Comment and Analysis

GLW Issue 1007

Last year we had the hottest week, hottest day, month and year on record broken in Australia.

Worryingly, the fossil fuel companies already have 2795 gigatonnes of fossil fuels in reserves they planning on burning.

That is five times more than the planet can handle if we want to stay below two degrees of warming their business plans, the planet tanks. We need to rewrite this script and go down a different path.

It is difficult to accept that NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell lost his position over the alleged gift of a $3000 bottle of Grange connected with the push to award lucrative contracts to Australian Water Holdings (AWH).

Conceivably, he could have stonewalled that accusation and ridden out the storm had he enjoyed the backing of cabinet and the Daily Telegraph.

New documentary film Radical Wollongong, produced by Green Left TV, will premiere in Wollongong on May 18, followed by screenings in other cities and regional centres.

The film features activist participants from Wollongong's radical history of strikes and community rallies, from miners’ struggles to Aboriginal justice and environmental protection.

Here, co-producer John Rainford describes workers’ campaigns in the Illawarra that defeated greedy bosses and saved jobs.

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The Commission of Audit report is a declaration of open class war by the corporate ruling class against Australia's working people and the poor.

Released symbolically on May 1, the international workers' day, it is a clear challenge to the labour movement and social organisations.

If its 86 recommendations are implemented, it would be a wholesale destruction of the welfare state, hard fought for over a century or more by working people, and a huge victory for big business in shifting wealth from the poor to the rich.

The budget is approaching and it seems we are a bit short on cash. This isn't surprising really, seeing as we’re stumping up about $12 billion for a bunch of new fighter jets with such serious flaws they are expected to cost a further $12 billion in repairs and maintenance.

Plus we appear to be overrun by marauding hordes of free-loading pensioners clogging up doctors’ waiting rooms and bankrupting the economy with their subsidised medicines. The solution seems obvious to me: we should kill two birds with one stone and save some cash by burning these old people as jet fuel.

A casino was a fitting venue to host Prime Minister Tony Abbott's keynote address to the 25th anniversary dinner of conservative think tank the Sydney Institute on April 28.

Abbott's speech, coming two weeks before the federal budget, was full of promises of “happiness”, “security” and “a better life”. But in reality, Australian workers, pensioners and the poor will be lucky if they are left with much more than the shirts on their backs once the government is done fleecing them.

GLW Issue 1006

The statement below was released on May 1, international workers' day, by Socialist Alliance co-convenors Peter Boyle and Susan Price.

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ABBOTT'S 'STRONGER', 'HAPPIER' AUSTRALIA EQUALS MORE PAIN FOR WORKERS, PENSIONERS AND THE POOR

A casino was a fitting venue to host PM Tony Abbott's keynote address to the 25th birthday dinner of conservative think tank, the Sydney Institute on April 28.

The Tony Abbott government, in line with its ruthless drive to privatise all remaining public sector assets, last month announced a plan to sell off Medibank Private during the 2014-15 financial year. Following the secret recommendations of the government's big-business-controlled Commission of Audit, the federal budget in May is likely to include further attacks on Medicare — undermining its character as a national, universal health-care system.

Forty people travelled over 6000 kilometres as part of an anti-nuclear educational trip from Melbourne to Tennant Creek in the Northern Territory and back from April 12 to 27.

The annual “Rad Tour" weaved its way through Victoria, South Australia and the Northern Territory to educate people about the dangers of the nuclear industry.

Early last month, former Health Services Union (HSU) national secretary and federal Labor MP Craig Thomson was sentenced to three months in jail for misusing union members’ money. He has appealed the decision.

Later in the month, Michael Williamson, former national president of both the HSU and the ALP, was sentenced to seven and a half years jail with a non-parole period of five years for defrauding HSU members. Few would argue that this was undeserving.

“Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel.” Samuel Johnson’s aphorism is well known. But what does patriotism actually mean? Is it simply a matter of liking the sunshine, the gum trees, the beaches and a certain lifestyle? Is it about being overcome with emotion when we see the Australian flag or the Anzac Day dawn service?

REAL LOVE OF COUNTRY

The movers and shakers and heavy hitters in our society — politicians, business moguls, journalists in the corporate media, and so on — are all patriotic. But we should be very cynical about this.

If modern industrial capitalism were a person, he or she would be on suicide watch. The system that has brought us quantum physics and reality television, modern medicine and the columns of Andrew Bolt is set on a course which, by all the best reckoning, points directly to its doing itself in.

If capitalism goes on — everything goes. Climate, coastlines, most living species, food supplies, the great bulk of humanity. And certainly, the preconditions for advanced civilisation, perhaps forever.

Since Australian women rallied for “free, safe, accessible abortion on demand” 40 years ago, much has been achieved.

Legal reform of some kind has taken place in most states and territories. There is Medicare funding for pregnancy termination, mifepristone is available on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) and women no longer suffer the complications from illegal “backyard” operations.

Yet there are still obstacles for women to access affordable pregnancy termination services in a timely manner.

A new documentary film Radical Wollongong, produced by Green Left TV, will premiere in Wollongong on May 18, followed by screenings in other cities and regional centres.

The film features activist participants from Wollongong's radical history of strikes and community rallies, from miners’ struggles to Aboriginal justice and environmental protection.

Here, co-producer John Rainford gives an insight into the 1949 coal strike and the attempt to ban the Communist Party of Australia.

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The Supreme Court of Victoria decided on March 31 to fine the Construction Forestry Mining Energy Union (CFMEU) $1.25 million for its protest action on Grocon sites in Melbourne in August 2012.

Grocon is now seeking costs due to the industrial action, which could amount to an extra $1.7 million.

The CFMEU-led campaign against the construction giant began over the issues of safety and appointment of shop stewards as Occupational Health and Safety representatives on high risk construction sites, in opposition to the management-appointed “safety inspectors”.

When the Royal Commission into Trade Union Governance and Corruption first sat on April 9 it did little more than give general guidance about the direction of the inquiry.

This was largely provided by counsel assisting, Jeremy Stoljar SC. The learned counsel was eager to ensure all concerned that there were no preconceptions with the inquiry. But he did make the helpful suggestion that the legal obligations of union officials should be “even more onerous” than those of company directors.

The election of the Tony Abbott government in September last year signalled an intensification of attacks on workers' rights, the public sector, jobs and what remains of the social wage.

As the global economic situation deteriorates, the ruling class is intent on imposing widespread privatisation, outsourcing of public services, job cuts and wage cuts.

"Money speaks” is the message we should be taking from the last few weeks of state politics in NSW.

Inappropriate and undeclared financial dealings and interests are being found at every level of Australian politics. The parliamentary parties are riddled with factions, controlled by powerbrokers who promote the careers of their own base of loyal supporters. This undemocratic concentration of power leaves the parties unable to resist corruption.

As one corrupt politician is dispatched there are always plenty more to take their place.

“Nothing is free — someone always pays,” federal treasurer Joe Hockey said in his latest softening-up, pre-budget speech on April 24.

Yeah, tell us about it.

GLW Issue 1005

The former Labor government tried and failed with its ill-conceived "people swap" deal with Malaysia in 2011. Now, the Tony Abbott government has said it may try a resettlement deal with the even poorer nation of Cambodia.

After talks with foreign minister Julie Bishop in February, her counterpart, Hor Namhong, said Cambodia was considering an offer to resettle refugees from Australia. Immigration minister Scott Morrison visited Cambodia again this month, to discuss "regional cooperation to deal with asylum seeker movement".

The Royal Commission into the use of union funds began on April 9. The commission is not an attempt to stamp out corrupt union practices, but a serious political attack on unions by the Tony Abbott government. It is designed to weaken the union movement and break militant union activity.

Comments made by Coalition ministers before the public hearings have started sets up a presumption of guilt in order to prejudice the public mind.

An important legal action by traditional owners opposed to the Muckaty nuclear waste dump proposal will be the basis of a Federal Court trial in June. Natalie Wasley, spokesperson for the Beyond Nuclear Initiative, spoke to Green Left Weekly about the legal action, and the fight to keep Australia radioactive waste-dump free.

How is the court case to keep Muckaty radioactive-free proceeding?

Most people have heard of the rant by Australia's richest billionaire, Gina Rinehart, against welfare and the “entitlement mentality” of Australians — and her call for a strong political leader like Margaret Thatcher. But have you heard about the US$694 million ($740 million) soft loan from US taxpayers?

The Pilliga Forest is at the centre of a large battle over the right for companies to drill for coal seam gas (CSG) on public land.

Coal seam gas company Santos is planning to develop a $2 billion CSG project in the forest and it has already begun operating 40 exploratory gas wells.

The exploration licence was supposed to end on April 3, but Santos has been granted multiple extensions by the NSW government to put in more exploratory drill holes.

A new documentary film Radical Wollongong, produced by Green Left TV, will premiere in Wollongong on May 18, followed by screenings in other cities and regional centres.

The film features activist participants from Wollongong's radical history of strikes and community rallies, from miners’ struggles to Aboriginal justice and environmental protection.

Co-producer John Rainford gives some background to the rise of fascism in Europe and the actions of Robert Menzies against wharfies who refused to ship pig iron to Japan.

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Drivers on Sydney’s proposed WestConnex motorway will pay a toll for almost 50 years, according to documents released to state parliament last week. Tolls will also be introduced to existing free motorways and extended on those due to expire.

The government’s plans were revealed when boxes of documents relating plans to build the WestConnex motorway were delivered to New South Wales Parliament House last week at the request of the NSW Greens Roads and Ports spokesperson Mehreen Faruqi.

The preparations for the federal budget, due to be handed down by Treasurer Joe Hockey on May 13, began on October 22 last year. This is the date on which Hockey announced a National Commission of Audit.

The commission is chaired by Tony Shepherd, who just happens to be the President of the Business Council of Australia, the organisation representing Australia’s 100 largest companies. Shepherd’s appointment amounts to an invitation to big business to tell the government how it wants the economy to function in its favour during the Coalition’s term of office.

I am not going to bother following the news any more, I am just going to wake up each morning and drive large rusty nails straight into my eyeballs to save time.

After all, efficiency is our new watchword, according to treasurer Joe Hockey. We must all play our part in doing more with less.

ANZAC Day, we’re told, is Australia's "most important national occasion”.

But beyond the glib cliches about how the ill-fated Anzac “campaign” at Gallipoli Cove in 1915 “shaped Australia's identity”, there is little political and historical reflection on what happened and why.

The Tony Abbott government has moved to crush the right of free speech for federal public servants. In new guidelines issued by the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet (PM&C) on social media policy, employees are threatened with harsh discipline if they are "critical or highly critical of the department, the minister or the prime minister" on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest, Flickr, blogs or elsewhere.