Issue 748

Australia

On April 23, Chicago-based aerospace and military contractor Boeing reported a 38% jump in first-quarter profits for 2008, amounting to a whopping US$1.2 billion. “We’re off to a good start in what we expect to be another strong year of financial performance for Boeing”, chairperson, president and CEO Jim McNerney said.

Since the November federal election, the federal Labor government has moved to re-engineer the federal public service. In early December it re-shuffled portfolios to create new departments including the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations (DEEWR), with deputy prime minister Julia Gillard as its minister.

On April 23, up to 600 public school teachers and their supporters rallied outside state education minister Bronwyn Pike’s electoral office, in the final of their four-hour rolling stoppages. The action was part of the current enterprise bargaining agreement (EBA) campaign that commenced on February 26.

On April 2, federal environment minister Peter Garrett approved the third stage of the controversial Gunn’s pulp mill. Bulldozers have been given the go-ahead at the Tamar Valley site in northern Tasmania.

Jorge Schafik Handal Vega, leader of the Salvadoran left party Farabundo Marti for National Liberation (FMLN) and deputy in the Central American Parliament, will be visiting Australia in May.

On April 18, 400 people rallied outside the Newcastle office of NSW treasurer Michael Costa to demand that the state Labor government reverse its decision to privatise NSW’s electricity infrastructure.

Indigenous activists are awaiting the full report into stolen wages after preliminary research by a Western Australian government task force found 28,000 references to wages not having been paid to Aboriginal workers between 1905 to 1972. However it the number of workers whose wages were stolen is not yet known. Nor is the exact amount owed.

Tasmanian public sector workers will be attending stopwork meetings in the week beginning May 5 to consider a government offer on wages and conditions. In a negotiation process that has dragged on for over 18 months, members of the Health and

A landmark legal case has begun against mining corporation Xstrata over claims that it “wilfully and negligently” caused toxic contamination of large parts of the north-western Queensland city of Mount Isa over decades.

On April 24, as day broke over Canberra, red flags with yellow stars moved in columns throughout the city, held in the hands of marchers, fluttering from car aerials and hanging in the windows of hundreds of buses.

World

First came the decision by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez on April 9 to re-nationalise the Sidor steel plant, privatised by a pre-Chavez government in 1997, after a long workers’ struggle.

The message delivered by Bolivia’s indigenous president couldn’t be clearer: “If we want to save the planet, we have to put an end to and eradicate the capitalist model.”

On the evening of April 21, 60-year-old Fatin Abu Daqqa died after being refused permission by Israeli occupation forces to leave the Gaza Strip for medical treatment.

The Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) welcomes the statement by a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson that the China Ocean Shipping Company, which owns the An Yue Jiang, has decided to recall the ship because Zimbabwe cannot take delivery of the 77 tonnes of weapons and ammunition onboard.

In an unannounced visit to Baghdad on April 20, US Secretary Condoleezza Rice praised Nuri al Maliki, Iraq’s Shiite prime minister, for “ordering” a military offensive last month in the Iraqi seaport city of Basra against anti-occupation Shiite cleric Moqtada al Sadr’s Mahdi Army militia.

In an unannounced visit to Baghdad on April 20, US Secretary Condoleezza Rice praised Nuri al Maliki, Iraq’s Shiite prime minister, for “ordering” a military offensive last month in the Iraqi seaport city of Basra against anti-occupation Shiite cleric Moqtada al Sadr’s Mahdi Army militia.

The early April food riots in Haiti were a product of decades-long neoliberal economic policies foisted on the poverty-stricken nation. Since 2007, prices for a number of essential foods, including rice, rose by about 50%.

In the Worldwide Fund for Nature’s 2007 report, Cuba was the only country listed as having an ecologically sustainable economy. Cuban permaculturalist Roberto Perez recently completed an Australian tour, speaking to over 5000 people, describing how Cuba carried out a “green revolution” to deal with the dire consequences of the collapse of its main trading partner, the Soviet Union, in the 1990s.

There have been dramatic developments in Malaysia since the ruling National Front (BN) government had its majority in parliament reduced sharply in the March 8 general elections. Opposition parties, which won five out of 13 state governments, formed

Below is an abridged April 21 statement by the International Trade Union Confederation.

“Bolivia is on the verge of exploding”, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez warned on April 21.

Left-wing former bishop Fernando Lugo won Paraguay’s presidential election on April 20 with 41% of the vote, according to an April 21 AFP report.

More than 20,000 people marched on April 22 through the streets of Santiago to demonstrate their rejection of the Constitutional Court’s ruling, which last week banned the distribution of the morning-after pill through the public health care system.

Below is an abridged April 22 statement by the Institute for Papuan Advocacy and Human Rights. A statement the following day reported that the seven arrested students had been released.

Analysis

The April 11-13 Climate Change-Social Change conference ended with the production of a statement that tries to specify the elements of a strategy against global warming that would actually have a chance of success.

The following is an abridged version of a talk given by Terry Townsend at the recent Climate Change — Social Change Conference in Sydney. Townsend is a long-term member of the Democratic Socialist Perspective and the managing editor of Links online journal (<http://links.org.au>).

The 2020 summit was two days of political theatre for the new Rudd government. For 48 hours over April 19-20, film stars brushed white-board markers with Australia’s richest, and politicians mixed with Indigenous people, unionists and youth delegates.

I’m not going to yet another ritualised May Day march this year. But neither is anyone else in Sydney!

The following statement was initiated by the participants in the Climate Change|Social Change conference, held in Sydney, Australia on April 11-13, 2008. Anyone who agrees with it is welcome to add their signature, and an updated list of signatories will be issued on a regular basis. The statement is being distributed to environmental, trade union, Indigenous, migrant, religious and community
organisations to help build the movement against global
warming

Links to all audio and video recordings from the conference can be found at href=\"http://socialisteducation.blogspot.com/2008/04/audio-and-video-guide-to-cliamte-change.html\">http://socialisteducation.blogspot.com/2008/04/audio-and-video-guide-to-cliamte-change.html

Aboriginal delegates to the 2020 summit, chaired by PM Kevin Rudd, expressed anger that it failed to agree on a treaty between Black and white Australia. They are also dismayed that there was no clear recommendation to form a new Indigenous representative body to oversee government policy.

An advertisement published in the Australian on March 12 rightly condemned an Australian parliamentary motion that celebrated the 60th anniversary of the establishment of the State of Israel.

The protests and arrests in Lhasa and the demonstrations and counter-demonstrations around the Olympic torch relay has re-focused the world on the plight of Tibetans. This has, in turn, sparked a debate on the left about whether the Tibetan struggle is a just one, or not what it seems.

The recent decision by World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and the Climate Institute to support carbon sequestration and storage (CCS) will set back Australia’s efforts to confront climate change, as well as increasing the costs of doing so.

Editorial

On May 1, International Workers Day, workers and unionists need to reflect on the greatest challenge facing humanity: global warming.

Letters

Privatisation

The Sydney Morning Herald's campaign against state government corruption is missing one notorious breeding ground of corruption — government fire sales of public services, known as privatisation.

The SMH's April 14 article

Resistance!

Around 50 protesters occupied the construction site of Newcastle’s third coal loader at Kooragang Island on April 19, forcing work to be stopped for around an hour and a half. The protest was organised by the climate change group Rising Tide Newcastle.

The principal of the exclusive Anglican Church Grammar School in Brisbane is attempting to ban same-sex couples from attending the school formal in June. After several senior students had indicated their intention to take partners of the same sex, headmaster Jonathan Hensman came out publicly saying it would not be appropriate.

Culture

An Unbroken Agony: Haiti, From Revolution to the Kidnapping of a President

By Randall Robinson

Basic Civitas Books

280 pages, US

Marx in London: An Illustrated Guide

By Asa Briggs & John Callow

Published by Lawrence & Wishart, in association with the Marx Memorial Library

Revised edition, 2008

110 pages, £8.99

Watching Brief, reflections on human rights, law, & justice

By Julian Burnside

Scribe Publications

$32.95

Widely regarded as the greatest living kora player, Toumani Diabete, from Mali, and his 10-piece band drawn from various West African nations — the Symmetric Orchestra — delivered a sublimely engaging two-hour performance on March 12 at the Sydney Opera House.