Analysis

The debate over genetically modified (GM) food has flared up again recently, after Greenpeace destroyed an experimental CSIRO wheat crop in Canberra on July 14.   The Australian Federal Police is now investigating Greenpeace over the incident, which CSIRO scientists claim has set their research back by up to a year.   Greenpeace argued the crop posed a threat to the environment and human health. Plans are underway for human trials of the GM wheat before tests are conducted on animals.  
The ABC’s Four Corners on July 25 showcased the national debate around wind farms’ alleged negative health effects. It patiently allowed the anti-wind power Waubra Foundation to walk the audience through their case that wind farms are a health hazard. Many people I have met are curious to know if there is any truth to the allegations.
Green Left Weekly recently spoke to Gleny Rae, who took part in the SBS documentary Go Back To Where You Came From, which retraced the journeys of some asylum seekers to their country of origin. Rae said she had realistic expectations of what she would see, but still found the experience a “reality check” that was moving and confronting.
In 9/11 and numerous other works, veteran MIT linguistics professor and libertarian socialist author/activist Noam Chomsky has argued the United States is “a leading terrorist state.” According to the author of a recent diatribe in Australia’s Monthly magazine, these “views on American foreign policy” are “myopic” and “conspiratorial” and make Chomsky an unsuitable recipient of the 2011 Sydney Peace Prize.
Accused Norwegian mass murderer Anders Behring Breivik praised four Australian conservative leaders in his 1500-page manifesto, abc.net.au reported on July 26. “In a manifesto posted online under the Anglicised pseudonym Andrew Berwick, the killer quoted [former prime minister John] Howard, former treasurer Peter Costello, Catholic Cardinal George Pell and conservative writer and historian Keith Windschuttle,” the ABC said.
About 80 people gathered on July 28 at the Holiday Inn on Darwin’s Esplanade for one of the federal government’s Stronger Futures “consultations”. One woman said: “It’s a bit late, mate.”
Of the 19 protesters arrested at a Palestine solidarity protest outside Israeli-owned store Max Brenner in Melbourne on July 1, 13 were issued with bail conditions preventing them from entering the QV shopping centre or Melbourne Central shopping centres in Melbourne. The Melbourne Central shopping centre has a major city train station on its bottom floor. The protest was part of the international Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against the apartheid state of Israel. It is modelled on the campaign to boycott South Africa in the 1970s and ’80s.
Scenes were reported of people burying themselves in shallow graves in the Christmas Island detention centre on July 24, as refugees across the country continued defiant protests despite harsh crackdowns. Hunger strikes and ongoing protests also took place in the Northern Immigration Detention Centre in Darwin and the Scherger military base detention centre in far-north Queensland. At Christmas Island, after riot police assaulted refugees with tear gas and “bean bag” shootings, they raided rooms and rounded up supposed “ringleaders”.
NSW groups opposed to the rollout of coal seam gas mining in the state have said new rules for the industry fall far short of what is needed to protect water reserves, farmland and communities from toxic contamination. The changes, announced on July 21, put a moratorium on fracking until the end of the year and ban the use of evaporation ponds to dispose of toxic wastewater from the coal seam gas mining process.
The shift to the right of the Labor Party has increasingly created a sense that there is little difference between the two major parties. Both are willing to implement the neoliberal policies pushed by corporate interests and differ only on the details. On many issues, the shift to the right does not reflect public opinion. This is the context for the growth of support for the Australian Greens in recent years. The Greens, with nine senators, now hold the balance of power in the Senate as well as one lower house seat.
The Australia-Malaysia refugee “swap” deal, signed in Kuala Lumpur on July 25, further persecutes people who have escaped conflict and terror and have an international right to seek asylum in Australia. The Australian government said the plan was intended to attack the “people smugglers’ business model”. But, in reality, it is a high-priced human trafficking deal between two governments known for discriminating against refugees.
Supporters of former Guantanamo Bay prisoner David Hicks have slammed the July 21 announcement that Australian government lawyers will try to prosecute Hicks under the Proceeds of Crime Act.