Issue 743

Australia

Fourteen divers at the Sydney desalination plant being built at Port Botany went on strike this week over safety concerns and demanding a union collective agreement walking off the job on Monday March 3. They are employed by Construction Diving Services (whose parent company is Dempsey Industries).

Janet Giles, secretary of SA Unions, South Australia’s peak trade union body, resigned on February 18 from the board of the state government’s WorkCover Corporation, stating that she could not defend the rights of injured workers while remaining on the board.

The Melbourne Age reported on February 27 that child abuse charges against an Indigenous woman from the NT had finally been dropped after two years. The woman’s son has still not been returned to her by Family and Children’s Services Northern Territory (FACS), however.

As the horror of Israel’s recent attacks on Gaza spread, UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon could only describe Israel’s rocket launches as “an excessive use of force”. By contrast, he described a Palestinian homemade rocket, which killed two Israeli soldiers and one civilian, as a “terrorist” act.

On March 3, 400 teachers rallied as part of the Australian Education Union’s campaign for improved wages and conditions. The AEU is calling for a 10% pay rise each year for three years to bring Victorian teachers’ wages in line with those of New South Wales teachers.

Over 4000 Victorian Independent Education Union (VIEU) members from Catholic schools stopped work for 24 hours on March 7 in support of their enterprise bargaining agreement.

Centrelink is to cut about 2000 of its 27,000 staff over the next financial year as part of new cost-cutting measures by PM Kevin Rudd’s Labor government.

On March 6, a rally was held to commemorate the International Day of Tribute for the Victims of Human Rights Abuses. This international day of action was called by the Colombian National Movement for Victims of the State. Around 40 people gathered on the steps of Parliament House in support of the victims of paramilitarism, demanding a just, fair and free Colombia and an end to state terrorism.

The April 11-13 Climate Change/Social Change conference being organised in Sydney by Green Left Weekly aims to promote recognition that radical social change is necessary to solve the global climate crisis. This is a crisis that at threatens to make the Earth uninhabitable for the vast majority of humans and other species.

Contrary to federal government rhetoric, research conducted into the new Labor government’s Forward with Fairness transitional bill has revealed that Australian Workplace Agreements (AWAs — individual contracts), or their replacement clones, the Interim Transitional Employment Agreements (ITEAs), could continue well beyond 2010.

Mothers Against Genetic Engineering (MAdGE) and the Gene Ethics Network launched a campaign on February 28 for local councils in Victoria to declare themselves genetically manipulated (GM) food-free zones. The campaign, launched at a protest rally on the steps of the state parliament, is in response to the Premier John Brumby’s decision to end Victoria’s ban on GM canola on February 29.

The recent collapse in ABC Learning Centres’ share price generated a media frenzy. Director Eddy Groves was reputed to have lost $45 million in just two hours of trading. For a time it looked like many centres would close their doors.

SYDNEY — The Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) organised a community rally outside the Sombreros Mexican restaurant in the beachside suburb of Cronulla on March 7. The rally was to protest the sacking of chef Basilo Reyes for taking time off to have a cancer removed.

Up to 1000 people marched in Sydney on March 8 to celebrate 100 years of International Women’s Day. Many trade unions were represented as well as community and migrant groups, with some women coming from as far as Nowra on the NSW south coast to mark 100 years of women’s struggles.

Journalist and documentary filmmaker spoke at a public forum on March 7. Attended by 200 people, the forum was hosted by Pilger’s high-school friend, actor Jack Thompson, at his pub in the Blue Mountains town of Katoomba

On March 1, Students Against the Pulp Mill met to discuss the next steps in the campaign against Gunns Ltd's planned $2 billion Tamar Valley pulp mill.

Attended by 40 students from across Tasmania, the meeting decided that SAPM would organise a

World

While the Western corporate media was swooning over the tour of army duty in war-torn Afghanistan by Prince Harry, the third in line to the British crown, scant coverage was given to US national intelligence director Vice-Admiral Mike McConnell’s admission that the situation facing the US and its NATO allies in Afghanistan is “deteriorating”, despite a doubling of their occupation forces since 2004.

Just weeks after the Ecuadorian and Venezuelan governments called on Colombia to respect the need for peace and negotiation with the guerrilla group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia-People’s Army (FARC-EP), the Colombian of President Alvaro Uribe launched an extensive armed air and land assault against the insurgency movement.

The breakout of the people of Gaza in late January provided a heroic spectacle unlike any other since the Warsaw ghetto uprising and the smashing down of the Berlin Wall.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez denounced the Colombian state as a “terrorist state”, and said it had become “the Israel of Latin America”, following the Colombian military’s bombing of Ecuadorian territory on March 1 that killed up to 21 members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). Chavez argued the US government was behind Colombia’s actions.

When is a private company not a private company? Answer: when it’s wholly owned by the British government and forms part of Britain’s overseas aid program.

According to a March 3 Radio New Zealand International report, a series of demonstrations calling for a referendum on Papuan self-determination took place on the same day in several main towns in Indonesian-occupied West Papua.

Below is a March 4 statement released by Hugo Blanco, a veteran revolutionary and campesino (peasant) leader. He is currently the director of the magazine Lucha Indigena. This statement was translated by Philip Stuart Cournoyer, and is reprinted from international socialist e-journal Links, http://links.org.au.

The way US-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) reported on Haiti and Venezuela in its 2008 World Report reveals an underlying assumption that the US and its allies have the right to overthrow democratic governments.

US chief of staff operations director General Carter Ham told a February 25 press briefing that the Pentagon plans to keep its occupation force in Iraq at 140,000 troops after the end of the 30,000-strong US troop “surge” in July.

Below is a statement released by the National Liberation Party of Unity (Papernas).

@intro2 =Below is a February 29 statement by the International Trade Union Confederation, which represents 168 million workers in 155 countries and territories and has 311 national affiliates. Visit <http://www.ituc-csi.org>.

“We defend our sovereignty, and support the Ecuadorian people against imperialism, and for peace”, Aida Guitierrez told Green Left Weekly at a protest outside the Colombian Consul in Merida on March 6.

On March 4 and 5, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice made a brief visit to Israel, ostensibly to advance a “peace process” between Israel and the Palestinians, launched in the US resort of Annapolis last November.

More than 200 US military veterans and active-duty troops from Iraq and Afghanistan will participate in a four-day event in Washington, to shed light on the atrocities committed by US occupation forces.

On March 1, Raul Reyes, a central leader of the 18,000-strong left-wing guerrilla army, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), was killed in an illegal midnight attack by the Colombian army. The attack targetted a FARC encampment three kilometres south of the border in the Putumayo province of Ecuador.

Analysis

In the most recent edition of Green Left Weekly (GLW #742, links to all contributions in debate so far are below), well-known progressive anti-imperialist activist, Professor Stephen Zunes, has proclaimed that I am a liar.

As the quarantining of Indigenous welfare payments (50% of individual welfare benefits being received as gift cards for certain shops) rolls out across the Northern Territory, its alleged benefits need to be weighed against the possible cultural and economic consequences.

Last May, the ALP announced a target for greenhouse gas emission reductions that, if observed generally across the world’s major emitting countries, would give humanity virtually no chance of avoiding climate catastrophe.

Former Democrat senator Sid Spindler died at his home on March 1, aged 75. He had dedicated his life to opposing injustice and campaigning for a more socially just world, even when this might have been unpopular. He was always prepared to stand up and be counted on social justice issues.

Well, so much for our new government taking an even-handed position on Israel/Palestine.

“We’re approaching the future with some confidence notwithstanding the obstacles that are put in our path by institutions like the ABCC [Australian Building and Construction Commission]”, Dave Noonan, national secretary of the construction division of the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union told Green Left Weekly. Noonan spoke to GLW after the CFMEU national conference, held in Sydney from February 18-22.

Any day now the findings of the special Consultative Reference Committee (CRC), set up by the NSW government to “test the impacts” of its plans to privatise its electricity generation and retailing assets, will become public.

Letters

Venezuela

As an Australian person currently living and working in Venezuela, I feel there are many important aspects to the ExxonMobil issue that have been, perhaps deliberately, ignored by the mainstream media in Australia.

Legalities aside

General

It has to be one of the most unbelievable stories of the century: New Idea, a magazine that trades on gossip about royals and other celebrities, is blamed for exposing Prince Harry’s deployment in the British military intervention in Afghanistan. It is about as believable as the plot of Mark Twain’s The Prince and the Pauper, in which a young prince swaps places with a street lad to see what life is like in “Paupersville”.

Resistance!

As the Iraq war approaches its fifth anniversary on March 20th, it is important to remember why the war was started. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989 the US has looked to find new ways to justify its military interventions in order to increase economic prosperity and further expand its empire.

Poverty is a dominant feature of life for many university students. Statistics from Melbourne University show that living expenses (excluding course fees) for a student in share accommodation amount annually to around $25,000. Most students must work at least one job to supplement the meagre government-provided youth allowance, which, if paid at the maximum rate of $425 per fortnight, amounts to just $11,050 per annum.

Culture

Mr Sin: The Abe Saffron Dossier

By Tony Reeves

Allen and Unwin, 2007

296 pages, $24.95

The Siege — Details how Nestor Cerpa and the Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement took over 400 people hostage at the Japanese ambassador's residence in Lima, Peru in 1996. SBS, Friday, March 14, 8.30pm.

Science: Total Isolation — A weapon of

Live From Occupied Palestine

Exhibition by Kim Bullimore

CLASS bookshop

360 Victoria St, North Melbourne

Info 0430 397 074

3rd Sydney Latin American Film Festival

Chauvel Cinema, Paddington and other venues

Until March 16

<http://www.sydneylatinofilmfestival.org/cms/>

Between the Lines — Readings on Israel, the Palestinians, and the US ‘War on Terror’

Edited by Tikva Honig-Parnass & Toufi Haddad

Haymarket Books, 2007

406 pages, US$17