Analysis

It is 20 years since the release of Australia Reconstructed, a policy report that came out of an Australian unionists’ tour of Western Europe in 1986. It is also 25 years since Australia On the Rack was published by the metalworkers’ union (now the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union - AMWU). Back on Track - A Way Forward for Australia is the latest such policy offering.

The federal Coalition government is proposing to bar the entry to Australia of migrants and refugees with HIV, supposedly to contain HIV rates.

With his April 17 speech to the National Press Club, federal Labor Party leader Kevin Rudd launched a pre-emptive strike against all those unionists, including ALP members, who thought that the April 27-29 ALP national conference would be debating a new industrial relations policy to replace the Howard government’s hated Work Choices legislation.

ALP leader Kevin Rudd’s industrial relations policies, outlined in an April 17 speech to the National Press Club, have caused great concern among many trade unionists because they echo many of the anti-worker provisions in the federal government’s Work Choices laws.

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.

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.

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.

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