Comment and Analysis

Working with Aunty Mary Davis, who died at the age of 67 on August 12, was working with a powerful fire, determined to rip through prejudice and create justice. “She was always at the forefront of anything, with government and non-government agencies, organisations, the community”, says Aunty Mary’s son, Richard.

Many working-class people in Western Australia are suffering the consequences of a “two-tier society” despite the state’s booming economy, the Socialist Alliance candidate for Pearce, Annolies Truman, told the party’s state conference on August 11.

Tony Carvalho, an Australian Manufacturing Workers Union metal division shop steward sacked from the Altona Toyota plant, says that in the three months since he has been sacked, the use of outside contractors to work at the plant has increased dramatically. Speaking to Green Left Weekly, Carvalho said the number of contractors who are being called in threatens full-time jobs at the plant.

A specially commissioned federal government report and a one-sided Ord River Irrigation Area (ORIA) discussion paper are being used in a continued drive to force Australian states to introduce genetically modified crops, with dissenting voices shoved aside.

Amid an unprecedented security hype in the lead-up to the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation summit, organisers of the “Stop Bush/Make Howard History” protest on September 8 are expecting thousands of anti-war, environment and workers’ rights activists to take to Sydney’s streets to give US President George Bush the kind of welcome he deserves. Green Left Weekly’s Pip Hinman spoke to Stop Bush Coalition spokesperson and Stop the War Coalition activist Alex Bainbridge.

On August 2, the High Court of Australia upheld the constitutional validity of a control order on Jack Thomas.

According to a survey conducted by the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) 15 months ago, eight Australians are killed every week on the job and a further 44 die due to work related illnesses and diseases. This is one-third higher than the number of people who die on the nation’s roads. More than 15 serious injuries occur on the job every hour.

The August 8 announcement of the Reserve Bank board’s decision to raise official interest rates by a further 0.25% focused renewed media attention on the non-affordability of housing. The interest rate rise — the fifth since the 2004 election and the ninth since 2002 — increased mortgage repayments for home owners with average mortgages by $50 a week, placing extra pressure on already stretched budgets.

“Australia has failed to implement the human right to adequate housing”, concluded a report to the United Nations Human Rights Council addressing adequate housing as a component of the right to an adequate standard of living.

Environmentalists around the country are gearing up to protest the world’s biggest climate criminals — US President George Bush and PM John Howard — who will be pushing their environmentally disastrous agenda at the September 8-9 Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Sydney.

The Howard government’s legislation for its “emergency” military-police intervention into Aboriginal communities in the Northern Territory was rushed through the House of Representatives on August 7. MHRs were given less than 24 hours to read the 500-odd pages of legislation before being asked to vote on it.

For socialists, this August marks a significant anniversary. One hundred years ago, a congress of the Second — or Socialist — International took a bold stand in the struggle against capitalist war. The congress pointed the way toward the Russian Revolution of 1917 and provided an enduring guide for socialists’ anti-war activity.

Twenty years ago, a UN special commission produced a report, Our Common Future, that predicted rising CO2 levels would lead to a mean temperature increase of up to 4.5oC within 50 years, which would cause catastrophic climate change. The report proposed that immediate action be taken to counter global warming through massive investment in renewable energy sources, with the onus upon wealthy industrialised nations to take the lead.

On July 28, 80 people attended a public forum to hear speakers in support of state Labor MP Candy Broad’s parliamentary bill to remove abortion from the Victorian criminal code.

On August 2, the federal government announced it would legislate to stop same-sex couples adopting a child from overseas. The move follows the landmark adoption of a boy by two gay men in Western Australia in June.

With the city of Geelong still reeling from Ford’s announcement that by 2010 it will shut down its V6 engine assembly plant and dismiss 600 workers of the company’s 2600 Geelong employees, another manufacturer has announced that it is reviewing its operations.

You wake up in the middle of the night to find three men in your home, stealing documents. One of them is a well-known criminal, one a police officer and one a CIA agent. Don’t worry, it’s all legal and no judge has been bothered for a warrant.

When it emerged that Kafeel Ahmed, one of the men implicated in the June 30 botched terrorist attack in Glasgow, had a second cousin working in the Gold Coast Hospital in Queensland, it must have seemed to the Howard government that its election worries were over. Racism, xenophobia and the manufactured threat of terrorism have served Howard well in previous elections. However this time it backfired, with more public anxiety about the frame-up of Dr Mohamed Haneef than about supposed terrorists in our midst.

What do Victorian Labor Premier Stephen Bracks, his successor John Brumby and former Liberal premier Jeff Kennett have in common? A love for neoliberal politics.

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.

Pages