Comment and Analysis

Biofuels such as ethanol have been presented by alternative energy entrepreneurs and many environmentalists as a “clean, green” alternative to fossil fuels. But recently a growing chorus of scientists have warned of the dangers of biofuels.

Al Gore’s documentary An Inconvenient Truth has helped focus attention on the threat posed by fossil-fuel driven climate change. Gore’s film was met with a predictable barrage of criticism by right-wing pundits. For example Herald Sun columnist Andrew Bolt wrote in a September 13 article that the “former US vice-president’s ludicrous scaremongering contains exaggerations, half-truths and falsehoods”.

The last issue of Green Left Weekly published the story of gay asylum seeker Mohatar Hussein. Hussein fled homophobic persecution in Bangladesh to seek refugee status in Australia, only to be locked up in Villawood detention centre for the last two years. The Refugee Review Tribunal twice knocked back Hussein’s applications, despite having ample evidence that he had suffered persecution as an openly gay man.

The federal government last week pushed through its new cross-media ownership laws, ensuring greater concentration of media ownership and a loss of diversity in Australia’s media. The following article by Christian Downie, published on Online Opinion (<http://www.onlineopinion.com.au>) provides some background to the debate over the media laws.

Australia has the most concentrated media ownership in the Western world. Nonetheless, the new media bill passed by the Senate on October 12 will further relax ownership regulation and allow the media barons to operate in two out of three media sectors — print, radio and television.

Pope Benedict XVI is reported to be on the verge of authorising the return of the Latin Tridentine mass. This would open the way for some of the most extreme clerical reactionaries and anti-Semites to rejoin the Catholic Church.

In the first eight days of October, 30 coalition troops and close to 300 Iraqi civilians and security forces were killed. Iraq has become such a shameful example of Western arrogance that such figures barely warrant a mention on our television screens or in newspapers.

Architects for Peace, Australia, took an active part in the protests against Israel’s attacks on Lebanon and Palestine. Beatriz Maturana, a founder of the group, told Green Left Weekly that the group formed in February 2003, in response to the invasion of Iraq. It continues to campaign against the US-led occupation of Iraq.

“Ain’t that the truth”, said the Socialist Alliance’s lead upper house candidate in next March’s NSW state election, Susan Price. “And it sums up why we’re running against them.”

Gary Meyerhoff, long-time activist and founder of the Network Against Prohibition (NAP), died from an AIDS-related illness on October 7. A tireless campaigner for the rights all those who slipped through society’s cracks, Meyerhoff was an optimist and not afraid to push the limits. He organised around issues and with sections of society that other activists usually put in the too-hard basket.

Two cases of ruthless exploitation of Chinese guest workers have recently come to light in the printing industry, throwing the spotlight on the plight of the growing number of guest workers.

Despite ALP election commitments to “oppose any new uranium in South Australia”, on September 30 Premier Mike Rann’s Labor government announced final approval for Southern Cross Resources to expand uranium mining operations at the Honeymoon site, 75 kilometres north-west of Broken Hill. The announcement came just three days after the 50th anniversary of the first nuclear bomb test at Maralinga in SA.

Members of the Victorian branch of the Australian Education Union (AEU) will have a choice in this month’s union elections. The current leadership is being challenged by the Teachers Alliance.

Academics may be given limited access to books banned under anti-terrorism laws, federal attorney-general Philip Ruddock said on October 2. His comments came after University of Melbourne vice-chancellor Glyn Davis wrote to Ruddock seeking clarification on the laws.

The rising tide of enthusiasm for Venezuela’s Bolivarian Revolution is reaching Australia. This was seen at the Fourth National Latin American Solidarity Conference held in Sydney on September 29, the biggest such solidarity gathering in over a decade.

The Australia-Venezuela Solidarity Network national consultation decided to support the relaunch of an Australian campaign in support of the “Cuban Five” - five Cubans convicted in the United States in 2001 on charges ranging from conspiracy to commit murder to endangering the security of the US. The Cuban Five are being held in maximum security prisons across the US.

A group of Aboriginal leaders supported by the West Australian Social Justice Network has initiated a campaign in the wake of what “appears to be an orchestrated attack by the federal government and sections of the media on Aboriginal culture” and leaders.

Debts owed by students for university fees are growing by about $2 billion a year, according to the federal education department. Reporting the finding, the September 13 Melbourne Age observed that if the debt rise “continues at this rate, the amount owed will double in six years, from $10.2 billion in 2003-04 to more than $20 billion by 2009-10".

In a damning report released on September 27, Queensland’s acting state coroner, Christine Clements, has criticised the initial investigation into the 2004 Palm Island death in custody of Mulrunji, saying that it failed to meet appropriate guidelines. Clements also found that Senior Sergeant Christopher Hurley caused Mulrunji’s death and accused the police of failing to investigate his death fully.

The Socialist Alliance is campaigning for the defeat of the Howard government in the next federal election and against the Liberal opposition in the November 25 Victorian state election. However, we have little confidence that the election of Labor governments in Victoria or federally will result in improvements in working people’s conditions of life.The Socialist Alliance is campaigning for the defeat of the Howard government in the next federal election and against the Liberal opposition in the November 25 Victorian state election.

Willem (Wim) Zonggonau died in Royal North Shore Hospital, Sydney, on October 2 after suffering what is believed to be a massive cardiovascular event. He was 64 years old.

The following is abridged from a talk presented to the Beyond Nuclear Initiative (BNI) symposium in Melbourne, September 15-16.

Motahar Hussein is a Bangladeshi man seeking asylum in Australia. He has been languishing in the Villawood refugee detention centre for two years because the Refugee Review Tribunal (RRT) has twice refused to accept that he will face homophobic persecution if he is forced back to Bangladesh. Green Left Weekly’s Rachel Evans spoke to Hussein in Villawood.

“Dear reader, civilisation as we know it is coming to an end soon.” This is how the Peak Oil: Life After the Oil Crash website introduces itself. Peak oil is the theory that the world’s oil supplies will soon reach their highest output, their peak, after which there will be a rapid decline in output. The website argues that “the consequences (if true) would be unimaginable. Permanent fuel shortages would tip the world into a generations-long economic depression. Millions would lose their jobs as industry implodes. Farm tractors would be idled for lack of fuel, triggering massive famines. Energy wars would flare.”

David Llewellyn faced a barrage of criticism and no-confidence motions over his handling of the health portfolio when Tasmania’s parliament resumed on August 23.

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