Issue 738

News

A snap vigil in Martin Place on January 31 was called by the General Union of Palestinian Workers and others in the Palestinian community to demand an end to the Israeli siege of the Gaza Strip and an end to the Israeli occupation of Palestine. Forty people attended the vigil, held near the US consulate. They held candles in solidarity with Gaza’s 1.5 million residents, deprived of basic living necessities, including electricity, by the siege.
On February 1, 100 people gathered outside the State Library of Victoria to protest the Israeli siege of Gaza. The protest was initiated by the Melbourne Palestine Solidarity Network and organised by a wide range of groups including Australians for Palestine, Women for Palestine, Melbourne Stop the War Coalition, Federation of Muslim Students and Youth, Socialist Alliance and Resistance.
At 6am on January 29, environmental activists from the Bellarine Seastar — an arm of the Blue Wedges Coalition — crammed onto the Point Lonsdale pier, on the western side of the entrance to Port Phillip Bay, to protest the arrival in the bay of the giant Dutch dredging ship, the Queen of the Netherlands.
On January 28, 40 people gathered at Latin America Plaza, outside Central Station, to mark the 155th anniversary of the birth of Cuba’s national hero, Jose Marti.
Lawyers and civil libertarians have slammed Australian Federal Police Commissioner Mick Keelty after he called for a media black-out on coverage of cases under the federal government’s “anti-terrorism” laws until all legal avenues have been exhausted.
The National Tertiary Education Union’s class action around AWAs against the University of Ballarat has ended with an out-of-court settlement. The action commenced early in 2006 out of a long-running dispute over enterprise bargaining. As Green Left Weekly reported at the time, the university offered AWAs (individual contracts) to break the NTEU’s bargaining position. A strong campaign by the union resulted in a collective agreement in August 2006.
When the armed customs boat, the Triton, docked at Darwin’s Fort Hill Wharf on January 27, nine of the ship’s crew refused to disembark.
As employers continue to push individual Australian Workplace Agreements (AWAs), some union leaders have urged the labour movement to press the new Labor government of PM Kevin Rudd to move more quickly and decisively against the former government’s Work Choices policy.
The United Firefighters Union (UFU) of Australia Tasmanian branch plans to escalate industrial action on February 11 if their demands are not met. Members are calling for a fair resolution to a superannuation dispute from last year and for a proper pay increase. They also want an independent review into workload and other problems at the dispatch and communications centre.
The February 1 West Australian newspaper’s website reported that police refused to reveal the results of a post-mortem examination on the body of an Aboriginal elder who died in police custody while being taken to Kalgoorlie in the back of a van.
The campaign to stop the dredging of a new shipping channel in Port Phillip Bay had a partial victory on January 30 when a Federal Court judge ruled that the Blue Wedges environmental cCoalition must be given at least 24 hours’ notice of any plan to begin work on the $969 million project.
Several hundred people participated in a January 26 rally against homophobic violence in Harmony Park, next to the Surry Hills police station. The rally was called after the brutal assault in Oxford Street of Craig Gee and his partner Shane Brennan in December was met with an inadequate police response. Gee was left with a broken leg and serious facial injuries.
More than 40 people gathered at the Katoomba YHA on February 2 to demand that the Labor state governments in NSW and Victoria overturn their decisions to end the ban on the commercial growing of genetically modified (GM) canola. From March this year, NSW farmers can apply to grow GM canola.
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez received widespread popular acclaim when he toured the Central American countries of Guatemala and Honduras in mid-January, Rafael Pacheco, from Australian Solidarity with Latin America and the Committee in Support of the FMLN in Brisbane, told a meeting on January 28. The meeting was hosted by the Australia-Venezuela Solidarity Network.

Analysis

Indigenous Affairs Minster Jenny Macklin announced on January 30 that the federal government will make a formal apology to the stolen generations — the 13,000 Aboriginal children who were forcibly removed from their parents as part of a government policy of assimilation — on February 13, the day after the first sitting of the new parliament. Despite calls by Aboriginal groups to include a compensation plan, PM Kevin Rudd’s government has continued to rule out any national compensation fund to go with the apology.
The Australia-Venezuela Solidarity Network (AVSN) is organising a 2008 May Day solidarity brigade to Venezuela for trade unionists and all other people interested in seeing first-hand the unfolding revolution in that country.
Four years ago, 17-year-old Aboriginal teenage Thomas “TJ” Hickey was impaled on a metal-spiked fence in Sydney’s inner-city Waterloo suburb after his bicycle was rammed by a police vehicle. Proper medical practices were not followed by the police and TJ died in hospital the next day, February 15. If proper practices had been followed, TJ would probably be alive today.
A key aspect of PM Kevin Rudd’s IR agenda is the creation of a national industrial relations system that would cover all private sector employees.
Although it stated at the last state election in 2006 that it would not go ahead with the construction of a desalination plant, the Victorian Labor government is now pushing for a desalination plant at Wonthaggi, on the South Gippsland coast. Before the environmental impact statement has even been completed, test drilling and compulsory land acquisitions have begun at the proposed site.
Australia’s new Labor government is in denial on the seriousness of climate change. That much is shown by its inadequate target of reducing the country’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 60% by 2050. But more on that later.

World

Palestinian resistance fighter and founder of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), George Habash, died on January 26 from a heart attack, aged 81.
Labour rights groups around the world are calling for the immediate release of Mehedi Hasan, a Bangladeshi field investigator for the US-based Workers Rights Consortium.
On January 20, 8.4 million Cubans — 95% of those eligible — voted to elect their People Power National Assembly (NA), according to a January 21 Inter Press Services (IPS) article. The election comes amid an unprecedentedly widespread and open public discussion of the countries challenges and way forward.
On December 4, US President George Bush was delighted to announce that the US-Peru Trade Promotion Agreement (dubbed “PeruFTA”) had finally cleared the Congress. Since late 2005, when PeruFTA was approved by Peru, the Bush administration has campaigned relentlessly to secure the free trade deal’s endorsement by the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives.
The following is an abridged from a January 29 International Trade Union Confederation statement. Visit <http://www.ituc-csi.org> for more details.
“General [David] Petraeus has warned that too fast a drawdown [of US troops] could result in the disintegration of the Iraqi security forces”, US President George Bush declared in his January 28 “state of the union” speech to the US Congress.
“We lack everything” Frances Buitrago, a small shopkeeper in the city of Merida, commented to Green Left Weekly. “There isn’t any milk, rice, mayonnaise, oil, wheat, or butter.”
Hundreds of people took protest action in North Sumatra, East Kalimantan, Central Sulewesi, East and West Java and Jogjakarta on January 15-17 to demand cancellation of Indonesia’s foreign debt, nationalisation of the mining industries and for strengthening the economy through a nationwide industrialisation.
This is a statement by the National Liberation Party of Unity (Papernas). One of the main organisations that founded Papernas is the People’s Democratic Party (PRD), which played a leading role in the mass movement that overthrew Suharto in 1998. The PRD is building Papernas to continue the struggle against the neoliberal anti-poor policies that have been continued by post-Suharto governments.
Genocidal mass murderer and former Indonesian dictator Suharto died in hospital in Jakarta on January 27, aged 86, never having faced justice for the millions of people he killed or the billions of dollars he stole during his three decades in power. While Suharto may be gone, the hypocrisy of his rich-country supporters — especially Australia — lives on.
Although the corporate media present an image of Venezuelans suffering under would-be dictator President Hugo Chavez, whose supposedly irresponsible and populist policies are ruining the country, a new poll released by non-profit NGO Latinobarometro reveals that Venezuelans have the most positive view in Latin America about the state of their country and the direction it’s heading in.
On January 23, a series of explosions ripped open the concrete and steel barrier that had sealed off the Gaza Strip from the outside world. The breach in the barrier allowed hundreds of thousands of desperate Palestinians, perhaps a third of Gaza’s 1.5 million residents, to surge into the Egyptian cross-border town of Rafah to buy some of life’s basic necessities — denied them by Israel’s siege of the 10 kilometre wide, 40-kilometre long Palestinian enclave.
After starting contract negotiations on January 12, the Directors’ Guild of America reached a tentative agreement with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers on January 17. It was expected that the DGA and AMPTP would come to an agreement, but the swiftness of the deal was a surprise, especially because there were six months remaining on the existing contract.
The following is an abridged statement released by Left Radical of Afghanistan (LRA) on January 25.
On January 27, Germany’s newest and third-largest party, Die Linke (The Left), scored historic victories in two important state elections, as anger grows at the failure of the economic boom to close the gap between rich and poor.

Culture

The Last Breath
By Denise Mina
Random House Australia, 2007
352 pages, $32.00 (pb)
Lust, Caution
Directed by Ang Lee
Written by Eileen Chang (story); James Schamus & Hui-Ling Wang (screenplay)
With Tony Leung, Tang Wei & Joan Chen
In cinemas
A Benefit for Victims of Violent Crime
Anti-Flag
A-F Records, $16.99
Speaking from the Heart: Stories of Life, Family and Country
Edited by Sally Morgan, Tjalaminu Mia and Blaze Kwaymullina
Fremantle Arts Centre Press, 2007
$27.95 (pb)
Confronting Power & Sex in the Catholic Church, Reclaiming the Spirit of Jesus
By Bishop Geoffrey Robinson
John Garratt Publishing 2007
307 pages, $34.95

Letters

Gaza I The flooding into Egypt of hundreds of thousands of Gazans that followed the breaching of the barrier between those territories is testimony to the desperation and misery of the population of that small enclave. The events have underlined

Resistance!

Demanding, impatient, spoiled, bad at communicating — allegedly these are the character traits of “Generation Y”. Originally used in 1993 to describe children born between 1980 and 2000, the label has been featured in the media quite a lot lately.
An October 17 National Union of Students (NUS) report on the impact of the Howard government’s “voluntary student unionism” legislation argued that VSU has failed to deliver “self-sustaining student organisations just able to survive off voluntary memberships, investments and trading operations”. It documented a series of job losses and closures of student associations’ campaigning departments as a result of VSU robbing them of funding.