Comment and Analysis

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”.

Below is an abridged account by Tim Davis-Frank of the police raid on his home and his arrest in Sydney on March 14. His “crime” was to take part in the protests outside the G20 meeting in Melbourne last November. Davis-Frank is the University of Sydney student representative council’s global solidarity officer. Four G20 protesters from Sydney went to court on March 19, and will face court again in Melbourne on May 11.

Late February three wealthy business leaders with close Liberal Party connections — Robert de Crespigny, Ron Walker and Hugh Morgan — announced the formation of Australian Nuclear Energy to develop nuclear power generation. Prime Minister John Howard praised the initiative as “a great idea”.

Palestinian community leader and activist Shaher Hussein El-Mashni (Abu Nasser) died on March 1 in Melbourne. His memorial service, on March 18, was attended by more than 200 people, including representatives of Australian Palestinian groups and the Palestinian head of delegation to Australia, Izzat Abdul Hadi, who gave condolences on behalf of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh.

NSW’s big cities, especially Sydney, are poisoning the environment and making us all sicker and more stressed. The longer we continue with the state’s “transport model” — where cars carry 78% of people to work and trucks 60% of goods — the worse things will get.

The Pacific island-nation of Tuvalu is the first country to have evacuated some of its citizens because of the sea-level rise driven by global warming. The highest point on the eight coral atolls that make up Tuvalu’s 26 square kilometres of territory sits only five metres above sea level. Almost a quarter of the nation’s population have already been evacuated and the remaining 8000 Tuvaluans may also have to leave in future years.

The Pacific island-nation of Tuvalu is the first country to have evacuated some of its citizens because of the sea-level rise driven by global warming. The highest point on the eight coral atolls that make up Tuvalu’s 26 square kilometres of territory sits only five metres above sea level. Almost a quarter of the nation’s population have already been evacuated and the remaining 8000 Tuvaluans may also have to leave in future years.

Turmoil continues in the Labor Party in Newcastle following the imposition by the party head office of Jody Mackay over popular local member Bryce Gaudry to contest the seat.

The federal Coalition, some state Labor governments and the corporate media have been justifying racist policies by claiming they are defending women’s rights. This argument has been one of several “justifications” for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and for why we should all be worried about refugee arrivals.

John Bonsai (a very small bush) Howard is morally bankrupt, and cannot be trusted. While Saddam Hussein was a nasty bit of work, all of Bonsai’s arguments for war were lies.

The internet launch on March 5 of the Independent Australian Jewish Voices (IAJV) has provoked both criticism and support. Author Antony Loewenstein, one of the initiators, told Green Left Weekly that the Jewish establishment reacted “very badly” because, in his view, their position as the spokespeople for the Jewish community for decades is now being challenged.

The AC Neilson poll published in the March 12 Sydney Morning Herald had the federal Labor opposition in a commanding lead over the Coalition, with 61% of the two party-preferred vote. ALP leader Kevin Rudd was the preferred prime minister of 53% of respondents. Green Left Weekly asked a number of trade unionists how much of Labor’s rise in the polls can be attributed to the union movement’s campaign against Work Choices and how they believe these unjust laws can be defeated.

More than 500 people from 35 countries have been incarcerated in the Guantanamo Bay prison complex since 2002. Since becoming the detention centre for prisoners captured in US President George Bush’s unending “global war on terror”, it has been the source of numerous allegations of physical and psychological abuse. It is a legal black hole in which detainees have waited for up to half a decade without charges being laid.

In early February, rains that flooded up to 70% of Jakarta and displaced some 450,000 people began. Across Indonesia, 85 people died, according to a March 12 Agence France-Presse report. Bloomberg’s wire service reported on March 6 that, according to government estimates, the floods caused a direct economic loss of “at least 5.2 trillion rupiah” (US$574 million), with indirect losses of 3.6 trillion rupiah.

In the run-up to the NSW elections both major parties are claiming to be able to run the economy better. But the release of the Australian Bureau of Statistics’ December quarter figures on March 7, which revealed that NSW is not technically in a recession, is likely to help the state ALP government’s lead over Peter Debnam’s Liberals on March 24.

With global warming increasingly dominating mainstream political discussion, the debate about solutions has intensified. While PM John Howard has thrown his weight behind the lie of “clean, green” nuclear power, the ALP has maintained its opposition to this deeply unpopular option.

Adelaide backpacker David Hicks will be arraigned before an illegally constituted military tribunal at the Guantanamo Bay concentration camp on March 20 and face the retrospective and ill-defined charge of “material support for terrorism”.

The Blue Team appeared to regain some advantage after the leader of the (mislabeled) Red Team was forced to admit he’d made an “error of judgement” in meeting up three times last year with convicted fraud and former WA premier Brian Burke (now a professional lobbyist).

A tiny group dominates Australian politics and Labor leader Kevin Rudd recently met them. He knows very well that the key to Labor’s electoral success later this year is an accommodation with the Australian oligarchy.

In Green Left Weekly #693 (http://www.greenleft.org.au/2006/693/36019), we published an article broadly in favour of George Monbiot’s call for carbon rationing. Below, Gar Lipow critiques this as a strategy for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Lipow is an Olympia-based environmental activist and can be contacted at garlpublic@comcast.net.

A satirical website created by climate action group Rising Tide Newcastle (RTN) has twice been shut down by the powerful coal industry lobby group, the NSW Minerals Council.

While Qantas workers’ job security remains uncertain if the Airline Partners Australia (APA) $11.1 billion takeover bid for Qantas succeeds, executives at the national carrier stand to pocket millions.

Hicks has spent five years, mainly in solitary confinement, at the Guantanamo Bay prison camp, which the US set up on illegally occupied Cuban territory to ensure independence from the legal system of any country, including the US itself.

A United Nations children’s fund (UNICEF) report released in February reveals that Australia’s economic growth over the last decade has done little to benefit the poorest sections of society, particularly young people. Indeed, in Australia and across the developed world, child poverty has increased in the last 10 years.

Serious fears are held for the safety of 83 Tamil refugees from Sri Lanka who are, at the time of writing, being detained on Christmas Island. Australian, Indonesian and Sri Lankan officials are talking about returning the refugees to Sri Lanka, via Indonesia, without their asylum claims being assessed — a new departure from Australia’s international legal obligations to refugees.

When the vice-president of the “land of the free” came to Sydney recently, the joke going around was that he brought a “troop surge” to town. A few friends are still sporting bruises from that “surge”, made possible by the NSW Labor government’s generous provision of a large number of bullies in uniform to terrorise the local population.

Despite having won formal equality, the lack of an organised women’s movement means that the Howard government has been able to take back a lot of the reforms won as a result of the struggles of the 1970s and 1980s. No reform is permanent under capitalism, and without a strong movement that mobilises to defend and expand reforms to improve women’s lives, the capitalist class can easily remove, or knobble, the gains that have been won.

In her 1993 book, The End of Equality?, Anne Summers admits to being puzzled by the Howard government’s concern about Australia’s low birth rate and its call for women to reproduce more while, at the same time, it refuses to provide inexpensive and quality childcare to help this happen.

Since the Howard Coalition government was elected in 1996 record numbers of women have entered parliament, yet women’s rights are under massive attack without so much as a murmur of opposition from the female Coalition MPs and very little outcry from the ALP.

The following letter was sent by Cuban consul-general Nelida Hernandez Carmona in response to Sydney Morning Herald columnist Miranda Devine’s claim that, “You know Australia has lost its mind on the green front when the conservative Howard government starts emulating the communist dictatorship of Cuba”. Devine (the SMH’s resident right-wing ranter) argued that while “federal environment minister Malcolm Turnbull’s plan, foisted without warning on the nation last week, to ban incandescent light bulbs from 2010 and force us to replace them with more energy-efficient fluorescent ones” was presented by the government “as a world first, the Associated Press soon pointed out that Cuba’s dictator Fidel Castro launched a similar program two years ago… His protege, Venezuela’s socialist president Hugo Chavez, soon followed suit. You might say Turnbull, Castro and Chavez are the three amigos of the climate change nanny state.”

The Howard government’s Work Choices laws “have had an overall negative effect for women in the work force”, Griffith University Professor David Peetz told Green Left Weekly on February 27. “The slow trend toward improvement in female compared to male levels of pay and conditions has been reversed under Work Choices, threatening much of the gains of the previous 10 years”, said Peetz.

The invasion and occupation of Iraq has never been popular. With more than 650,000 Iraqis, mostly civilians, having been killed since the March 2003 US-British-Australian invasion, it is not surprising that three quarters of Iraqis want the US and other foreign troops out, with 61% supporting armed attacks on US troops. The war is also opposed by a majority in the West, including those countries that are involved in the US-led occupation.

Al Gore’s film, An Inconvenient Truth, raises the issue of global warming in a way that scares the bejeezus out of viewers, as it should since the consequences of global climate change are truly earth-shaking. The former vice-president does a good job of presenting the graphic evidence: exquisite and terrifying pictures that document the melting of the polar ice caps and the effects on other species, new diseases and rising ocean levels.

A small Western Australia-based company, Eden Energy, is working on a project to convert most of India’s public buses to run on a cleaner type of gas that will reduce smog in packed Indian cities. Eden Energy owns the patent for a fuel known as Hythane, or HCNG, a compressed mixture of hydrogen and compressed natural gas.

I was very saddened to hear about the death of Neville Curtis at his home in White Beach, Tasmania, on February 15. He was 60 years old.

Coalition leaders have had a rush of blood to the head over David Hicks. After five years of inaction, PM John Howard and foreign affairs minister Alexander Downer are trumpeting what a hard line they are taking with the George Bush administration to get Hicks back to Australia — after he is found guilty at a military commission of course!

NSW Labor Premier Morris Iemma is digging in on the proposed desalination plant at Kurnell in NSW. Despite continuing public opposition, Iemma seems determined to go ahead with this expensive, electricity-guzzling project.

What are the alternatives to the “last resort” plan — the $1.9 billion desalination plant at Kurnell — that NSW Premier Morris Iemma’s Labor government is so keen to get moving on?

The nationalist rejoicing and fervour displayed on January 26 each year celebrates the 1788 colonial invasion of Australia. However, this year the jingoism was broken by the Palm Island victory against the racist cops of Queensland. This resulted from the combined mass actions of the Palm Islanders themselves (including physical struggle in the immediate wake of the murder of Mulrunji Doomadgee), a similar grassroots response by the Aboriginal community at Aurukun against racist cop violence, and the urban solidarity campaigns centred in Brisbane.

Twenty-four hours before British PM Tony Blair’s February 21 announcement that his government would withdraw 1600 troops from Iraq in “coming months”, Australian foreign minister Alexander Downer warned that any, even staged, withdrawal of US and allied foreign troops from Iraq would be a “victory for the al Qaeda terrorists”.

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