Comment and Analysis

On May 5, the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released its final working group report, the third in a series, as a part of its Fourth Assessment Report (AR4), aimed at evaluating global warming. The IPCC published its first assessment report in 1990, a supplementary report in 1992, a second assessment report in 1995, and a third in 2001.

Women’s unqualified right to control our own bodies remains a critical question for feminists. An unwanted pregnancy can have a massive impact on all aspects of a woman’s life — her financial situation, employment, mental and physical health, and relationships.

I held such hope for the Sydney Coroner's inquest into the death of Brian Peters, one of the Balibo Five in East Timor in 1975, because we were promised an open court. But now the rules have been changed to allow vital evidence to be given "in camera", which gives Commonwealth bureaucrats the opportunity to censor that evidence.

Treasurer Peter Costello's May 8 federal budget was aimed at investing in the future of big business. It cements the government's privatisation agenda, further running down already neglected public services and throwing money at private-profit alternatives. It fails to even begin to address global warming, and contains a further major hike in military spending. At the same time, the government feathered its re-election bid with a rash of small to middling tax cuts.

Climate change is a dire threat to human existence. Yet the plans to tackle it put forward by the Coalition and Labor fall far short of what is necessary. Politicians present as "common sense" that renewable energy can play only a peripheral role in Australia. However, Zane Alcorn explains the potential for a renewables-based transformation of Australia's electricity grid, beginning in 2008.

This year’s proposed US spending on the Iraq war is larger than the military budgets of China and Russia combined. The combined spending requests would push the total for Iraq to US$564 billion, according to the non-partisan Congressional Research Service (CRS).

The following appeal by Ali B. Humayun, who has been detained in Villawood Immigration Detention Centre in Sydney for more than a year, was sent to Community Action Against Homophobia. It has been abridged for publication.

“We know more about energy policy than the government does … We know where every skeleton in the closet is — most of them we buried”, boasted a member of the self-described “greenhouse mafia”, a group of lobbyists comprising the executive directors of the coal, oil, cement, aluminium, mining and electricity industries, said Clive Hamilton, executive director of the Australia Institute.

Environmentalists and anti-nuclear campaigners are disappointed but not surprised by the ALP national conference decision on April 28 to drop its “no new uranium mines” policy. This allows state Labor governments to approve new mines, a policy backed by the South Australian and Queensland premiers.

John Pilger is an award-winning journalist, author and documentary filmmaker, who began his career in 1958 in his homeland, Australia, before moving to London in the 1960s. He has been a foreign correspondent and a front-line war reporter, beginning with the Vietnam War in 1967. He is an impassioned critic of foreign military and economic adventures by Western governments.

Christmas Island, 2800 kilometres north-west of Perth, 2500 kilometres from Darwin and 500 kilometres from Singapore, is one of Australia’s most remote Indian Ocean territories. It is where many asylum seekers first make their refugee claims. But since the 2001 arrival of the Tampa and the island’s excision from Australia’s migration zone, the island has been pivotal to the Howard government’s heartless response to asylum seekers.

“What we are now seeing is a clear choice for voters at the next election”, Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) president Sharan Burrow said on April 17, referring to the industrial relations policy that Labor leader Kevin Rudd received support for at the party’s national conference at the end of April. A slight choice may be a more accurate description.

A month in Darwin’s Berrimah jail, from March 12 to April 8, sheeted home several truths about democratic rights to former journalist Rob Inder-Smith.

ALP leader Kevin Rudd’s industrial relations policies, outlined in an April 17 speech to the National Press Club, have caused great concern among many trade unionists because they echo many of the anti-worker provisions in the federal government’s Work Choices laws.

With his April 17 speech to the National Press Club, federal Labor Party leader Kevin Rudd launched a pre-emptive strike against all those unionists, including ALP members, who thought that the April 27-29 ALP national conference would be debating a new industrial relations policy to replace the Howard government’s hated Work Choices legislation.

The federal Coalition government is proposing to bar the entry to Australia of migrants and refugees with HIV, supposedly to contain HIV rates.

It is 20 years since the release of Australia Reconstructed, a policy report that came out of an Australian unionists’ tour of Western Europe in 1986. It is also 25 years since Australia On the Rack was published by the metalworkers’ union (now the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union - AMWU). Back on Track - A Way Forward for Australia is the latest such policy offering.

It now appears certain that the ALP’s national conference, to be held in Sydney from April 27-29, will drop the party’s “no new uranium mines” policy, adopted in 1998.
This will satisfy the big mining companies’ desire to expand uranium mining. Labor leader Kevin Rudd and his “left-wing” deputy, Julia Gillard, are leading the push to scrap the policy.

Those hoping for a more serious approach to tackling global warming from the federal ALP than the do-as-little-as-politically-possible tack of John Howard’s Coalition government should revise down their expectations. On February 25, Labor leader Kevin Rudd unveiled the centrepiece of his party’s “climate action plan” — $500 million in funding for “clean coal” technologies research.

With support from the South Australian Labor government and the federal ALP, pilot work is starting on the desalination plant that is to supply fresh water for BHP Billiton’s planned expansion of its copper-gold-uranium mine at Olympic Dam.

On April 13, ABC Radio reported that the ALP state and territory governments would be lobbying the federal government to agree to a goal of a 60% reduction in Australian greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. They suggested that if the Howard government maintained its opposition, the state and territory governments would attempt to reach these goals without them. While opposed to the premiers’ proposal, even PM John Howard has recently acknowledged that there is a threat from climate change caused by human activity, leaving the “greenhouse sceptic” argument to the conservative fringe.

A coalition of community groups including Friends of the Earth, the National Union of Students, the Stop the War Coalition, the Australian Student Environment Network, and the Australian Youth Climate Change Coalition have initiated a public lobby outside the ALP national conference beginning on April 27 to support delegates who are standing up to the proposed changes to the ALP’s long-standing policy on uranium mining.

A year after the Howard government introduced Work Choices, the legislation’s negative impact on workers’ wages and conditions and unions’ ability to defend their members’ interests is clear for all to see.

While the Howard government has succeeded in partially defusing David Hicks’s unjust imprisonment as an election issue, it has still not convinced most people that Hicks’s guilty plea means he is a terrorist.

Preliminary arguments have started in the retrial of Jack Thomas at the Supreme Court. The case demonstrates that the Howard government’s “anti-terror” laws can be used to criminalise non-terrorists.

In the lead-up to the March 24 NSW state election, you could be forgiven for believing that the NSW Greens were drug dealers: Hysterical attacks were launched on the party’s drugs policy, which focuses on harm minimisation and health issues.

By late March, Spain’s wind power generation was contributing 27% of the country’s total daily power demands, surpassing supplies by nuclear and coal. This marks a new record for the contribution of wind-generated power to Spain’s electricity grid.

In the lead-up to the April 27-29 ALP national conference in Sydney, a number of federal Labor frontbenchers and state premiers have declared themselves in favour of scrapping the party’s “no new mines” policy in favour of an unrestricted expansion of uranium mining. This push — which ignores the views of a majority of Australians and the extreme dangers inherent in uranium mining and the nuclear cycle that it is part of — reflects booming prices for the mineral on the world market. However, a number of trade unions have opposed the policy change and vowed to fight it at the conference.

While all eyes have been focused on the terrible plight of David Hicks, Willie Brigitte has been convicted and sentenced in France, nine Muslim men are undergoing a committal hearing in Sydney, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed has allegedly confessed to a multitude of terror attacks and calls to ban the Muslim group, Hizb ut-Tahrir, in Australia have become more strident. This is all cause for concern, not because of a sinister threat by “terrorists”, but from the government-driven “war on terror”.

With the 15-year resources-led boom stimulating the economy, inflation at about 3% and official unemployment at just under 5%, Australians should have little to complain about. But, according to Tony Vinson of Sydney University’s Department of Social Work, the social divide between the rich and poor is deepening and increasing.

For a number of years Washington has been threatening Iran for its alleged pursuit of nuclear weapons. Until now, the consensus has been that to undertake military action against Iran was so crazy that even President George Bush would not attempt it. But whenever questioned about whether military action or the use of nuclear weapons is under consideration, Bush’s officials repeat that “all options” are on the table.

Greenpeace has revealed that an independent report into safety testing by genetic engineering giant Monsanto was ignored in the lead-up to a vote on whether the company’s new genetically engineered maize would be approved for consumption in the European Union.

After five years imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay without trial, David Hicks has agreed to a plea-bargain deal at his military commission trial to hasten his return to Australia. “I think most of you would be pleading guilty to something to get out of the place”, Hicks’s father Terry told the assembled media after returning to Adelaide from Guantanamo Bay on March 29.

This is an account of an encounter I had with police officers on March 6 outside the federal Parliament House. At about 3.30pm that day, I went there with the intention of standing in the forecourt and holding up a “Bring David Hicks Home!” poster.

On the grass outside an abattoir on the Western Plains of New South Wales, in the dark, cool air, a few workers are forming the late-night shift of a picket. Some journalists are hanging around, talking to them. It is less than a week after the federal government’s new industrial relations legislation, known as Work Choices, has taken effect. The men are outside the Cowra abattoir, not inside, because they have received termination notices. Twenty-nine have been sacked from their jobs for “operational reasons”.

On March 21, in a speech to mark the fourth anniversary of Australian troops being dispatched to Iraq as part of an illegal US invasion responsible for the deaths of more than half a million Iraqis, Prime Minister John Howard conceded that despite the “surge” in the occupiers’ troop numbers “success is by no means assured”.

When former naval officer and NSW opposition leader Peter Debnam began his campaign to overthrow the NSW Labor government there were hopes in the Liberal camp that the scene was set for a repeat on March 24 of the party’s last win — Nick Greiner’s 1988 walloping of the Barrie Unsworth administration.

Ten years ago, Australia led the world in voluntary euthanasia legislation. On September 22, 1996, Bob Dent became the first person in the world to receive a legal, lethal, voluntary injection. His peaceful and dignified death occurred under the Rights of the Terminally Ill Act (ROTI) of the Northern Territory.

As the ALP’s electoral fortunes lift with each new poll, unionists want to know exactly how a federal Labor government would carry out its promise to “tear up” the Coalition’s anti-worker Work Choices laws.

On February 14, readers of the Weekly Times, a local Ryde paper that covers Bennelong, PM John Howard’s electorate, couldn’t believe their eyes when confronted with the headline: “Global Warming? Climate Change? Bulldust!” The article, written by editor John Booth, dismissed global warming as “scaremonger propaganda” put forward by “Armageddon pedlars”.

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