Analysis

Twenty-four hours before British PM Tony Blair’s February 21 announcement that his government would withdraw 1600 troops from Iraq in “coming months”, Australian foreign minister Alexander Downer warned that any, even staged, withdrawal of US and allied foreign troops from Iraq would be a “victory for the al Qaeda terrorists”.

The nationalist rejoicing and fervour displayed on January 26 each year celebrates the 1788 colonial invasion of Australia. However, this year the jingoism was broken by the Palm Island victory against the racist cops of Queensland. This resulted from the combined mass actions of the Palm Islanders themselves (including physical struggle in the immediate wake of the murder of Mulrunji Doomadgee), a similar grassroots response by the Aboriginal community at Aurukun against racist cop violence, and the urban solidarity campaigns centred in Brisbane.

What are the alternatives to the “last resort” plan — the $1.9 billion desalination plant at Kurnell — that NSW Premier Morris Iemma’s Labor government is so keen to get moving on?

NSW Labor Premier Morris Iemma is digging in on the proposed desalination plant at Kurnell in NSW. Despite continuing public opposition, Iemma seems determined to go ahead with this expensive, electricity-guzzling project.

Coalition leaders have had a rush of blood to the head over David Hicks. After five years of inaction, PM John Howard and foreign affairs minister Alexander Downer are trumpeting what a hard line they are taking with the George Bush administration to get Hicks back to Australia — after he is found guilty at a military commission of course!

February 23 marked the deadline for submissions to the federal parliament’s Joint Standing Committee on Treaties (JSCT) on the new Australia-Indonesia “security” pact. If there is any uncertainty about the hypocrisy that underlies Australia’s neo-colonial foreign policy, then this treaty — a “mending the fences” exercise after the federal government granted asylum to 43 pro-independence West Papuan refugees in 2006, and, before that, Canberra’s reluctant 1999 intervention in East Timor — should end it.

On February 16, ABC News featured the US military prosecutor Colonel Morris Davis vilifying Adelaide father of two David Hicks as a war criminal. Davis would not specify when Hicks would be brought before a military tribunal of the type that was ruled illegal by the US Supreme Court last June but reinstituted by Congress a few months later.

The Socialist Alliance is campaigning for urgent action to address the environmental catastrophe in NSW caused by drought and decades of bad management.

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.

“I voted yes and will always vote yes”, Reuters quoted Laurinda Duarte as saying. “Abortions will always take place so why not vote to allow women to carry them out under decent conditions? I am a Catholic but that does not mean I am not free to vote.”

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