Issue 747

Australia

On April 15, 200 people attended a public meeting entitled “Putting the terror laws on trial” at the Kaleide Theatre, RMIT. The meeting was jointly sponsored by the Civil Rights Defence campaign group and Amnesty International.

“The intervention is an apartheid system. It’s an abuse of our human rights — but we blackfellas are used to that”, Mutitjulu elder Vince Forrester told a meeting of 130 people in Redfern on April 12.

Around 30 adults and children gathered outside Midland Centrelink on April 14 to demand the end of welfare quarantining in the Northern Territory.

More than 300 people took part in three days of invigorating discussion at the Climate Change — Social change conference on April 11-13 hosted by Green Left Weekly.

As news headlines report riots and food shortages in Third World nations, during March and April more than 5000 people on Australia’s eastern seaboard were able to hear the inspiring story of Cuba’s survival when faced with starvation and its transition to ecological sustainability.

A snap protest was held outside the Sydney office of World Wide Fund for Nature on April 16 after WWF announced it was joining forces with the Climate Institute, the Australian Coal Association and the mining and energy division of the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union to push the federal government to make “clean” coal the centrepiece of its climate change abatement plan.

Last month, four injured workers had their light duties suspended by Campbellfield car parts manufacturer Autoliv and were told that they should consider taking “voluntary” redundancy packages.

Teachers around the country are in protracted disputes over wages and conditions with their ALP government bosses. Federal education minister Julia Gillard has come out in opposition to teachers’ unions’ proposal to place bans on administrating national literacy and numeracy testing in pursuit of claims for real wage increases and to demand an improvement of working conditions.

Tasmanian deputy premier Steve Kons resigned in disgrace on April 9 following the eruption of a new political scandal for Premier Paul Lennon’s Labor government related to its support for Gunns Ltd’s planned Tamar Valley pulp mill.

Approximately 20,000 votes were submitted across NSW by teachers who attended stop-work Sky Channel meetings on April 8. Teachers went on strike over the state Labor government’s refusal to negotiate a new staffing scheme that would ensure transfer rights for all teachers and guarantee qualified and trained teachers for all students in NSW public schools.

On April 9, some 700 workers employed at the Port Melbourne-based Boeing subsidiary Hawker de Havilland went on strike. They were protesting against the company’s April 7 sacking of an Australian Manufacturing Workers Union (AMWU) member without going through the agreed dispute-settlement procedure. The HDH plant makes parts for Boeing’s new 787 airliner.

Australia’s military “would contain a careful mix of capabilities that could in extremis rip an arm off any major Asian power that sought to attack Australia”, said Professor Ross Babbage of the Kokoda Foundation in a private lecture to Australian Defence Force officials according to a March 25 AAP report.

World

“Clashes with Shiite militiamen flared in two cities Wednesday as a US drone fired two missiles in Basra and US-backed Iraqi troops battled in Baghdad’s sprawling Sadr City slum”, Associated Press reported on April 16.

As the British parliament is discussing proposals to extend its “anti-terrorism” laws even further, existing anti-terrorism laws have been used to conduct surveillance on a family wrongly suspected of lying on a school application form.

The government of Argentinean President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner had the first of a series of meetings on April 15 with the leaders of the agricultural sector.

Denouncing the “coloniser attitude” and “barbarous exploitation” of workers by the management of the Sidor steel company, Venezuelan Vice President Ramon Carrizalez announced at 1.30am on April 9 that President Hugo Chavez had decided to nationalise the company.

Ecuador’s President Rafael Correa shook up the establishment in early April after forcing the resignation of defence minister Wellington Sandoval, the military Chiefs of Staff, and the countries police chief amid accusations that the military and intelligence organisations were infiltrated by, and under the control of, the CIA.

A food crisis, caused largely by skyrocketing prices, has hit dozens of countries across the Third World, while an April 14 report by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) argues that increasing production of “agrofuels” (the large-scale production of biofuels, using food crops to create fuels such as ethanol) further threatens the world’s poor with hunger.

“Now, to producing Venezuelan steel at the service of the revolution and socialism!”, proclaimed Jose Melendez, referring to the victory obtained after 15 months of struggle at the steel factory Sidor, located in the heartland of Venezuela’s basic industry in Guayana.

Union members and labour activists attending the Labor Notes conference dinner on April 12 were attacked by bus loads of staff and members of the Service Employees Industrial Union (SEIU) — wearing purple SEIU t-shirts — who forced their way into the conference venue in Dearborn, Michigan. In the ensuing melee a number of people were injured.

Below is abridged from an April 11 statement by the Zimbabwean International Socialist Organization (ISO). A much longer version can be read at http://links.org.au.

ACT police have been given enhanced stop-and-search powers for dealing with protests planned for the Canberra leg of the global Olympic torch relay on April 24. This comes as protests by the Tibetan diaspora and their supporters have turned the torch’s world tour into a public relations disaster for the Beijing Olympics.

The Nepalese left has stunned the world yet again. The Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist (CPN-M), a US-designated “terrorist” outfit, won a landslide victory in April 9 general elections.

The Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist (CPN-M) victory in the constituent assembly elections held on April 10 is a great step forward for the forces of the left in the region and internationally. The masses voted for those with no experience of elections but with full experience of fighting for basic rights.

Analysis

This year marks the 60th anniversary of the Palestinian al Nakba (the Catastrophe) — the razing of up to 418 Palestinian villages and the driving of 700,000 Palestinians from their homes by Zionist forces to create the State of Israel.

“The union movement can fight back and grow overall in the next period”, Tim Gooden, secretary of the Geelong Trades Hall Council, told Green Left Weekly on April 18. He was responding to reports in the mainstream press highlighting figures indicating a further fall in national union membership last year.

Carbon capture and storage (CCS) is a technique to remove carbon dioxide from industrial pollution — and especially from power stations — and compress, transport and store it perpetually in secure underground structures such as expired gas and oil fields and other geological formations.

The detail of the federal Labor government’s plan for its new industrial relations system, to come into force in January 2010, is beginning to come to light. On April 9, the Australian Financial Review reported that it had obtained a copy of a letter sent by workplace relations minister Julia Gillard to a range of unions and businesses. It canvassed their opinion on issues including the scope of allowable content in workplace agreements, the scope of individual “flexibility” clauses to be mandatory in all awards and enterprise agreements and regulation of industrial action during a bargaining period for a new enterprise bargaining agreement (EBA).

Green Left Weekly caught up with some of the Climate Change — Social Change conference participants. Here’s what they had to say.

Glenn Stevens, the governor of the Reserve Bank of Australia, has argued that working people should be forced to absorb the cost of higher power bills when a carbon emissions trading scheme is introduced in 2010. Speaking to the April 5 Sydney Morning Herald, Stevens argued that “the policy would need to be well explained to consumers to head off calls for higher wages”.

John Bellamy Foster, author of Marx’s Ecology: Materialism and Nature and an editor of the prestigious US-based socialist journal Monthly Review (), was a featured speaker at Green Left Weekly’s April 11-13 Climate Change — Social Change conference in Sydney. He spoke to GLW’s Renfrey Clarke.

Ruth Coleman, veteran ALP senator and feisty leftist died peacefully of cancer in her home in Bassendean, Perth, on March 27. She was the last of a generation of left-wing ALP members whose example shames the current neoliberal crop of Laborites.

In an obvious attempt to silence political dissent, on April 14, 10 G20 protesters who had pleaded guilty to charges of common law riot, criminal damage and recklessly causing injury received severe sentences in Melbourne’s Magistrates court.

This April is the 10th anniversary of the mass sacking of hundreds of waterside workers around Australia by the giant Patrick Stevedores. The drama surrounding this event stirred fierce passions, generated mass protests and polarised society on a scale seldom witnessed.

Letters

Clothing and sexism

Anne Horan (Write On, GLW #746) writes that in feminist circles it's a no-no to discuss what women wear and that feminists do not criticise women themselves for wearing skimpy clothing. She states that the argument that

General

For most of us here in wealthy and relatively insulated Australia, the word “crisis” sounds like an exaggeration. We hear about the global warming crisis, the world financial crisis and now the food crisis but these seem like abstractions to most of us. “Crisis, what crisis?” is a familiar rejoinder.

Resistance!

NASA’s chief climate scientist, Dr James Hansen, wrote an open letter to Kevin Rudd on March 27 urging him to halt the construction of new coal-fired power stations. He also demanded that Rudd implement the Garnaut report’s recommendations.

For Mel Barnes of the Tasmania-based group Students Against the Pulp Mill (SAPM) and Resistance, “young people have the authority to decide our future”, and they can inspire others to take action. Barnes was speaking at the Climate Change — Social Change Conference in Sydney, April 11-13, on a panel with other young environment activists.

Culture

Bush vs Chavez — Washington’s war on Venezuela

By Eva Golinger

Monthly Review Press, 2008

$26.00 (pb), available at <http://www.resistancebooks.com>

Black Soldier Blues — Black GIs from the US during WWII were initially turned away from Australia due to the racist White Australia Policy. SBS, Friday, April 25, 12.55am.

True Stories — Looks at an exhibition of Aboriginal art from the East

The Secret History of the American Empire: Economic Hit Men, Jackals, & the truth about Global Corruption

By John Perkins

Dutton Books, 2007

384 pages, $55 (hb)

‘Exit Right: The Unravelling of John Howard’

By Judith Brett

Quarterly Essay, Issue 28, 2007

Black Inc. $15.95 (pb)