Monday, January 29, 2007

Tamworth: Rights at Work Bus ban!

The Greens today joined with local unionists and community members in calling on the Tamworth Chamber of Commerce to reverse its decision to ban the Rights at Work bus from Saturday's Country Music Cavalcade.

Greens Upper House candidate John Kaye said: "The Festival celebrates an important component of Australian culture. It is a key event of national significance.

"Excluding the Rights at Work bus is an insult to many working Australians who will be watching the parade.

"The Chamber's position is weak. They are allowing National Party candidate for the state set of Tamworth, Kevin Anderson, to be part of the Cavalcade with a 'Save Our Water' banner. Mr Anderson's political statement blows any pretence of the event being non-political.

"The Chamber of Commerce is engaging in the worst kind of political censorship. It is at risk of losing respect in the community and being seen as a partisan pawn for the Howard government.

"The ban will damage the reputation of the Festival throughout Australia.

"Many people who will watch the cavalcade live in growing fear that their rights at work are being undermined. They are worried about the sort of world their children and grandchildren will inherit.

"The ban is particularly inappropriate given the appalling impact that the Federal Government's industrial relations laws will have on rural and regional communities. If one employer in a country town uses John Howard's 'WorkChoices' legislation to suppress wages and conditions, others will be forced to follow suit or risk becoming uncompetitive. The ensuing death spiral of lowering wages and suppressed economic activity will drive many communities over the edge.

"It is not too late for the Chamber of Commerce to reverse their ban and restore the integrity of the Festival," Dr Kaye said.

Birgitte Hansen Trades Hall Mural

Blue Mountains artist Birgitte Hansen, Unions NSW's artist-in-residence since September 2005, is working on a mural in Sydney's Trades Hall.

The 20-metre-high mural was commissioned by Unions NSW's Neale Towart and Secretary John Robertson to celebrate the achievements of the union movement and show the human face of the long struggle for fair pay and conditions.

Birgitte calls the mural a "time wall" as it chronicles milestones in the history of the union movement such as the 888 campaign for 8 hours work, rest and sleep.

The people included are a cross section of the millions of workers who have taken up tools or served their community over the last few hundred years. Towards the rear of the time wall is a woman holding her teachers certificate and represents the liberation of women, Birgitte says.


Sunday, January 28, 2007

Stop Iraq War: huge Washington demo

WASHINGTON, Jan. 27 — Tens of thousands of protesters converged on the National Mall on Saturday to oppose President Bush’s plan for a troop increase in Iraq in what organizers hoped would be one of the largest shows of antiwar sentiment in the nation’s capital since the war began.

The event drew demonstrators from across the country, and many said that in addition to taking their discontent to the streets they planned to press members of Congress to oppose the war.

“When we voted it was a directive to bring our troops home now,” said the Rev. Graylan S. Hagler of Plymouth Congregational United Church of Christ in Washington, referring to the November elections when Democrats won control of Congress.

Demonstrators listened to speeches from a roster of politicians and entertainment figures including actors Jane Fonda, Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins.

“We need to be talking not just about defunding the war but also about funding the vets,” Ms. Sarandon said, adding that more than 50,000 had sought treatment through the Department of Veterans Affairs while benefits for them continue to be cut.

Tim Robbins and Susan Sarandon led the crowd in a chant of "Impeach Bush. Impeach Bush. Impeach Bush."

With Mr. Bush facing low approval ratings and Congress continuing to debate the terms of a nonbinding resolution opposing the troop increase, elderly people in wheelchairs, housewives pushing strollers, seasoned dissenters in tie-dye and veterans in uniform turned out to protest.

“I grew up during the Vietnam War, but I never protested it and never had my lottery number called to go fight,” said David Quinly, a 54-year-old carpenter from Prairie Village, Kan., who arrived here Friday night with about 50 others after a 23-hour bus ride.

“In my view, this one is a war of choice and a war for profit against a culture and people we don’t understand,” Mr. Quinly said. “I knew I had to speak up this time.”


Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Join a union


Unions Australia
is a "one stop shop" to quickly and easily join a union with just one phone call to 1300 486 466. Howard's IR reforms mean more people are turning to unions than ever before - Unions Australia makes joining easy!

Join online now.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Howard government: 'Bush' Lawyers

January 22Illustration: Bruce Petty

USA: Impeach Bush and Cheney

The movement in the US to impeach Bush and Cheney for their lies about the Iraq War is growing fast: listen to veteran folk singer Pete Seeger:

Pete Seeger: Impeach Bush and Cheney
play mp3 or


Friday, January 12, 2007

Gleaming Jewels of Stupidity

One of the things I like about writing books is the chance to read other peoples' reactions after they're written. After John Stauber and I wrote our latest book, The Best War Ever: Lies, Damned Lies and the Mess in Iraq, we posted an accompanying video on YouTube. The video has now been viewed more than 200,000 times, and people of various ideological persuasions have added their comments.

In the last few days, the video page has seen a running debate between other YouTubians and a supporter of the war who identifies himself as a 35-year-old U.S. Army Captain. I find the debate interesting as an illustration of how desperately the war's supporters continue to recycle obvious falsehoods and long-discredited lies from the Bush administration.

Sometimes the enthusiasm with which "usarmycaptainamerica" rewrites history is simply laughable, as when he insists that "Democrats, with the exception of and handful [sic] (maybe 5) voted to go to war in Iraq. Get your facts straight and your head screwed on right. ... If you refuse to believe that, and refuse to look at the facts, than I cant help you, you will remain a gleaming jewel of stupidity."

Actually, 133 Democratic members of the U.S. House of Representatives voted against the resolution in 2002 authorizing Bush to go to war, as did 21 Democrats in the Senate. The number of Democrats voting for the resolution was 126 in the House, 21 in the Senate. Republicans were virtually unanimous in supporting the war, but the Democratic vote was an almost perfect 50-50 split.


Thursday, January 11, 2007

Teachers Federation: repatriate David Hicks

On the fifth anniversary of the incarceration of David Hicks at Guantanamo Bay, the NSW Teachers Federation calls on the Australian government to take immediate action to repatriate David Hicks.

Maree O'Halloran, Teachers Federation President, said:

"The British government intervened to ensure that all British nationals were released from Guantanamo Bay and returned to Britain. These people now live in the community under British law. Similar action has also been taken by other governments on behalf of their citizens.

It is time to end the cruelty and to acknowledge that there has been a fundamental breach in the rule of law with respect to the incarceration of David Hicks.

A former Chief Justice of the Australian High Court, Sir Gerard Brennan, has said that Australia has shown itself to be "morally impoverished" by its acceptance of the way the USA has treated David Hicks.

It is important that all people are afforded their civil and human rights in a democracy."


George Bush: The march of folly

Robert Fisk: Bush's new strategy - the march of folly

So into the graveyard of Iraq, George Bush, commander-in-chief, is to send another 21,000 of his soldiers. The march of folly is to continue...
From the Independent: 11 January 2007

There will be timetables, deadlines, benchmarks, goals for both America and its Iraqi satraps. But the war against terror can still be won. We shall prevail. Victory or death. And it shall be death.

President Bush's announcement early this morning tolled every bell. A billion dollars of extra aid for Iraq, a diary of future success as the Shia powers of Iraq ­ still to be referred to as the "democratically elected government" ­ march in lockstep with America's best men and women to restore order and strike fear into the hearts of al-Qa'ida. It will take time ­ oh, yes, it will take years, at least three in the words of Washington's top commander in the field, General Raymond Odierno this week ­ but the mission will be accomplished.


see also

Jim Wallis: A Criminal Escalation of An Unjust War
Jim Wallis
When the American people make it clear in the election, and in every public opinion poll, that they want an end to the war in Iraq, he ignores them. When the central recommendation of the bipartisan Iraq Study Group is "new and enhanced diplomatic and political efforts…that will enable the United States to begin to move its combat forces out of Iraq responsibly," he ignores them. When Republican Senators across the spectrum – from Susan Collins (ME) and Olympia Snowe (ME) to Sam Brownback (KS) and Gordon Smith (OR), and respected foreign policy expert Chuck Hagel (NE) – oppose his plan, he ignores them. (" … a dangerously wrongheaded strategy that will drive America deeper into an unwinnable swamp," says Hagel.) When the top U.S. military commanders in Iraq question the strategy, he replaces them.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Iraq: Blood for oil plans revealed

So was this what the Iraq war was fought for, after all? As the number of US soldiers killed since the invasion rises past the 3,000 mark, and President George Bush gambles on sending in up to 30,000 more troops, The Independent on Sunday has learnt that the Iraqi government is about to push through a law giving Western oil companies the right to exploit the country's massive oil reserves.

And Iraq's oil reserves, the third largest in the world, with an estimated 115 billion barrels waiting to be extracted, are a prize worth having. As Vice-President Dick Cheney noted in 1999, when he was still running Halliburton, an oil services company, the Middle East is the key to preventing the world running out of oil.

Now, unnoticed by most amid the furore over civil war in Iraq and the hanging of Saddam Hussein, the new oil law has quietly been going through several drafts, and is now on the point of being presented to the cabinet and then the parliament in Baghdad. Its provisions are a radical departure from the norm for developing countries: under a system known as "production-sharing agreements", or PSAs, oil majors such as BP and Shell in Britain, and Exxon and Chevron in the US, would be able to sign deals of up to 30 years to extract Iraq's oil.


Friday, January 05, 2007

2007: Year of Industrial Relations

Labor's Deputy Leader Julia Gillard says industrial relations could be the issue that decides the 2007 federal election.

"Industrial relations will be a prominent issue because Australians are worried about it," Gillard said.

"People are worried about the impact of these laws on themselves but as much as that or perhaps even more they are worried about the impact on their kids in the long term."

"The 2007 election won't be a one issue election, there will be other issues," she said.

"Climate change of course will be big in people's minds, ending the commonwealth-state blame game ... but industrial relations will be in the mix and it will be a vote changer."



January 5Illustration: Andrew Weldon