More than 600 delegates representing 2 million union members met for the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) congress on October 25-26.
Like a large part of the continent, Victoria is in the grip of unprecedented drought. Across the state, dams are rapidly emptying and river flows are at record lows, cities and towns face drastic restrictions and farmers confront an uncertain future. The water crisis gives the question of global warming and catastrophic climate change a new immediacy, and is a major issue in the November 25 state election.
As the November 7 emergency water summit of federal and state parliamentarians was told that the current drought is the worst in 1000 years, the opposition parties criticised the governments for fiddling while the drought worsens. Greens Senator Rachel Siewert claimed the summit shied away from making the tough decisions at a time when urgent action was sorely needed.
John Howards new industrial laws contain a raft of penalties for workers and unions taking unlawful industrial action. Workers can face individual fines of $6600 ($22,000 for those in the building industry), and unions face $33,000 or more. One result has been a decline in industrial disputes since Work Choices was enacted in March.
On September 28, Victorian construction workers enjoyed a well-earned barbeque and a few beers for the traditional shutdown weekend prior to the AFL grand final. On a construction site in Geelong, workers and union officials gathered to also celebrate and commemorate union legend John Cummins life.
A new security pact between Australia and Indonesia, to be signed on November 13 in Lombok, will strengthen Canberras military and economic alliance with Jakarta, at the expense of the peoples of both countries.
The October release of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisations (ASIO) annual report reveals that it is concentrating in great detail on protest actions, even small ones.
Only a foolish punter looking to lose their hard-earned cash would back an upset at the state elections on November 25. Although polls indicate a narrowing of Premier Steve Bracks’ lead, the state Labor government is likely to be returned with a comfortable margin.
On November 18-19, the G20 meeting in Melbourne will bring together the finance ministers of the powerful G8 group of nations with those of Australia, the European Union and 10 of the largest Third World economies, along with the heads of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.
Fadi Rahman from the Independent Centre for Researchs youth centre in Lidcombe, Sydney, spoke to Green Left Weeklys Emma Clancy about the impact on young Muslim Australians of the media attack on the entire Islamic community in the wake of Sheikh Taj el-Din Al Hilalys comments about women and sexual assault.