Comment and Analysis

“John Howard is more than happy to welcome war criminal George Bush to Sydney in September, but he won’t even give the time of day to struggling workers, such as Botany Cranes union delegate Barry Hemsworth, who is still on the grass more than 300 days after being unfairly sacked”, Socialist Alliance activist Pip Hinman told Green Left Weekly.

“Australian Defence Minister Brendan Nelson has admitted that securing oil supplies is a key factor behind the presence of Australian troops in Iraq.” This was how the BBC reported Nelson’s July 5 comments to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation on the release of a review of Australia’s “defence strategy”.

On June 25, Russell Miles, a proud member of the International Socialist Tendency and widely-loved community activist, ended his life.

We mourn our friend and comrade Gail, who lost her valiant battle with cancer on July 2.

The following is abridged from a letter sent by Dean Mighell, Victorian secretary of the Electrical Trades Union, to ALP leader Kevin Rudd following Mighell’s forced resignation from the party on May 30.

Jasmine Ali was found not guilty on June 26 on charges relating to her involvement in a February 22 protest against US Vice-President Dick Cheney. The same day that she appeared before the court, the NSW government’s APEC Meeting (Policing Powers) Bill passed unamended through the NSW upper house. Ali was the second of two Cheney protesters to win court cases. There are six more trials to take place.

Aboriginal activist and legal director of the Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre Michael Mansell has questioned whether PM John Howard is accurately reading the report he claims motivated his new push into Aboriginal communities. The following is abridged from a June 25 press statement issued by Mansell.

One of the major issues on which the next federal election will be fought is Work Choices, the “revolutionary” new workplace relations system the Howard government is taking credit for. Yet it was invented by the taxi industry mafia decades ago. It is called the bailee-bailor agreement and we cabbies — mugs that we are — have put up with it with barely a whimper.

Leaders of the Mutitjulu community have questioned the need for a military occupation of their small community. Below is an abridged version of their June 27 statement.

Dr Gary MacLennan, a long-time socialist activist and lecturer in creative industries at the Queensland University of Technology, was suspended for six months without pay on June 6. He, along with a colleague, Dr John Hookham, was charged with misconduct following the publication of an article in the Australian that criticised a PhD film project that mocked the disabled. Students and staff launched a support campaign for the two suspended lecturers which has linked up with a struggle against QUT’s decision to close down the school of humanities and human services.

PM John Howard’s decision to “take control” of 60 to 70 Indigenous communities in the Northern Territory began to be implemented on June 27 when the first Australian Federal Police (AFP) officers flew into the Aboriginal township of Mutitjulu, near Uluru. The police officers were met by a large community delegation demanding answers.

Two of the world’s worst climate vandals — US President George Bush and PM John Howard — are preparing their lofty green rhetoric in the lead-up to the so-called “climate change” Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Sydney in September.

The good news is that Australian politicians and corporations are finally recognising that there is an environmental crisis. The bad news is that the “solutions” being promoted by the establishment define what is realistic for capitalism, so the “need” for big business to remain profitable sets the parameters of what is “possible”.

During the last year the global warming debate has reached a turning point. Due to the media hype surrounding Al Gore’s film An Inconvenient Truth, followed by a new assessment by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the climate sceptics have suffered a major defeat.

The following is abridged from a speech given by Nathan Fenelon — or “Natty Fen” — to the June 22 “Justice for Mulrunji” rally in Melbourne.

The headline of the June 21 Adelaide Advertiser blared “Unfair pay” and for once, most fair-minded people had to agree with the paper. The headline was referring to a pay rise for the state’s already overpaid members of parliament.

Kevin Rudd’s decision to convene a special ALP national executive meeting to expel Joe McDonald marks a new high tide of anti-unionism in the so-called party of the unions. The ACTU, and unions like the CFMEU, should cut funding to Labor if its attacks on unionists don’t stop.

I hope that when Kevin Rudd speaks of zero tolerance on lawlessness he means that bosses who kill workers with unsafe work practices will be jailed, and workers who have had their entitlements stripped away by employers, with the backing of the Howard government, will see justice.

West Australian union official Joe McDonald has rejected calls by Labor leader Kevin Rudd for him to leave the ALP. He insists he will fight moves by the party’s national executive to have him expelled, setting the stage for an important showdown.

The June 11 edition of ABC TV’s Four Corners confirmed what Australian former Guantanamo Bay detainee Mamdouh Habib has claimed since his January 2005 release without charge: that the Australian authorities were complicit in his abduction and torture.

Michael Bozic, a barrister with the NSW Council of Civil Liberties, said on June 20 that the new powers being given to police during the APEC summit would make the conservative former premiers Robert Askin and Joh Bjelke-Petersen proud. Askin, NSW’s Liberal premier from 1965 to 1975, was famously quoted in 1966 demanding that the convoy accompanying visiting US President Lyndon Johnson “ride over the bastards” — anti-Vietnam War protesters.

Proposed laws introduced into the NSW parliament mean that the greater Sydney area will become a police state for two weeks around the APEC summit. The APEC Meeting (Policing Powers) Bill 2007 is expected to be passed without significant amendments.

Since the Australian government’s decision to declare a “war on terror” in the wake of the terrorist attacks on the US cities of New York and Washington on September 11, 2001, federal parliament has enacted no less than 26 pieces of legislation that form so-called anti-terror laws. The justifications for the laws ignore that acts such as murder, hijacking and blowing things up have never been legal. The laws’ real purpose is to criminalise political dissent and to create the impression of a “terrorist threat” to justify military aggression overseas.

The ABC’s June 18 Four Corners program on Telstra was a damning expose of the anti-worker policies being implemented by Australia’s largest employer, Telstra. “Tough Calls” featured interviews with the family, friends and loved ones of two former Telstra workers who were driven to suicide by the relentless pressure of Telstra management to meet unrealistic performance targets.

“I’m taking control”, said Johnny Howard, with a contrived quiver of righteousness in his voice. His face was set into a familiar pastiche of horror and disgust at the degraded behaviour of lesser beings. He also conveyed a weariness — the weariness of shouldering the “white man’s burden”.

Prime Minister John Howard announced on June 21 a plan to take control of some 60 Indigenous communities in the Northern Territory, supposedly to tackle a child sex abuse crisis in those communities. It is a plan that severely limits and in some instances eradicates the democratic and land rights of all Aboriginal people in remote NT communities.

The right to strike is always agreed in principle. “We won’t remove the right to strike”, the Work Choices ads said. Employers agree — subject to restrictions to protect their class interests. The Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) policy is for the workers’ right to withdraw labour without sanctions.

In an effort to be reelected for a fifth term PM John Howard is trying to convince workers that this is as good as it gets. Looking at his favorite figures, we might be forgiven for thinking he’s right. In May, unemployment was at a historic low of 4.2% and the economy was growing at an annual rate of 3.8%. Employment grew by 39,400 that month while unemployment fell by 5500. However, these figures hide the reality that the benefits of the boom have been very unevenly shared.

Federal education minister Julie Bishop has announced a tender process to trial performance-based pay in schools. Australian Education Union (AEU) federal president Pat Byrne described the scheme as “cash-for-grades”, and called for more federal funding for state education.

Electrical Trades Union Victorian secretary and union militant Dean Mighell was forced to resign from the ALP after a tape recording of an internal union meeting became public. Labor leader Kevin Rudd and his industrial relations spokesperson Julia Gillard slammed Mighell as a union “thug” for swearing about bosses and talking up a pattern-bargaining agreement in which ETU members received a particularly good deal. Green Left Weekly’s Sue Bolton spoke to Mighell about Labor under Rudd, its backflips on IR and how the unions can defend workers’ rights.

The recent storms that devastated much of the NSW Central Coast and the Hunter Valley were described by some as a mini cyclone. The fierce gales led to dramatic floods — the most severe since the 1970s, the deaths of several people and the beaching of a coal freighter on a Newcastle reef.

About 150 people crowded into the function room of the Lanyon Valley Rugby Union Club in Canberra on June 13 to celebrate the life of Koru Peter Nusa, who died suddenly at home on June 4. At the same time, family and friends gathered for a service in Papua New Guinea.

Since community opposition stopped plans for a national nuclear waste dump in South Australia, John Howard seems determined to now go for a site in the Northern Territory — despite promising not to and opposition from Indigenous custodians.

The NSW government is planning to give police extraordinary powers of arrest and detention around the time of the APEC summit in Sydney in September. Activists planning the protest when US President George Bush is in town say the new powers are about intimidation, not public safety.

It has become clear in recent weeks the extent to which the NSW and federal governments want to block protests at the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Sydney in September.

The public gallery of the Northern Territory Supreme Court erupted into applause on June 15 when Justice Sally Thomas handed down the sentences for the “Pine Gap Four” — Christians Against All Terrorism members Bryan Law, Jim Dowling, Adele Goldie and Donna Mulhearn — who had the previous day been found guilty of 14 charges under the Defence (Special Undertakings) Act of 1952.

In recent years there’s been a concerted campaign by right-wing Vietnamese exiles around the world to resurrect the defunct flag of the old Saigon regime.

The Howard government’s so-called fairness test for all new workplace agreements (individual contracts and collective agreements) is destined to become law, with Labor Party support, before the end of June. The legislation, which purports to guarantee “fairness” to workers who trade off their entitlement to penalty rates, overtime pay and holiday leave loading, passed through the House of Representatives on May 29.

The ABC’s 7.30 Report on June 11 reported that 200 miners at BHP Billiton’s iron ore mine at Mount Newman in Western Australia had signed a petition complaining about “an atmosphere of intimidation and victimisation” of workers on individual agreements (AWAs). The workers’ petition complained that management was forcing them to work in unsafe conditions and warned that a serious accident was likely.

Under pressure to prove his government has answers to the global warming crisis, on June 3 PM John Howard backed the corporate polluter-friendly recommendations of his Task Group on Emissions Trading, set up on December 10.

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