Comment and Analysis

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.

On May 29, an unpredictable drama will begin. Attorney-General Philip Ruddock will try to overcome a series of embarrassing blunders by the entire Australian chain of command at the joint Australia-US Pine Gap spy base in the Northern Territory, and four activists will face trial in Alice Springs for entering a prohibited site.

The shambles of the Airline Partners Australia (APA) private equity takeover attempt for Qantas demonstrates the greed and rapaciousness of this rotten capitalist system. All parties involved in the grubby business have shown up the irrationality of capitalism.

A report released on May 14 by the Federation of Community Legal Centres of Victoria, accused police of using excessive and unwarranted force against protesters and bystanders during the November 17-19 G20 summit in Melbourne of international finance ministers.

On May 7, New Matilda published an article by Antony Loewenstein, titled “Cuba: Paradise Left” in which he reports on his impressions of Cuba. Loewenstein describes Cuba as a “police state” with “no freedom of speech”. (See .) He takes issue with Australian left academic, Tim Anderson whom, he said, “ought to know better” for arguing that Cuba has more democracy than the US, (see ), where the media is dominated by a handful of corporations. Below is Anderson’s reply to Lowenstein’s article.

On May 7, New Matilda published an article by Antony Loewenstein, titled “Cuba: paradise left”, in which he reports on his impressions of Cuba. Loewenstein describes Cuba as a “police state” with “no freedom of speech”. He takes issue with Australian academic, Tim Anderson whom, he wrote, “ought to know better” for arguing that Cuba has more democracy than the US, (see http://www.onlineopinion.com.au/view.asp?article=5609). Below is Anderson’s reply to Loewenstein’s article.

The shambles of the Airline Partners Australia (APA) private equity takeover attempt for Qantas demonstrates the greed and rapaciousness of this rotten capitalist system. All parties involved in the grubby business have shown up the irrationality of capitalism.

A young woman working in a juice bar is fired and rehired at a casual rate significantly less than her former wage. She is forced to sign an AWA (Australian Workplace Agreement — individual contract) to get her job back. A young man, aged 13, is fired after retaliating against his manager who assaulted him in a South Australian fast food business.

On May 7, the Melbourne Magistrates Court denied bail to two men arrested under “anti-terror” laws for raising funds for tsunami relief in the Tamil areas of Sri Lanka.

As Green Left Weekly goes to print David Hicks is on his way back to Australia — to Yalata prison in South Australia. But Lady Justice is sailing off in the other direction.

While there are treatments to slow the progression of AIDS, adding decades to sufferers’ lives, access to them is a case study in the vast gap between rich and poor nations. Few deny that HIV/AIDS is a massive health crisis. What is now clear is that it is also a social one, exacerbated by the contradictions of a world dominated by the wealthy minority of First World countries.

A high-speed rail network powered by 100% renewables would eliminate greenhouse gas emissions produced by long-distance air travel in eastern Australia. Based on a rapid implementation of the French TGV system, Matthew Wright from Beyond Zero Emissions, wants Adelaide, Melbourne, Canberra, Sydney and Brisbane to be linked in this visionary project.

Ali Humanyun, a Pakistani queer refugee seeking asylum in Australia, has been incarcerated inside the Villawood detention centre for two years and four months. He was refused a Protection (Class XA) Visa in May 2006 and rejected by the Refugee Review Tribunal (RRT) in October. Humanyun was not granted legal aid for a Federal Magistrates Court appearance, and so the RRT’s decision was upheld on February 19.

On May 5, the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released its final working group report, the third in a series, as a part of its Fourth Assessment Report (AR4), aimed at evaluating global warming. The IPCC published its first assessment report in 1990, a supplementary report in 1992, a second assessment report in 1995, and a third in 2001.

Women’s unqualified right to control our own bodies remains a critical question for feminists. An unwanted pregnancy can have a massive impact on all aspects of a woman’s life — her financial situation, employment, mental and physical health, and relationships.

I held such hope for the Sydney Coroner's inquest into the death of Brian Peters, one of the Balibo Five in East Timor in 1975, because we were promised an open court. But now the rules have been changed to allow vital evidence to be given "in camera", which gives Commonwealth bureaucrats the opportunity to censor that evidence.

Treasurer Peter Costello's May 8 federal budget was aimed at investing in the future of big business. It cements the government's privatisation agenda, further running down already neglected public services and throwing money at private-profit alternatives. It fails to even begin to address global warming, and contains a further major hike in military spending. At the same time, the government feathered its re-election bid with a rash of small to middling tax cuts.

Climate change is a dire threat to human existence. Yet the plans to tackle it put forward by the Coalition and Labor fall far short of what is necessary. Politicians present as "common sense" that renewable energy can play only a peripheral role in Australia. However, Zane Alcorn explains the potential for a renewables-based transformation of Australia's electricity grid, beginning in 2008.

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