Analysis

With support from the South Australian Labor government and the federal ALP, pilot work is starting on the desalination plant that is to supply fresh water for BHP Billiton’s planned expansion of its copper-gold-uranium mine at Olympic Dam.
Those hoping for a more serious approach to tackling global warming from the federal ALP than the do-as-little-as-politically-possible tack of John Howard’s Coalition government should revise down their expectations. On February 25, Labor leader Kevin Rudd unveiled the centrepiece of his party’s “climate action plan” — $500 million in funding for “clean coal” technologies research.
A coalition of community groups including Friends of the Earth, the National Union of Students, the Stop the War Coalition, the Australian Student Environment Network, and the Australian Youth Climate Change Coalition have initiated a public lobby outside the ALP national conference beginning on April 27 to support delegates who are standing up to the proposed changes to the ALP’s long-standing policy on uranium mining.
On April 13, ABC Radio reported that the ALP state and territory governments would be lobbying the federal government to agree to a goal of a 60% reduction in Australian greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. They suggested that if the Howard government maintained its opposition, the state and territory governments would attempt to reach these goals without them. While opposed to the premiers’ proposal, even PM John Howard has recently acknowledged that there is a threat from climate change caused by human activity, leaving the “greenhouse sceptic” argument to the conservative fringe.
While the Howard government has succeeded in partially defusing David Hicks’s unjust imprisonment as an election issue, it has still not convinced most people that Hicks’s guilty plea means he is a terrorist.
A year after the Howard government introduced Work Choices, the legislation’s negative impact on workers’ wages and conditions and unions’ ability to defend their members’ interests is clear for all to see.
Preliminary arguments have started in the retrial of Jack Thomas at the Supreme Court. The case demonstrates that the Howard government’s “anti-terror” laws can be used to criminalise non-terrorists.
By late March, Spain’s wind power generation was contributing 27% of the country’s total daily power demands, surpassing supplies by nuclear and coal. This marks a new record for the contribution of wind-generated power to Spain’s electricity grid.
In the lead-up to the March 24 NSW state election, you could be forgiven for believing that the NSW Greens were drug dealers: Hysterical attacks were launched on the party’s drugs policy, which focuses on harm minimisation and health issues.
This is an account of an encounter I had with police officers on March 6 outside the federal Parliament House. At about 3.30pm that day, I went there with the intention of standing in the forecourt and holding up a “Bring David Hicks Home!” poster.
After five years imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay without trial, David Hicks has agreed to a plea-bargain deal at his military commission trial to hasten his return to Australia. “I think most of you would be pleading guilty to something to get out of the place”, Hicks’s father Terry told the assembled media after returning to Adelaide from Guantanamo Bay on March 29.
Greenpeace has revealed that an independent report into safety testing by genetic engineering giant Monsanto was ignored in the lead-up to a vote on whether the company’s new genetically engineered maize would be approved for consumption in the European Union.
For a number of years Washington has been threatening Iran for its alleged pursuit of nuclear weapons. Until now, the consensus has been that to undertake military action against Iran was so crazy that even President George Bush would not attempt it. But whenever questioned about whether military action or the use of nuclear weapons is under consideration, Bush’s officials repeat that “all options” are on the table.
With the 15-year resources-led boom stimulating the economy, inflation at about 3% and official unemployment at just under 5%, Australians should have little to complain about. But, according to Tony Vinson of Sydney University’s Department of Social Work, the social divide between the rich and poor is deepening and increasing.
While all eyes have been focused on the terrible plight of David Hicks, Willie Brigitte has been convicted and sentenced in France, nine Muslim men are undergoing a committal hearing in Sydney, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed has allegedly confessed to a multitude of terror attacks and calls to ban the Muslim group, Hizb ut-Tahrir, in Australia have become more strident. This is all cause for concern, not because of a sinister threat by “terrorists”, but from the government-driven “war on terror”.
In the lead-up to the April 27-29 ALP national conference in Sydney, a number of federal Labor frontbenchers and state premiers have declared themselves in favour of scrapping the party’s “no new mines” policy in favour of an unrestricted expansion of uranium mining. This push — which ignores the views of a majority of Australians and the extreme dangers inherent in uranium mining and the nuclear cycle that it is part of — reflects booming prices for the mineral on the world market. However, a number of trade unions have opposed the policy change and vowed to fight it at the conference.

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