Comment and Analysis

If watching the ABC TV’s drama Bastard Boys is the only information that you have about the Maritime Union of Australia lockout of 1998, then you would probably conclude that the dispute was won by the brilliant tactical skills of Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) secretary Greg Combet and former Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) national secretary John Coombes, and the legal talents of union lawyers.

The following letter was sent by Green Left Weekly on May 16 to the editor of the Australia/Israel Review, the journal of the Australia/Israel and Jewish Affairs Council.

On May 29, an unpredictable drama will begin. Attorney-General Philip Ruddock will try to overcome a series of embarrassing blunders by the entire Australian chain of command at the joint Australia-US Pine Gap spy base in the Northern Territory, and four activists will face trial in Alice Springs for entering a prohibited site.

The shambles of the Airline Partners Australia (APA) private equity takeover attempt for Qantas demonstrates the greed and rapaciousness of this rotten capitalist system. All parties involved in the grubby business have shown up the irrationality of capitalism.

A report released on May 14 by the Federation of Community Legal Centres of Victoria, accused police of using excessive and unwarranted force against protesters and bystanders during the November 17-19 G20 summit in Melbourne of international finance ministers.

On May 7, New Matilda published an article by Antony Loewenstein, titled “Cuba: Paradise Left” in which he reports on his impressions of Cuba. Loewenstein describes Cuba as a “police state” with “no freedom of speech”. (See .) He takes issue with Australian left academic, Tim Anderson whom, he said, “ought to know better” for arguing that Cuba has more democracy than the US, (see ), where the media is dominated by a handful of corporations. Below is Anderson’s reply to Lowenstein’s article.

On May 7, New Matilda published an article by Antony Loewenstein, titled “Cuba: paradise left”, in which he reports on his impressions of Cuba. Loewenstein describes Cuba as a “police state” with “no freedom of speech”. He takes issue with Australian academic, Tim Anderson whom, he wrote, “ought to know better” for arguing that Cuba has more democracy than the US, (see http://www.onlineopinion.com.au/view.asp?article=5609). Below is Anderson’s reply to Loewenstein’s article.

The shambles of the Airline Partners Australia (APA) private equity takeover attempt for Qantas demonstrates the greed and rapaciousness of this rotten capitalist system. All parties involved in the grubby business have shown up the irrationality of capitalism.

A young woman working in a juice bar is fired and rehired at a casual rate significantly less than her former wage. She is forced to sign an AWA (Australian Workplace Agreement — individual contract) to get her job back. A young man, aged 13, is fired after retaliating against his manager who assaulted him in a South Australian fast food business.

On May 7, the Melbourne Magistrates Court denied bail to two men arrested under “anti-terror” laws for raising funds for tsunami relief in the Tamil areas of Sri Lanka.

As Green Left Weekly goes to print David Hicks is on his way back to Australia — to Yalata prison in South Australia. But Lady Justice is sailing off in the other direction.

While there are treatments to slow the progression of AIDS, adding decades to sufferers’ lives, access to them is a case study in the vast gap between rich and poor nations. Few deny that HIV/AIDS is a massive health crisis. What is now clear is that it is also a social one, exacerbated by the contradictions of a world dominated by the wealthy minority of First World countries.

A high-speed rail network powered by 100% renewables would eliminate greenhouse gas emissions produced by long-distance air travel in eastern Australia. Based on a rapid implementation of the French TGV system, Matthew Wright from Beyond Zero Emissions, wants Adelaide, Melbourne, Canberra, Sydney and Brisbane to be linked in this visionary project.

Ali Humanyun, a Pakistani queer refugee seeking asylum in Australia, has been incarcerated inside the Villawood detention centre for two years and four months. He was refused a Protection (Class XA) Visa in May 2006 and rejected by the Refugee Review Tribunal (RRT) in October. Humanyun was not granted legal aid for a Federal Magistrates Court appearance, and so the RRT’s decision was upheld on February 19.

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.

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