Analysis

Serious fears are held for the safety of 83 Tamil refugees from Sri Lanka who are, at the time of writing, being detained on Christmas Island. Australian, Indonesian and Sri Lankan officials are talking about returning the refugees to Sri Lanka, via Indonesia, without their asylum claims being assessed — a new departure from Australia’s international legal obligations to refugees.

A United Nations children’s fund (UNICEF) report released in February reveals that Australia’s economic growth over the last decade has done little to benefit the poorest sections of society, particularly young people. Indeed, in Australia and across the developed world, child poverty has increased in the last 10 years.

In her 1993 book, The End of Equality?, Anne Summers admits to being puzzled by the Howard government’s concern about Australia’s low birth rate and its call for women to reproduce more while, at the same time, it refuses to provide inexpensive and quality childcare to help this happen.

Despite having won formal equality, the lack of an organised women’s movement means that the Howard government has been able to take back a lot of the reforms won as a result of the struggles of the 1970s and 1980s. No reform is permanent under capitalism, and without a strong movement that mobilises to defend and expand reforms to improve women’s lives, the capitalist class can easily remove, or knobble, the gains that have been won.

When the vice-president of the “land of the free” came to Sydney recently, the joke going around was that he brought a “troop surge” to town. A few friends are still sporting bruises from that “surge”, made possible by the NSW Labor government’s generous provision of a large number of bullies in uniform to terrorise the local population.

The Howard government’s Work Choices laws “have had an overall negative effect for women in the work force”, Griffith University Professor David Peetz told Green Left Weekly on February 27. “The slow trend toward improvement in female compared to male levels of pay and conditions has been reversed under Work Choices, threatening much of the gains of the previous 10 years”, said Peetz.

The following letter was sent by Cuban consul-general Nelida Hernandez Carmona in response to Sydney Morning Herald columnist Miranda Devine’s claim that, “You know Australia has lost its mind on the green front when the conservative Howard government starts emulating the communist dictatorship of Cuba”. Devine (the SMH’s resident right-wing ranter) argued that while “federal environment minister Malcolm Turnbull’s plan, foisted without warning on the nation last week, to ban incandescent light bulbs from 2010 and force us to replace them with more energy-efficient fluorescent ones” was presented by the government “as a world first, the Associated Press soon pointed out that Cuba’s dictator Fidel Castro launched a similar program two years ago… His protege, Venezuela’s socialist president Hugo Chavez, soon followed suit. You might say Turnbull, Castro and Chavez are the three amigos of the climate change nanny state.”

Since the Howard Coalition government was elected in 1996 record numbers of women have entered parliament, yet women’s rights are under massive attack without so much as a murmur of opposition from the female Coalition MPs and very little outcry from the ALP.

I was very saddened to hear about the death of Neville Curtis at his home in White Beach, Tasmania, on February 15. He was 60 years old.

A small Western Australia-based company, Eden Energy, is working on a project to convert most of India’s public buses to run on a cleaner type of gas that will reduce smog in packed Indian cities. Eden Energy owns the patent for a fuel known as Hythane, or HCNG, a compressed mixture of hydrogen and compressed natural gas.

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