Issue 746

Australia

Aboriginal legal aid services are to have their funding cut for the 13th year in a row, despite an election promise by the ALP that a federal Labor government would increase their funding, Trevor Christian, the director of the NSW/ACT Aboriginal Legal Aid Service, told the March 31 Sydney Morning Herald.

At least 100 people attended the Palestine: Global Perspective conference, held at the Victorian State Library on March 29.

On April 1, the Sydney May Day Committee voted unanimously to accept a Unions NSW proposal to shift the traditional May Day march and rally from the first Sunday in May to Saturday May 3.

On March 20, Victorian Supreme Court judge Bernard Bongiorno found that the conditions of incarceration and transportation of 12 Melbourne men charged with terrorism-related offences were so harsh that a fair trial could not be guaranteed.

According to media reports, the federal ALP government intends to proceed with plans to extend uranium mining. The Uranium Industry Framework (UIF), which was set up by the previous government of John Howard and has never been disbanded, has been given a new lease of life. Resources minister Martin Ferguson was quoted in the April 2 Age newspaper as saying: “Some countries see nuclear as part of their commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions”.

As part of a global day of action in solidarity with Tibetan protesters, 65 actions took place across Australia on March 31.

Canterbury-Bankstown public school teachers will demonstrate outside Premier Morris Iemma’s Lakemba office on April 10 to express their outrage at the state Labor government’s refusal to re-negotiate a state-wide schools staffing agreement.

At least 100 Indigenous people were arrested in Alice Springs during “military-style” police raids on the evening of April 3, according to an April 4 media release issued jointly by Vince Forrester, an elder of the Mutitjulu community at the base of Uluru, Greg Eatock from the Sydney-based Aboriginal Rights Coalition and Marlene Hodder from the Alice-based Intervention Rollback Working Group.

The Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) campaign to secure wage rises for construction workers across the country has attracted fierce criticism from the federal government, which is demanding the union apply “restraint” in order to keep a lid on inflation.

Printing company SEP Print sacked its work force without notice after the business was put into receivership on March 20. Sixty-five workers occupied the company’s factory in south-eastern Melbourne over Easter in an attempt to secure entitlements the company owes them that are worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC) is spreading its net further throughout the building industry in an attempt to intimidate unions from standing up for the interests of their members.

After a spirited march through the Adelaide CBD, 1500 unionists rallied on the steps of the South Australian parliament on April 1 to protest the state Labor government’s plans to dismantle the workers’ compensation laws.

A legal challenge by environmental group Blue Wedges to the federal government’s approval of the dredging of Port Phillip Bay was defeated in the Federal Court on March 28. Blue Wedges’ case was based on the slipshod manner in which environment minister Peter Garrett approved the project on February 6, a week after the giant dredging ship the Queen of the Netherlands arrived in Melbourne on January 29. The ship was commissioned by the Victorian government to dredge a new shipping channel in the bay.

On April 1, 50 Wollongong residents rallied outside the NSW parliament in Macquarie Street, Sydney, to demand an end to corruption in the Labor-dominated Wollongong City Council (WCC). The rally, organised by the resident action group Wollongong Against Corruption (WAC), was addressed by, among others, Greens MP Sylvia Hale and NSW Liberal Party leader Barry O’Farrell.

World

“The intense fighting in southern Iraq is entering its fourth day, bringing pressure on the Iraqi government to lead the country out of its plunge back into the prolonged sectarian violence of the past. The ceasefire announced by Iraq’s biggest sectarian militia last August, appears to be in tatters as Prime Minister Nuri al Maliki struggles to contain the country’s Shiite warlords.”

Venezuela’s foreign minister, Nicolas Maduro, has dismissed the authenticity of documents that the Colombian government claims were found in a computer that belonged to Raul Reyes, a leader of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).

Even from my bed on the opposite side of the room it was possible to see the gruesome surgical-steel staples bisecting Miguel’s head.

The Venezuelan national oil company PDVSA has closed deals with several European cities to deliver cheap fuel to socially deprived areas, Lenin Medina of the Venezuelan Foreign Ministry told a European Left conference in Paris on March 29. The

As the full severity of the mortgage crisis emerged over the past year, there were still defenders of the free-market system ready to counter every criticism of sub-prime mortgage peddlers and profit-hungry banks by pinning the blame on the real culprits.

Journalists, communications specialists and other participants in a Caracas conference during the March 29-30 weekend demanded that political leaders in the region put the issue of “media terrorism” on the agenda of all international forums and meetings in which they participate.

Since Kosova declared independence on February 17, it has been recognised by only 33 countries, while most are “waiting and watching”.

A new British government “kitemark” suggests that most carbon offset schemes are flawed, but fails to address the more fundamental problem of paying others to clean up after us.

According to a March 20 Prensa Latina report, Bolivia has honoured the second anniversary of the national literacy campaign that has so far taught 77% of its illiterate population to read and write, using the Cuban program \"Yes, I Can\". Since it

Venezuela will not be the same after the formation of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) — whose founding congress concluded in March. Nor will Latin America.

According to an April 3 Reuters report, an independent environmental expert told a court in Ecuador that US oil giant Chevron should pay US$7 billion to $16 billion in compensation for environmental damage in the country. The lawsuit, which peasants

Human rights group Rights Action, in a March 22 statement, said it was “extremely concerned about the current violations of fundamental human rights in Peru, particularly the right to freedom of opinion and expression and the right of peaceful assembly and association”.

March 31 Reuters article reported that Ecuador has sued Colombia in international court over drug crop fumigation along its frontier. "Ecuador asks the court to declare Colombia's air fumigation a violation of Ecuador's sovereignty", foreign minister

In 1910, German revolutionary socialist Clara Zetkin put a proposal to the International Socialist Women’s Conference that the date March 8 become a day dedicated to fighting for women’s rights.

US plans for a "Star Wars" missile base in Poland have been met with wide spread opposition and protests, including a mass protest taking place in Warsaw on March 15. Demonstrators marched to parliament and then the US embassy calling for the Polish

The one thing that President Thabo Mbeki has to be given credit for is his consistency. Ever since he ascended to South Africa’s political throne, the would-be king has stuck doggedly to the fundamentals of a macro-neoliberalism that has underpinned this country’s developmental path for the last decade and more. It is a consistency that has, not surprisingly, greatly benefited the elite few and cost the majority dearly.

According to an April 2 AFP article, Amnesty International have reported that at least 40 protesters in Burma, including seven Buddhist monks, have been jailed after secret trials over last year's pro-democracy marches. Officially, more than 3000

On March 24, 20 members of the Alexandra Vukuzenzele Crisis Committee (AVCC) were arrested after having re-occupied houses in Alexandra extension seven since March 20. They were released on free bail the next day, but were rearrested on March 28 for contempt of court.

European governments no longer have the right to legally enforce minimum wage standards in their contracts, according to a European Court of Justice ruling on April 3. The court was passing judgement on a case brought by a Polish construction company

On April 2, after much dialogue with the Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner government, agricultural producers suspended for 30 days a strike that began on March 11.

Thousands of Palestinians across the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT) and Israel demonstrated on March 30, the 32nd anniversary of the killing by the Israeli security forces of six unarmed Palestinian demonstrators who held Israeli citizenship. They were participating in a protest against Israeli expropriations of Arab land.

Analysis

Where in the world could a jury find in favour of someone, only to have a judge deliver a decision opposite to the jury’s finding? Well, this has happened in NSW and the victim is Mamdouh Habib, best known for being imprisoned by the US military without charges at its Guantanamo Bay naval base, before being released and flown home to Australia in January 2005.

At 11pm on April 7, 1998, Patrick Stevedores locked 2000 waterside workers out of their jobs. Following months of speculation, the “leasing” of Webb dock in Melbourne to the National Farmers Federation in late January and the abortive “Dubai affair” — where former soldiers were trained in secret in Dubai as strike-breaking scabs — Patrick opted for a frontal assault on the workers and their union.

In 2007, the 90th anniversary of the New South Wales general strike was ignored by mainstream politicians and media sources — a silence that contrasted markedly with the extensive coverage allotted to the 90th anniversary of the Gallipoli landing in 2005.

Overwhelmed by the greenhouse debate? Bamboozled by all the competing claims that renewable energy sources cannot supply 24-hours-a-day power (“base load”)? Depressed by the unending vastness of “the literature” on global warming and renewables?

Chinese authorities had detained more than 1000 Tibetans by April 3 in the wake of protests and riots calling for self-determination that started on March 10, the BBC reported on April 4.

The World Bank’s long-running identity crisis is proving hard to shake. When efforts to rebrand itself as a “knowledge bank” didn’t work, it devised a new identity as a “green bank”. Yes, it’s true.

Dave Holmes is a veteran leader of the Democratic Socialist Perspective, a Marxist tendency in the Socialist Alliance. He co-wrote the pamphlet Change the System Not the Climate (Resistance Books, 2007) and will be participating in the upcoming Climate Change — Social Change Conference. Green Left Weekly’s Peter Boyle spoke to him about the key issues the conference needs to address.

After decades of “greenies versus jobs” propaganda, it is high time unionists and environmentalists started working together on the looming threat of catastrophic climate change. Sadly, the Australian Council of Trade Unions’ (ACTU) policy on global warming released in March barely strays from what is acceptable to the government and big business.

Letters

'Holocaust'

Jirri Booth's arguments (Write On, GLW #745) regarding the impermissibility of using the word "holocaust" to describe anything other than "the victims of Nazi genocide" are spurious. On February 29, Israeli deputy defence minister

General

Ben Bernanke is the chairperson of the US Federal Reserve Bank. If he sneezes at the wrong time, the world’s sharemarkets take another dive and currency speculators rush for their global roulette table. So when he addressed the US Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs on April 3 he was choosing his words very carefully. And there was one word he was wary about using: “recession”.

We are taking a break from production to attend the Green Left Weekly Climate Change — Social Change conference (see ad on page 5). The next issue of GLW will be dated April 23.

Resistance!

Following the first Fossil Fools’ Day actions, it’s a good time to look at how the day came together nationally and how we can make the next Fossil Fools’ Day — and all future actions of the environment movement — even more successful.

Fossil Fools’ Day, an international day of action on April 1 around climate change, was marked by protest actions across Australia involving up to 500 young people demanding an end to the use of fossil fuels and an increase in renewable energy sources.

Culture

Damning the Flood: Haiti, Aristide & the Politics
of Containment


By Peter Hallward

Verso, 2008

442p,
US$29.95

Richistan, A Journey through the 21st Century Wealth Boom & the Lives of the New Rich

By Robert Frank

Piatkus, 2007

263 pp.

Fridge Magnets are Bastards: An A-Z Rant About Annoying People & Useless Things in the Modern World

By Mark Dapin

HarperCollins, 2007, 262 pp, $24.99 (pb)