Comment and Analysis

Victoria’s nurses are fighting three enemies: the state Labor government, the hospital administrations, and the federal Coalition government.

In the lead-up to the federal election, here’s a guide to what’s really happening in the Liberal and Labor camps, as well as anecdotes from the Socialist Alliance’s campaign trail.

The socialist movement lost a strong supporter with the death from cancer of David Matthews — my father — on September 30 at the age of 79. David joined the Socialist Alliance soon after its formation and remained a financial member and a strong supporter of the campaign to bring the fractious left together.

On October 12, PM John Howard announced his plan to hold a referendum to alter the preamble to the Australian constitution to include an acknowledgment of the original inhabitants of Australia. This is a departure from Howard’s historic position against “symbolic” gestures of reconciliation — a position that in the past has earned him the ire of Indigenous groups, who in 2000 literally turned their backs on Howard when he refused to apologise for previous governments’ complicity in the horrendous policies that led to the Stolen Generations.

On October 16, events in more than 150 countries marked World Food Day, which commemorates the founding of the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation, with the theme of “the right to food”.

During the upsurge of working-class and liberation struggles that followed the 1917 Russian Revolution, socialists from all continents joined in founding a world party, the Communist International, or “Comintern”.

Michael Barker has once again (GLW #725, online edition) engaged in a series of false accusations and major leaps of logic in his attacks on the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict (ICNC) — an independent, nonprofit educational foundation that promotes the study and utilisation of nonmilitary strategies by civilian-based movements to establish and defend human rights, social justice and democracy — for which I serve as chair of its board of academic advisers.

As the 40th anniversary of the death of Argentinean-born revolutionary Ernesto “Che” Guevara, murdered in Bolivia on October 9, 1967, on the orders of the CIA, arrives, there is increasing evidence that his spirit of struggle against injustice continues to get stronger in Latin America.

The first comprehensive research study on how Australian working life is being transformed under Work Choices reveals that Australian Workplace Agreements (AWAs — individual contracts) are eating away at workers’ wages, conditions and job security.

On October 3, immigration minister Kevin Andrews justified cutting the number of African refugees accepted into Australia using racism, alleging that African refugees were “not adjusting too well” to Australian society.

With a federal election imminent, many working people are placing their hopes of defeating the Howard government in the ALP. Many have hoped that a future ALP federal government will indeed “tear up” Work Choices and other reactionary legislation introduced by the Howard government, such as the “anti-terror” laws.

As the October 24 hearing approaches for the Perth-Mandurah railway tunnel construction workers — who are being prosecuted by the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC) for taking “unlawful” industrial action in February 2006 against the sacking of the health and safety union representative — new research has exposed “critically high” levels of injury in the construction industry.

The federal government should restore Indian doctor Mohamed Haneef’s work visa immediately, and pay him compensation for distress and financial loss, Jim McIlroy, the Socialist Alliance candidate for the south Brisbane seat of Griffith, told Green left Weekly. Griffith is held by ALP leader Kevin Rudd.

The message of the new CSIRO and Bureau of Meteorology report to the Australian Climate Change Science Program, Climate Change in Australia, couldn’t be simpler: Stop fiddling while Australia burns!

A statement by federal ALP leader Kevin Rudd that a Labor government would seek to have Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad charged with “inciting genocide” attracted front-page coverage in the October 3 Australian and ridicule from foreign minister Alexander Downer.

Job losses will result from 11 years of Coalition government policy on the environment, Gippsland Trades and Labour Council (GTLC) secretary John Parker told Green Left Weekly on September 26. He said Australia has been left 11 years behind in developing clean energy technology, which means instead of now being able to export these technologies, the industry has moved overseas. Employment opportunities are wasted and inevitably jobs will be lost as our own dirty industries are forced to close.

Two public education institutions in Sydney’s west — the University of Western Sydney’s (UWS) Blacktown campus and Macquarie Boys High in Parramatta — are set for the chopping block. The UWS board of trustees is trying to close the Nirimba campus at Blacktown in 2009. Additionally, on August 23, NSW education minister John Della Bosca announced the state Labor government’s intention to close Macquarie Boys’ Technology High School in Parramatta by 2009.

In February this year, a boat carrying 83 Tamil asylum seekers from Sri Lanka was intercepted by the Australian Navy. After being detained on Christmas Island for a month, the Tamils were transferred to Nauru.

Those who claim that Australia is not a land of deep and abiding racism live in a fairy tale. This willful denial of reality is abetted by the commercial media, self-serving politicians, bureaucrats and capitalists of all stripes — those whose interests are served by maintaining the divisions of racism while convincing us that no such divisions exist.

The federal government announced on September 23 that it has — for the first time — adopted an actual target for energy generation from “clean” sources. Under the plan, 15% of Australia’s electricity would be generated from such sources by 2020, including renewable energy like wind and solar, as well as “clean, green” nuclear power and “clean coal”. Prime Minister John Howard heralded the plan as “a major cost saving and regulatory breakthrough”.

On September 23, federal environment minister Malcolm Turnbull and industry and resources minister Ian Macfarlane announced a new national “clean energy target”.

The Socialist Alliance supports the struggle for democracy in Burma, and stands in solidarity with the democracy movement activists, political prisoners and exiles bravely defying its military dictatorship.

Sydney University students and staff rallied outside Fisher Library on September 6 to protest against plans, announced by vice-chancellor Gavin Brown to open a new ,that will cooperate with the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO), in placing the university “firmly at the forefront of future developments in Australia’s nuclear related research”.

In early September, the NSW carbon trading scheme collapsed. Conspicuously absent from mainstream media coverage of this event, however, was any attempt to analyse the inherent problems of relying on market mechanisms to solve the global problem of climate change.

Having previously written a critique of the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict which examined it’s “democratic” associations (GLW #722), I was amazed to discover that Professor Stephen Zunes presently serves as the chair of their board of academic advisors. Amazed because this information was news to me as the ICNC’s academic advisors are not available on its website, and also that a progressive academic like Zunes would become associated with the ICNC.

In an interview with the Australian Financial Review on September 17, Jeff Lawrence, the new secretary of the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU), said that under a Rudd Labor government, unions would seek to engage constructively with businesses and employer groups. “There won’t be any targeting of employers who have used AWAs [individual contracts] … I specifically rule that out”, he said.

A damning report on the impact of Work Choices on workers in the retail and hospitality industries in New South Wales, Queensland and Victoria — Lowering the Standards, released on September 13 — documents how quickly employers have acted to legally strip wages and conditions of workers in these sectors, even though the government claims many of these conditions are “protected by law”.

On September 8, Tim Gooden spoke to Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) Sydney branch secretary Warren Smith for the Geelong Trades Hall’s Union Air community radio program. The interview took place at the protest that day against the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation summit and US President George Bush.

This statement was issued by Sam Watson, leading Indigenous activist and Socialist Alliance Senate candidate for Queensland. To sign or comment of the statement, or to view what others have said, visit .

The Socialist Alliance’s new Welfare Rights Charter was launched on September 14 to an enthusiastic audience at the Southport Community Centre.

An inconvenient truth

"America's elder statesman of finance, Alan Greenspan, has shaken the White House by declaring that the prime motive for the war in Iraq was oil. In his long-awaited memoir, to be published tomorrow, Greenspan, a Republican

The Australian Manufacturing Workers Union’s Western Australian branch has been organising Filipino workers employed in WA on section 457 visas. Joel Asphar, the AMWU organiser responsible for this work, told Green Left Weekly that “the campaign to recruit and organise these workers was not something we decided to do. It was out of necessity. I was responsible for the workshops south of the Swan river and there were 550 Filipino workers on 457 visas.”

Following a meeting in Alice Springs on September 12-14, attended by some 100 Aboriginal people from across Australia, a new, independent political body for Aboriginal Australians is being established, the National Aboriginal Alliance.

That opinion poll results, released on September 18, showing the Howard government trailing the ALP opposition by 10% were widely reported as good news for the federal government is an indication of the dire straits that the Liberal-National Coalition is in. While these figures do represent a comeback from those of the previous week, which had the Coalition 18% behind the ALP, the government has consistently been more than 10% behind the opposition all year.

Independent journalist and film-maker John Pilger has just released a new film, The War on Democracy. Set in Latin America and the US, the film outlines the US-led destruction of democracy in successive Latin American countries since the 1950s and the significant reversal of that tide today. The film includes an exclusive interview with Venezuela’s socialist President Hugo Chavez. Green Left Weekly’s Emma Murphy spoke to Pilger about the issues raised in the film.

In early August, NSW Premier Morris Iemma announced plans to build a new gas-fired baseload power station. He proudly stated that this power station would have lower emissions than the coal-fired alternative.

“I think all these unfair tribunals and all this unfairness have to be removed”, Derek Belan, NSW state secretary of the National Union of Workers, told Green Left Weekly in response to Labor’s release of its Forward with Fairness Policy Implementation Plan in late August. “If Labor is elected, people are voting that they don’t want this stuff. There is a mandate to remove it. People are aware what this stuff means and people want it removed and Labor has to listen.”

A motion moved by Australian Democrats Senator Andrew Bartlett calling on the government to support the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous people was voted down in the Senate on September 10. This comes at a time when the Northern Territory intervention by the Howard Government has started to put “boots on the ground” in the NT, with few results reported from the mainstream media and serious criticism from Aboriginal and human rights groups.

Despite the media fanfare, the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation summit, held in Sydney on September 8 and 9, achieved next to nothing in combating global warming.

The following statement was issued by Beyond Zero Emissions on September 7.

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