Comment and Analysis

The front page of the July 25 Australian gushed with a headline making the astounding claim that the Australian Building and Construction Commission(ABCC) had delivered “a $15 billion boost to the economy” by improving productivity as a result of reining in “thuggish union behaviour”.

British scientist James Lovelock, famous for his Gaia theory of the earth as a self-regulating organism, was in Adelaide on July 7-8, speaking at the Festival of Ideas. He has researched across a range of disciplines and has much of interest to say. But on the topic of nuclear power, Lovelock is inaccurate and irresponsible.

In Australia, as in other major capitalist countries, the official response to global warming is to deny or gloss over the utter catastrophe confronting human society and try to carry on with business as usual, making only a few relatively minor adjustments here and there.

Federal ALP leader Kevin Rudd took a further step to the right on July 23 when he announced full support for logging old-growth forests in Tasmania. Rudd also announced his support for Gunns Ltd’s $2 billion pulp mill project proposed for the Tamar Valley, north of Launceston, in the federal electorate of Bass.

Sixty people held a colourful protest on the steps of the Victorian state parliament on July 18, as part of a long-running campaign to have the Tullamarine toxic waste dump closed and the site cleaned up. The dump, which is operated by the Cleanaway corporation, is located adjacent to Tullamarine airport. It is within 1.5 kilometres of the suburb of Westmeadows and is close to other residential areas.

Yappera Children’s Services Co-operative, an Indigenous childcare and pre-school centre in Thornbury, faces closure due to the state and federal governments’ refusal to provide the $150,000 required for essential plumbing repairs.

Within a week of the revelation that Australia is planning to join the US-led Global Nuclear Energy Partnership (GNEP) nuclear fuel cartel, foreign minister Alexander Downer publicly proposed that Australia sell uranium to nuclear-armed India, even though India is not a signatory to the international Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

Shortly after midnight on July 29, Indian Muslim doctor Mohamed Haneef boarded a flight in Brisbane to be reunited with his wife in Bangalore and meet his newly born daughter for the first time, as he was trying to do at the time of his arrest at Brisbane Airport on July 2. The previous evening, he had been released from jail, after federal Director of Public Prosecutions Damien Bugg announced he was dropping all charges, conceding that the “anti-terrorism” case against the Gold Coast Hospital registrar had collapsed. “On my view of this matter a mistake has been made”, Bugg told a media conference.

A representative of the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan (RAWA) was welcomed by a large crowd packed into a Sydney University lecture theatre on July 26.

At a time when it is pretending to improve conditions for people in the Northern Territory’s remote Aboriginal communities, the federal Coalition government is phasing out the Community Development Employment Projects (CDEPs). The announcement was made in the May federal budget papers, but has also been integrated into the new NT intervention plan, announced by PM John Howard on June 24.

On July 23, the Australian published extracts from a leaked internal Australian Council of Trade Unions report that described unionisation in the private sector as being at “crisis levels”. The report, authored by ACTU assistant secretary Chris Walton, warns unions against any expectation of a “golden age” should Labor be elected at the forthcoming federal election, and proposes continuation of a levy on all members to build a war chest with which to rebuild the movement.

On July 17, PM John Howard’s climate change policy was released amidst great fanfare. For most of his political career, Howard has denied the link between climate change and human industry, and the threat that it poses to the planet and society. Now the scientific evidence is irrefutable he has changed tack, and is promoting “solutions” to the climate change threat that avoid threatening the profits of the polluting corporations.

Four thousand timber workers and their families attended a rally in Launceston in support of the controversial Bell Bay pulp mill on July 19. The Construction, Forestry, Mining, and Energy Union (CFMEU) called the rally as part of a one-day stop-work action aimed at “combating the threat to jobs posed by radical green groups”.

On July 18, Ford Australia president Tom Gorman announced that Ford's Geelong engine plant would close in 2010, putting 600 workers out of work. Geelong Trades Hall Council's Union Air radio show interviewed Australian Manufacturing Workers Union vehicle division delegate plant Tony Anderson.

The July 1 Sydney Morning Herald reported that the “southern part of the Murray-Darling Basin has seen some rainfall, but not enough to stave off zero water allocations when the new irrigation year begins on Sunday… Howard’s grave warning in April of no water for irrigators from July 1 in Australia’s food bowl has been realised, with soaring fruit and vegetable prices expected to follow.”

The Socialist Alliance is aiming for a 60% overall emissions reduction, including 95% power station emissions reduction, by 2020 and a 90% overall emissions reduction by 2030. Immediate comprehensive planning is required, including the setting of annual targets, to meet these overall targets on time or sooner.

The July 1 Sydney Morning Herald reported that the “southern part of the Murray-Darling Basin has seen some rainfall, but not enough to stave off zero water allocations when the new irrigation year begins on Sunday… Howard’s grave warning in April of no water for irrigators from July 1 in Australia’s food bowl has been realised, with soaring fruit and vegetable prices expected to follow.”

The corporate media has heaped praise on Al Gore following the international rock gig Live Earth. But to ask the U’wa people, from the tropical cloud forests of north-eastern Colombia, what they thought about Gore and Occidental Petroleum (Oxy), the oil company from which his personal fortune is derived, would be to receive a very different opinion.

Queensland University of Technology (QUT) academic Dr Gary MacLennan told a public meeting on July 18 that “ordinary people think laughing at the disabled is wrong … only in a university is it seen as otherwise”.

The peace movement lost a dedicated activist last week. Samantha Kelly, one of a team of radio presenters for NoWar SA, died in Adelaide at the age of 39.

Below is an abridged speech given by Lawrence Gibbons, editor of the City Hub, a part of the Alternative Media Group, to a benefit for the South Sydney Herald on July 8.

PM John Howard announced on June 28 that his government was “taking control” of up to 80 remote Aboriginal communities in the Northern Territory, claiming this was a necessary response to the 320-page Little Children are Sacred report, which detailed high levels of sexual abuse of children on a range of NT Indigenous communities.

PM John Howard’s new “intervention” policy in the Northern Territory has begun with federal and state police storming into Indigenous communities.

“We’ve tried to enter Palestine by land. We’ve tried to arrive by air. Now we’re getting serious. We’re taking a ship”.

It is often thought that concern for the interconnection of living systems is a modern development. But Karl Marx’s talked about it repeatedly throughout his Capital.

Three years after extending its moratorium on the commercial growing of genetically modified (GM) crops, the Victorian ALP government appears poised to remove the ban when it expires in February 2008.

Recent attacks on the organic food industry are about discrediting it to soften up the public to accept genetically modified (GM) crops, Dr Maggie Lilith of the Conservation Council of WA and the Say No to GMO campaign told Green Left Weekly.

A bill recently pushed through federal parliament has the potential to threaten state moratoriums on genetically modified organisms (GMOs) by granting new powers to the federal agriculture minister, a WA anti-GMO activist told Green Left Weekly.

Ali Humayun, the queer Pakistani locked up in Villawood Immigration Detention Centre, is suing VIDC management and the federal government for negligence of care.

The 10th national Labour History Conference on June 4-6 delved into the labour movement’s past, but also featured interesting debates about present-day concerns.

In last month’s elections in the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union (AMWU), the Workers’ Rights team took all positions against a ticket led by an alliance between the union’s print and vehicle divisions. Some Workers’ Rights candidates received over 80% of the vote. In the Victorian branch, where most positions were strongly contested, 40% of members voted.

PM John Howard and ALP leader Kevin Rudd have both attacked Unions NSW secretary John Robertson for comments, secretly recorded and leaked to the media, made at a Bennelong Your Rights at Work meeting in late June.

Pressure from unions over the exploitation of foreign workers employed under the 457 visa scheme for temporary workers has forced the Howard government to tighten some of the regulations.

“John Howard is more than happy to welcome war criminal George Bush to Sydney in September, but he won’t even give the time of day to struggling workers, such as Botany Cranes union delegate Barry Hemsworth, who is still on the grass more than 300 days after being unfairly sacked”, Socialist Alliance activist Pip Hinman told Green Left Weekly.

“Australian Defence Minister Brendan Nelson has admitted that securing oil supplies is a key factor behind the presence of Australian troops in Iraq.” This was how the BBC reported Nelson’s July 5 comments to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation on the release of a review of Australia’s “defence strategy”.

On June 25, Russell Miles, a proud member of the International Socialist Tendency and widely-loved community activist, ended his life.

We mourn our friend and comrade Gail, who lost her valiant battle with cancer on July 2.

The following is abridged from a letter sent by Dean Mighell, Victorian secretary of the Electrical Trades Union, to ALP leader Kevin Rudd following Mighell’s forced resignation from the party on May 30.

Jasmine Ali was found not guilty on June 26 on charges relating to her involvement in a February 22 protest against US Vice-President Dick Cheney. The same day that she appeared before the court, the NSW government’s APEC Meeting (Policing Powers) Bill passed unamended through the NSW upper house. Ali was the second of two Cheney protesters to win court cases. There are six more trials to take place.

Aboriginal activist and legal director of the Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre Michael Mansell has questioned whether PM John Howard is accurately reading the report he claims motivated his new push into Aboriginal communities. The following is abridged from a June 25 press statement issued by Mansell.

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