Comment and Analysis

PM John Howard announced on June 28 that his government was “taking control” of up to 80 remote Aboriginal communities in the Northern Territory, claiming this was a necessary response to the 320-page Little Children are Sacred report, which detailed high levels of sexual abuse of children on a range of NT Indigenous communities.

PM John Howard’s new “intervention” policy in the Northern Territory has begun with federal and state police storming into Indigenous communities.

“We’ve tried to enter Palestine by land. We’ve tried to arrive by air. Now we’re getting serious. We’re taking a ship”.

It is often thought that concern for the interconnection of living systems is a modern development. But Karl Marx’s talked about it repeatedly throughout his Capital.

Three years after extending its moratorium on the commercial growing of genetically modified (GM) crops, the Victorian ALP government appears poised to remove the ban when it expires in February 2008.

Recent attacks on the organic food industry are about discrediting it to soften up the public to accept genetically modified (GM) crops, Dr Maggie Lilith of the Conservation Council of WA and the Say No to GMO campaign told Green Left Weekly.

A bill recently pushed through federal parliament has the potential to threaten state moratoriums on genetically modified organisms (GMOs) by granting new powers to the federal agriculture minister, a WA anti-GMO activist told Green Left Weekly.

Ali Humayun, the queer Pakistani locked up in Villawood Immigration Detention Centre, is suing VIDC management and the federal government for negligence of care.

The 10th national Labour History Conference on June 4-6 delved into the labour movement’s past, but also featured interesting debates about present-day concerns.

In last month’s elections in the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union (AMWU), the Workers’ Rights team took all positions against a ticket led by an alliance between the union’s print and vehicle divisions. Some Workers’ Rights candidates received over 80% of the vote. In the Victorian branch, where most positions were strongly contested, 40% of members voted.

PM John Howard and ALP leader Kevin Rudd have both attacked Unions NSW secretary John Robertson for comments, secretly recorded and leaked to the media, made at a Bennelong Your Rights at Work meeting in late June.

Pressure from unions over the exploitation of foreign workers employed under the 457 visa scheme for temporary workers has forced the Howard government to tighten some of the regulations.

“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.

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