Comment and Analysis

Channel Seven boss Kerry Stokes’s HRL Ltd and China’s Harbin Power Engineering Company are to build a $750 million “clean coal” power station in the Latrobe Valley that, when operational from the end of 2009, will add significantly to Victoria’s greenhouse gas emissions.

The following speech was delivered by Enas to a March 12 Melbourne protest in solidarity with Palestine, held to coincide with Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s motion in parliament that celebrated the 60th anniversary of Israel’s establishment.

On March 10 and 11, the Sydney Morning Herald ran an expose of “white flight” from public schools across NSW. Using a previously confidential survey of 163 high school principals in NSW, it described the phenomenon where increasing numbers of white-European parents were removing their children from disadvantaged public schools in regional and remote areas and areas in Sydney’s south-west and placing them in private schools or in selective state schools in more distant suburbs.

Labor’s new Workplace Relations Amendment (Transition to Forward with Fairness) Bill 2008, tabled in federal parliament on February 13, will most likely come in to effect early April. The bill is the first in a raft of legislation to be introduced to parliament and is promoted by the federal government as the first step in the dismantling of Work Choices.

The profit-driven, multi-billion-dollar treatment of depression has been exposed as little less than a fraud. The selective publication of trials has meant that large corporations have been able to make misleading claims for their drugs.

“For a council that won’t cost us the Earth”, was the slogan for the campaign for the Brisbane City Council by David White, a member of the Socialist Alliance. The council held elections on March 15.

Carbon trading and offsets distract attention from the wider, systemic changes and collective political action that needs to be taken in the transition to a low-carbon economy. Promoting more effective and empowering approaches to climate change involves moving away from the blinkered reductionism of free-market dogma, the false economy of supposed quick fixes and the short-term self-interest of big business.

Ever heard of Walter Lindrum? No. How about Arthur Streeton or Nelly Melba? Don’t ring a bell either? Well, that’s OK as long as you were just playing a game of trivia or filling in a crossword. Unfortunately, not knowing the answer to these or similarly trivial questions can have a more serious outcome nowadays — it might actually jeopardise an immigrant’s chances of becoming an Australian citizen.

In the most recent edition of Green Left Weekly (GLW #742, links to all contributions in debate so far are below), well-known progressive anti-imperialist activist, Professor Stephen Zunes, has proclaimed that I am a liar.

Former Democrat senator Sid Spindler died at his home on March 1, aged 75. He had dedicated his life to opposing injustice and campaigning for a more socially just world, even when this might have been unpopular. He was always prepared to stand up and be counted on social justice issues.

Any day now the findings of the special Consultative Reference Committee (CRC), set up by the NSW government to “test the impacts” of its plans to privatise its electricity generation and retailing assets, will become public.

Last May, the ALP announced a target for greenhouse gas emission reductions that, if observed generally across the world’s major emitting countries, would give humanity virtually no chance of avoiding climate catastrophe.

As the quarantining of Indigenous welfare payments (50% of individual welfare benefits being received as gift cards for certain shops) rolls out across the Northern Territory, its alleged benefits need to be weighed against the possible cultural and economic consequences.

“We’re approaching the future with some confidence notwithstanding the obstacles that are put in our path by institutions like the ABCC [Australian Building and Construction Commission]”, Dave Noonan, national secretary of the construction division of the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union told Green Left Weekly. Noonan spoke to GLW after the CFMEU national conference, held in Sydney from February 18-22.

Well, so much for our new government taking an even-handed position on Israel/Palestine.

Barbara Shaw, a resident of the Mount Nancy town camp near Alice Springs and a member of the National Aboriginal Alliance, told Green Left Weekly on February 29 that the racist intervention into Northern Territory Aboriginal communities launched by the former Howard government “has been very negative for our people and undermined many of our own ways of dealing with issues”.

Five days after the November 24 federal election, outgoing industrial relations minister Joe Hockey admitted, in a rare moment of political honesty, that Work Choices contributed to the Coalition government’s defeat. He declared that the new Labor government was given a mandate by the people to abolish the Work Choices legislation.

International Women’s Day, observed on March 8, is a testimony to women struggling to better their lives.

On February 19, Australian Defence Force chief Angus Houston told a Senate committee hearing that planning was underway for a mid-year withdrawal of the ADF’s 550 soldiers based in Iraq’s southern Dhi Qar province, as well as 65 army trainers. However, their withdrawal will leave in place 60% of the ADF personnel assigned to the Iraq war.

During a 10-day tour of NSW, Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia in early February, Terry Boehm, vice-president of Canada’s National Farmers Union, and Arnold Taylor, president of the Canadian Organic Growers association, warned Australian farmers against adopting genetically modified (GM) crops.

During a 10-day tour of NSW, Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia in early February, Terry Boehm, vice-president of Canada’s National Farmers Union, and Arnold Taylor, president of the Canadian Organic Growers association, warned Australian farmers against adopting genetically modified (GM) crops.

Aboriginal activist Natasha Moore has responded to the release of the Western Australian Coroner’s report into Indigenous deaths in the Kimberley by arguing only self-determination can make a fundamental difference to people’s lives.

Sydney region:

Tuesday, March 11, 6pm: Kings Cross ALP branch "Stop the sell-off" community forum. With Mark Diesendorf, Bob Walker and Betty Con Walker. Reg Murphy Hall, cnr Greenknowe Ave and Betty Bay Road, Elizabeth Bay. Ph Catherine 0421 562

A report released on February 18 in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health found massive deficiencies in Aboriginal housing in Australia, and located this as a key cause of Aboriginal disadvantage and poor health. The study was conducted over seven years and looked at over 4000 residences in 132 Aboriginal communities.

The fight to keep New South Wales electricity in public hands can and must be won. If NSW Premier Morris Iemma and treasurer Michael Costa get away with their plan to sell off the state’s electricity generation capacity and its retail arms, working people and the community will get a dearer, less reliable service and the chances of the state moving to a sustainable energy policy will be reduced to zero.

On February 14, in a clever piece of political theatre, Labor PM Kevin Rudd declared that federal MPs would forgo their scheduled pay rise for 2008. MP’s wages would effectively be frozen until mid-2009. Rudd also called on business executives to curb their pay rises, which averaged in excess of 30% in 2007 according to the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU).

It seems that Victorian Labor Premier John Brumby wants to be remembered, not as a rational leader advocating solutions to an urgent problem facing the survival of the human species — climate change — but as the creator of some of the most potentially destructive infrastructure projects in the state’s history.

Foods from genetically manipulated (GM) crops and animals are rejected by most farmers, shoppers and food processors around the world. If these mutant foods were fully labelled, as they should be, consumer rejection would ensure that GM food crops were not grown.

A packed public meeting at Brisbane’s Activist Centre on February 6 heard Brian Senewiratne, a Sinhalese consultant physician in Brisbane, deliver a passionate and informative presentation on the long struggle of Sri Lanka’s Tamil-speaking minority against persecution by that country’s Sinhalese-dominated government.

Members of the NSW Teachers’ Federation (NSWTF) have much to be concerned about — salaries, public education system award conditions, staffing arrangements and the teacher shortage responsible for increased teacher workload and lowering of teacher qualifications standards.

Almost universally, governments are refusing to recognise the scope and urgency of the changes demanded by global warming. The menace, however, is real, and the time available for concerted action to combat it is frighteningly brief.

Over the last few weeks, a series of Sydney Morning Herald (SMH) articles have revealed the corruption of the federal Socio-Economic Status (SES) funding model, used to allocate education funds to private schools.

“As prime minister of Australia, I am sorry. On behalf of the government of Australia, I am sorry. On behalf of the parliament of Australia, I am sorry.” With these words, on February 13, PM Kevin Rudd opened the first session of the newly elected government and did what the previous Howard government had failed to do for its eleven years in power.

In the afterglow of saying sorry to the Stolen Generations, the federal Labor government introduced its first piece of industrial relations legislation into parliament on February 13 — the Workplace Relations Amendment Bill. While the government claims that this legislation is the first step in dismantling Work Choices, in fact, it will leave most of Work Choices intact.

The basic argument in favour of the privatisation of electricity generation and distribution is simple — public ownership allows too much bargaining power to electricity workers and their unions (which they will always use to defend “inefficient practices” and “overstaffing”); it also fosters over-investment in generation capacity by engineers concerned to guarantee service reliability (“gold-plating”).

Around 200 union leaders from around Australia attended a trade union leadership forum organised by the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) in Canberra from January 30 to February 1. Many had a lot on their minds. First and foremost, many wondered how the Rudd Labor government’s new industrial relations systems would shape up and what the union movement will have to do to make sure it benefits workers? Unfortunately most walked away after three days asking themselves the same questions they arrived with.

The following is the second part of an interview between John Parker, secretary of Gippsland Trades and Labour Council, and Green Left Weekly’s Zane Alcorn. The first part was published in GLW #737.

A new report published by Friends of the Earth (FoE), Climate Code Red: The case for a sustainability emergency, warns that human-induced climate change is dangerously impacting on the planet and its people, and calls on the Rudd government to take real action to avert disaster from global warming.

On May 9, 2007 NSW Premier Morris Iemma announced that he had appointed Anthony Owen, Australia’s first professor of energy economics, to report on NSW’s future needs in electricity generation capacity.

In 2001, newly-elected US President George Bush made international headlines when he announced changes to how international aid organisations were to be funded with US money. Known as the “Global Gag Rule”, aid organisations were informed that, in order to continue receiving US government funding, they could no longer provide any information about abortion to their clients.

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