Issue 739

News

On February 2, 150 people rallied in support of same-sex civil unions in the Australian Capital Territory, demanding the restoration of the original version of the ACT civil unions act, which included the right to hold an official ceremony and the right for non-ACT residents to obtain a civil union certificate.
Medical scientists employed in Victoria’s public hospitals began industrial action for a new wages deal with a 24-hour strike at hospitals in Melbourne’s Southern Health region on February 5.
Members of the Australian Education Union (AEU) employed in Victorian public schools will stop work for 24 hours on February 14 as part of their campaign for a new enterprise bargaining agreement (EBA) with the state government.
Plans are under way around the country for anti-war protests on March 16 — the fifth anniversary of the start of the Iraq war. This year the anniversary rallies coincide with Palm Sunday, a traditional day of peace movement mobilisation in Australia.
On February 5, before any negotiations had been completed between the NSW Teachers Federation and the NSW Labor government, education minister John Della Bosca announced that from the end of the second term in 2010, public school principals will no longer be obliged to the statewide staffing system.
“Forty years ago, the Tet offensive — the decisive battle of the Vietnam War — took place, changing the course of the war, and beginning the long retreat of the US military which eventually led to the victory of the Vietnamese revolutionary national-liberation forces with the fall of Saigon in April 1975", Jim McIlroy said at a public forum inBrisbane on January 31, one of a series sponsored by Green Left Weekly.
The week-long occupation of the armed customs ship, the Triton, ended on February 3 following talks between the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA), the Australian Institute of Marine and Power Engineers (AIMPE) and shipping company Gardline. The eleven seafarers, known as the Triton 11, who had been sacked in an attempt to replace them with non-union labour, have been reinstated with permanent positions under a collective union agreement.
As Victorian Labor Premier John Brumby prepared to deliver his first annual “statement of government intentions” to the opening of the 2008 parliamentary session on February 4, about 100 protesters gathered on the steps of Parliament House.
On February 3, 300 angry Goulburn Valley residents, many of them farmers, blockaded the Sugarloaf reservoir just north of Melbourne to protest the construction of a pipeline from the Goulburn River to Melbourne’s water supplies. The Goulburn River feeds into the Murray River system, increasingly drained by irrigation and, for many years now, a record drought.
The Western Australian Deaths in Custody Watch Committee (DCWC) has called an urgent public meeting for February 13 to plan a campaign to demand justice for an Aboriginal elder who died on January 27 in the custody of Global Solutions Ltd (GSL), which is contracted by the state government to transport prisoners.
On February 6, senior management announced the pending closure of the Tonsley Park Mitsubishi plant. Citing $1.5 billion in losses over the past decade, Mitsubishi Australia executive Robert McEniry explained to the Australian on the same day that the closure “was a commercial decision and a commercially responsible decision”.

Analysis

The following is the second part of an interview between John Parker, secretary of Gippsland Trades and Labour Council, and Green Left Weekly’s Zane Alcorn. The first part was published in GLW #737.
Around 200 union leaders from around Australia attended a trade union leadership forum organised by the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) in Canberra from January 30 to February 1. Many had a lot on their minds. First and foremost, many wondered how the Rudd Labor government’s new industrial relations systems would shape up and what the union movement will have to do to make sure it benefits workers? Unfortunately most walked away after three days asking themselves the same questions they arrived with.
[The following is a statement from the national executive of the Socialist Alliance.]
In addition to being the home of Bollywood, the Indian city of Mumbai can boast having Asia’s biggest slum, Dharavi. One million residents are crammed into a square mile of low-rise wood, concrete and rusted iron, reported the December 19 Economist.
In the lead up to the February 12 Indigenous rights convergence in Canberra, Green Left Weekly gathered statements from Indigenous activists around Australia. At the fore of people’s minds was the Northern Territory intervention, PM Kevin Rudd’s scheduled apology to the Stolen Generations and the issue of compensating those affected by that policy.
On the eve of December’s UN climate conference in Bali, the Indonesian government announced that it would plant 79 million trees in a single day to “offset” the emissions of the entire conference. But this world record-attempt could not mask the presence of another, less flattering, statistic in the 2008 Guinness Book of Records, which awarded the country the world record for the fastest rate of deforestation. From 2000 to 2005, an area of forest equivalent to the size of 300 football pitches was destroyed every hour in Indonesia, the key factor in its having the world’s third-highest rate of greenhouse gas emissions behind the US and China.
In 2001, newly-elected US President George Bush made international headlines when he announced changes to how international aid organisations were to be funded with US money. Known as the “Global Gag Rule”, aid organisations were informed that, in order to continue receiving US government funding, they could no longer provide any information about abortion to their clients.
On May 9, 2007 NSW Premier Morris Iemma announced that he had appointed Anthony Owen, Australia’s first professor of energy economics, to report on NSW’s future needs in electricity generation capacity.
A new report published by Friends of the Earth (FoE), Climate Code Red: The case for a sustainability emergency, warns that human-induced climate change is dangerously impacting on the planet and its people, and calls on the Rudd government to take real action to avert disaster from global warming.
Bruce Trevorrow, 50, was the first of the Stolen Generations to succeed in recieving compensation from a state government. His case is an argument for why PM Kevin Rudd should establish a national compensation scheme for the tens of thousands or so members of the Stolen Generations.

World

Venezuela’s Energy Minister, Rafael Ramirez, characterised a series of court orders obtained by Exxon Mobil Corp. in Britain, the Netherlands, and the Dutch Antilles, freezing up to US$12 billion in assets of Venezuelan state oil firm PDVSA, as "judicial terrorism" in a statement today.
The president of the Venezuela’s National Assembly’s Energy and Mines Committee, Angel Rodriguez, rejected the illegal judicial decision on behalf of British, US and Dutch courts, of freezing the Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA) assets in their countries, as part of a lawsuit brought by the US Exxon Mobil, due to the nationalisation of the Orinoco Belt, which took place last May.
Leaders of the Socialist Party of Malaysia (PSM) have vowed to defy court rulings banning them from participating in public assemblies. The court orders were placed on 35 opposition party and grassroots activists who were charged with illegal assembly following a January 26 protest against price hikes imposed by the government-owned oil corporation, Petronas.
During the war against Vietnam, it was not until 1970 that the US union movement took protest action in an organised manner. And even then, it was a pro-war demonstration called by New York’s Building Trades Council in support of President Richard Nixon. However anti-war unions responded to that demonstration — held on May 20 and drawing 50,000 workers (many of them paid to attend) — with a protest of their own. While it only drew half as many people, it was a significant milestone — it was the first time that US unions formally organised an anti-war demonstration.
The US Department of Energy announced January 30 that it is pulling out of the Futuregen Project in Mattoon, Illinois — the United States’ US$1.8 billion “clean coal” demonstration plant, scheduled to start construction next year. The DoE had committed to paying 74% ($1.3 billion) of Futuregen’s costs.
The war for Chad is not over. It is likely to become more bloody and involve a wider humanitarian disaster before any solutions can be grasped. The next week will be critical for the future of the country — and for the wider region, including Sudanese-controlled Darfur.
This is an abridged report issued on January 28 by the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), representing 168 million workers in 155 countries. For more information, please visit .
US and allied foreign forces are facing “a classic growing insurgency” in Afghanistan, Admiral Michael Mullen, the head of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, told US legislators on February 1.
On February 6, Israel once again resumed its air strikes against the population of Gaza, killing nine Hamas affiliated police officers and injuring 13 others. Israel claimed the attack was in retaliation for a suicide bombing on February 4 which claimed the life of one woman and injured six others in the southern Israeli city of Dimona.
This statement was issued by the People’s Democratic Party (PRD) after the January 27 death of former Indonesian dictator Suharto. The PRD played a significant role in the mass pro-democracy movement that overthrew Suharto in 1998.
Transport workers from six different sectoral unions met from January 23-25 in West Java to form the National Transport Workers Union (FBTN).
The 500 million people of the European Union are being denied the right to ratify by referenda major amendments to the two key EU treaties. The Lisbon Treaty, signed by member states in December, will significantly increase the power of unelected EU institutions and enshrine right-wing economic policy.
On February 4, a series of massive ostensibly “non-political” “peace” demonstrations against the left-wing guerrilla group the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) took place in Colombia. Hundreds of thousands took part under the banner of “No more FARC, No more kidnappings”. Protests also took place around the world.
US officials want their puppet Iraqi government to agree to a long-term “status of forces agreement” that would give the US military “broad authority to conduct combat operations and guarantee civilian contractors specific legal protections from Iraqi law”, the January 25 New York Times reported.
“Celebrating the completion of nine years in office, Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez presented what he considered to be some of the main economic achievements of his government” according to a February 4 Venezuelanalysis.com article.
The polling company Opinion Research Business (ORB) has released detailed data confirming that the death toll from the Iraq war has exceeded 1 million people — more than the total number killed in the Rwandan genocide of 1994.
“With food prices rising, Haiti’s poorest can’t afford even a daily plate of rice, and some take desperate measures to fill their bellies”, according to a January 29 Associated Press article by Jonathan Katz.
The socialist journal Links, initiated by the Australian Democratic Socialist Perspective (DSP) to promote international socialist collaboration and regroupment, has been relaunched as an online-only publication.

Culture

The Dirty Mile
Ilbijerri Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Theatre
Devised by Kylie Belling, Gary Foley and John Harding, Based on an original concept by Lisa Bellear
Director Kylie Belling
With Bryan Andy, Lionel Austin, Jacob Boehme, Janaya Charles, Joe Clements, LeRoy Parsons, Melodie Reynolds and Stan Yarramunua
Cnr Gertrude and Nicholson Sts, Fitzroy
Saturday February 23 to Sunday March 16
$30/$20 concession
Bookings (03) 9685 5111
Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army
By Jeremy Scahill
Serpent’s Tail, 2007
452 pages, $35 (pb)
“Let our revenge be the laughter of our children” — Bobby Sands
The Shock Doctrine
By Naomi Klein
Allen Lane, 2007
576 pages, $32.95 (pb)

Letters

Mitsubishi closure Federal industry minister Kim Carr has announced a $50 million "support package" for workers at the Mitsubishi's Tonsley Park car plant in Adelaide to soften the blow of the plant's closure. One way to spend that money which