Issue 737

Australia

Around the country, hundreds of people marked white invasion of Australia on January 26 by attending protests and festivals.

Professor Sharon Beder, a research fellow at the University of Wollongong, prepared a submission on behalf of Unions NSW to the Ownen Inquiry that makes a powerful case against Premier Morris Iemma’s government’s proposed energy privatisation.

NSW TAFE teachers will consider industrial action when they return to work on January 29, in an attempt to maintain a quality TAFE system. A campaign of rolling stoppages and longer-term action will be discussed.

The Australian Federation of Tamil Associations (AFTA) has called on the Australian government to impose sanctions on Sri Lanka, following the Sri Lankan government’s decision to abrogate the 2002 Cease Fire Agreement (CFA) with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.

Two protests in one week have demanded that government plans for the development of South and Bathers beaches in Fremantle be canned.

Workers at the Foster’s brewery at Yatala, south of Brisbane, have stepped up their campaign for a union agreement, following a victory over the latest attempt by the company’s management to impose a non-union agreement on the workforce at the plant.

A December 22 warehouse fire in a shared residential and industrial zone on the outskirts of the western Melbourne suburb of Tottenham has caused local residents to demand information and better emergency response procedures after a cloud of chlorine gas covered a substantial part of the suburb.

World

Early on January 23 more than 20,000 Palestinians from the besieged Gaza Strip poured into Egyptian territory after Palestinian militants from Hamas and the Popular Resistance Committee (PRC) blew up two sections of the Gaza-Egypt border wall at Rafah.

On January 19, 100,000 people marched in Ecuador’s largest city, Guayaquil, to celebrate the one year anniversary of Rafael Correa’s presidency and his “citizen’s revolution”.

The current crisis could well turn out to be the most devastating since the Great Depression of the 1930s. It manifests profound, unresolved problems in the real economy that have been — literally — papered over by debt for decades, as well as a shorter term financial crunch of a depth unseen since World War II.

During the final week of campaigning around Venezuela’s December 2 constitutional reform referendum, which was narrowly defeated, solidarity activists from Australia and Canada had an opportunity to witness first hand the Bolivarian revolution being led by socialist President Hugo Chavez.

“Prime ministers of the Solomon Islands and Australia have refused to comment on their meeting in Canberra this afternoon”, ABC News Online reported on January 23, adding: “Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s office says he will not be commenting on the outcome of the goodwill visit. Repeated attempts to contact [PM] Dr Sikua have been either unanswered, or unsuccessful, with no reason given for the secrecy.”

On January 11, French Prime Minister Francois Fillon announced what amounts to a ban on the commercial growing of MON810, a type of genetically modified corn. MON810, marketed by the US biotech company Monsanto, is the only GM crop grown commercially in France.

This is an abridged statement released by British pro-choice organisation, Abortion Rights. It is supported by the Trade Union Congress (TUC), many individual trade unions, the National Union of Students and hundreds of individual members. Visit .

It seems that the reign of General Pervez Musharraf is on its last legs. Musharraf has become the most detested president in the history of Pakistan. No longer are there progressives, liberals or moderates in his camp.

On December 9, 72-year-old Abdullah Qureshi, a member of North West Frontier Province (NWFP) provincial council of the Labour Party Pakistan (LPP), was murdered in a suicide attack in Swat valley — currently the scene of a military operation against religious fundamentalists who control a majority of the valley.

On January 12, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez opened the founding congress of the provisionally-named United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV). Chavez argued it was necessary to go on the offensive with the PSUV “as the spearhead and vanguard” of the revolution his government is leading. “We have arrived here to make a real revolution or die trying.”

Forty years ago, the Tet Offensive changed the course of the Vietnam War and world history. On January 31, 1968, fighters of the North Vietnamese Army (NVA) and the National Liberation Front of South Vietnam (NLF) — known dismissively as the “Vietcong” — launched an all-out assault on cities and towns throughout US-occupied South Vietnam, catching the US and its puppet regime completely by surprise, and stunning the world with their courage and audacity.

Tony Blair, who resigned as British prime minister last May, has signed a lucrative deal with leading Wall Street merchant bank JP Morgan.

“The killing of innocent civilians is policy”, Iraq war veteran Mike Blake told a public meeting held on January 19 at the Different Drummer Cafe in Watertown, New York State, near the Canadian border.

Celebrations of the two year anniversary of the coming to power of left-wing President Evo Morales — Bolivia’s first ever indigenous president, elected on the back of mass movements to overturn neocolonialism — occurred in La Paz on January 22.

Analysis

A group of Australian writers, academics, NGO workers and activists have written an open letter to incoming Prime Minister Kevin Rudd calling for Australia to increase its development assistance to East Timor (see above).

Amid audible gasps of relief, on December 15 the US delegation to the United Nations climate change conference in Bali signalled that Washington would be part of the “Bali Roadmap” for combatting global warming. With the US on board, a two-year process of discussion would begin — hopefully to culminate in the adoption of a new pact to replace the Kyoto Protocol, due to expire in 2012.

Although 80% of current revenue from BHP Billiton’s Olympic Dam mine in South Australia comes from minerals other than uranium, recent drilling has shown that the site is home to the largest ore body of uranium in the world.

Prime Minister of Australia Mr Kevin Rudd, MHR [also to other ministers] January 2008

Dear Prime Minister
Re: Australian and Cuban education assistance to Timor Leste

We the following academics, writers, organisations and NGO workers observe these developments, on education assistance to Timor Leste:

The Australian Education Union has called for a $2.9 billion investment into public education in order to support literacy and numeracy strategies. The AEU has called on Prime Minister Kevin Rudd to make this the first step in his so called “Education Revolution”.

One of the 60 companies currently holding uranium exploration licences in South Australia, Marathon Resources, has admitted it’s investigating how 50-60 garbage bags containing what’s thought to be uranium tailings were dumped in the Arkaroola Wilderness Sanctuary in the Flinders Ranges.

Green Left Weekly’s Zane Alcorn spoke to John Parker, Secretary of Gippsland Trades and Labour Council, about environmental and industrial issues surrounding electricity privatisation.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union and Eastern Bloc in the early 1990s, Cuba lost access to the oil, fertilizers and virtually all trading partners that the small island nation depended upon to survive. Cuba faced economic collapse virtually overnight.

PM Kevin Rudd used potentially rising inflation and interest rates as the excuse for the federal government's economic plan, announced on January 21. Those hoping that the ALP's pre-election promise of an ``economically conservative’‘ government was just election hype will be disappointed. It could be straight from the former Coalition government's economics bible.

In October 2007, with the federal election looming, and global warming generating a lot of tepid air in parliaments around the country, a diverse group of people in Adelaide established the Eco-socialist Network to attempt to generate more serious discussion of environmental issues. Green Left Weekly’s Leslie Richmond spoke to John Rice, activist, socialist, Greens member and one of the initiators of the network.

On January 22, 1973, abortion was made legal in the US when the Supreme Court overturned a Texas interpretation of abortion law. The decision in the case known as Roe v Wade overrode state laws limiting women’s access to abortion during the first trimester — finding that they infringed upon women’s constitutional rights. While laws still remain on the books banning abortion in some US states, Roe v Wade prevents the enforcement of these laws.

The following statement was issued on January 25 by Brisbane Indigenous community leader and Socialist Alliance member Sam Watson for the January 26 Invasion Day commemorations.

Letters

Racism

Peter Robson's article "Rudd must abolish racist policies" (GLW #736) was a breath of fresh air. I had taken the liberty to criticise Gerard Henderson's April 2007 speech on the Holocaust in an article posted on the Gleet.net website (

General

This is an extract from an inspiring letter from Jim Knight, one of our loyal readers in northern NSW:

Resistance!

On January 26, most people around the country celebrated “Australia Day”. Thousands of Australian flags with the British union jack were raised, shrimps rolled on the barbie and beer poured like water.

For the first time in 11 years we are under a new government, a Labor government. PM Kevin Rudd’s government was elected off the back of mounting dissatisfaction with the continuing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, inaction on climate change, the Northern Territory intervention and Work Choices, but the battle for change has not been won.

Culture

Poll Dancing: The Story of the 2007 Election

By Mungo MacCallum

Black Inc, 2007

298pp, $24.95

Maverick Mother — Janet Merewether decides to take life into her own hands and embark on a journey into the new social phenomenon of solo motherhood by choice. SBS, Friday February 1, 10pm.

Cafe Carnivale — Musicians of diverse backgrounds come to live in Australia but struggle to find places to perform. SBS, Saturday, February 2, 3.30pm.

Pim Fortuyn: Death of a Populist — Looks at the life and death of the Dutch anti-immigration, right wing populist politician Pim Fortuyn. SBS, Sunday, February 3, 11.05am.

Indonesia: A Reporter’s Journey — Examines Indonesia’s relationship with Australia in relation to East Timor, the Asian tsunami, the Bali and Jakarta bombings, asylum seekers and the Bali Nine. SBS, Tuesday, February 5, 8.30pm.

Never Again — Looks at the tragic events occurring in Darfur and reflects on how the international community has failed to act. SBS, Wednesday, February 6, 1.10am.

Line in the Sand — The story of a community as they prepare for the anniversary of Mulrunji Doomadgee’s death, one of Australia’s most reported black deaths in custody. ABC, Thursday, February 7, 2.55am.

Israel and the Arabs: Elusive Peace — On the Arab-Israeli peace process told by some of the key players. ABC, Thursday, February 7, 3.25am.

Australian Biography: Joan Winch — Joan Winch stood up for herself from an early age, when she was the only Aboriginal girl in her school and was picked on by the other students. SBS, Thursday February 7, 1pm.

Missing: Link-Up — Ten thousand Aborigines are seeking lost families as a result of government policies which removed Aboriginal children from their parents and placed them with white families or in institutions. SBS, Thursday, February 7, 3.30pm.

SHAME on you Kevin Rudd — Prime Minister for all Australians

SHAME on you Jenny Macklin — Federal Indigenous Affairs Minister!

Another party of pretenders — another rudderless ship

@poetry = SHAME on you Kevin Rudd —Prime Minister for all Australians

SHAME on you Jenny Macklin — Federal Indigenous Affairs Minister!

Human rights become difficult and complex only when denied!

You party of oppressors, suppressers, dispossessors and defectors from truth

When governments govern with racist law, who is it that they govern for?

@poetry = SHAME on you Kevin Rudd — Prime Minister for all Australians

SHAME on you Jenny Macklin — Indigenous Affairs Minister!

A party for the future cannot be built nor disguised with age-old lies

You party of non-consulters, assaulters, insulters and defaulters of rights

Your hollow words are diseased, no growth will spring from ring barked trees

@poetry = SHAME on you Kevin Rudd — Prime Minister for all Australians

SHAME on you Jenny Macklin — Federal Indigenous Affairs Minister!

Another party of pretenders — another rudderless ship

When governments govern with racist law, who is it they REALLY govern for?

@auth poem = Karranjal John Hartley

Kala

M.I.A.

12 tracks, $22.88

Rebel Journalism: The Writings of Wilfred Burchett

Edited by George Burchett and Nick Shimmin

Cambridge University Press, 2007

314 pages,
$37.95 (* see special offer below)