Analysis

At a meeting in Melbourne on February 8 journalist and film-maker John Pilger hailed Shirley Shackleton as one of Australia’s “heroes”. He praised her tireless dedication, since 1975, in exposing the genocide in East Timor and in pursuing the truth about the death of five journalists in Balibo, East Timor. One of the journalists killed was her husband Greg Shackleton.
In his first two months since being elected federal ALP leader on December 4, Kevin Rudd has made subtle, but significant changes to federal Labor policy in its “battle of ideas for Australia’s future”. As if following a dictum not to be “wedged” — politically outflanked from the right by PM John Howard’s Coalition government — Rudd is moving significant sections of Labor policy in a more rightward direction and attempting to position Labor as the defender of “the fabric of Australian family life”.
According to former French intelligence security chief Alain Chouet, the terrorism-related charges against Willie Brigitte, who is being tried in France, are “weak”. Quoted in the February 5 Australian, he said Brigitte is a “person without importance whom the Australian authorities continue to play on to create fear”.
It was with much disgust and sadness that I watched the demolition, on February 6, of perfectly good public housing on the Macquarie Fields public housing estate.
Debate about public transport and its decline is raging in NSW in the lead-up to the March 24 state election. The NSW public transport system is plagued by delays, reliance on old equipment, breakages, lack of staff and, as a consequence, inadequate services to remote and poorer areas. As yet, neither Morris Iemma’s Labor government nor the Liberal opposition has proposed adequate solutions to the crisis.
Australian coal-mining companies and Prime Minister John Howard are promoting “clean coal” as a technology that will enable the coal industry to continue its exports while supposedly cleaning up the greenhouse-gas emissions from the burning of this coal.
The release of the fourth assessment report by UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) on February 2, and the dire predictions in it of the impact of global warming on Australia, was seized on by PM John Howard to push his “solutions” to global warming. These have less to do with saving the environment than protecting corporate profits, with the main prongs being defence of the coal mining companies and support for an expanded nuclear industry.
As with other environmental issues, Australia’s water crisis has reached such an extent that mainstream media and politicians are being forced to abandon their traditional policy of denial. However, true to form, politicians are proposing solutions that are a mixture of the half-hearted, the irrelevant and the destructive. In common with the debates on global warming and Third World poverty, there is an underlying assumption that the water crisis can be overcome by the very thing that created it — the market economy.
Prime Minister John Howard created a stir in late November when, in Vietnam for the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation forum, he publicly defended the Australian role in the Vietnam War. Howard said, “I supported our involvement at the time and I don’t intend to recant that … I supported the reasons for Australia’s involvement and nothing has altered my view that, at the time, on the assessments that were made then, I took that view and I took that view properly.”
Tim Zammit, a young worker at Woolworths in Hackham, South Australia, wrote the following letter to his union — the Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees Association (SDA) — in response to the recent employment agreement negotiated by the SDA.

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