Analysis

As with other environmental issues, Australia’s water crisis has reached such an extent that mainstream media and politicians are being forced to abandon their traditional policy of denial. However, true to form, politicians are proposing solutions that are a mixture of the half-hearted, the irrelevant and the destructive. In common with the debates on global warming and Third World poverty, there is an underlying assumption that the water crisis can be overcome by the very thing that created it — the market economy.

Prime Minister John Howard created a stir in late November when, in Vietnam for the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation forum, he publicly defended the Australian role in the Vietnam War. Howard said, “I supported our involvement at the time and I don’t intend to recant that … I supported the reasons for Australia’s involvement and nothing has altered my view that, at the time, on the assessments that were made then, I took that view and I took that view properly.”

The release of the fourth assessment report by UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) on February 2, and the dire predictions in it of the impact of global warming on Australia, was seized on by PM John Howard to push his “solutions” to global warming. These have less to do with saving the environment than protecting corporate profits, with the main prongs being defence of the coal mining companies and support for an expanded nuclear industry.

Tim Zammit, a young worker at Woolworths in Hackham, South Australia, wrote the following letter to his union — the Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees Association (SDA) — in response to the recent employment agreement negotiated by the SDA.

Queensland Aboriginal activist Phil Perrier died on January 26 after struggling with cancer for several months. A ceremony for Phil was held on February 2 at Sorry Place on Jagara nation tribal land in Brisbane’s West End.

This May-June, 12,000 Australian soldiers and nearly l4,000 US troops and sailors will bombard our shores and fragile landscape, storm our beaches gunning down “terrorists” in the newly-built urban guerrilla warfare training centre, and test their latest laser-guided missiles and “smart” bombs in some of the most pristine wilderness on this planet.

In her 2001 book, Blue Army: Paramilitary Policing in Victoria, senior lecturer in criminology at Monash University Associate Professor Jude McCulloch reports 44 victims of police shootings in Victoria since the 1980s, mostly poor people from non-Anglo backgrounds, but also police themselves. That number is now more than 50.

The Labor and Liberal parties have been falling over each other in their rush to rub out the final vestiges of multiculturalism. In December, newly elected Labor leader Kevin Rudd renamed immigration spokesperson Tony Burke’s portfolio “immigration, integration and citizenship”. In his January 23 cabinet reshuffle, PM John Howard caught up, changing the name of the Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs to the Department of Immigration and Citizenship.

“Brilliant, fantastic, inspiring … Never shaken so many hands in one day”, commented Pat Rogers, a Brisbane staff member of the Electrical Trades Union, after experiencing the May Day march of more than 1 million workers in Caracas during the Australian trade union solidarity brigade to Venezuela in April-May last year. People in Australia will have the opportunity to join a May Day brigade to Venezuela again this year, from April 30 to May 9, organised by the Australia-Venezuela Solidarity Network (AVSN).

The announcement on January 30 that Australia’s first nuclear reactor was to be decommissioned sounded good. But residents and activists hoping for an end to the nuclear industry will be disappointed to hear that this is not the end of Australia’s nuclear experimentation. The old HIFAR reactor, Australia’s only multi-purpose research reactor, has been superseded by another reactor in the same suburb of Lucas Heights.

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