Issue 758

Australia

On July 8, 600 NSW teachers and principals gathered outside the Department of Education to protest against the state ALP government’s attacks on teacher transfer rights.

According to the 2006 census, the most commonly spoken language in Sydney households, after English, is Arabic. In Australia as a whole, Arabic is the fifth most commonly spoken language.

On July 8, the Australian Fair Pay Commission (AFPC) granted a pay rise of $21.66 per week to around 1.3 million workers earning the standard federal minimum wage. This 4.15% rise translates into an hourly increase of 57 cents. Last July, the minimum wage was increased by only $10.26.

Australia is a leading exporter of coal, shipping millions of tonnes every year around the globe. It was appropriate, therefore, that the annual environmental conference, Students of Sustainability (SoS), was this year held in the world’s coal export capital: Newcastle.

Postal workers protested outside Australia Post HQ on June 25 to voice their opposition to AP’s policy of hiring new employees on lower pay rates and the splitting up their jobs.

Each year, National Aboriginal and Islander Day of Observance Committee (NAIDOC) week, July 6-13, celebrates Indigenous history and culture, with events taking place in regional and urban places. Organisers say a record number of people took place this year.

Rail workers’ militancy against Morris Iemma’s NSW Labor government has won some important concessions and forced the government onto the back foot.

Activists have asked the Federal Court to rule that the recently gazetted NSW regulation declaring that people can be fined $5500 for “annoying” behaviour during July, but especially during the pope’s World Youth Day (WYD) visit, be declared invalid. The case was heard on July 11.

“Unions are totally enmeshed in Cuban society”, Scott Wilson, an organiser for the Queensland branch of the Electrical Trades Union told a July 9 public forum, sponsored by the ETU and the Australia-Venezuela Solidarity Network (AVSN).

One thousand Tamils gathered in Federation Square on July 5 for Pongu Thamil (Tamil upsurge). The event included traditional Tamil dancing, music and speeches on the Tamil people’s struggle for self-determination in Sri Lanka.

The following letter was sent last week to the secretaries of Unions NSW and unions covering the NSW power industry.

Socialist Alliance candidates in the upcoming local government elections are calling for a state-wide referendum on power privatisation to be conducted alongside council elections.

World

In stark contrast to the thumb-twiddling of the G8 overlords, who meet on July 7-9 to decide on taking as little action as possible on climate change and the developing global food and fuel crises, the June 30-July 1 summit of the Common Market of South America (Mercosur) was one more demonstration of the role being played by Venezuela — together with other South American countries — in charting a way out of these crises.

Tens of thousands of workers and peasants rallied across Peru on July 9 as part of a general strike called by the General Confederation of Workers (CGTP) against the neoliberal policies of the government of President Alan Garcia.

The latest extension to racist citizenship laws has turned Israel into an apartheid state, according to a June 29 report in Israeli newspaper Haaretz.

On July 8, the government of Ecuador’s left-wing President Rafael Correa took over three television stations and nearly 200 private companies, prompting the resignation of the finance minister.

The newly elected neo-conservative regime of President Lee Myungbak has been humbled by the spontaneous emergence of a mass movement — sparked by female middle and high school students. This movement has resulted in the largest and longest sustained demonstrations since the fall of the military dictatorship.

Over three days, starting on July 7, the students at the East Timor National University protested in opposition to the purchase of luxury cars for each parliament member. All up, the government of Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao arrested 53 students.

The visit to Sydney for World Youth Day (WYD), July 15-20, by Pope Benedict XVI and 300,000 Catholic pilgrims is set to become the scene for protests.

According to the June 26 Solidarites, the Swiss multinational Nestle infiltrated and spyied on the anti-globalisation activist group Attac in the Swiss canton of Vaud during the publication of a book critical of the company.

A recent move by the government of President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner to implement a system of variable taxes on agricultural exports has opened up a crisis that has lasted more than 100 days.

“Zimbabwe shows Africa is still in the despots’ grip”, said the headline in the London Observer over an article by Keith Richburg.

Following disastrous performances in the English local council elections and the Crewe and Nantwich by-election in May, the ruling Labour Party suffered more humiliation at the hands of the electorate in the June 26 by-election in Henley-on-Thames.

The northern-most and thinly populated island of Hakkaido, Japan, has seen the extreme security measures taken against those wishing to protest against the G8 summit.

Below is a statement released by the G8 Action Network in response to the communique released by the meeting of the G8 member nations — Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia and the US — at their July 7-9 meeting in Lake Toya, Japan. It is reprinted from http://asia-pacific-action.org.

Analysis

The campaign to stop the damming of the Franklin River in Tasmania’s south-west wilderness resulted in a historic victory for the environment movement in 1983. More than 1000 people came together on July 1 to mark the 25th anniversary of this victory in a night of celebration at the Grand Chancellor’s Federation Ballroom.

What’s the difference between a liberation movement and a terrorist organisation?

Arctic sea ice reached a record minimum in the Northern summer of 2007, prompting the revision of scientists’ predictions of how quickly it will melt away altogether in response to global warming — perhaps as early as 2010-13, rather than the hundred years later estimated in the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reports.

Some unionists are angry that despite all the warnings about the climate emergency and Australia’s high per capita greenhouse gas emissions, the Victorian ALP government has given the go-ahead to a $750 million 400 megawatt brown coal power station in the Latrobe Valley.

On May 5, Victorian Premier John Brumby announced that a deal had been struck with the Australian Education Union that would end the union’s 16-month-long industrial campaign. Victorian state school teachers had campaigned to secure better working conditions and pay rises and to reduce contract teaching.

The Rudd government has asked the Productivity Commission to examine the economic, productive and social benefits of introducing a national paid maternity leave scheme. The Commission has heard submissions from a range of unions, business and community groups, and is due to release its report in February, 2009.

PM Kevin Rudd’s “education revolution”, a sad misuse of the word “revolution”, continues to starve public schools of funds. Meanwhile, wealthy private schools are given so much federal money they don’t know what to with it other than bank it or build Olympic-sized gymnasiums.

Right at the beginning of his draft report on climate change, Professor Ross Garnaut points out that global warming can’t be beaten unless an international “prisoner’s dilemma” gets resolved.

While the historic elections for a constituent assembly were held in April — a product of the pro-democracy uprising that has ended Nepal’s monarchy and created a republic — Nepal is still yet to have a new government sworn in.

Letters

Zimbabwe

In response to Brian Souter's letter (GLW #757), I would say that while there is officially a two party system in Zimbabwe, the Mugabe regime has refused to relinquish its power after losing the first election earlier this year, and has

Resistance!

The following article is based on a talk given at the Resistance National Conference, held in Sydney from June 27-29.

Culture

All Governments Lie! The Life & Times of Rebel Journalist I. F. Stone

By Myra Macpherson

Scribner, 2008

564 pp, $29 (pb)

St George Bank Brisbane International Film Festival

July 31-August 10

Visit http://www.stgeorgebiff.com.au, ph (07) 3007 3003