Comment and Analysis

With the speed of global warming and the seriousness of climate chaos now firmly established in the minds of our politicians, it is urgent that they display leadership on actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The leadership so far — in that it has promoted the dirty lie of “clean coal” and the farcical view of nuclear energy as clean and green — has been ethically vacuous. The frames that the Howard government has used to drive public debate on our energy future are dangerous dead ends that will deliver huge problems to future generations.

More than 600 delegates representing 2 million union members met for the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) congress on October 25-26.

On November 18-19, the G20 meeting in Melbourne will bring together the finance ministers of the powerful G8 group of nations with those of Australia, the European Union and 10 of the largest Third World economies, along with the heads of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.

Only a foolish punter looking to lose their hard-earned cash would back an upset at the state elections on November 25. Although polls indicate a narrowing of Premier Steve Bracks’ lead, the state Labor government is likely to be returned with a comfortable margin.

The October release of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation’s (ASIO) annual report reveals that it is concentrating in great detail on protest actions, even small ones.

A new “security pact” between Australia and Indonesia, to be signed on November 13 in Lombok, will strengthen Canberra’s military and economic alliance with Jakarta, at the expense of the peoples of both countries.

On September 28, Victorian construction workers enjoyed a well-earned barbeque and a few beers for the traditional shutdown weekend prior to the AFL grand final. On a construction site in Geelong, workers and union officials gathered to also celebrate and commemorate union legend John Cummins’ life.

John Howard’s new industrial laws contain a raft of penalties for workers and unions taking “unlawful” industrial action. Workers can face individual fines of $6600 ($22,000 for those in the building industry), and unions face $33,000 or more. One result has been a decline in industrial disputes since Work Choices was enacted in March.

As the November 7 emergency water summit of federal and state parliamentarians was told that the current drought is the worst in 1000 years, the opposition parties criticised the governments for fiddling while the drought worsens. Greens Senator Rachel Siewert claimed the summit “shied away from making the tough decisions at a time when urgent action was sorely needed”.

Like a large part of the continent, Victoria is in the grip of unprecedented drought. Across the state, dams are rapidly emptying and river flows are at record lows, cities and towns face drastic restrictions and farmers confront an uncertain future. The water crisis gives the question of global warming and catastrophic climate change a new immediacy, and is a major issue in the November 25 state election.

“I’m just, I’m a little concerned with all this hysteria over this greenhouse gases and the environment, that the Liberal Party is not selling your message the way you sold it now to Leon, and that it’s not getting through to the average man in the street” — this is what “Emile”, an “unashamed supporter” of Prime Minister John Howard, had to say to the PM on November 2, during Leon Byner’s talkback show on Adelaide’s Radio 5AA.

How hard is it to raise $76,500 before the end of this year? Not hard at all for some organisations. As the November 1 Sydney Morning Herald reported: “Opposition Leader, Peter Debnam, took to the harbour last night for a fund-raising cruise with the property industry aboard a luxury cruiser owned by a developer, Greg Gav.

What sort of dogmatic free-market ideologue would use poor people’s (often socially constructed) desire for credit to justify shrinking the already beleaguered welfare policies of wretched Third World states?

Fadi Rahman from the Independent Centre for Research’s youth centre in Lidcombe, Sydney, spoke to Green Left Weekly’s Emma Clancy about the impact on young Muslim Australians of the media attack on the entire Islamic community in the wake of Sheikh Taj el-Din Al Hilaly’s comments about women and sexual assault.

On October 21, two days after the anniversary of the sinking of the SIEV-X, shadow minister for immigration Tony Burke announced that he would recommend that the ALP change key aspects of its refugee policy.

The plight of Australian Guantanamo Bay prisoner David Hicks continues, as the government's arrogance and subservience to the US shows no sign of abating.

Along with his contemptible "catmeat" analogy, Sheikh Taj El-din Al Hilaly's assurance to his congregation last month that, "If a woman is in her boudoir, in her house and if she's wearing the veil and if she shows modesty, disasters don't happen" was, of course, absolute bullshit. One in five Victorian women report being physically or sexually abused by an intimate partner at some time in their adult lives (VicHealth 2004). More than 20% of homicides involve intimate partners (Mouzos 2000). An estimated one in four children and young people have witnessed intimate partner violence (Office of Women's Policy 2002).

"When hypocritical old sexists like PM John Howard, Treasurer Peter Costello and radio shock-jock Alan Jones start delivering pious sermons about the rights of women, something very suspicious is happening", Pip Hinman, the Socialist Alliance's anti-war spokesperson, told Green Left Weekly.

In its first national minimum wage decision on October 26, the Australian Fair Pay Commission (AFPC) handed down an increase of $27.36 for workers earning under $700 per week and $22.04 for those earning more than $700 covered by awards.

Geelong Trades Hall was packed with unionists on October 28 exchanging ideas and experiences about surviving and fighting Work Choices. Some 130 unionists travelled from Victorian country centres such as Port Campbell, Portland, Hamilton and the Latrobe Valley to join unionists from across the country.

Cuban Consul-General Nelida Hernandez told supporters on October 24 that Cuba will again ask the United Nations General Assembly on November 8 to support a motion to lift the 45-year-long economic embargo imposed by the US government on Cuba.

Advocates of justice for asylum seekers and refugees were relieved when the government was forced to withdraw its proposed amendments to the Migration Act, amendments that would have meant that any asylum seeker arriving by boat in Australia would be deported to Nauru to be processed.

A Congolese prosecutor has called for three former managers of the Perth-based Anvil Mining corporation to be indicted for "complicity in war crimes" - involvement in the massacre of up to 100 people in the village of Kilwa in October 2004. The slaughter, committed by Congolese Armed Forces soldiers ferried to the scene by Anvil-chartered planes and company-owned trucks, took place 50 kilometres from the company's Dikulushi silver and copper mine in the south-east of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The strong parliamentary vote of confidence in Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare is a sign that the Howard government's Pacific intervention strategy is facing collapse.

Ever since the federal Coalition government introduced Work Choices, the trade union movement has been united behind the demand that the legislation be repealed. The debate has been over what alternative industrial relations system the movement should advocate.

In October, ALP leader Kim Beazley sent a letter to households that expressed his support for the withdrawal of troops. Below is Beazley's letter and a reply by anti-war campaigner Pip Hinman, who argues that Australian troops shouldn't be taken out of Iraq just to be re-deployed to Afghanistan.

Almost four decades later, the image can still make
hairs rise on unsuspecting necks. It’s 1968, and 200-metre gold medalist Tommie Smith stands next to bronze winner John Carlos, their raised black-gloved fists smashing the sky on the medal stand in Mexico City. They were Trojan Horses of Rage — bringing the Black revolution into that citadel of propriety and hypocrisy: the Olympic games. When people see that image, their eyes are drawn like magnets toward Smith and Carlos, standing in black socks, their heads bowed in controlled concentration.

On October 27, women and their supporters will rally in many cities, towns and rural areas around the world to protest against sexual violence against women and children. Over the past 28 years, Reclaim the Night rallies and marches have encouraged women to protest against violence and sexual assault.

Millions of people on low-lying islands and lands in the Asia-Pacific region will become refugees in the next 40 years due to rising sea levels induced by climate change, according to a CSIRO report issued on October 8. The report was written by scientists with CSIRO’s marine and atmospheric research division, and was commissioned by aid and conservation agencies forming the national Climate Change and Development Roundtable.

At a Just Peace meeting on October 20, it was proposed by Wade McDonald, a leader of the International Socialist Organisation, that all “paper selling” be banned outside an upcoming forum on Islamophobia co-hosted by Just Peace.

Caroline Lund, a lifelong fighter for socialism, workers’ rights and women’s liberation, died at her home in Oakland, California, on October 14, aged 62. She will be sorely missed by her friends and comrades in the US and around the world, especially her lifelong partner and comrade Barry Sheppard.

Melbourne’s public transport system is in crisis — despite a huge increase in subsidies since privatisation. Delays, cancellations and standing room only — this is the reality for passengers across the system. And on top of the bad service, Melbourne has the most expensive fares of any Australian capital city.

Bernadette Peters is a part-time cleaner and a full-time activist. She is also the partner of Mal Peters, one of the “Leighton Kumagai 107", who were fined $22,000 by the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC) for a strike in February in defence of a sacked health and safety delegate.

“Liberal Senator Gary Humphries has attempted to reignite a 50-year-old political fear of reds under the bed”, reported the Canberra Times on Thursday October 12. The article was referring to an October 10 speech in the Australian Senate, during which Humphries launched an attack on socialist Cuba and Australian supporters of the Cuban Revolution.

Biofuels such as ethanol have been presented by alternative energy entrepreneurs and many environmentalists as a “clean, green” alternative to fossil fuels. But recently a growing chorus of scientists have warned of the dangers of biofuels.

Al Gore’s documentary An Inconvenient Truth has helped focus attention on the threat posed by fossil-fuel driven climate change. Gore’s film was met with a predictable barrage of criticism by right-wing pundits. For example Herald Sun columnist Andrew Bolt wrote in a September 13 article that the “former US vice-president’s ludicrous scaremongering contains exaggerations, half-truths and falsehoods”.

The last issue of Green Left Weekly published the story of gay asylum seeker Mohatar Hussein. Hussein fled homophobic persecution in Bangladesh to seek refugee status in Australia, only to be locked up in Villawood detention centre for the last two years. The Refugee Review Tribunal twice knocked back Hussein’s applications, despite having ample evidence that he had suffered persecution as an openly gay man.

The federal government last week pushed through its new cross-media ownership laws, ensuring greater concentration of media ownership and a loss of diversity in Australia’s media. The following article by Christian Downie, published on Online Opinion (<http://www.onlineopinion.com.au>) provides some background to the debate over the media laws.

Australia has the most concentrated media ownership in the Western world. Nonetheless, the new media bill passed by the Senate on October 12 will further relax ownership regulation and allow the media barons to operate in two out of three media sectors — print, radio and television.

Pope Benedict XVI is reported to be on the verge of authorising the return of the Latin Tridentine mass. This would open the way for some of the most extreme clerical reactionaries and anti-Semites to rejoin the Catholic Church.

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