Comment and Analysis

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.

On the eve of December’s UN climate conference in Bali, the Indonesian government announced that it would plant 79 million trees in a single day to “offset” the emissions of the entire conference. But this world record-attempt could not mask the presence of another, less flattering, statistic in the 2008 Guinness Book of Records, which awarded the country the world record for the fastest rate of deforestation. From 2000 to 2005, an area of forest equivalent to the size of 300 football pitches was destroyed every hour in Indonesia, the key factor in its having the world’s third-highest rate of greenhouse gas emissions behind the US and China.

In the lead up to the February 12 Indigenous rights convergence in Canberra, Green Left Weekly gathered statements from Indigenous activists around Australia. At the fore of people’s minds was the Northern Territory intervention, PM Kevin Rudd’s scheduled apology to the Stolen Generations and the issue of compensating those affected by that policy.

In addition to being the home of Bollywood, the Indian city of Mumbai can boast having Asia’s biggest slum, Dharavi. One million residents are crammed into a square mile of low-rise wood, concrete and rusted iron, reported the December 19 Economist.

[The following is a statement from the national executive of the Socialist Alliance.]

Bruce Trevorrow, 50, was the first of the Stolen Generations to succeed in recieving compensation from a state government. His case is an argument for why PM Kevin Rudd should establish a national compensation scheme for the tens of thousands or so members of the Stolen Generations.

Australia’s new Labor government is in denial on the seriousness of climate change. That much is shown by its inadequate target of reducing the country’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 60% by 2050. But more on that later.

A key aspect of PM Kevin Rudd’s IR agenda is the creation of a national industrial relations system that would cover all private sector employees.

Four years ago, 17-year-old Aboriginal teenage Thomas “TJ” Hickey was impaled on a metal-spiked fence in Sydney’s inner-city Waterloo suburb after his bicycle was rammed by a police vehicle. Proper medical practices were not followed by the police and TJ died in hospital the next day, February 15. If proper practices had been followed, TJ would probably be alive today.

The Australia-Venezuela Solidarity Network (AVSN) is organising a 2008 May Day solidarity brigade to Venezuela for trade unionists and all other people interested in seeing first-hand the unfolding revolution in that country.

Indigenous Affairs Minster Jenny Macklin announced on January 30 that the federal government will make a formal apology to the stolen generations — the 13,000 Aboriginal children who were forcibly removed from their parents as part of a government policy of assimilation — on February 13, the day after the first sitting of the new parliament. Despite calls by Aboriginal groups to include a compensation plan, PM Kevin Rudd’s government has continued to rule out any national compensation fund to go with the apology.

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