Analysis

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 The old HIFAR reactor, Australia’s only multi-purpose research reactor, has been superseded by another reactor in the same suburb of Lucas Heights.

After five years of incarceration at Guantanamo Bay without trial, it is increasingly clear that David Hicks has committed no serious crime and that he is no threat. Yet, he is being held in a prison camp, often in solitary confinement, subjected to endless interrogations and physical and mental abuse to try and break his resistance to a guilty plea. Hicks is now in such a state that he cannot even bear to talk to his father on the phone.

Terry Hicks’s son has been detained for five years, without trial, in a prison camp likened by some to the infamous Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.

At a meeting in Brazil on April 26, 2006, plans moved ahead between Venezuela, Bolivia, Argentina and Brazil for a major transcontinental oil pipeline. The pipeline would be 10,000 kilometres long and would link the four countries plus Paraguay and Uruguay.

Annette Peardon was nine years old when she and her brother were forcibly removed from their family on Cape Barren Island. They spent their youth in a series of foster homes and institutions around Tasmania. Last November, Tasmania’s parliament passed the Stolen Generations of Aboriginal Children Bill 2006, the country’s first compensation law. Green Left Weekly’s Susan Austin spoke with Peardon about the significance of this law, and her struggle for justice.

Al Gore’s film An Inconvenient Truth has helped dramatise the enormity of the global environmental crisis. The scale of the threat posed by industrially induced global warming, and the short time in which to take meaningful action to prevent catastrophic consequences, makes the question of how to combat global warming arguably the most urgent one facing humanity.

Whether you admire him or hate him, Venezuela’s recently re-elected president, Hugo Chavez, is starting to attract a lot of attention in Australia, and around the world. The man who calls US President George Bush “the devil”, and the “new socialism for the 21st century” that he and his government are creating in Venezuela, are stirring hope in the hearts of many people — and fear in a few.

When the NSW police minister condemned magistrate Pat O’Shane two weeks ago for throwing out a case involving spitting at traffic cops, her response was: “There is an election coming up”. The same answer could well be given for the bipartisan barrage of Muslim-bashing from senior NSW politicians in the countdown to the March state election.

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