Malcolm Turnbull, has given government approval to the construction of the Gunns pulp mill in the Tasmanian Tamar Valley, planned to be the biggest pulp mill in the world. The decision, announced on October 4, attached an extra the 24 conditions to the approval, on top of 24 conditions previously imposed.
Further protests in solidarity with the struggle for democracy in Burma have been held around Australia. On October 3, some 150 people gathered on the steps of Parliament House in Adelaide and the same day, 120 people marched in Cairns. The Burmese community in Sydney are holding protests every Thursday and on October 4, some 175 people rallied, calling on the Australian government to stop doing business with the ruling military regime. The Australian Coalition for Democracy in Burma (ACDB) also wants the Howard government to extend the visa ban on the military regime to include their relatives and business partners; to downgrade the full embassy status of the Burmese regime in Canberra; and to withdraw Australian Federal Police training of Burmese police. To contact the ACDB, phone Maung Maung Than on 0411 337 816.
In a surprise move, former Northern Land Council chairperson Galarrwuy Yunupingu has reversed his opposition to the Howard government’s intervention into NT Aboriginal communities and, on September 20, announced that he had made a deal with federal Indigenous affairs minister Mal Brough to enter into 99-year leases to Canberra of parts of his traditional land in north-east Arnhem Land.

Analysis

As the 40th anniversary of the death of Argentinean-born revolutionary Ernesto “Che” Guevara, murdered in Bolivia on October 9, 1967, on the orders of the CIA, arrives, there is increasing evidence that his spirit of struggle against injustice continues to get stronger in Latin America.
Michael Barker has once again (GLW #725, online edition) engaged in a series of false accusations and major leaps of logic in his attacks on the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict (ICNC) — an independent, nonprofit educational foundation that promotes the study and utilisation of nonmilitary strategies by civilian-based movements to establish and defend human rights, social justice and democracy — for which I serve as chair of its board of academic advisers.
On October 3, immigration minister Kevin Andrews justified cutting the number of African refugees accepted into Australia using racism, alleging that African refugees were “not adjusting too well” to Australian society.
The first comprehensive research study on how Australian working life is being transformed under Work Choices reveals that Australian Workplace Agreements (AWAs — individual contracts) are eating away at workers’ wages, conditions and job security.
A statement by federal ALP leader Kevin Rudd that a Labor government would seek to have Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad charged with “inciting genocide” attracted front-page coverage in the October 3 Australian and ridicule from foreign minister Alexander Downer.
The message of the new CSIRO and Bureau of Meteorology report to the Australian Climate Change Science Program, Climate Change in Australia, couldn’t be simpler: Stop fiddling while Australia burns!
As the October 24 hearing approaches for the Perth-Mandurah railway tunnel construction workers — who are being prosecuted by the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC) for taking “unlawful” industrial action in February 2006 against the sacking of the health and safety union representative — new research has exposed “critically high” levels of injury in the construction industry.
The federal government should restore Indian doctor Mohamed Haneef’s work visa immediately, and pay him compensation for distress and financial loss, Jim McIlroy, the Socialist Alliance candidate for the south Brisbane seat of Griffith, told Green left Weekly. Griffith is held by ALP leader Kevin Rudd.
With a federal election imminent, many working people are placing their hopes of defeating the Howard government in the ALP. Many have hoped that a future ALP federal government will indeed “tear up” Work Choices and other reactionary legislation introduced by the Howard government, such as the “anti-terror” laws.

World

On September 30, Ecuador went to the polls for the fourth time in under a year and gave supporters of left-wing President Rafael Correa a massive majority in the new Constituent Assembly.
The surprise decision in August by Colombian President Alavaro Uribe to allow the Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez to mediate in negotiations for a humanitarian exchange of 45 hostages held by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC — Colombia’s largest guerrilla group), for 500 guerrilla insurgents held in Colombian jails, has given many Colombians hope that a humanitarian accord to swap prisoners could develop into broader and lasting peace negotiations that would put an end to more than 40 years of civil war.
As we passed by the Tintaya open-pit copper mine, I was unprepared for the scene of utter desolation. The fully laden hired lorry was heading back to Arequipa from the highland town of Yauri, where my companions had purchased 20 head of ganado (cattle) earlier that morning. The cattle market had seemed impressive enough to my untutored eyes, but it was nothing like the old days, they informed me.
Venezuela’s Bolivarian revolution, led by socialist President Hugo Chavez, has captured the imagination of people around the world and sparked widespread commentary on the nature of the process of social change under way in the oil-rich South American nation.
Forty years after his assassination, Ernesto “Che” Guevara remains ubiquitous. His image is familiar to everyone. Taken by Alberto Korda, the famous photo of Che shows a young revolutionary looking into the middle-distance with an expression of intense, steely determination. The image has come to symbolise the struggle for Third Wold independence, and is synonymous with the Cuban Revolution, which overthrew a US-backed dictator to institutionalise people’s power.
Class-free analysis seeking to justify Beijing’s pursuit of capitalism with a human face will likely find a place in the Communist Party of China’s constitution at the party’s 17th congress, which begins on October 15. A scheduled constitutional amendment is expected to be couched in such terms as the pursuit of a “socialist harmonious society” and a “people-centred” “scientific concept of development”, which will be credited as “major theoretical developments” of CPC general secretary Hu Jintao.
On September 29, US-backed Afghan President Hamid Karzai offered to meet Taliban leader Mullah Omar and give the Taliban — classified as “terrorists” by the US and its NATO allies — posts in his government.
“In a very short time, we have begun to advance over all of that which was reversed over the past 80 years” in Latin America, argues Argentine author Luis Bilbao. “Many revolutionary militants and leaders in Latin America and the world are left perplexed and don’t understand what is happening in this region today.”
One of the last favours the Howard government will be asked to perform for the Bush regime will be to attempt to soften the crushing diplomatic defeat the US suffers every year at the United Nations over its ongoing economic blockade of Cuba.
More than six months have passed since the inauguration of the new “21st Century Sandinista” government of Nicaragua after Daniel Ortega of the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN) assumed the presidency in January. Jubilant celebrations of that event expressed the excitement of hundreds of thousands of Sandinista supporters. New hopes for an escape from the hell of neoliberal catastrophes breezed across our country’s mountains, volcanoes, valleys and lakes, from the large cities to the remote hinterlands and coasts.
The 120,000-strong University and College Union has called off a debate on a possible academic boycott of Israeli universities, as well as a speaking tour of Britain by Palestinian academics. UCU delegates at the union’s annual Congress in May had voted to circulate and debate a proposal for an academic boycott of Israel issued by Palestinian trade unions, NGOs and community organisations.
The death toll for US troops in Iraq in September — 66 — was the lowest monthly total since August last year when 65 US troops were killed. However, by the end of last month, a total of 804 US soldiers had died this year in Iraq — 301 more than in the first nine months of 2006.
In the wake of mass protests for democracy spearheaded by Buddhist monks, triggered by five-fold increases to fuel and public transport costs, Burma’s major cities of Rangoon and Mandalay have become the scene of an intense crackdown by the military, which has ruled the country since 1962.
“In a setback for the United States, Iran won a two-month reprieve from new UN sanctions over its nuclear program on Friday. The Bush administration and its European allies ceded to Russian and Chinese demands to give Tehran more time to address international concerns”, Associated Press reported on September 29.
According to official figures, over 1 million aspiring members of the new United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) participated in the election of spokespeople, as part of the latest phase in its construction, which will culminate with a founding congress scheduled to begin on October 27. Congress delegates will be elected from the spokespeople.
About 10 stalls with banners, photos, information and signature books filled Cochabamba’s Plaza 14 de Septiembre on October 2 as Bolivians continued their campaign for Evo Morales, the country’s first indigenous president, to win the Nobel Peace Prize.
Bolivia’s right-wing continues to wage its campaign of opposition to the Movement Towards Socialism (MAS) government, led by the country’s first indigenous President Evo Morales. With the right having succeeded in forcing the temporary closure of the Constituent Assembly, entrusted with the task of drafting a constitution to “refound” Bolivia, the country finds itself on the verge of the definitive closure of this historic space, conquered by the indigenous and campesino movements through years of struggle.
It has been a year of political tours and counter-tours for Latin America, principally by the two figures who dominate the regional political landscape: Venezuela’s socialist President Hugo Chavez and US President George W. Bush. While Bush embarked on a tour in March of Brazil, Uruguay, Colombia, El Salvador and Mexico, Chavez made his move by visiting Argentina, Bolivia, Nicaragua and Haiti. At each stop, the warmonger who presides over the US empire was met with mass protests; the firebrand revolutionary proclaiming the need for a new socialism of the 21st century was met with mass outpourings of support.

Culture

As it Happened: Che Guevara — the body and legend
SBS, Friday October 12, 8.30pm
The Motorcycle Diaries
SBS, Saturday October 13, 10.15pm
Che Guevara: The Body And The Legend — Ernesto "Che" Guevara, the world's most famous revolutionary, was executed in October 1967. SBS, Friday, October 12, 8.30pm. The Motorcycle Diaries — In 1952, 23-year-old Ernesto "Che" Guevara and his
The Unlucky Australians
By Frank Hardy
One Day Hill, 2006
$24.95

General

Due to the Latin America and Asia Pacific International Solidarity Conference (October 11-14 in Melbourne — visit for more information) there will be a one-week break in publication schedule. The next edition will be dated October 24 (uploaded October 21).
If you were to believe those federal government advertisements now saturating television and radio, pigs do fly.

Letters

Prostitution In an opinion piece in the October 1 Melbourne Age ("Helping women make choices on prostitution") feminist academic Leslie Cannold makes some clumsy attempts to morally justify why it's a "good idea" to allow "brothels to operate in a

Resistance!

The Youth Affairs Council of Victoria (YACV) is calling on the Victorian government to consider lowering the voting age, following the tabling of a report in the ACT parliament recommending 16- and 17-year-olds in the territory be given the vote.
On October 5, Resistance held a protest outside the US consulate to offer solidarity to the people of Bolivia and Venezuela in the face of the campaign against their democratically elected governments by the US. Both countries are targets of Washington for their refusal to allow foreign oil and gas corporations to control their natural resources and determine their future.