Comment and Analysis

With climate change posing as one of the gravest threats to capital accumulation - not to mention humankind and our environment - in coming decades, it is little wonder that economists such as Sir Nick Stern, establishment politicians like Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown and US Democrat Al Gore, and financiers at the World Bank and in the City of London have begun warning the public and, in the process, birthing a market for carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions.

With the advent of the industrial revolution society underwent significant changes. The age of steam had arrived and a huge new source of energy was unleashed upon society. The immediate effect of this new source of energy was to bring about a qualitative change in the productive forces. The method of production became social in character.

Activists from Sydney-based Community Action Against Homophobia (CAAH) went to Melbourne to form a queer bloc for the November 18-19 G20 protests. The bloc called for money for AIDS care not war.

Commissioned by the British government, the October 2006 Stern report on global warming was greeted sceptically by PM John Howard, and lauded by the ALP and green organisations. But does the Stern report go far enough, or is it an unholy compromise between the science of climate change and the economics of responding to global warming while trying not to rock the foundations of capital’s global order?

“Reproductive rights embrace certain human rights that are already recognised in national laws, international human rights documents and other consensus documents. These rights rest on the recognition of the basic right of all couples and individuals to decide freely and responsibly the number, spacing and timing of their children and to have the information and means to do so, and the right to attain the highest standard of sexual and reproductive health.

UNSW redundancies I

Your article "Student organisation imposes AWAs" (GLW #691) contained a glaring inaccuracy. The UNSW Student Guild did not give staff 24 hours notice of their redundancies as reported. If you had checked the enterprise

Jim Casey was elected senior vice president of the NSW Fire Brigade Employees Union (FBEU) in its May elections. Casey, a socialist, was part of a left ticket of four, running with an ALP member, a syndicalist and a rank-and-file unionist with a history in of activism in the Maritime Union of Australia. The team decided to run an executive ticket of four people, with recommendations for the other nine positions on the committee of management.

Despite increasing recognition about the problem of violence against women, most refuges, community and non-government organisations devoted to helping women and children in crisis, allocate a good deal of their stretched resources to writing submissions for limited funding. This is because both the state and federal governments have a piecemeal, short-term approach to the problem.

Across Australia on November 30, hundreds of thousands of workers answered the Australian Council of Trade Unions’ call to protest against Work Choices. The ACTU estimated that around 270,000 people took part, the majority hooked up to the Sky Channel broadcasts from the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG).

On November 20, a meeting initiated by the NSW Greens marked Transgender Remembrance Day. Below is an abridged presentation by Rachel Evans, co-convener of Community Action Against Homophobia, National Union of Students female queer officer and NSW Socialist Alliance upper-house candidate.

As annual negotiations on the Kyoto Protocol were about to begin on November 7 in Nairobi, Kenya, Senator Ian Campbell, federal environment minister, claimed that the Kyoto signatories had agreed that a new agreement was necessary as the old agreement was not working. Campbell asserted that Australia would be going to Nairobi to begin negotiations on a “New Kyoto”.

December 9, the fifth anniversary of David Hicks’ capture by the US, will be marked by national protests calling for his immediate return.

The old adage “one step forward, two steps back” encapsulates the experience of the refugee movement in 2006. Despite some positive changes to refugee policy, the result of consistent campaigning by refugee rights activists and organisations over a number of years, the Howard government has pushed on with its regressive immigration agenda, especially the treatment of refugees.

Last Friday, as I sat down to write this, a progress report on the Green Left Weekly fighting fund was emailed in from Will who heads our small but serious finance team. More than $16,000 came in from our supporters the previous week (donations and fund raising events), taking the total raised this year to $203,815.

The federal government’s Uranium Mining, Processing and Nuclear Energy Review, released on November 21, had only one real purpose — to provide John Howard with “evidence” for championing the nuclear power cycle.
What other conclusion can we come to, when the review made its assessments while ignoring Australia’s most spectacular renewable energy resource — the “hot dry rock” geothermal energy of the Cooper Basin and other regions.

A year after the ratification of the Kyoto Protocol, which involves 166 countries and commits 36 industrialised nations to binding CO2 emission cuts of 5.2% by 2012, global emissions are rising faster than ever. This is because Kyoto promotes carbon trading as the key mechanism to reduce CO2 emissions. Today the global carbon market worth US$22 billion is being called a “green goldrush”.

Mick “Hoppy” Rangiari, one of the last surviving members of the historic 1966 strike by Aboriginal pastoral workers at Wave Hill Station in the Northern Territory, died on November 12.

Dick Nichols was elected national coordinator of the Socialist Alliance (SA) at its 5th national conference held in Geelong at the end of October. Green Left Weekly interviewed him about the challenges and opportunities for the SA in the year ahead.

In their article “No to carbon trading: make the polluters pay” (GLW #691), Tim Stewart and Pip Hinman argue against the use of carbon pricing in general, and emissions trading in particular, as an important tool for reducing Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions.

The Stern report makes recommendations that will allow for a temperature rise of around 3°C, but this is likely to be devastating for the planet. George Monbiot says that, “Two degrees is the point at which some of the most dangerous processes catalysed by climate change could become irreversible”.

Question: How do we bring our troops home? Answer: In the same planes and ships we took them in!

Below, Dr Jim Green, Friends of the Earth anti-nuclear campaigner, summarises the EnergyScience Coalition’s critique of Ziggy Switkowski’s Uranium Mining, Processing and Nuclear Energy Review released on November 21.

Drasko Boljevic was abducted and assaulted in Melbourne on November 19. Chief commissioner Christine Nixon confirmed on November 20 that a man had been mistakenly arrested, saying that he was released “because he wasn’t the person we thought he was”. Below, Eleonor Palacio, the partner of the man that was mistakenly arrested, describes what happened. It has been abridged from Melbourne Indymedia.

More than three thousand people had a somewhat surreal experience on November 18. They attended a rally, called by the Melbourne Stop the War Coalition and Stop G20, to oppose the genocide by poverty being promoted by the finance ministers’ meeting, and the warfare that makes the corporate plunder of the Third World possible.

“A visit by US officials has raised fears on Christmas Island that an immigration detention centre could be turned into a Guantanamo-style prison”, the November 17 Melbourne Age reported.

Workplace Relations Act (1996)

This law stripped allowable matters in industrial awards back to 20, restricted the right of union officials to enter workplaces and introduced individual contracts (AWAs).

Trade Practices Act (1974)

Sections

The Howard government’s anti-worker Work Choices laws have placed a powerful weapon in the hands of bosses, which they are using to drive down wages and eliminate hard-won conditions. Figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics released on November 16 showed that average weekly earnings for full-time workers had fallen by 1.2% in real terms since Work Choices became law — an average loss of $13 a week.

The worst drought in 1000 years means that water shortage is as burning issue across Australia, cutting across the city-country divide. A Morgan poll, back in October 2005, found that 80% of Australians believe governments are not doing enough about water conservation, a view that has since been reinforced. But just how well will restrictions, water saving devices such as dual-flush toilets and rainwater tanks, and water trading schemes tackle the problem?

Kim Beazley’s speech to the Australian Council of Trade Union (ACTU) Congress on October 25 illustrated the limitations of the Labor Party today regardless of who ends up being its federal leader. Beazley told the delegates that he will “govern in the interests of all Australians, never just for the vested interests of a few”. This is the same sort of language that PM John Howard uses, but what exactly does it mean?

Senate estimates hearings in November revealed that the federal government’s plans for a nuclear dump in the Northern Territory are not running smoothly. The site evaluation is lagging six months behind schedule and, as a result, Canberra wants to conduct environmental assessment and site licensing processes concurrently.

The role of mining companies overseas is often shrouded in secrecy. Residents of my country Malawi, in the “warm heart” of Africa, are learning first hand about Australian mining companies as four of them are currently exploring for uranium.

The Australian Safeguards and Non-Proliferation Office claims that nuclear safeguards “provide assurances that exported uranium and its derivatives cannot benefit the development of nuclear weapons”. In fact, the safeguards system is flawed in many respects, and it cannot provide such assurances.

Australian unionists have a wealth of experiences to draw on in the fight against the Howard government’s Work Choices legislation. Lessons can be drawn not just from the historic victories and defeats of the union movement in this country, but also from the experiences of working-class struggles in other countries.

Debate continues over how guest workers and those on 457 visas should be treated. The WA branch of the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) passed a resolution at its July state conference that recommends avoiding falling into the federal government and bosses’ divide-and-rule trap.

Among the proposals included in the Australian Council of Trade Unions’ industrial relations legislation policy, adopted at its October conference, were provisions for unions to be able to hold elections to win recognition in workplaces where the boss refuses to bargain with them. These ballots are aimed at addressing the lack of a mechanism whereby unions can make an employer negotiate a collective agreement for workers. Such ballots have been a feature of the US industrial relations system for over 70 years.

Unions NSW is promoting a campaign, including shopfront stickers and advertising in union journals, to encourage small businesses to promote themselves as union-endorsed “fair employers”. The union body is spending time and money on advertising through union journals. But this campaign detracts from our efforts at mobilising workers and the community against Work Choices and bosses who use these new laws.

In a document released on November 25, the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) calls on the Australian government to ratify the Kyoto treaty, as part of a strategy to combat climate change.

Even John Howard has got the point at last: human-made climate change can’t be denied. But the minor reductions in carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions available from existing “solutions” - from the Kyoto Protocol to Howard’s technofixes - won’t stave off further destruction. We need a radically different approach - a massive, immediate turn to renewable energy sources.

Glenn Albrecht correctly identifies coal as the biggest contributor to greenhouse gases. But his support for a type of carbon credit scheme, whereby the rest of the world pays Australia not to mine its coal, implies confidence that the market will correct itself. However, the decisions made over the last 100 years of capitalism are precisely what has led to today’s climate crisis.

With the speed of global warming and the seriousness of climate chaos now firmly established in the minds of our politicians, it is urgent that they display leadership on actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The leadership so far — in that it has promoted the dirty lie of “clean coal” and the farcical view of nuclear energy as clean and green — has been ethically vacuous. The frames that the Howard government has used to drive public debate on our energy future are dangerous dead ends that will deliver huge problems to future generations.

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