Comment and Analysis

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.

Tasmanians from all walks of life are up in arms about Gunns’ proposal to build one of the largest pulp mills in the world in the Tamar Valley, near Launceston.

Former Newcastle lord mayor Greg Heys died on June 5 after a massive heart attack.

Since federal ALP leader Kevin Rudd outlined Labor’s “Work Choices lite” on April 17 — promising that a Labor government would maintain the Coalition’s ban on strikes outside of bargaining periods and secret ballots — Labor’s full-scale retreat on industrial relations has continued.

The ALP deserves to be re-badged the “Anti-Labour Party” as historian Humphrey McQueen suggests, and the ALP’s public dressing down and forced resignation of Victorian Electrical Trade Union (ETU) secretary Dean Mighell reinforces this view.

Having just visited Cuba — and as a former head of public health for the Perth east metropolitan region and former chairperson of the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners — it was obvious to me that the 45-year US trade embargo against the island-state has seriously affected its ability to provide health services to its people.

Green Left Weekly is committed to social justice and environmental sustainability, speaks out against capitalism, and sides with the marginalised and oppressed. But it is silent on the plight of the most oppressed group of all — non-human animals, notably those exploited by the animal agriculture industry.

Global warming, workers’ rights and opposition to the Iraq war are key campaigns this year, a Socialist Alliance state conference on May 19 decided.

The trial of the “Pine Gap Four” in Alice Springs is continuing with the Crown lawyer arguing that the jury should not be determining the reasonableness of the activists’ actions. Michael Maurice QC argued that, “Engaging in activities to disrupt the implementation of public policy can never be reasonable”.

The Australian government has recently come under fire for the inefficiency of its overseas aid programs, particularly in the Asia Pacific. The June 4 Sydney Morning Herald reported that more and more aid destined for the region was being lost in administrative costs or dished out to private corporations in the name of “development”.

The Canadian-owned Barrick Gold Corporation, the world’s largest gold producer, is exploring, building and operating huge, open-pit goldmines on nearly every continent on the planet.

On May 30, Labor’s industrial relations spokesperson Julia Gillard shocked many unionists when she announced at the National Press Club that a Rudd Labor government would retain the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC) until January 31, 2010. This back flip comes a month after Labor decided, at its national conference, to abolish the hated body. ACTU president Sharan Burrow said she did not support the delay.

Dave Noonan, the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union’s construction division national secretary, has slammed the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC) for “intimidating and bullying” workers.

The sudden departure on May 29 of visiting Jakarta governor, General Sutiyoso, after being asked to give evidence at the inquest into the death of Brian Peters in East Timor in 1975, further incriminates him in the plot to kill five Australian journalists in Balibo, East Timor, in 1975. According to deputy NSW state coroner Dorelle Pinch, Sutiyoso had allegedly been part of Team Susi, one of the Indonesian military units in Balibo when the journalists were killed. It has taken 32 years for there to be an inquest into the murder of the Balibo Five.

Mark Tedeschi QC, counsel assisting the coroner, told the court that eyewitness accounts provided incontrovertible evidence that the men were not caught in crossfire when Indonesian troops attacked Balibo, but were deliberately killed by Indonesian soldiers after they tried to surrender. Witnesses gave evidence that the Gough Whitlam government knew of the Balibo executions within hours of them being carried out.

Below, SHIRLEY SHACKLETON, the widow of Greg Shackleton, one of the five who was murdered, recounts some of the bloody struggle for self-determination.

The Latin America and Asia Pacific International Solidarity Forum (LAAPISF) in Melbourne on October 11-14 will be attended by one of the most important and interesting leaders of the Venezuelan revolution — Comandante William Izarra.

The Kyoto Protocol calls for rich countries to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 5.2% compared to 1990 levels. Britain, South Australia and Victoria have gone for a 60% reduction by 2050, and California proposes a cut of 80%.

The following is an abridged version of the Beyond Zero Emissions stationary energy plan for the state of Victoria. It is reprinted with permission from MATTHEW WRIGHT of Beyond Zero Emissions, a non-profit, volunteer-run campaign set up under Sustainable Energy Future Inc. The full version can be read at http://www.beyondzeroemissions.org.

Therese Rein has done very nicely under the Coalition government — particularly since its 1996 decision to privatise the Commonwealth Employment Service and set up a private Job Network to steamroll the unemployed into often underpaid and unrewarding jobs. From humble beginnings in Brisbane in 1989, Rein has built up an international employment business with an annual turnover of $175 million. She should be a poster child for the benefits of the Coalition’s privatisation drive for business, except that she is also the wife of federal Labor leader Kevin Rudd.

Australia has long been known as one of the most wasteful countries in the world: per head of population we are second only to the US in the amount of waste we pile into landfills.

Tom — not his real name — became a “person of interest” after taking part in the G20 protests in Melbourne last November. This softly spoken 24-year-old, a postgraduate student at Sydney University, is one of the latest victims of the police-state laws that seem designed to intimidate activists from organising, or attending, protests.

John Howard was awarded the Jerusalem Prize for his “friendship and commitment” to Israel at a gala dinner at Melbourne’s Crown Casino on May 20. The award, by the Zionist Federation of Australia, the State Zionist Council of Victoria and the World Zionist Organisation, includes the “John Howard Negev Forest”, which will be planted by the Jewish National Fund (JNF) over an ethnically-cleansed Bedouin village.

The International Labour Organisation (ILO) could not be clearer: “The right to strike is one of the essential means available to workers and their organisations for the promotion and protection of their economic and social interests” (1983).

The deepening of Australia’s drought- and global-warming-driven water crisis has thrown into sharp relief the historical and current inadequacy of the Liberal-Labor political establishment to put the needs of working people before those of big business.

The standard of health of Aborigines lags almost 100 years behind that of other Australians, according to the World Health Organisation.

Just a week after Treasurer Peter Costello delivered the federal budget, which contained $31.5 billion in tax cuts over four years among other pre-election bribes, a Newspoll published in the May 15 Australian found that support for Labor had increased to 59% (on a two-party preferred basis) from 57% the previous month. Several other polls have since confirmed this trend.

The May 15 death of right-wing evangelist and Moral Majority founder Reverend Jerry Falwell has provided an opportunity for many people to comment on the influence of the Christian right on American politics and culture. Falwell relentlessly attacked Hollywood, blaming it for the decline of “traditional values”.

The 1967 referendum on Aboriginal rights — in which more than 90% voted in favour of including Aboriginal people in the census and giving the federal government the power to override racist state laws and legislate for Aboriginal people — has “enormous importance for Aboriginal people and our struggle”, Queensland Indigenous leader Sam Watson told Green Left Weekly.

May 27 marks the 40th anniversary of the overwhelming victory of the 1967 referendum, in which almost 91% of the Australian people voted to give the federal government the constitutional power to override the brutal, degrading racist laws of the states under which Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders were tormented. The federal government now had the power to make specific laws in respect to the Indigenous people. The Australian people had sent a clear signal that it was time for Canberra to make laws, introduce programs and provide the necessary resources to end the racial oppression of Indigenous Australians.

If watching the ABC TV’s drama Bastard Boys is the only information that you have about the Maritime Union of Australia lockout of 1998, then you would probably conclude that the dispute was won by the brilliant tactical skills of Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) secretary Greg Combet and former Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) national secretary John Coombes, and the legal talents of union lawyers.

The following letter was sent by Green Left Weekly on May 16 to the editor of the Australia/Israel Review, the journal of the Australia/Israel and Jewish Affairs Council.

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