Issue 761

News

At a “Rally for the River” on August 1, some 2000 people gathered on the steps of state parliament to voice concerns about the plight of the Murray River’s Lower Lakes and the lack of action by state and federal politicians to address the crisis.
The campaign to throw out all charges against Palm Island Aboriginal leader Lex Wotton is gaining momentum. The Indigenous Social Justice Association, Melbourne (ISJA) is organising a Victorian speaking tour with him from August 6-10.
Farmers in Liverpool Plains, south of Tamworth, are taking on BHP Billiton’s drive for black gold.
Two radical events marked July 26, the date in 1953 when Fidel Castro led an attack on the Moncada Barracks that failed militarily, but inspired the ultimately successful Cuban Revolution.
A survey of unionists in the heart of Australia’s coal regions shows strong sentiment for action to stop climate change. The poll, commissioned by the Australian Manufacturing Workers’ Union (AMWU), surveyed 400 AMWU members in the Bowen Basin, Gippsland, Newcastle and the Hunter Valley.
A 150-strong community meeting on July 29 called on the NSW government to urgently re-open the region’s only maternity unit, at Blue Mountains Hospital in Katoomba.
Twenty people discussed the possibilities and challenges for Cuba, socialism and the environment following a screening of the documentary Power of Community — How Cuba Survived Peak Oil at Gecko House in Currumbin on July 27.
An estimated 1500 shop stewards and union delegates met at Dallas Brookes Hall on July 30 to discuss the campaign against the charging of Noel Washington, the construction worker facing a jail term for refusing to hand over information to the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC). The meeting also discussed the ongoing Your Rights at Work campaign. It was called by the Victorian Trades Hall Council (VTHC).
The truck drivers’ national transport shutdown came to an end on July 30, with the Transport Workers Union (TWU) failing to endorse the action and calling on frustrated drivers to instead lobby the federal government.

Analysis

Millions of Australian workers have faced the worst losses in their superannuation since 1992. Super funds have shown losses of on average 6.4% for the last financial year, with some showing losses as high as 15%, putting workers’ retirement funds in jeopardy.
The export of coal is an important issue for climate campaigners to consider. Australia exports more carbon dioxide in the form of coal than its entire domestic emissions of the gas.
The Australian Workers Union has many members in the aluminium refining and smelting industry, which accounted for 45.3 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions in 2006 (7.9% of Australia’s total). Obviously, such a major greenhouse polluter — the dirtiest for every dollar of value added — has to be radically restructured if carbon emissions are to be cut to sustainable levels.
A French court has denied a woman citizenship because she wears a burqa — a veil covering the entire body — according to a July 11 Reuters report.
The July 24 Sydney Morning Herald reported Australian Bureau of Statistics figures showing that rents across Sydney had increased by 8% over the 2007-08 financial year, almost twice the rate of inflation.
Refugee activists have welcomed the July 29 announcement by federal immigration minister Chris Evans to significantly dismantle Australia’s policy of mandatorily detaining refugees. They noted, however, that while the changes represent an important victory for the movement for refugee rights, the struggle is not yet over.
Former PM John Howard’s blandly named Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC) remains under PM Kevin Rudd. It is prosecuting Victorian vice-president of the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU), Noel Washington, who faces six months’ jail for not answering questions about a union meeting.

World

Below is a July 20 statement from the Sudanese Communist Party, which is waging a struggle for democracy and justice against the current regime. It is reprinted from http://links.org.au.
With the August 10 recall referendum on Bolivian President Evo Morales and eight out of nine prefects (governors) approaching, the Movement Towards Socialism (MAS) government, together with the social movements, has launched an offensive against attempts by the right-wing opposition to prevent the electoral process going ahead.
New laws were passed through the French Senate on July 23, which will see the virtual dismantling of the law that limits the working week for employees to 35 hours, which was introduced by the Socialist Party (SP) government in 1998.
On July 19-20, the latest negotiations over Iran’s uranium enrichment program were held in Geneva between the five UN Security Council members (the US, Britain, France China and Russia) and Germany on one side and Iran on the other.
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez announced plans to nationalise one of the countries largest banks, the Bank of Venezuela, according to a July21 Xinhua.com report.
Below is a July 30 statement by the Residents Action Movement.
The Serbian government last month cornered Radovan Karadzic, the former leader of the Bosnian Serb Republic during the 1992-95 Bosnian war.
From the first day it appeared online, the masthead of the Climate and Capitalism blog has carried the slogan “Ecosocialism or Barbarism: there is no third way”.
On September 28, the people of Ecuador will be asked to vote on a new constitution, drafted over the past eight months by an elected constituent assembly.
While some, including US presidential hopeful Barack Obama and the Australian government of PM Kevin Rudd, attempt to present the US-led occupation of Afghanistan as a “good war” counterposed to the disastrous occupation of Iraq — seen as a distraction from the “war on terrorism” — the bloodshed and repression in the service of the US-installed warlords in Kabul continues.
Colombia is a “narco-state that applies and puts into practice state terrorism that affects the region”, insisted Nicaragua’s ambassador to the Organisation of American States (OAS), Denis Moncada, on July 24.
His hair has grown, his voice sounds a little deeper and his wounds appear to have healed somewhat. But what isn’t clear from the first ever Guantanamo Bay interrogation video to be released for public consumption is that Omar Khadr is blind in one eye.
The Terror Dream: Fear & Fantasy in Post-9/11 America
By Susan Faludi
Scribe Melbourne, 2007
351 pages, $35

Culture

Desert Queen: The Many Lives and Loves of Daisy Bates
By Susana de Vries
HarperCollins, 2008
294 pages, $33 (pb) Daisy Baites: Grand Dame of the Desert
By Bob Reece
National Library of Australia, 2007
205 pages, $24.95 (pb)
Charlie Wilson’s War
Directed by Mike Nichols
Screenplay by Aaron Sorkin
With Tom Hanks, Julia Roberts and Philip Seymour Hoffman
On video & DVD

General

Remember the “wealth effect”? Rapidly rising housing and share prices made people feel wealthy and so they borrowed big-time and became big-time spenders, and this supposedly makes for an endless economic boom. Just about every capitalist economist was singing from that cheery song sheet — until recently.
The Reverend Helen Elizabeth Cox died on July 15 after a short illness in hospital in Melbourne. A service was held on July 21 at Doncaster East Uniting Church, and was attended by her extended family, friends and the many people touched by her ministries.

Letters

Howes doesn't speak for me I am an Australian Workers Union member and totally disagree with Howes' article "Give workers a voice in climate change solutions" in the July 24 Age, where he advocates free emissions trading permits for individual

Resistance!

If you only read the mainstream media, you would think that Venezuela is run by a dictator who suppresses democracy and violates human rights. But the opposite is true.
In Australia today, paid maternity leave is still not adequate, women still do not have equal pay for equal work, and many women, particularly young women, are experiencing sexual harassment and discrimination almost 25 years after the anti-discrimination laws were created.