Issue 756

Australia

At the end of May, the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) logged all but three universities with a bold set of claims.

Noel Washington, vice-president of the Victorian branch of the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU), is to appear before the Geelong Magistrates Court on August 8 for refusing to attend a compulsory Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC) hearing.

In a blow to the Northern Territory intervention policy, the Australian Medical Association (AMA) announced on June 15 that it will pull out of recruiting medical staff for the program, which it argued the government was dramatically underfunding.

On June 21, protest actions were held around Australia on the first anniversary of the federal government’s “intervention” into Aboriginal communities in the Northern Territory, demanding an immediate end to the racist invasion of Aboriginal land that it entails.

The Rudd Labor government has abolished the hated temporary protection visas (TPVs) that left refugees in limbo for years despite having their refugee status confirmed, and it has scrapped the “Pacific solution” — the shipping of asylum seekers to prison camps on Nauru and Manus Island. However, the bulk of the Howard government’s refugee policies remain in place.

The Socialist Alliance will contest the council elections on September 13 in the seat of Marrickville. At a meeting on June 17, the alliance pre-selected three long-term activists: Jill Hickson, Pip Hinman and Howard Byrnes.

On June 12, the South Australian-based manufacturing company Clipsal announced it would sack 200 permanent workers and close its Nurioopta plant based in the Barossa Valley. The company indicated that there would likely be unspecified “flow on” job cuts in its labour hire workforce.

More than 160 people were captivated by new film about health care in Cuba, Salud, which was screened by the Australia-Cuba Friendship Society on June 14.

On June 12, in the face of local outrage, Port Macquarie-Hastings Council pulled the plug on a controversial $110 million diesel-fired peak power plant in the iconic Camden Haven valley.

Thirty people attended the June 17 meeting of Wollongong Against Corruption (WAC), which has spearheaded the anti-corruption campaign in Wollongong since its local council was sacked in March.

Growing concern about climate change has led to the formation of dozens of local community climate action groups across Victoria. Many of these are among the 45 endorsees of the July 5 Climate Emergency rally, at which Greens Senator Bob Brown will speak.

Bill Zhang, a Chinese refugee, killed himself after his forcible deportation from Australia, according to a June 16 ABC report. Zhang spent two years in Australia’s Villawood refugee prison.

Five hundred people attended an anti-pulp mill public meeting in Launceston on June 10. It was organised by the Wilderness Society to pressure Tasmanian Premier David Bartlett into ensuring that no more public funds are used to support Gunns’ proposed Tamar Valley pulp mill or its pipeline.

Lawyers for Jack Thomas are seeking leave to appeal to the High Court to prevent him being re-tried on charges under the “anti-terror” laws.

Contaminated wells, dying marine life and crops being destroyed by extreme weather are just a few of the challenges facing the 11,000 residents of Tuvalu, a Pacific nation that is the second smallest in the world.

Brisbane’s very successful Green Left Weekly Winter Fiesta on June 14 helped take our 2008 Fighting Fund to $101,936. Since the last issue $7921 has been collected in the form of donations and proceeds from events like the Brisbane Winter Fiesta. Proceeds from fundraising events in Newcastle and Melbourne also made a significant contribution.

Fifteen activists calling for a rapid conversion to renewable energy protested at the $2600-a-head Queensland Coal Conference 08 on June 16.

I am not the least bit superstitious, but I can get suspicious. Like when Victorian community group Your Water Your Say (YWYS) failed its court challenge against the federal and state government decision to build a monstrous and unnecessary $3.1 billion desalination plant in Wonthaggi.

World

This year’s May Day solidarity brigade to Venezuela, the seventh brigade from Australia to be organised by the Australia-Venezuela Solidarity Network (AVSN), had 12 participants representing various unions. One of those was Chris Spindler, an organiser for the Victorian Australian Manufacturing Workers Union (AMWU).

Spindler was sent on the brigade as an official AMWU representative, to report back on how the Bolivarian revolution being led by President Hugo Chavez’s government was improving the lives of workers and the poor. On June 11, the Victorian AMWU voted to affiliate to the AVSN and to send a message of solidarity and congratulations to the workers of the giant steel plant Sidor — which was nationalised in April following a long struggle by its workforce.

Green Left Weekly’s Trent Hawkins spoke to Spindler about the his impressions of the revolution.

Our dependency on oil has never been more excruciating than it is today.

In response to the extreme, racist anti-immigrant “Return Directive” law, passed by the European parliament on June 18, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez threatened to stop oil sales to any country that applied the directive.

The ZANU-PF government of President Robert Mugabe has its origins in the liberation struggle against the white supremacist Rhodesian regime of Ian Smith. How did a government that emerged from a mass struggle for liberation degenerate into the dictatorship that exists today?

The National Front (BN) government led by PM
Abdullah Badawi has been shaky since the March general election that returned a much stronger parliamentary opposition — now largely united in a new People’s Front (Pakatan Rakyat).

Despite raids by Israel that left six people dead in the Gaza Strip and numerous rockets launched by Palestinian resistance group Islamic Jihad the previous day, a ceasefire between Israel and the Hamas government in Gaza took effect on June 19. At the official start of the ceasefire at 6am, both sides appeared to be holding the truce.

It started out as a good day for justice and rapidly became a good day for democracy too.

Workers in Iran face massive repression when attempting to organise to defend their rights.

On June 11, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s proposals to extend the time that police are allowed to detain “terrorist suspects” without charge narrowly scraped through a vote in the House of Commons. The MP vote was 315 to 306 to back Brown’s proposal to extend the limit on detention without charge from 28 to 42 days.

Below is part two of a special feature on the global food crisis. Green Left Weekly published the first part in #750. Both parts are reprinted from http://socialistvoice.ca. The author edits http://climateandcapitalism.com.

The article below, by Jean-Guy Allard, is reprinted from Cuban newspaper Granma on June 16. According to a June 18 Xinhuanet.com article, thousands of people protested outside the US embassy in La Paz, Bolivia, against the decision and demanding Carlos Sanchez Berzain’s extradition — prompting the US to recall its ambassador to report on the situation. Bolivian President Evo Morales defended the protests, stating that the protest “isn’t any attack”, but “is the reaction of the people against US government policies”, which grant asylum to genocide suspects and protect criminals.

Below is an open letter from Bolivian President Evo Morales to the European Union, appealing to it not to adopt the racist anti-immigrant “Return Directive”, which was voted up on June 18. This is abridged from http://boliviarising.blogspot.com.

This piece on “tasks for ecosocialists in building a global movement against ecological destruction”, was posted at http://climateandcapitalism.com on June 10. It will be published as an editorial in a coming edition of British magazine Socialist Resistance.

On June 5 the Eleventh Circuit of Atlanta’s Court of Appeals upheld the federal convictions for conspiracy against the Cuban Five — five Cuban citizens held in US prisons since their arrest on September 12, 1998.

Analysis

On World Youth Day on July 19, protesters are planning to send this message to the pope: “Gay is great and homophobia is unacceptable.”

The expected showdown in the struggle over the NSW Iemma government’s proposed electricity privatisation has stalled.

“Speeding towards dangerous climate change” was the name of the public forum at which the Public Transport Users Association (PTUA) launched its “Every Ten Minutes to Everywhere” campaign on June 15.

The Toyota Motor Corporation, in a dead heat with US giant General Motors (GM), is now the most profitable car maker in the world. Last financial year TMC was valued at US$215 billion. This, however, didn’t stop the federal government from offering Toyota even more money.

Fred Fuentes, who has spent a year working in Venezuela, will be a special guest speaker at the Resistance National Conference in Sydney, June 27-29. Green Left Weekly’s Trent Hawkins caught up with Fuentes just before he left Caracas for Australia.

Between July 5 and 9, hundreds of students and activists from around Australia are expected to attend the annual Students of Sustainability (SoS) conference at the University of Newcastle.

Under the title “First steps in closing the gap”, the Indigenous affairs budget papers reveal that Labor has committed itself to six bold targets. They’re commendable goals, but are they achievable? National Indigenous Times’ managing editor, Chris Graham, gives his assessment of how PM Kevin Rudd’s first federal budget will impact upon Indigenous people.

“Employers win in IR overhaul”, was the front-page headline of the June 17 Australian Financial Review, reporting the outcome of the Rudd Labor government’s new National Employment Standards (NES), released on June 15.

The latest surge in the spot price of crude oil (to US$139 a barrel — 87.4 cents a litre) dramatises the urgent need for society to wean itself off “black gold”. The longer we remain hooked the greater the devastation both to our environment and to the living standards of millions, especially the poorest peoples of the planet.

General

The current issue of Green Left Weekly is a two-week issue, so that GLW staff may participate in the "Turn anger into action" national Resistance conference in Sydney from June 27-29. (Visit http://resistance.org.au for full details.) The next issue

Culture

‘Last Drinks: the impact of the Northern Territory intervention’, by Paul Toohey

Quarterly Essay, Issue 30, June 2008

Black Inc., $15.95

The New Spirit of Capitalism

By Luc Boltanski& Eve Chiapello

Verso, 2007

656 pages, $79.95

Standard Operating Procedure

Directed by Errol Morris

Cinema release July 3