Comment and Analysis

As an orgy of consumerism descends upon the Western world to commemorate the birth of Christ, it is poignant to consider the relationship between Christianity and the left. It is a common misconception that socialists are atheists and are opposed to all forms of religion. Indeed, many socialists are atheists, and the abhorrence of organised religion by some can be traced back to the role of the church in siding with regressive conservative forces at various stages throughout history (and indeed itself being at times a highly repressive institution). However, socialism is opposed to all forms of discrimination — be it based upon gender, ethnicity, sexual preference, or indeed religious belief.

Delegates from more than 180 countries began meeting on the Indonesian island of Bali on December 3 at the United Nations Climate Change Conference. The gathering is meant to begin the process of negotiating an agreement on climate change for the period after 2012, when the first commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol expires.

Kevin Smith, a researcher for Carbon Trade Watch, participated in the December 3-14 United Nations Climate Change Conference held in Bali, Indonesia. Smith spoke to Green Left Weekly’s Zoe Kenny about the campaign against carbon trading.

The first days of the December 3-14 Bali meeting on a post-Kyoto framework for tackling climate change showed that the US-led call for a “comprehensive new agreement” that would require Third World countries that are big greenhouse-gas emitters to commit to emission reductions had the support of most First World government delegations. This push would reverse one of the most valuable aspects of the Kyoto Protocol, which is due to expire in 2012.

Greens leader Senator Bob Brown has called on the new Rudd Labor government to scrap the pulp mill that has been approved to be built in northern Tasmania. Brown has pointed to the strong Greens vote that helped the ALP regain all lower house seats in Tasmania as a mandate to stop the mill.

In his election night acceptance speech, PM Kevin Rudd said that all of Labor’s policy now becomes a “plan of action” for the incoming Labor government. As to Labor’s oft repeated promise to “tear up Work Choices”, their plans — as far as they actually go — are detailed in the Forward with Fairness: Policy Implementation Plan, released by the then Labor opposition in August.

Lex Wotton has been portrayed by the Queensland police, government and mainstream media as the ringleader of the so-called “riot” that occurred on Palm Island on November 26, 2004. A police station and residence were destroyed after a police report on the death of community member Mulrunji Doomadgee that concluded that his death was an accident was read at a public meeting. Wotton will face court in April 2008. He continues to be vilified in the media. He spoke to Green Left Weekly’s Hamish Chitts.

Kevin Rudd is a prime minister in a big hurry. Only a fortnight has passed since the Howard government was thrown into the dustbin, and the new Labor cabinet is already scurrying about its work.

Following the election of the new federal Labor government, ACT Chief Minister Jon Stanhope announced that a third attempt would be made to introduce same-sex civil unions in the ACT. Legislation currently before the ACT Legislative Assembly will be voted on early next year.

In September 2006, Roger Harris, a teacher at Chisholm Institute of Technology (Victoria) and an Australian Education Union member for 23 years, was stood down by the Chisholm management. Harris had been an active union member, playing a central role on the sub-branch executive for 16 years and has served on the AEU’s TAFE sector council for 10 years.

Worldwide, building construction and use accounts for around 40% of greenhouse gas emissions (materials, actual construction, heating, cooling, lighting etc.). The use of green building materials and construction techniques must be a key element in the drive to curb global warming.

The defeat of the Howard government in the November 24 federal election was “a great victory for the Australian working class”, Sam Watson, leading Aboriginal activist and Queensland Senate candidate for the Socialist Alliance, told Green Left Weekly. “John Howard has been cast out, senior ministers defeated, and many Coalition seats now made marginal. This represents a realignment of working-class forces in the country”, Watson added.

Ecology is often seen as a recent invention. But the idea that capitalism degrades the environment in a way that disproportionately affects the poor and the colonised was already expressed in the 19th century in the work of Karl Marx and Frederick Engels.

On November 16, NSW deputy coroner Dorelle Pinch ruled that five journalists from Australia’s Seven and Ten commercial TV networks who died in the East Timorese town of Balibo on October 16, 1975, were not killed by crossfire (which is what Australian authorities have previously maintained) but were deliberately murdered by invading Indonesian forces, on orders from above in what Pinch ruled to be a “war crime”.

“Now that Labor has decisively won the federal election, it is urgent that Australian troops be withdrawn from Iraq as soon as possible”, Jim McIlroy, the Socialist Alliance candidate for Kevin Rudd’s seat of Griffith, said after the announcement that Labor had defeated the Howard government. McIlroy also called for an end to Australian support for the war in Afghanistan. “All Australian forces should be brought home by Christmas.

Kevin Rudd’s election provides an opportunity for Australia and Aboriginal people to repair the damage caused by the Howard years. Rudd’s intention to apologise to the Stolen Generations already indicates a positive change of national policy towards Aboriginal people and should he remove the NT emergency laws, Aboriginal reconciliation will be further enhanced.

Despite opposition from farmers and consumers, big-business biotech companies scored a major victory on November 27 when both the New South Wales and Victorian governments gave the green light to the commercial cultivation of genetically modified food crops. This opens the gate for pro-GM groups to lobby other states which have not yet agreed to commercial production of GM crops.

The first round of official talks to negotiate a global climate change agreement to follow on from the Kyoto Protocol in 2012 will be held in Bali, Indonesia, on December 3-14. Representatives of 130 countries will attend, ostensibly to begin a two-year negotiating process.

Bernie Banton, the widely-recognised face of the legal and political campaign to achieve compensation for the many sufferers of asbestos-related conditions, which they contracted after working for the James Hardie company, died on November 27, at the age of 61.

The November 24 electoral victory of the ALP was based largely upon public opposition to the Howard Coalition government’s Work Choices laws. But in the Northern Territory, opposition among Aborigines to PM John Howard’s “emergency intervention” into their communities was a major factor in boosting support for Labor.

Prime Minister-elect Kevin Rudd’s phone call with US President George Bush on November 25, the day after the election, was a reminder about the incoming Labor government’s commitment to the Australia-US military alliance. The government may have changed, but Canberra’s commitment to Australia’s participation in foreign wars and occupations hasn’t.

The November 24 rout of the Howard government owed much to the work of the organised labour movement. Of the marginal Coalition seats targeted by the Your Rights at Work (YRAW) campaign, 20 of 24 have fallen to Labor (including John Howard’s own seat of Bennelong); the other four remain in doubt. Most of those who voted for Labor did so believing that Labor would abolish Work Choices, as promised by Kevin Rudd on October 14, the official start to the election campaign. Yet Labor’s industrial relations policy — Forward with Fairness — promises only minimal changes, replacing the Coalition’s legislation with “Work Choices Lite”.

The first negotiations between the state government and Victorian teachers following a 10,000 strong November 21 stop-work meeting bore no fruit according to a November 30 press release by the Australian Education Union’s (AEU) Victorian branch.

“It’s time for a new page to be written in our nation’s history” — Prime Minister-elect Kevin Rudd, November 24.

The Socialist Alliance "Howard Overboard" election night party in Green Left Weekly's offices in Sydney spontaneously spilled into the streets when John Howard conceded defeat. Jubilant activists celebrated with chants, whistles and pots and pans in a lap around the block which drew out people from their homes. A right-wing government that has plagued Australia since 1996 has been defeated and we have much to celebrate.

The following article was written by Migrante Australia, an organisation dedicated to organising and mobilising Filipino migrants and protecting their rights and welfare.

Fighting social exclusion? (1)

On November 22 Labor deputy leader and industrial relations shadow minister Julia Gillard announced that a Rudd Labor government would set up an "office of social inclusion" within the Department of the Prime

Protesting journalists in Pakistan were beaten by police on November 21. I travelled to Pakistan earlier this year, and I wish to show my solidarity with the brave struggle for justice being waged against General Pervez Musharraf’s dictatorship.

Protesting journalists in Pakistan were beaten by police on November 21. I travelled to Pakistan earlier this year, and I wish to show my solidarity with the brave struggle for justice being waged against General Pervez Musharraf’s dictatorship.

The fourth report from the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, released on November 17, concludes that there is “unequivocal” evidence that human-induced global warming is already under way and, if left unchecked, will lead to rising sea levels, more fierce storms, and more floods and droughts.

Despite the fact that the November 24 federal election was supposed to be a “climate-change election”, the release on November 17 of the fourth and final report from the UN’s Intergovernental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) barely garnered manstream media attention.

This year there has been a series of drug-related scandals in Australia’s two major football codes, the Australian Football League (AFL) and the National Rugby League (NRL). The scandals have nothing to do with “performance enhancing” drug, or even anything to do with the game of football at all. These scandals have been beaten up by a media circus, which has itself fed a frenzy of moral hypocrisy, led by the (now-former) federal Coalition government, with the “me-too” Labor Party chiming in.

On November 18, PM John Howard announced that the federal government would consider extending the welfare quarantine currently in place for all Aboriginals on welfare in the NT to all welfare recipients convicted of drug offences. “It’s not right that people should have control of taxpayer money when they have been convicted of such offences”, he told ABC News. “This will mean that they will not be able to spend the money on those sorts of drugs, or indeed, for that matter, on alcohol and tobacco.”

Building support in Aboriginal Australia (1)

One Indigenous community to organise a meet-the-candidates forum during the election campaign was the Illawarra Aboriginal Community (NSW south coast). It drew more than 60 people, including prominent

Brian Senewiratne: “I have been a strong supporter of the left in my native Sri Lanka since I was 16 years old. I am now 76, and remain convinced, even more so, that it is the capitalist policies, first under the colonial British and later the Brown Sahibs of my ethnic group, the Sinhalese, that have taken that country to its condition of failing state.

The dismissal on November 12 of the charges against alleged terrorist Izhar Ul-Haque after NSW Supreme Court judge Michael Adams ruled on November 2 that ASIO officers had “committed the criminal offences of false imprisonment and kidnapping at common law”, have led to calls for increased oversight over ASIO.

The Climate Change Coalition is a new political party. Green Left Weekly’s Zane Alcorn spoke to CCC candidate Dr Karl Kruszelnicki, who is running for the Senate in New South Wales.

The Australian Youth Climate Coalition (AYCC) aims to bring together existing social justice and environment groups to work cooperatively on climate-change activism. The hope is that a coherent and united youth voice on climate change will emerge.

Climate change is the challenge of our generation and we need to do everything we can to stop it. What is our role as young people? How can we be most effective? After the Walk Against Warming rallies around the country, where young people came together in youth contingents, where to next for the youth climate movement?

“We have a plan to withdraw from Iraq, while Mr Howard doesn’t” — with these words on October 14, ALP leader Kevin Rudd described the war on Iraq as one of five “critical areas where the difference [between Labor and the Coalition] couldn’t be clearer”. He then went on to virtually ignore the Iraq war throughout the rest of the election campaign.

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