Analysis

Australian unionists have a wealth of experiences to draw on in the fight against the Howard government’s Work Choices legislation. Lessons can be drawn not just from the historic victories and defeats of the union movement in this country, but also from the experiences of working-class struggles in other countries.

The Australian Safeguards and Non-Proliferation Office claims that nuclear safeguards “provide assurances that exported uranium and its derivatives cannot benefit the development of nuclear weapons”. In fact, the safeguards system is flawed in many respects, and it cannot provide such assurances.

The role of mining companies overseas is often shrouded in secrecy. Residents of my country Malawi, in the “warm heart” of Africa, are learning first hand about Australian mining companies as four of them are currently exploring for uranium.

Senate estimates hearings in November revealed that the federal government’s plans for a nuclear dump in the Northern Territory are not running smoothly. The site evaluation is lagging six months behind schedule and, as a result, Canberra wants to conduct environmental assessment and site licensing processes concurrently.

Kim Beazley’s speech to the Australian Council of Trade Union (ACTU) Congress on October 25 illustrated the limitations of the Labor Party today regardless of who ends up being its federal leader. Beazley told the delegates that he will “govern in the interests of all Australians, never just for the vested interests of a few”. This is the same sort of language that PM John Howard uses, but what exactly does it mean?

The worst drought in 1000 years means that water shortage is as burning issue across Australia, cutting across the city-country divide. A Morgan poll, back in October 2005, found that 80% of Australians believe governments are not doing enough about water conservation, a view that has since been reinforced. But just how well will restrictions, water saving devices such as dual-flush toilets and rainwater tanks, and water trading schemes tackle the problem?

The Howard government’s anti-worker Work Choices laws have placed a powerful weapon in the hands of bosses, which they are using to drive down wages and eliminate hard-won conditions. Figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics released on November 16 showed that average weekly earnings for full-time workers had fallen by 1.2% in real terms since Work Choices became law — an average loss of $13 a week.

With the speed of global warming and the seriousness of climate chaos now firmly established in the minds of our politicians, it is urgent that they display leadership on actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The leadership so far — in that it has promoted the dirty lie of “clean coal” and the farcical view of nuclear energy as clean and green — has been ethically vacuous. The frames that the Howard government has used to drive public debate on our energy future are dangerous dead ends that will deliver huge problems to future generations.

Glenn Albrecht correctly identifies coal as the biggest contributor to greenhouse gases. But his support for a type of carbon credit scheme, whereby the rest of the world pays Australia not to mine its coal, implies confidence that the market will correct itself. However, the decisions made over the last 100 years of capitalism are precisely what has led to today’s climate crisis.

Even John Howard has got the point at last: human-made climate change can’t be denied. But the minor reductions in carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions available from existing “solutions” - from the Kyoto Protocol to Howard’s technofixes - won’t stave off further destruction. We need a radically different approach - a massive, immediate turn to renewable energy sources.

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