Issue 741

Australia

One-hundred-and-seventy Qantas valet parking staff nationally are affected by a company’s last-ditch effort to move workers onto five-year fixed-term Australian Workplace Agreements (individual contracts) before changes to industrial relations legislation abolishing AWAs come into effect.

More than 500 Fire Brigade Employee Union members turned out for a mass meeting on February 22 to discuss the progress of their campaign for a decent wage increase. Five hundred on-duty members voted by fax. The NSW government’s offer of a 4% pay rise with loss of conditions was rejected by a vote of 1025 to two, with 25 abstentions. A further motion endorsing the union’s log of claims including a wage rise of between $218 and $354 over three years was approved by a similar margin.

The federal Labor government has sought to play down the call made by its chief climate change policy adviser for it to go well beyond its target of a 60% reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. In an interim report released on February 21, Professor Ross Garnaut said that by 2050 global carbon dioxide emissions would need to be reduced to 90% of 2000 levels if catastrophic climate change is to be avoided.

A February 22 meeting between Western Australian prisons minister Margaret Quirk, Aboriginal Legal Service chief executive Dennis Eggington and WA Deaths in Custody Watch Committee chairperson Marc Newhouse resulted in some ministerial promises of reforms following the the death in custody of an Aboriginal elder on January 27.

The Australian Manufacturing Workers Union (AMWU) is holding a series of forums across the country to get feedback from delegates about the direction that the union is taking. The first was held in Melbourne on February 19, attracting more than 300 delegates from the metals, print, food and T&S divisions from across Victoria.

Western Australian public sector agencies will be closed by rolling stoppages if the state Labor government fails to deliver a significantly improved pay offer before the expiry of the current collective agreement on February 25.

Federal opposition IR spokesperson, Julie Bishop, formally announced that the Coalition had dropped its opposition to the Labor government’s plan to “abolish” Australian Workplace Agreements (individual contracts) on February 19.

Four anti-war protesters who broke into the US-Australian Pine Gap spy base near Alice Springs in December 2005, had their convictions quashed by the Northern Territory Court of Criminal Appeal in Darwin on February 22.

The NSW Nurses Association launched a public campaign on February 18 aimed at improving work conditions to retain experienced nurses and entice new nurses into the profession in NSW. The campaign is titled: “Fair conditions. Fair pay. Nurses stay: it’s that simple.”

The Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) is urging Premier Mike Rann's South Australian government not to agree to a proposal from General Atomics (GA) to increase the size of the Beverly uranium mine from 16 km² to more than 100 km², warning of potential radioactive pollution.

“We start the campaign of 2008 without a pulp mill. Who would have thought that after more than three years [Premier Paul] Lennon and [Gunns Ltd CEO John] Gay would still not have their pulp mill?”, said Bob McMahon, one of the founders of Tasmanians Against The Pulp Mill (TAP).

World

On February 12 Imad Fayez Mughniyeh, a leader of Hezbollah — which led the successful resistance to Israel’s July-August 2006 war on Lebanon — was assassinated in Syria.

While the Venezuelan government of socialist President Hugo Chavez has made headlines for its battle with ExxonMobil, Venezuela is not the only country under attack by the world’s largest oil corporation for refusing to submit to its dictates.

ExxonMobil, the world’s largest oil corporation, has launched an attack on the government of socialist President Hugo Chavez and the process of social change, known as the Bolivarian revolution, that aims to eradicate poverty and develop Venezuela’s economy along pro-people lines.

On February 1 the Bolivian government introduced its “dignity pension” — a pension payment for those over 60 years-old that is a first of its kind in Bolivia.

In recent weeks, external and internal pressure against Venezuela’s Bolivarian revolution, as the process of change led by socialist President Hugo Chavez is known, has intensified dramatically.

On the morning of February 19, without fanfare, Cuban media released a statement from President Fidel Castro stating that he would decline to stand for re-election to the presidency.

Below is a statement on repression of pro-Palestinian solidarity activists at McMaster University, in Hamilton, Ontorio, entitled “Defend the rights of student organisers! Our movement will not be silenced!”, by the Coalition Against Israeli Apartheid (CAIA) on February 19.

The following is an abridged statement from the US-based Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) released on January 21.

The unpopularity and increasing isolation of Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, who seized power in a 1999 military coup, was demonstrated in the February 18 parliamentary elections — with vote rigging, military interference and violence unable to prevent a landslide rejection of pro-Musharraf candidates.

The Zimbabwe People’s Convention met in mid-February, attended by nearly 4000 delegates from civic groups, trade unions, the Zimbabwe Social Forum and the left.

It is tragic but understandable that South African society ranks — with the United States and China — at the bottom of a recent worldwide climate-consciousness survey by polling firm Global Scan: only 45% of us believe global warming is a “serious problem”.

Britain’s ministry of defence (MoD) has objected to proposals for new wind farms on the basis that wind turbines interfere with its radar equipment.

“Four million Iraqis cannot guarantee they’re going to have food on their table tomorrow”, the United Nations humanitarian coordinator for Iraq, David Shearer, told Reuters news agency on February 12, adding that “humanitarian needs in Iraq have risen sharply over the last two years”.

Kosova declared independence on February 17, greeted by massive celebrations involving thousands of people.

Analysis

Sydney region:

Tuesday, March 11, 6pm: Kings Cross ALP branch "Stop the sell-off" community forum. With Mark Diesendorf, Bob Walker and Betty Con Walker. Reg Murphy Hall, cnr Greenknowe Ave and Betty Bay Road, Elizabeth Bay. Ph Catherine 0421 562

A report released on February 18 in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health found massive deficiencies in Aboriginal housing in Australia, and located this as a key cause of Aboriginal disadvantage and poor health. The study was conducted over seven years and looked at over 4000 residences in 132 Aboriginal communities.

On February 14, in a clever piece of political theatre, Labor PM Kevin Rudd declared that federal MPs would forgo their scheduled pay rise for 2008. MP’s wages would effectively be frozen until mid-2009. Rudd also called on business executives to curb their pay rises, which averaged in excess of 30% in 2007 according to the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU).

The fight to keep New South Wales electricity in public hands can and must be won. If NSW Premier Morris Iemma and treasurer Michael Costa get away with their plan to sell off the state’s electricity generation capacity and its retail arms, working people and the community will get a dearer, less reliable service and the chances of the state moving to a sustainable energy policy will be reduced to zero.

Foods from genetically manipulated (GM) crops and animals are rejected by most farmers, shoppers and food processors around the world. If these mutant foods were fully labelled, as they should be, consumer rejection would ensure that GM food crops were not grown.

It seems that Victorian Labor Premier John Brumby wants to be remembered, not as a rational leader advocating solutions to an urgent problem facing the survival of the human species — climate change — but as the creator of some of the most potentially destructive infrastructure projects in the state’s history.

Letters

Barwon 13

The release of David Hicks after conviction on a pretty minor charge, and the spectacular collapse of the case against Dr Haneef both suggested that the "anti-terror" laws might not be used so enthusiastically by the government in

General

Parliamentarians are grossly overpaid. A backbencher gets paid more than twice median income, and that’s before adding allowances, generous superannuation, free air travel for life, etc. The PM gets double that: $330,356 (before expenses and perks). Last year, and the year before, the pollies awarded themselves a 7% pay rise while average wages rose 3.8%, putting the recently announced parliamentarians’ one-year salary freeze into perspective.

Resistance!

We all know the scale of the threat posed by global warming and the short time in which we have to take meaningful action to prevent potentially catastrophic consequences. This makes the issue of global warming and how to combat it arguably the most urgent question facing humanity today.

A picture of two teens, a male and a female, with their fingers in their ears and pained looks on their faces greets visitors to the Compound Security Systems website. Compound Security Systems is the manufacturer of one of the latest security devices to arrive in Australia.

Students Against the Pulp Mill are holding their first forum on March 1 as a way for young people around Tasmania to organise opposition to the Tamar Valley pulp mill.

Culture

There Will Be Blood

Written & directed by Paul Thomas Anderson, based on the novel Oil! by Upton Sinclair

With Daniel Day-Lewis & Paul Dano.

Oil!

By Upton Sinclair

Penguin, 1927

560 pages, $24.95 (pb).

@9POINT = Message Stick: Frangipani Land Forever Until their retirement in 1995, the Mills Sisters helped bring the music of the Torres Strait to the world stage. ABC, Friday, February 29, 6pm.

@9POINT = Vera Drake Movie about a selfless working class-woman who secretly visited women and helped them induce miscarriages for unwanted pregnancies in the 1950s. Directed by Mike Leigh. SBS, Saturday, March 1, 9.30pm.

@9POINT = SOS Shorts on Screen Gay and lesbian-themed special in time for the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras. SBS, Saturday, March 1, 11.40pm.

@9POINT = Finding Place The issue of maintaining strong male role models is explored by five initiated Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal men. ABC, Sunday, March 2, 1.30pm.

@9POINT = Showdown with Iran Looks at the a battle for power and influence across the Middle East by United States and Iran, including over nuclear arms. SBS, Monday, March 3, 1.30pm.

@9POINT = Endangered Indigenous people make up only 2.4% of Australia's population, and the eligible Aboriginal single man is an endangered species, as Aboriginal women lament in this film. SBS, Monday, March 3, 5.30pm.

@9POINT = At Five in the Afternoon The first foreign film to be made in Kabul since the fall of the Taliban tells the story of a young woman who believes passionately that her gender should be no bar to her becoming the president of her country. SBS, Tuesday, March 4, 1pm.

@9POINT = The Medicated Child Confronts psychiatrists, researchers and government regulators about the risks, benefits and many questions surrounding prescription drugs for troubled children. SBS, Tuesday, March 4, 8.30pm.

@9POINT = Shame Tells the story of a Pakistani woman who was publicly gang raped to atone for a crime her brother allegedly committed and the battle for justice that ensued. SBS, Tuesday, March 4, 10pm.

@9POINT = Living Black Indigenous news and current affairs program. SBS, Wednesday, March 5, 6pm.

The Battle of Vinegar Hill is the name given to the clash between convicts and soldiers on Monday March 5 1804 following on from the Castle Hill uprising the night before. It was the first battle between Europeans on Australian soil.

Rendition

Directed by Gavin Hood

Written by Kelley Sane

With Jake Gyllenhaal, Reese Witherspoon, Alan Arkin & Meryl Streep