Wednesday, 17 September 2008

Rally against the NT Intervention - Sat 27 Sept

Aboriginal control of Aboriginal affairs


Rally 11am Sat 27 Sept

at the Block (opposite Redfern station)

As Rudd prepares to receive his whitewash "review" of the NT intervention into Aboriginal communities, show your solidarity with Aboriginal people in the NT and here against this racist land grab, welfare quarantining, and increased police powers. Demand the restoration of the Racial Discrimination Act, and the funding of community-controlled services.

Defend the Redfern Block.

Speakers include Roslyn Frith, NT community spokesperson and granddaughter of 1966 strike and land rights leader, Vincent Lingiari, plus speakers from the Redfern community and unions.

Organised by the Sydney Aboriginal Rights Coalition

Thursday, 11 September 2008

Update on the Electricity Sell-off

With the recent turmoil in NSW Government, there was some uncertainty as to whether the new Rees/ Tebbutt ALP government would continue with the policy of selling off the electricity it inherited from the Iemma/ Costa circus. On September 5, Nathan Rees indicated that he intended to follow through with the sale of the retail arm of the power industry.

Since then, Unions NSW asked the Power to the People group to call off a rally it had planned on September 20, which has now been replaced with a large campaigning stall and a speak out/ media stunt outside of Parliament on September 23, the first sitting day of the Parliamentary session.

On September 9, the Employment & Industrial Relations, Industry & Infrastructure and Finance & Economic committees of the ALP (comprising representatives of around twenty ALP-affiliated unions) met to consider the issue, and have reaffirmed their opposition to the sell-off.

The next meeting which will have a bearing on the direction of the campaign against the sell-off is this Friday, September 12, when the NSW ALP Administrative Committee meets, and which, according to assistant-secretary Luke Foley (August 29 edition of Stateline) will decide on “whether that plan complies with the ALP platform”.

The Wombats will keep everyone informed of developments as they unfold (see below for upcoming actions).

(Note: This motion has already been carried unanimously by the Concord Hospital Banch of the NSW Nurses Association)

Stop the Sell-Off

This meeting of ______________________ (union/workplace/organisation) calls on the NSW State Government, the Premier and cabinet to respect the opinions of 86% of people in NSW, and to abandon, once and for all, any plans to privatise NSW electricity (including retail, generation and distribution).

We express our concern with recent media reports that the sell-off of electricity retail may still be on the government's agenda, and we commit to active solidarity and support with the continuing union and community campaign against the sell-off.

While affirming our opposition to the sell-off of electricity retail, we also acknowledge the threats against other public services such as transport, including Sydney Ferries, rail maintenance, roads, and water, and commit to support an ongoing campaign to save our public services and to keep them in public hands.

Moved by: _____________________________

Seconded by: ___________________________


Upcoming activities:

Saturday September 20 - Power to the People stall, collection of petitions, banner-signing from 11am at Town Hall Square
Monday, September 22 - Next Meeting of Power to the People. 6pm, level 1, AMWU Council Room, Tom Mann Building, Devonshire St, City.
Tuesday, September 23 - Power to the People lunchtime action outside NSW Parliament on the first day of sitting.

Telephone Colin Drane on 0419 698 396 for further information

Wednesday, 10 September 2008

Climate Emergency Protest, Oct 2

Climate emergency - renewables now!

Protest outside offices of Xstrata Coal!

1 Macquarie Place Sydney CBD (off Loftus St, near Circular Quay) , 5pm Thursday October 2nd
It's a climate emergency! Melting of the Arctic sea ice may be complete by the northern summer of 2010. We must urgently decarbonise our economy to radically reduce greenhouse gas emissions and existing greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Xtrata, NSW's biggest coal exporter, is about to start work on the Mangoola mine in the Hunter Valley. The call for renewables is more urgent than ever!

The protest is organised by People for a Safe Climate (PSC), which brings together people from climate action groups and other environmental, peace, social justice and political organisations. We meet Thursdays, 6pm in the UTS Students Association back room, level 3, UTS Broadway. All welcome. For further info, contact Kamala, 0417 319662; Holly 0417 682 541; Alison 9818 6718

How you can help out before October 2nd:

  • Come along to the smaller stunts we're holding in the lead-up. The first such action is on Thursday Sept 25th 8-9am at Martin Place, with another on Tuesday Sept 30th.
  • Help us to make props and banners for these events at a Greenpeace warehouse in Botany on Sunday September 14th. Time to be advised.
  • Help out at stalls or with leafleting. Please contact us or come along to our next meeting (Thursday, 11th September). Posters and leaflets for the rally can be picked up at the Resistance Centre (23 Abercrombie St, Chippendale) or outside the UTS Students' Association (level 3, UTS Tower). Or they can be downloaded at:

http://safeclimate. wikispaces. com/poster and

http://safeclimate. wikispaces. com/leaflet+ to+print.

The rally is calling for:

100% electricity from renewables within 10 years
Former US vice-president Al Gore has called for US power generation to be 100% carbon-free within 10 years. With abundant solar, wind and geothermal resources, there's no reason why Australia couldn't be powered entirely by renewables. We must go beyond the government's inadequate targets.

Keeping power in public hands
We need maximum public accountability for the power industry. Full electricity privatisation has been knocked on the head, but there is still a danger that our new Premier will sell-off the electricity retailers, move that would continue to sacrifice our environmental needs.

The phasing out of coal
Burning coal for electricity accounts for over a third of Australia's greenhouse gas emissions each year. In addition, when Australia's coal exports are burnt, it causes more pollution than the total of Australia's domestic economy.

The expansion of public transport
Transport is responsible for 14% of Australia's carbon emissions, with the largest contribution coming from passenger cars. We need to reverse the priorities of Governments which fund for freeways while starving public transport systems.

No carbon trading loopholes!
The government is taking a business-as- usual approach to the climate emergency. Carbon trading alone will be too slow; with free permits for the big polluters it won't work at all. It must not be linked to international "carbon offset" schemes; these do nothing to reduce domestic emissions and often support environmentally damaging projects. Under its plan, the government admits, emissions will rise for some years to come.

Tuesday, 9 September 2008

No co-operation with the ABCC!

Dear Comrades,

These new penal laws that the ABCC rely on have been around for over two years and nearly 12 months of the current Government. Now there is a real risk that workers will start going to gaol for being unionist and organising workers. I think it's time to start putting words into action. Now is the time to decide which side you're on.

I am standing beside Noel Washington and pledging no cooperation with the ABCC.

These are bad laws and are only designed to weaken the union movement and conditions for workers. I cannot support a Government that supports these laws and allows workers to be dragged before the courts for being unionist.

Please sign up and let the Government know we are serious. There can be only one outcome to this and that is workers win the right to organise the way we want to. Not the way that makes the bosses and the Government happy.

We are not slaves and our organisers are not criminals.

Yours in Solidarity
Tim Gooden
Secretary Geelong Trades Hall Council

Labor Omnia Vincit

Text of sign-on statement:

No co-operation with the ABCC

The Australian Building and Construction Commission is an ideologically driven organisation and was set up by the Howard Coalition government in October 2005 to destroy the effectiveness of the unions in the building industry. These unions have led the way in setting benchmark wages and standards of health and safety that have benefitted all working Australians. The ABCC operates like a police force with extensive coercive powers and secret investigations. There is no right to silence- refusing to attend hearings or answer questions can lead to a six-month jail sentence.

The ABCC's predecessor, the Building Industry Task Force, was set up after the $60 million Cole Royal Commission into the building industry. Contrary to the claims of some bosses and media, the Commission found that there is no "endemic lawlessness" perpetrated by the unions in the building industry. We are asking for nothing more than what employers already have; the right to meet with our members and representatives, before, during and after work and the right to defend our working conditions.

Penalising unions for representing workers' rights using hefty fines and threats of imprisonment has to STOP NOW. If the powers of the ABCC remain all Australian workers will have their right to organise and seek representation in a union undermined.

We, the undersigned refuse to cooperate with the ABCC and to pay fines imposed. We are inspired by the fine example set by CFMEU member Noel Washington in refusing to bow to the ABCC's intimidation. We pledge support for all union officials and members who are subject to the ABCC's powers.

We call on all unions to join a campaign of industrial action if any unionist is convicted for not cooperating with the ABCC


Dare to struggle - dare to win! If you don’t fight, you lose!

  • Download sign-on statement and return, with signatures, to: GTHC, 127 Myers St, Geelong. Tel 03-52211712, or 0438 088 112 and fax 03-52231115.
  • See ACTU's television ad opposing the ABCC
  • Monday, 8 September 2008

    The Wollongong Democracy Charter

    Wollongong Against Corruption, a grass-roots democracy organisation in the Illawarra, has released a draft Charter for Ethics and Good Governance,which they are panning to launch at a mass community rally in Wollongong on September 13.

    While the rest of New South Wales will be tottering out of bed, down the street, through the coffee-shop and into the polling booth to vote in the local government elections on Saturday, September 13, Wollongong and Shellharbour residents, along with residents of a few other councils around the state, have the option of a long sleep-in.

    The Wollongong council was sacked in March after corruption allegations began to hit home, and neighbouring Shellharbour council followed suit in July. Both councils are under administration, appointed by the (
    ever-so-popular, and not at all corrupt or inept) NSW State Government. As a consequence, local residents have had their democratic rights 'waived' until 2012, when they will be allowed to vote for a new council. In shorthand? ALP corruption = punish the electorate.

    The local response? Well, WAC (and the local community) are revving-up to demand more, not less, democracy, and a royal commission into the corruption and filth that the local council had been mired in. To this end, and to begin putting their demands coherently, WAC has prepared the Charter to be launched this Saturday. There is also a good interview in the latest Green Left Weekly with Graham Larcombe, the secretary of Wollongong Against Corruption, which ends with this quote from Larcombe which I think is particularly useful:

    “Just protesting is not sufficient”, Larcombe said. “We need to think strategically about alternatives … We’re looking for ways to link up with other groups and community-based organisations to work towards this. People have concluded that the political model in NSW is bankrupt and very sordid … This community has decided we need to do something about it and that’s a really powerful thing.”

    The full text of the Charter (an excerpt of which is reproduced below), as well as more information about WAC, can be found on their website.

    4 Principles of the Charter

    The basic principles of good governance to be asserted are:

    (i) Decentralization of decision making. The Charter aims to deepen community democracy by empowering people at grass roots levels to participate in key decisions. More resources and functions would be channeled to the smallest or lowest competent authority. It is proposed to establish Community Democracy Forums (CDFs) to represent community interests in relation to local and city-wide issues, and to ensure that communities are fully engaged in Council’s decision-making process. Major decisions will be taken by Council only after a decentralised process of deliberation and dialogue. We proposed that CDF’s be established by a democratically elected Council. Community Democracy Forums will be involved in the preparation of local plans, budgets, rate changes and comments on major development approvals.

    In Wollongong the NSW Government is seeking to slow down the return to democracy by appointing Administrators for four years, with no program of achievement milestones that could reduce the time. On the other hand, the Administrators are hastening the gazettal of a draft Local Environmental Plan (LEP), which was drawn up by a Council at a time when there was strong influence of “systematic corruption” over the local planning process. This Charter asserts that we should hasten the return to democracy and require a democratically elected Council to oversee wide-ranging consultations and input from newly established Community Democracy Forums that could then embody the visions of the broader Wollongong community.

    (ii) Authority of the community in the decision-making process – i.e. the requirement that relevant development decisions above a certain level of funding and impact must be made available for review to relevant Community Democracy Forums. Submissions and recommendations from Community Democracy Forums must be carefully considered by Council, with written reasons provided if the community view is rejected.

    (iii) Transparency of process Any community consultations by Council must produce minutes that are easily accessible to the community, and all decision-making meeting records must be freely available to the public;

    (iv) Accountability of officials Public servants must be required to answer community proposals in writing and to ensure transparency of meetings. Sanctions are required for any official who deviates from the principles of the community consultation process, or who either accepts or does not report corrupt benefits or practices associated with Council decisions; accountability of officials requires adequate training to ensure they fully understand their responsibilities;

    (v) Appeal processes The community requires an Office to respond to appeals for due process in decisions by Council that affect them, or against corrupt practices; and appeals from officials against whom sanctions may have been levied for deviation from community engagement responsibilities or for engagement in or non-reporting of corrupt practices.

    5 Strategic directions to strengthen community democracy

    The Charter proposes a number of initiatives which we will work with others to implement in our campaign to return democracy to our city, to improve ethical standards, to reduce corruption and to deepen participation of residents in the running of our city.

    Decentralisation of Decisions

    1 Establishment of action-based Community Democracy Forums

    Council should support and invest in the establishment of Community Democracy Forums across the city. These Forums are the centerpiece of community democracy. They aim to empower and inform the community and reduce corruption. These Forums are much more than consultative forums. The latter are often cynically used to create a façade of community consultation. It would be mandatory for elected Councilors to respond to submissions from Community Democracy Forums.

    These Forums should be required to work towards consensus through deliberation. They must give particular attention to giving a voice to those who have not been listened to. They should elect delegates to present neighbourhood and local views to Council. They must be provided with resources to increase community awareness, capacity building and local research. They must aim to empower residents to make inputs into strategic visions, Local Environment Plans, strategic plans, capital works priorities and rates. They must give attention to redistribution and city wide side solutions.

    2 Extension of Independent Hearing Assessment Panels

    The Charter supports Independent Hearing Assessment Panels (IHAP), which are being introduced in Wollongong by the Administrators and elsewhere across the state. They make use of expert independent specialists such as planners and lawyers. They are designed to reduce lobbying by developers and provide a check on undue influence on decision making. They make recommendations to Council and include community representation. IHAPs should be strengthened by strengthening community representation. Major and controversial assessments would include representation from elected representatives of Community Democracy Forums. Representatives of the Forums should be encouraged to be present at all hearings and make submissions to Council.

    3 Determination of ward boundaries

    Most Councilors represent wards. The establishment of ward boundaries can be changed from time to time to reflect local demographic change. In Councils, boundary changes to wards are drawn up by bureaucrats, following guidelines provided by the State Electoral Office, in consultation with elected representatives. The community must have confidence that ward boundaries are drawn up completely impartially and are free from political interference. An independent electoral specialist and/or statistician should be involved in reviewing any changes to ward boundaries before any recommendations are put to Council, whilst their independent assessment must be tabled along with the recommended change to ward boundaries.

    Authority of the Community

    4 Improving Council organisation design

    Council in-door and out-door workers are employees of the community. They have a right to good wages and conditions and to be given opportunities for career advancement. They are encouraged to be active union members and hold a privileged and respected position in the community. They constantly interact with residents and they are an important asset to our community.

    We propose that Council organizational structure should shift from a hierarchical and silo culture to a flatter structure that encourages greater responsibility of Council employees to work in team thats engages with and interacts with communities. The prime focus of Council workers should be on delivering economic, social and environmental outcomes to communities, with priorities for disadvantaged communities.

    5 Community empowerment partnerships

    Council has a key role in encouraging partnerships with different groups to strengthen the groups’ inputs into the future of the city. Council should aim to incorporate the perspectives of interested specific community groups such as indigenous, ethnic and youth groups into Council’s key strategic plans. Towards this end, Council should encourage and resource initiatives by such groups where they are seeking to develop solutions to key community concerns, the purpose of this support being to strengthen the groups’ ability to contribute.

    Transparency of Process

    6 Freedom of information

    All residents are entitled to freedom of information. Public access to information should be available at no cost (except printing costs). We have too many cases where the public is denied access to information which is collected by public servants, paid for by the general public, and yet denied to the general public. In all cases where information is withheld Council must convince the Ombudsman (or, if established, an Office for Ethics and Good Governance) of reasons why information requested by the public should not be available to them.

    Accountability of Officials

    In Wollongong and NSW the democratic process by which Members are elected has largely been hijacked. The party pre-selection process guarantees that small, powerful and usually factional groups determine who their candidates are, who they will represent and how they will act. This is the antithesis of democracy. We believe that the Australian Labor Party, which has had a dominant position in all tiers of government in our city, must demonstrate that candidates are genuinely chosen on their merits through a genuine democratic process, as should any political party employing a pre-selection process in other electorates.

    7 Ban donations to political parties

    Under proposed electoral disclosure amendments, donations to individuals must be declared, when developers submit development applications to Council. But donations to political parties do not have to be disclosed when developers submit applications. Democracy would be strengthened if developer donations were banned altogether. In the interim all donations to political parties by developers in Wollongong should be disclosed when they are submitting a development application.

    8 Financial statements of elected representatives

    Like most citizens we want major donations to political parties and candidates banned. Our experience has taught us that there must be close scrutiny of the financial affairs of elected representatives, political parties and senior public servants. This includes assets, loans, business partnerships and relationships, donations and gifts.

    9 Continuous learning

    All Councilors and staff must be aware of their rights and responsibilities, including statutory requirements under ICAC, Local Government Act and Environmental Planning Assessment Act. Council must have a commitment to continuous training of Councilors and staff in anti-corruption, administration, planning legislation, community empowerment and budget management.

    10 Protection of public servants

    The General Manager and senior managers must be fully independent and free from political interference. They must be able to offer advice without fear or favour. Public servants in Wollongong must be guaranteed a right to free speech when they are exposing corruption, mismanagement and wastage, and to facilitate the public’s right to know.

    Appeal Process

    11 Office for Ethics and Good Governance

    We propose that an Office for Ethics and Good Governance, headed by an independent Director, be established in Wollongong Council. The establishment of the Office would coincide with the return to democracy in Wollongong. The Office would replace the three Administrators. The Director would report to the General Manager, elected Councilors and the Director General of the Department of Local Government.

    The Office should exist for three years, with a sunset clause. We believe it could be developed in other localities that have experienced systemic corruption. The aim of the Office would be to:

    • Strengthen and implement corruption prevention measures.
    • Implement ethical standards and protocols.
    • Provide compulsory ethics and good governance training programs for newly elected Councilors and staff.
    • Receive and report on complaints from the community and Council employees.
    • Encourage community participation in good governance.
    • Be accountable by providing an annual report highlighting individual and systemic ethical and good governance problems with solutions.

    12 Third Party Appeals

    Wollongong Council should advocate for the introduction of third party appeals in relation to development. The NSW Government should introduce legislation to provide for third party appeals. Currently residents cannot go to the Land and Environment Court to have the merits of a decision reconsidered. At most, residents can mount expensive legal challenges. According to leading planner John Mant, most states have third party merit appeals, with an independent body reviewing a case and coming to cost effective decisions. To protect the integrity of the process, costs could be awarded against frivolous appeals.

    6 A broader agenda for change

    The Wollongong Charter is about deepening community democracy in Wollongong. We believe the vision and principles will resonate with other communities across NSW. We will work with other communities to deepen democracy across the state. We recognise there are also national issues, particularly associated with the need for the Commonwealth to recognise local government in the Constitution and for national and state governments to provide a more secure resource base for local government. This would reduce pressure on Councils to develop close relationships with developers. The lessons of the Wollongong Council corruption experience have taught us to campaign for major changes at the State level. Proposed reforms include:

    • Amendment of the ICAC Act to make it mandatory that public servants report possible corrupt behaviour, not only to their Principal Officer – such as a General Manager – but also report directly to ICAC itself.
    • Development of new planning and environment legislation in NSW to make communities the centerpiece of the planning system, and to specifically repeal Part 3A legislation which provides the NSW government with interventionist powers in relation to local planning matters.
    • Amendment of the Local Government Act to insist that the Minister must specify a timetable for local government elections when a Council is sacked. A Minister should call for elections within three months of sacking a Council and outline steps to strengthen local democracy. Administrators should be provided with benchmarks and milestones in addressing corruption and its sources.
    • Broadening of Defamation Laws by introducing a “public figure” test which provides greater protection to free speech and criticism of public figures.

    Saturday, 6 September 2008

    Vote 1 Socialist Alliance on September 13

    Socialist Alliance How-To-Votes for NSW Council elections on Saturday September 13:

    Blacktown Council (Ward 3):

    Marrickville Council (North Ward):

    Newcastle Council (Ward 3 and Mayor):

    Friday, 5 September 2008

    "Garnaut targets all wrong"

    **Media release from People For a Safe Climate**

    Professor Garnaut has missed an opportunity to tell Australian federal and state governments just how seriously to take climate change, according to grassroots climate group People for a Safe Climate.

    Spokesperson Kamala Emanuel said, ``The two to three degree targets being promoted by the federal government is based on out-dated science and carries unacceptable risks.

    ``Professor Garnaut's greenhouse gas targets of 550ppm CO2-e, which he says is a step towards 450ppm on the road towards 400 gives such targets unwarranted legitimacy, when they risk nightmare scenarios not only for Australia, but for the world.

    ``Likewise, setting a target of reducing Australian emissions by only 10% on 2000 levels by 2020 (5% if there's not global agreement) is irresponsible in a global situation where underdeveloped countries are rightly demanding rich nations to show their seriousness by committing to deep cuts quickly.

    "The record-breaking Arctic sea ice melt in the last two years dramatically underscores the conclusion that the global warming of nearly one degree that has already happened is too much.

    "This was the conclusion of 'Target Atmospheric CO2: Where Should Humanity Aim,' a study led by James Hansen from NASA's Goddard Institute earlier this year.

    ``The only way to return to a safe climate is to bring greenhouse gas levels down to a level at which the Arctic Sea can stay frozen in summer - back to the 300-320 ppm CO2 it was at before the melting began.

    ``Only an emergency program to cut our emissions and take carbon out of the atmosphere is an adequate response to the challenge we're confronting,'' said Ms Emanuel.

    ``Many people doubt whether the government's carbon emissions reduction scheme will work. It certainly won't work if it has the wrong targets,'' observed Emanuel.

    ``The target should be as close to zero emissions as possible, as soon as possible, with commitments to bend every effort to bring it about,'' she said.

    ``This means emissions must peak within two years, and start to decline rapidly after that.

    ``At the same time, we must protect and expand the "carbon sinks" to pull carbon out of the air.

    ``We must commit to renewables for 100% of our electricity within 10 years, leaving coal in the ground, and expanding public transport.

    ``We demand the government listen to the science and take the action we need to safeguard the planet for current and future generations.

    ``We demand policies that can give us reason to hope, and confidence that there will be a safe climate for ourselves and our children,'' she said.

    People for a Safe Climate is organising a Climate Emergency protest in Sydney on October 2 to call for renewables now. The group brings together people from a range of climate action groups and other environmental, peace, social justice and political organisations.


    For interviews contact Kamala Emanuel 0417 319662, Alison Potter 0415 585 823

    Garnaut recommends climate disaster, corporate profits

    Wizz-bang economist Ross Garnaut, the erstwhile hero of the "Climate Change with Market Trimmings" set, has just released his recommended emissions reductions targets for Australia. Actually, to be honest, he has just avoided the issue entirely, and promised Business As Usual.

    So, what has Garnaut (author of the 548-page tome of eye-shrivelling economic "analysis" of the impact of climate change on Australia) recommended? A reduction of 10% by 2020!!!!! (The pdf is available from here).

    That's right! Only TEN MEASLY PERCENT in emissions reductions in 12 years, setting an initial carbon price at $20/tonne of Co2!

    The wombats are gobsmacked. We read the entire bloody object several times, as well as the similarly-sized Green Paper produced by the Commonwealth Government, and we are highly critical of those, for failing to even come close to recommending adequate action on climate change. For instance, this ludicrous belief that somehow 550ppm of CO2 is in any way livable (despite the science clearly showing otherwise).

    But Garnaut's latest recommendation is a smack in the face to even those most willing to buy his lie - that business and the free market - can save the world from disaster. After the initial sounds were made about climate change being a "diabolical problem" and such-like, the business sector (AiG, BCA, the big mining companies) all started to whine and weedle about the damage to the Australia economy it would all cause - not least becasue many of these villains threatened to bugger off overseas with their capital unless....

    And this was after Rudd had promised to hand out billions of dollars in sweeteners to the big polluters for their doing absolutely nothing.

    At the moment it seems like the air itself is almost dripping with fear and dread at what the next concessions the muppets and puppets in boardrooms and parliaments around the country are going to trot out and shove down our necks. Already in view - Garnaut jaunting around the global circuit, recommending to the world how to pretend to stop global warming while actually fattening the corporate pigs at the public trough.

    I think Bernard Keane at Crikey has it when they say that Garnaut's targets are so low, the sea level will rise above it in one year.

    When it comes to it, this is just further proof that capitalism, its market, and it's tools and playthings in government, are incapable of solving the crisis that they have created. No contest. We face a choice - ecosocialism or barbarism.

    NSW power sell-off: Iemma & Costa dumped, but what about the policy?

    Dick Nichols

    Following the August 28 decision of the NSW Labor government to implement its "Plan B" privatisation of the state’s three electricity retailers, tensions within the Labor Party reached breaking point.

    Faction leaders, MPs and party administrators, already scrambling for a circuit breaker in the long-running power sell-off dispute, went into overdrive as electricity workers from the retail sector struck for three days. Ben Kruse, secretary of the United Services Union (the main union covering the sector) commented: "There are so many problems with this arrangement that it should not go ahead".

    On August 29, NSW ALP assistant-secretary Luke Foley told the ABC's Stateline that a “special committee” to investigate the Premier's new plan would report to a September 12 meeting of the party's Administrative Committee on "whether that plan complies with the ALP platform".

    Of course, it doesn't. The May ALP state conference resolution that voted down electricity privatisation by 702 to 107 opposes the sell-off of any part of the power industry. As Bernie Riordan, the NSW ALP president and state secretary of the NSW branch of the Electrical Trades Union said at the time: "The policy of the party has been set by the conference and that's what must be adhered to."

    In the end the only circuit breaker with a chance of working had to be treasurer Michael Costa’s dumping from cabinet. Premier Morris Iemma was made to realise that there would no chance of his remaining premier or of Labor winning the 2011 state poll if his provocative and arrogant treasurer remained. But shortly after Costa announced his resignation, Iemma himself resigned as premier! He is to be replaced by former water minister Nathan Rees.

    September 20: Power to the People rally

    Power to the People (which is a coalition of ALP members, unions, the Greens, Uniting Church groups, Socialist Alliance, Solidarity and environmental and community groups against the sell-off of the power industry in New South Wales) has confirmed that the September 20 rally against privatisation of electricity will go ahead. It will also be a rally against privatisation of ferries, water, rail, prisons...

    Rally details:
    11am, Saturday September 20
    Sydney Town Hall Square

    The pressure began building before the government’s August 28 defeat over the power sell-off in parliament. Backbench MPs from the Centre Unity (right) faction, many of whom face political extinction in their outer-metropolitan Sydney marginal seats, had had enough.

    One of them told the August 25 Australian: "We're sending a team to let Morris know what backbenchers think, as opposed to what so-called powerbrokers [like Joe Tripodi and Eddie Obied] think. The delegation will be expressing support for him, but putting other points of view regarding Michael Costa's role in the scheme of things...If there was a quarter of an inch of give, and Costa was seen getting wacked over the head, the unions would readily acquiesce."

    On September 4, Deputy Speaker Tony Stewart said that Costa had "made comments publicly on numerous occasions that he would resign if he doesn't get his way and I'm saying he should put his actions where his mouth is."

    Stewart was backed by many cabinet ministers. Even Labor grandees like former prime minister Paul Keating—who backs electricity privatisation and ridiculed the ALP state conference vote—told Iemma that he could no longer afford loyalty to Costa if Labor was to have any chance of saving the privatisation policy.

    But will the end of Iemma and Costa also bring the sell-off of the electricity retailers to an end (and mean a complete victory for the opponents of electricity privatisation)? Powerful pressure is now being brought within the ALP apparatus for a “compromise” solution. Luke Foley himself said on August 29 that “I am confident that we can resolve the issue of electricity policy and once we resolve that there will be complete unity again. The issue of generation is always the one that has attracted the most heat within the Labor Party.”

    Similar pressure is coming from senior federal minister Anthony Albanese (a supporter of large-scale private involvement in infrastructure): “I want to see the parliamentary party, as well as the organizational wing of the party, unite in a constructive fashion to move away from any recriminations that have occurred.”

    It is not at all clear what the basis of a unity compromise solution might be. Costa's counterattack after losing the battle to sell off the state’s electricity generators was a mini-budget that would push a Jeff Kennett-style wave of privatisation into nearly all other areas of the public sector--ferries, water, Lotto, rail maintenance and lots more. Its message to the NSW union movement was: “You bastards have stopped me privatising electricity generation, so now I´ll privatise the rest.”

    On the very day of Iemma and Costa's defeat the ratings agency Standard and Poors (which, unlike its rival Moody's, usually just reflects the NSW treasury line) also announced that it was placing NSW's credit rating "under review". This provoked a sell-off of NSW government debt, increasing the interest repayment burden.

    Will new Premier Rees and his new treasurer now try to implement “Costaism without Costa”? Iemma has been at one with his treasurer on the content of electricity privatisation. Indeed, his attack on opposition leader Barry O'Farrell as an "economic vandal" (written in the Sydney Morning Herald when Fairfax journalists were on strike) underlined the message to NSW's appalled corporate elite that Labor in Macquarie Street remains "open for business" despite everything.

    Iemma and Costa’s message for the big end of town has been clear: if the union movement and the ALP party machine persists in defending public ownership, the NSW economy will be made to suffer. If the NSW ALP and unions think that they can buck the trend of the last 40 years--where ALP governments state and federal have been able to implement the corporate agenda irrespective of ALP policy — they have another thing coming.

    The stakes in this fight are beginning to look like those in the two other major crises in NSW ALP history--the conscription battles of the First World War (which led to the desertion to the conservatives of NSW ALP premier and conscription supporter William Holman), and the splits produced by the Great Depression and the Lang government's 1932 rejection of the federal Labor Scullin Plan (which involved cuts in salaries, pensions and government spending).

    In both cases ALP policy came into conflict with the needs of majority sections of the ruling class (and the Labor politicians supporting them). In the first Holman presided over a Nationalist government until 1920, when the ALP was returned to power (and Holman lost his seat). In the second, eight years of factional warfare was needed before "Industrial Labor" (later known as "Heffron Labor") finally defeated "Lang Labor".

    The battle lines of the next stage in the electricity privatisation war will be decided very soon. If the ALP Administrative Committee cracks on September 12 and "finds" that the privatisation of the retailers is in line with Labor policy, the ball will pass to Unions NSW. In such a case it must continue to defend retail electricity workers jobs (and ALP policy) against its recent allies in the fight against Macquarie Street.

    The answer to this latest conundrum in the ongoing power privatisation saga will--once again--be most influenced by the one factor that the mainstream media never wants to acknowledge — the persistence of the ongoing community and union campaign against the sell-off.

    The next step in that campaign is the September 20 Sydney “Power to the People” protest rally. The bigger that mobilisation, the greater the chance of burying electricity privatisation in NSW once and for all. The overwhelming public opposition to electricity privatisation has toppled the former premier and his hated treasurer. Let's press on for a total defeat of the privatisers!

    Dick Nichols is the National Coordinator of the Socialist Alliance.

    Thursday, 4 September 2008

    Socialist Alliance plots universal domination, time machine

    ... or so The Newcastle Gerald would have you believe.

    Possibly in cahoots with the Greens, the Socialist Alliance in Newcastle is apparently heavily involved in a dastardly plot to destroy - not just the planet - but the entire Universe!

    Along with the Evil Communists™ of the European (and Broader) Scientific Community, these nasty types have been linked, by the worthy Gerald, to the "Large Hadron Collider" (LHC), a devilish piece of technology designed to create anti-matter and small black holes, thereby destroying the world, the Solar System, and the Universe itself.

    This mechanism is set to go online on September 10, perfect time for the Socialists and Greens to hold the country to ransom - first to win the council elections on September 13; then to influence the Federal Government's response to climate change in the Green Paper on the creation of a Climate Pollution Reduction Scheme and ruin the Australian Economy!

    This may seem a little far-fetched, but scratch the surface, and all is revealed:
    * these groups (scientists, environmentalists, socialists) have led the way in warning us of climate change;
    * rather than faith in the Almighty Invisible Hand of the Market
    , they largely prefer to rely upon measurement, fact, and "science" (a favouritism stretching back as far as Marx and Engels)
    * communists, like the Socialist Alliance like to call themselves "scientific socialists", and are known to use "science", along with the
    Greens, and other communistic advocates of Global Warming, as a mind-control tool as part of their plan for world domination;
    * and finally, the puzzle completed itself all of a sudden, with the international popularity of a hip-hop song about the LHC, recorded by one of the creators herself. The link? The Socialist Alliance Mayoral candidate for Newcastle - Zane Alcorn - is also a rapper, performing under a number of pseudonyms, including "Doc Fruit". Coincidence? Some would think not!

    Zane and his socialist comrades for Newcastle Council are naturally campaigning on the need to avert the massive catastrophe of human-induced climate change, a position shared (with some nuances) by the Greens (known to the far-right and editors of The Australian as "The Watermelons").

    But never fear, friends, for a hardy and brave band of torch-bearers (comprised of business, "climate sceptic scientists" and government) are fighting this evil: warning of the lies behind the "science" of climate change, trying to confuse the enemy with false solutions, and warning of the satanic roots of science - astrophysics in particular.

    Only through this fillibuster will truth and order be restored, along with faith in the One True God - the Invisible Hand of the Market.

    Only then will the natural order of the world be maintained.

    Monday, 1 September 2008

    Climate Action Now (or we're all going to die)!

    Well, more or less. It may take some of us a while before we get there though, and in the meantime, the ecological disasters spawned by capitalism are going to make it decidedly uncomfortable for us to get by. So, want to save the world? Now's your chance!
    Not even wombats are immune to irrational, immediate, overwhelming, global catastrophe, so here's to catching your attention...

    Climate action: ‘As fast as humanly possible’

    David Spratt co-wrote Climate Code Red: The Case for Emergency Action with Philip Sutton. The book has been recently published and a review can be read in GLW #764. Spratt spoke to Green Left Weekly’s Ben Courtice about the need to move beyond “business as usual” immediately if we’re to avert climate catastrophe.

    Your book suggests that ‘business as usual’ economics won’t fix the problem. What does it mean to abandon business as usual economics in outline?

    The essence of the solution is to recognise the need, based on the scientific imperatives, to de-carbonise the economy as fast as humanly possible, for the state and society to plan and support a rapid transition far beyond the speed at which market mechanisms can effectively work. Given the emergency speed at which this must be done, simply using price mechanisms will lead to a policy failure with catastrophic consequences for most people and most species.

    It is fatuous to believe that simple pricing/market mechanisms can achieve the wholesale restructuring of society in the decade or two we have to achieve this task before the falling dominoes of carbon cycle feedbacks start crashing around our ears, signalling that we have left it too late to stop the climate catastrophe sweeping far beyond the capacity of human action to further affect its trajectory.

    The traditional environmental organisations have been timid in embracing the radical ideas that flow from the recognition that we are truly in an emergency. Do you think these groups will come on board with the ‘emergency’ approach?

    Many of the peak environment organisations are still setting policies and plans based on political convenience rather than on science-based analysis. The dilemma for the peak green groups is that they will get squeezed by the scientific imperatives and the scientists on the one side (such as NASA climate scientist James Hansen) and the grassroots climate and environment groups on the other, who are moving to the climate emergency position. Hansen’s challenge of a 325 ppm target [to reduce atmospheric CO2 to, at most, 325 parts per million] is being studiously ignored in most cases.

    In a comment for Climate Code Red, Hansen now says that: “Recent greenhouse gas emissions place the Earth perilously close to dramatic climate change that could run out of our control, with great dangers for humans and other creatures. There is already enough carbon in the Earth’s atmosphere for massive ice sheets such as West Antarctica to eventually melt away, and ensure that sea levels will rise metres in coming decades.

    “Climate zones such as the tropics and temperate regions will continue to shift, and the oceans will become more acidic, endangering much marine life. We must begin to move rapidly to the post-fossil fuel clean energy system. Moreover, we must remove some carbon that has collected in the atmosphere since the Industrial Revolution.”

    Hansen and seven fellow scientists have circulated a paper making the precautionary case for global cooling and a swift return to 325 ppm atmospheric carbon. The response, according to former US Greenpeace deputy director Ken Ward, has been “a deafening silence” from most climate lobby groups.

    If the peak green groups maintain their old positions and put a relationship to government ahead of the science and what they once considered “their” base they will become irrelevant, or simply an obstacle, to the campaign for action at emergency speed. At the moment they are way to the conservative side of Gore, and some of them are more conservative than Garnaut. This is scandalous.

    Do you think that large industrial/financial interests can be convinced into taking action by the scope of the emergency or are they likely to play a sabotaging role?

    Some will get it (already get it — have a look at T. Boone Pickens!) and most will not. Those who get it will prosper, the others will have to be bitterly fought over such issues as the coal industry. We have to expect that the elite will not be homogenous on the rapid transition question, as the Al Gore/T. Boone Pickens “zero emissions in 10 years” for electricity initiative illustrates.

    The Garnaut report’s recommendations are woefully inadequate in many activists’ opinion. What do you think are the weakest aspects of Garnaut’s approach?

    One large contradiction is that Garnaut is modelling “middle of the road” impacts, yet in his recent public meetings has talked about the “bad possibilities” with “immense impacts” and “highly adverse outcomes”, and then says there is a “10% chance” of these occurring. In fact, its more like 95% given the present trajectory of the climate and political inertia!

    The Garnaut modelling is for targets for temperatures rises of at least two and three degrees. But two degrees is not a real target because, as Adelaide university Professor Barry Brook told a recent conference in Canberra, “two degrees has the potential to lead to three or four degrees because of carbon-cycle feedbacks.”

    And a three-degree rise would destroy the Barrier Reef, Australia’s tropical rainforests and wetlands, cause widespread desertification, a mass extinction and a sea-level rise of perhaps 25 metres. At three degrees the climate will kick into a new state and run away from the human capacity to live with it. Tens, perhaps hundreds, of millions of people would not survive.

    In chapter two of his report, Garnaut notes the limitations of the modelling process and elaborates on why only what he calls “currently measurable market impacts” are being modelled. So, for example, the loss of the Queensland tourism industry because of the destruction of the Barrier Reef is not being modelled!

    Thus Garnaut is modelling what will not happen and will not model what is going to happen!

    How do you think the debate has progressed in the last 12 months?

    That is the good news. Twelve months ago Climate Code Red would have been dismissed as crazy by many. The response to it now shows how much the understanding of the scientific imperatives has changed.

    From: Comment & Analysis, Green Left Weekly issue #765 3 September 2008.