Issue 786

Australia

A March 2 open letter to minister for climate change Penny Wong has described the federal government’s climate policy as “completely out of step with both current climate science and targets in other developed countries”. The open letter was endorsed by 65 climate action groups (CAGs).

On February 20, more than 200 workers were fired without pay from the Lavington-based Drivetrain automotive parts factory in Albury, New South Wales, as the company entered receivership.

Maintenance workers at the Foster’s Abbotsford plant voted on March 3 to accept redundancy packages from the company.

Five hundred women marched in Sydney on March 7 to celebrate International Women's Day. Speakers demanded six months' paid maternity leave for all women; free, safe abortion on demand and free, quality child care. Other speakers urged women to fight

Two hundred workers and supporters protested outside the Pacific Brands factory in Wentworthville, Western Sydney on March 6 in response to the clothing company’s plans to slash 1850 jobs around the country.

Deputy PM Julia Gillard’s outspoken support for Israel’s attack on Gaza earlier this year prompted angry criticism from many, including from inside her own party.

Government ministers have called on private employers not to sack staff in response to the economic crisis (a call that the company bosses have predictably ignored). Yet the government has been sacking its own workers.

When the federal industry minister Kim Carr announced the ALP government would give the car industry $6.2 billion in taxpayers’ money in November, he declared that it amounted to a “new beginning”.

As the Western Australian Coalition government slashes the state budget, vital community services for refugees are feared to be among the first to go.

World

The article below, by Jamal Juma, is abridged from <http://www.electronicintifada.net>. Juma is the coordinator of the Palestinian Grassroots Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign (visit http://www.stopthewall.org). A leader of the South African Palestine Solidarity Committee mentioned in this article, Salim Vally, will be a guest speaker at the
World at a Crossroads conference, Sydney Girls High, April 10-12. For more information, or to register, visit
http://www.worldatacrossroads.org.

As Gaza struggles to rebuild despite Israel’s ongoing near-total siege, more than 300 people in more than 100 vehicles are leading a convoy to bring aid and hope to the Palestinian territory.

The article below is abridged from a March 4 statement released by Adalah-NY: The Coalition for Justice in the Middle East. For more information, contactinfo@adalahny.org.

While the US and European economies are in recession, the World Bank and International Monetary Fund inspired “export” oriented policies being followed by the government of India are about to create social and environmental catastrophe in the name of “special economic zones” (SEZs — geographical areas in which less regulations on labour rights, environmental practices and other areas are applied on companies).

John Bellamy Foster is editor of Monthly Review and professor of sociology at the University of Oregon. He is the coauthor with Fred Magdoff of The Great Financial Crisis: Causes and Consequences, recently published by Monthly Review Press. This is a heavily abridged version of an interview was conducted by Mike Whitney that first appeared at Dissident Voice.

The article below is reprinted from Richard Fidler’s blog, A Life on the Left, on February 26. On March 4, the strike was suspended after 44 days, with most of the strikers demands being met.

Since January 20, Guadeloupe has been providing a tremendous lesson in social resistance to the local bosses and the French government. Its people have responded to the growing insecurity with an historically unprecedented general strike.

The attack on Sri Lankan cricket team at Liberty Chouck, Lahore on March 3 left eight policemen dead and six Sri Lankan cricket players injured in firing that lasted 25 minutes.

The article below is abridged from a February 9 statement released by East Timorese president and Nobel Peace Prize winner Jose Ramos Horta calling for an immediate end the conflict in Sri Lanka.

Thousands of civilians have been killed or injured and hundreds of thousands are in danger from hunger and disease, as the Sri Lankan Army (SLA) continues its brutal offensive against the Tamil people in the island’s north-east.

Polls on the March 15 presidential vote show the election will likely open a new progressive chapter in El Salvador’s long, violent history of war and dictatorships with a victory by the left-wing Farabundo Marti Front for National Liberation (FMLN), which is promising to build a people-centred government.

One of the many upsetting aspects to being in your 40s is hearing people your own age grumbling about “young people” the way we were grumbled about ourselves.

Following a week of inspections of privately owned rice processing facilities aimed at assuring the supply of essential foods at regulated prices, the Venezuelan government announced plans to expropriate a plant owned by the multinational food company Cargill, which was found to be modifying all its rice in order to evade price controls on basic food items.

On March 7, the second Campaign Against Climate Change UK Trade Union Conference was scheduled to be held in London, bringing together activists from left groups such as Socialist Resistance, the Green Party and Respect, as well as rank-and-file trade unionists and officials.

Under conditions of deepening recession, millions of working people went to the polls in the US on November 4 with the intention of voting for a change to the pro-corporate and pro-war policies of the Bush administration.

Analysis

On February 27, the federal government received a report on the review of the pensions system conducted by Jeff Harmer, the head of the families and community services department.

On February 18, 10 Australian economists criticised the Rudd government’s proposed carbon emissions trading scheme, and called for a science-based policy to achieve 25%-40% cuts in emissions by 2020. The statement is reprinted below.

“We have to cut down a lot of the clutter of anything, clutter of the work, focus product innovation, detail, all that is going on in the business but [we] just need to remove so much of the distraction to enable us to do that well”.

The free market has got us into this mess, and the free market will get us out of it.

On February 26, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd gave his first “report card” on the progress made on ending Aboriginal disadvantage, meeting a delayed election promise to do so every year at the opening of parliament. Rudd’s report, however, has been meet with criticism from Aboriginal activists and supporters.

In the face of the Rudd government’s refusal to confirm whether federally-funded maternity leave will be included in the upcoming May budget, the Australian Council of Trade Unions has retreated from its previous stance calling for immediate implementation.

Cairns Action for Sustainable Transport formed at the start of last year. CAST advocates a sustainable transport system — urban mass transit, regional rail and bus services and rail freight, all powered by renewable energy, and bikeway and pedestrian access networks. Green Left Weekly’s Jonathan Strauss spoke to CAST activists Renee Lees, Svargo Freitag and Stacey O’Brien about CAST’s aims.

National accounts figures, released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics on March 4, showed that the Australian economy contracted by 0.5% in the three months to December, despite the federal government’s $10.6 billion stimulus package, which was paid out to pensioners and families before Christmas.

With the looming downturn, the federal government expects that a further 300,000 people will be on the unemployment line by the middle of 2010. It expects that the unemployment rate will reach around 7%, around 800,000 people. Others have predicted unemployment could reach as high as 9%.

Editorial

As an alternative newspaper, based in grassroots, progressive political movements, Green Left Weekly aims to be a thorn in the side of the corporate media here in Australia and globally.

Letters

Keynesianism and neoliberalism

Graham Matthews' interview with Professor Bill Mitchell (GLW #785) presents a standard Keynesian view of the economic crisis. Essentially, it claims that the crisis is due to the bad policies of neoliberalism:

General

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd likes to give the impression that he takes his mission very seriously.

Resistance!

Just blocks away from Washington DC’s Capitol Hill, a new conversation swept the streets from February 28 to March 2. Within the crowded sidewalks and cafes along H and 7th Streets, certain words were likely to catch your ear: environmental sustainability, green economy, direct action, colonisation, coal-fired power plants and capitalism.

Today, the world is littered with crises. From the economic meltdown to the threat to life posed by climate change, the world is in real trouble.

Culture

The decision by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to ban Israeli tennis star Shahar Pe’er from playing in the US$2 million Dubai tennis tournament on February 16 — sent shockwaves around the world. However, in reporting this decision, many mainstream outlets have missed the point.

IDAHO: the Exhibition

Pine Street Creative Arts Centre, Sydney

May 4-17

Contact Nick: idahosydney@yahoo.com.au or 0416 716 004

Madame Sata – Joao Francisco dos Santos, better known as Madame Sata, was also a notorious gay performer in Brazil who pushed social boundaries in a volatile time. SBS, Saturday, March 14, 12.55am.

Outsourced – Outsourcing is the new frontier

The most eye-catching placard on a 120,000-strong march in Dublin on February 21 against the Irish government’s austerity response to the tottering of the capitalist system was held aloft by a scrawny teenager with the look of a music-lover about him, reading “Make Bono Pay Tax”.