Analysis

Christmas Island, 2800 kilometres north-west of Perth, 2500 kilometres from Darwin and 500 kilometres from Singapore, is one of Australia’s most remote Indian Ocean territories. It is where many asylum seekers first make their refugee claims. But since the 2001 arrival of the Tampa and the island’s excision from Australia’s migration zone, the island has been pivotal to the Howard government’s heartless response to asylum seekers.

John Pilger is an award-winning journalist, author and documentary filmmaker, who began his career in 1958 in his homeland, Australia, before moving to London in the 1960s. He has been a foreign correspondent and a front-line war reporter, beginning with the Vietnam War in 1967. He is an impassioned critic of foreign military and economic adventures by Western governments.

Environmentalists and anti-nuclear campaigners are disappointed but not surprised by the ALP national conference decision on April 28 to drop its “no new uranium mines” policy. This allows state Labor governments to approve new mines, a policy backed by the South Australian and Queensland premiers.

It now appears certain that the ALP’s national conference, to be held in Sydney from April 27-29, will drop the party’s “no new uranium mines” policy, adopted in 1998.
This will satisfy the big mining companies’ desire to expand uranium mining. Labor leader Kevin Rudd and his “left-wing” deputy, Julia Gillard, are leading the push to scrap the policy.

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.

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