Comment and Analysis

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.

More than 600 delegates representing 2 million union members met for the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) congress on October 25-26.

On November 18-19, the G20 meeting in Melbourne will bring together the finance ministers of the powerful G8 group of nations with those of Australia, the European Union and 10 of the largest Third World economies, along with the heads of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.

Only a foolish punter looking to lose their hard-earned cash would back an upset at the state elections on November 25. Although polls indicate a narrowing of Premier Steve Bracks’ lead, the state Labor government is likely to be returned with a comfortable margin.

The October release of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation’s (ASIO) annual report reveals that it is concentrating in great detail on protest actions, even small ones.

A new “security pact” between Australia and Indonesia, to be signed on November 13 in Lombok, will strengthen Canberra’s military and economic alliance with Jakarta, at the expense of the peoples of both countries.

On September 28, Victorian construction workers enjoyed a well-earned barbeque and a few beers for the traditional shutdown weekend prior to the AFL grand final. On a construction site in Geelong, workers and union officials gathered to also celebrate and commemorate union legend John Cummins’ life.

John Howard’s new industrial laws contain a raft of penalties for workers and unions taking “unlawful” industrial action. Workers can face individual fines of $6600 ($22,000 for those in the building industry), and unions face $33,000 or more. One result has been a decline in industrial disputes since Work Choices was enacted in March.

As the November 7 emergency water summit of federal and state parliamentarians was told that the current drought is the worst in 1000 years, the opposition parties criticised the governments for fiddling while the drought worsens. Greens Senator Rachel Siewert claimed the summit “shied away from making the tough decisions at a time when urgent action was sorely needed”.

Like a large part of the continent, Victoria is in the grip of unprecedented drought. Across the state, dams are rapidly emptying and river flows are at record lows, cities and towns face drastic restrictions and farmers confront an uncertain future. The water crisis gives the question of global warming and catastrophic climate change a new immediacy, and is a major issue in the November 25 state election.

“I’m just, I’m a little concerned with all this hysteria over this greenhouse gases and the environment, that the Liberal Party is not selling your message the way you sold it now to Leon, and that it’s not getting through to the average man in the street” — this is what “Emile”, an “unashamed supporter” of Prime Minister John Howard, had to say to the PM on November 2, during Leon Byner’s talkback show on Adelaide’s Radio 5AA.

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