Thursday, 29 May 2008

Petras - Homage to Manuel Marulanda

From Dissident Voice, the Wombats are reproducing James Petras' obituary to FARC leader Manuel "Tirofijo" Marulanda (right), who - it has recently been confirmed - died in March.

Petras often takes positions that most rational revolutionaries would balk at (and some of these can be seen in this article, especially his snide insinuations about Cuba and Che Guevara), but he is at least consistent in his support for the FARC.

This is despite the liberal "consensus" that has dictated that the FARC are narco-terrorists, while somehow Uribe and his paramilitary friends, are pure as driven snow democrats .{For more on this particular gem, check out}.

It's all worth the read, at the very least...


Pedro Antonio Marin, better know as Manuel Marulanda and ‘Tiro Fijo (Sure Shot)’, was the leader of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia-Peoples Army (FARC-EP). He was without a doubt the greatest revolutionary peasant leader in the history of the Americas. Over a period of 60 years he organized peasant movements, rural communities and, when all legal democratic channels were effectively (and brutally) closed, he built the most powerful sustained guerrilla army and supporting underground militias in Latin America. The FARC at its peak between 1999-2005 numbered nearly 20,000 fighters, several hundred thousand peasant-activists, hundreds of village and urban militia units. Even today despite the regime’s forced displacement of 3 million peasants resulting from scorched earth policies and scores of massacres, the FARC has between 10,000-15,000 guerrillas in its numerous ‘fronts distributed throughout the country.

What make Marulanda’s achievements so significant are his organizational abilities, strategic acuity and his intransigent and principled programmatic positions consisting of support of popular demands. Marulanda, more than any other guerrilla leader, had unmatched rapport with the rural poor, the landless, the subsistence cultivators and the rural refugees over three generations.

Beginning in 1964 with two-dozen peasants fleeing villages devastated by a US directed military offensive Marulanda methodically built a revolutionary guerrilla army without either foreign financial or material contributions. Marulanda, more than any other guerrilla leader, was a great rural political teacher. Marulanda’s superb organizing skills were honed on the basis of his intimate ties with peasants — he grew up in a poor peasant family, lived among them cultivating and organizing, and spoke their language addressing their most basic daily needs and future hopes. Conceptually and through daily trial and error, Marulanda worked out a series of strategic political–military operations based on his brilliant understanding of the geographic and human terrain. Between 1964 to his recent death, Marulanda defeated or evaded at least seven major military offensives financed by over $7 billion dollars in US military aid, involving thousands of US ‘Green Berets’, Special Forces, mercenaries, over 250,000 Colombians Armed Forces and 35,000 member paramilitary death squads.

Unlike Cuba or Nicarangua, Marulanda built an organized mass base and trained a largely rural leadership; he openly declared his socialist program and never received political or material support from so-called ‘progressive capitalists’. Colombia’s armed forces were a formidable, highly trained and disciplined repressive apparatus, bolstered by murderous death squads, unlike Batista’s and Somoza’s corrupt and rapacious gangsters, who plundered and retreated under pressure. Marulanda, unlike many better-known ‘poster-boy’ guerrillas, was a virtual unknown among the elegant leftist editors in London, the nostalgic Parisian sixty-eighters and the New York Socialist scholars. Marulanda spent his time exclusively in ‘Colombia profunda’, the deep Colombia, preferring to converse and teach peasants and learn their grievances, rather than giving interviews to adventure-seeking Western journalists. Instead of writing grandiloquent ‘manifestos’ and striking photogenic poses, he preferred the steady, unromantic but eminently effective grassroots pedagogy of the disinherited. Marulanda traveled from virtually inaccessible valleys to mountain ranges, from jungles to plains, organizing, fighting… recruiting and training new leaders. He eschewed tripping off to ‘World Forums’ or following the route of international leftist tourists. He never visited a foreign capital and, it is said, never set foot in the nation’s capital, Bogota. But he had a vast and profound knowledge of the demands of the Afro-Colombians of the Coast, the Indio-Colombians of the mountains and jungles, the land claims of millions of displaced peasants, the names and addresses of abusive landlords who brutalized and raped peasants and their kin.

Throughout the 1960’s, 70’s and 80’s numerous guerrilla movements raised arms, fought with greater or lesser capacity and disappeared — killed, surrended (some even turned collaborator) or became immersed in electoral wheeling and dealing. Few in number, they fought in the name of non-existent ‘peoples armies’; most were intellectuals who were more familiar with European narratives than the micro-history and popular culture and legends of the people they tried to organize. They were isolated, encircled and obliterated, perhaps leaving a well-publicized legacy of exemplary sacrifice, but changing nothing on the ground.

In contrast, Marulanda took the best punches thrown by the counter-insurgency Presidents in Bogota and Washington and returned them in spades. For every village that was razed, Marulanda recruited dozens of angry and destitute peasant fighters and patiently trained them to be cadres and commanders. More than any guerrilla army, the FARC became an army of the whole people: one-third of the commanders were women, over seventy percent were peasants although intellectuals and professionals joined and were trained by movement-led cadres. Marulanda was revered for his singularly simple life style: he shared the drenching rain under plastic canopies. He was deeply respected by millions of peasants, but he never in any way cultivated a personality cult-figure: He was too irreverent and modest, preferring to delegate important tasks to a collective leadership, with a good deal of regional autonomy and tactical flexibility. He accepted a diversity of views on tactics, even when he profoundly disagreed. In the early 1980’s, many cadre and leaders decided to try the electoral route, signed a ‘peace agreement’ with the Colombian President, formed an electoral party – the Patriotic Union – and successfully elected numerous mayors and representatives. They even gained a substantial vote in Presidential elections. Marulanda did not publicly oppose the accord but he did not lay down his arms and ‘go down from the mountains to the city’. Much better than the professionals and trade unionists who ran for office, Marulanda understood the profoundly authoritarian and brutal character of the oligarchy and its politicians. He clearly knew that Colombia’s rulers would never accept any land reform just because a ‘few illiterate peasants voted them out of office.’ By 1987 over 5,000 members of the Patriotic Union had been slaughtered by the oligarchy’s death squads, including three presidential candidates, a dozen elected congressmen and women and scores of mayors and city councilors. Those who survived fled to the jungles and rejoined the armed struggle or fled into exile.

Marulanda was a master in evading many encirclement and annihilation campaigns, especially those designed by the best and the brightest from the US Fort Bragg Special Forces counter-insurgency center and the School of the Americas. By the end of the 1990’s the FARC had extended its control to over half the country and was blocking highways and attacking military bases only 40 miles from the capital. Severely weakened, the then President Pastrana finally agreed to serious peace negotiations in which the FARC demanded a de-militarized zone and an agenda that included basic structural changes in the state, economy and society.

Unlike the Central American guerrillas who traded arms for elected office, Marulanda insisted on land redistribution, dismantling of the death squads and dismissal of Colombian generals involved in massacres, a mixed economy largely based on public ownership of strategic economic sectors and large-scale funding for peasants to develop alternative crops to coca, prior to laying down arms.

In Washington President Clinton was hysterical and at first opposed the peace negotiations — especially the reform agenda as well as the open public debates and forums widely attended by Colombian civil society and organized by the FARC in the de-militarized zone. Marulanda’s embrace of democratic debate, demilitarization and structural changes puts the lie to the charge by Western and Latin American social democrats and center-left academics that he was a ‘militarist’. Washington probed to see if they could repeat the Central American peace process — co-opt the FARC leaders with the promise of electoral office and privilege in exchange for selling out the peasants and poor Colombians. At the same time Clinton, with bi-partisan support, pushed through a massive $2 billion dollar appropriation bill to fund the biggest and bloodiest counter-insurgency program since the war in Indochina, dubbed ‘Plan Colombia’. Abruptly ending the peace process, President Pastrana rushed troops into the demilitarized zone to capture the FARC secretariat, but Marulanda and his comrades were long gone.

Between 2002 to the present the FARC alternated from offensive attacks and defensive retreats — mostly the latter since 2006. With an unprecedented degree of US financing and advanced technological support, the newly elected narco-partner and death squad organizer, President Alvaro Uribe took charge of a scorched earth policy to savage the Colombian countryside. Between his election in 2002 and re-election in 2006, over 15,000 peasants, trade unionists, human rights workers, journalists and other critics were murdered. Entire regions of the countryside were emptied — like the US Operation Phoenix in Viet Nam, farmland was poisoned by toxic herbicides. Over 250,000 armed forces and their partners in the paramilitary death squads decimated vast stretches of the Colombian countryside where the FARC exercised hegemony. Scores of US-supplied helicopter gun-ships blasted the jungles in vast search and destroy missions — (which had nothing to do with coca production or the shipment of cocaine to the United States). By destroying all popular opposition and organizations throughout the countryside and displacing millions Uribe was able to push the FARC back toward more defensible remote regions. Marulanda, as in the past, adopted a strategy of defensive tactical retreat, giving up territory in order to safeguard the guerrillas’ capacity to fight another day.

Unlike other guerrilla movements, the FARC did not receive any material support form the outside: Fidel Castro publicly repudiated armed struggle and looked to diplomatic and trade ties with center-left administrations and even better relations with the brutal Uribe. After 2001, the Bush White House labeled the FARC a ‘terrorist organization’ putting pressure on Ecuador and Venezuela to tighten cross-border movements of the FARC in search of supply chains. The ‘center-left’ in Colombia was totally divided between those who gave ‘critical support’ to Uribe’s total war against the FARC and those who ineffectively protested the repression.

It is hard to imagine any guerrilla movement surviving under conditions of massive US financed counter-insurgency, quarter million US-armed soldiers, millions displaced from its mass base and a psychopathic President allied directly to a 35,000 member chain-saw death squads. However Marulanda, cool and determined, directed the tactical retreat; the idea of negotiating a capitulation never entered his mind nor that of the FARC secretariat.

The FARC does not have contiguous frontiers with a supporting country like Vietnam had with China; nor the arms supply from a USSR, nor the international mass support of Western solidarity groups like the Sandinistas. We live in times where supporting peasant-led national liberation movements is not ‘fashionable’, where recognizing the genius of peasant revolutionary leaders who build and sustain authentic mass peoples armies is taboo in the pretentious, loquacious and impotent World Social Formus — which ‘world’ routinely excludes peasant militants and for whom ‘social’ means the perpetual exchange of e-mails between foundations funded by NGO.

It is in this hardly auspicious environment facing US and Colombian Presidents intent on Pyrrhic victories, that we can appreciate the political genius and personal integrity of Latin America’s greatest peasant revolutionary, Manuel Marulanda. His death will not generate posters or tee shirts for middle class college students, but he will live forever in the hearts and minds of millions of peasants in Colombia. He will be remembered forever as ‘Tiro Fijo’: the legend who was killed a dozen times and yet returned to the villages to share their simple lives. The only leader who was truly ‘one of them’, the one who confronted the Yankee military and mercenary machine for a half-century and was never captured or defeated.

He defied them all — those in their mansions, presidential palaces, military bases, torture chambers, and bourgeois editorial offices: He died at after 60 years of struggle of natural causes in the arms of his beloved peasant comrades.

Tiro Fijo presente!

James Petras, a former Professor of Sociology at Binghamton University, New York, owns a 50-year membership in the class struggle, is an adviser to the landless and jobless in Brazil and Argentina, and is co-author of Globalization Unmasked (Zed Books). Petras’ forthcoming book, Zionism and US Militarism, is due from Clarity Press, Atlanta, in August 2008. He can be reached at: Read other articles by James, or visit James's website.

Tuesday, 27 May 2008

Resistance 2008 conference

War, racism, environmental destruction, homophobia, sexism......
Turn Anger into Action!

Friday June 27 - Sunday June 29

Guthrie Theatre, University of Technology Sydney

Past generations have stood up against the great injustices of their time: slavery, Apartheid, fascism, and war. They envisioned the world as it should be, not just as it was, and through their struggles achieved things once thought impossible. Now is not the time to despair. We need to get angry, get active and get organised.

Resistance is a socialist youth organisation: We look at not only what is wrong, but why - and how we can change it. We argue that the injustices in the world today are fundamentally caused by capitalism. We believe that the only viable alternative is socialism - the the democratic control of society and economy by ordinary people, not corporations.

The Resistance national conference will bring together young activists to make decisions on furthering progressive campaigns how we build a socialist alternative to capitalism. It will give you the opportunity to hear eyewitness accounts from Venezuela's inspiring socialist revolution; Come and share your ideas for a better world.

Monday, 26 May 2008

Draft Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Rights Charter

At its May 22, 2008 meeting the National Executive of the Socialist Alliance voted to make available this first draft of its Charter of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Rights to all interested activists in the movement for Indigenous rights.

The Charter not only updates the Socialist Alliance’s policy on Indigenous people’s rights, but is also intended to help build the movement itself. We welcome criticism and suggestions for improvement. They can be sent to the Socialist Alliance National Office.

The final version of the Charter will be produced in time for the June 21 National Day of Action against the federal intervention in the Northern Territory and other communities.

Dick Nichols

National Coordinator Socialist Alliance

  • Download original draft for printing

  • Introduction

    In 1788 Australia was invaded and colonised, but the sovereignty of the original inhabitants of this country was never ceded. Treaties were never negotiated over the use or settlement of the land, and the colonisers invented a legal fiction – terra nullius – to justify their illegal and violent annexation. By pretending that the land wasn’t inhabited by a “civilised” people, the likes of James Cook and Joseph Banks laid the basis for two centuries of racism and oppression.

    For the past 220 years, mothers, fathers and children have suffered the trauma of invasion, enslavement, assimilation, genocide, racist exclusion, land theft, the destruction of life, language and culture, and the denial of basic human rights. Under successive governments, whole populations were forced into missions, denied their language and culture, and given diseased blankets, and tea, flour, and tobacco to live on. In many areas, hunting parties were paid a bounty to chase down and kill those who refused to accept the new order.

    Throughout the last century, Aboriginal children were removed from their families and communities, in order to “assimilate” what was deemed a “failed race” into the broader Australian population. These children were lied to about their heritage, and were used as slave labour – as housemaids, or on cattle stations – and were frequently abused. These children – collectively known as the Stolen Generations – still suffer from the effects of their separation, and are still waiting for meaningful reparation for their pain.

    The Apology

    The apology given by Kevin Rudd to the Stolen Generation was an important and necessary symbolic step forward—if long overdue. However, it does not mean that official racism is dead. Without compensation for the Stolen Generations and immediate action to overcome the inequality suffered by indigenous Australians, the apology will become just more hollow words from white Australia.

    In 1992, the High Court finally laid to rest the white colonial fairytale that there was no such thing as Indigenous land ownership, that the country invaded in 1788 was terra nullius. But despite a world of promises, in the 16 years since Mabo Indigenous Australia remains without adequate recognition and often living in Third World conditions. Deaths in custody and endemic racism continue, reinforced by negative media coverage and racist government legislation, such as the Howard Government’s Northern Territory intervention in 2007.

    The Northern Territory intervention—the new paternalism

    The Howard government used the 2007 Little Children are Sacred report on the sexual abuse of children in Aboriginal communities to justify its intervention with police and army into Northern Territory Aboriginal settlements. There was no consultation with Indigenous communities, the Northern Territory's land rights law and the permit system were suspended, welfare payments “quarantined” and employment projects cut.

    The pretext for the intervention was not even mentioned in the legislation that enabled the intervention, and only a handful of actual charges of abuse laid. Northern Territory Aboriginal leaders maintain that the incidence of child molestation in their communities is less than in the broader community. If the concern about inadequate protection of Aboriginal children had been real, it would never have produced that intervention.

    The intervention and the quarantining of welfare payments has forced people out of their communities, leading to increased homelessness (“long-grassing”), suicide and petty crime. This new paternalism, which continues under Rudd and state Labor governments, will only reproduce the same results as the old paternalism—poverty, alienation, powerlessness and hopelessness.

    The only way to solve the problems facing Aboriginal communities across Australia is to work in coalition with the communities themselves, to provide the resources, training, and support to enable the communities to take control of their own affairs, instead of relying upon hand-outs or being pushed around at the point of a gun or pen.

    1. Our basic approach

    Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples continue to be the victims, not the creators, of the policies which affect them. That is why the Socialist Alliance’s basic “policy approach” is to provide solidarity and support to all struggles for justice by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

    We stand for:

  • Reconciliation and compensation
  • Recognition of rights and the building of awareness
  • Full economic and social equality – close the gap within ten years
  • A treaty and real land rights
  • Aboriginal control of Aboriginal affairs
  • Justice for Indigenous Australia must begin with a frank and full acknowledgement of the fact that “White Australia has a Black history” and a determination to make amends wherever possible. Prime Minister Rudd’s apology to the Stolen Generations on February 13, 2008, was a good start, but more concrete steps have to be taken.

    That requires:

  • Constitutional recognition of the sovereignty of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people as the original and ongoing inhabitants of the land, and the negotiation of a treaty or binding agreement enshrining Indigenous rights in law;
  • Full reparation for the Stolen Generations;
  • Full implementation of the recommendations of the 1997 National Inquiry into the Separation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children from their Families (the “Bringing Them Home” Report).
  • Full and immediate compensation for the stolen wages;
  • Full implementation of the recommendations of the 1991 Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody;
  • 2. Recognition of Rights and Building Awareness

    Socialist Alliance supports the creation of a treaty or compact in order to enshrine and protect the rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. This is more than just a formality – in countries where treaties have been negotiated, and have provided a means to exercise genuine self-determination in Indigenous communities, health and other social problems have improved.

    The Socialist Alliance says:

  • Ensure all legislation is in line with the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination and the rulings of the UN Commission on Human Rights;
  • Guarantee protection of sacred sites and artefacts, and the return of all stolen heritage items – both here and overseas – to their rightful custodians;
  • Protect the cultural and intellectual property rights of Aboriginal Australia;
  • Change planning laws and regulations so that the decision as to what is a heritage site in need of protection belongs to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people concerned;
  • Make the study of the history, culture, language and customs of Indigenous peoples part of the core education curriculum; make Indigenous studies mandatory in teacher training; and develop curricula in Aboriginal languages;
  • Start a program for the reviving and popularising of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander place names to stand alongside (or replace) the place names arising from colonial settlement;
  • Extend Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander programming on the ABC, SBS and community broadcasting; end the racist and destructive portrayal of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, organisations and communities in some sections of the media.
  • 3. Social and economic equality

    In health, housing, employment and education Indigenous Australia still lags, often shockingly, behind the rest of the population. Indigenous babies and children have twice the rate of low birth weight, seven times the rate of sudden infant death and seven times the death rate from childhood infectious diseases and accidents as non-Indigenous children.

    The life expectancy of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people is 17 years below that of non-Indigenous Australians, and at present rates of change it will never reach that of the non-Indigenous population! This contrasts shamefully with the progress in life expectancy of the Maori people in New Zealand and the First Nations peoples of Canada. To make things worse, for years, Indigenous health has been under-funded by at least $500 million annually. This must be turned around immediately.

    We need to end the genocide taking place by neglect, by extending and improving Indigenous health and other community needs through fully funded and targeted services controlled by Indigenous Australians and their communities. The Socialist Alliance calls for an emergency campaign to “close the gap” in life expectancy within a generation, and to eliminate Indigenous social disadvantage and inequality across the board within a decade.

    Socialist Alliance calls for a target date of 2012 for Aboriginal students to match or better the educational development of Australian students as a whole, and aim for similar targets in health, housing and employment. A properly funded program of positive discrimination for Indigenous people in education and training and a real Indigenous job creation campaign could have started to solve the problems of Aboriginal communities’ hopelessness years ago.

    Funding for programs that have been shown to reduce social and economic disadvantage must be kept up and increased. Any real plan to achieve social and economic equality for Indigenous people must include the following measures, developed and overseen by the appropriate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and organisations. Aboriginal control over the administration of Aboriginal affairs must be the practice, not just on paper.


  • An emergency campaign around child health. Boost funding to community-based child-care services and boosted training of more Aboriginal pediatric health professionals
  • Boost health resources in both community-run and mainstream services
  • Strengthen community initiatives to address violence and abuse, establish safe houses and properly resource Indigenous women’s centres and legal services
  • Implement the recommendation of the Little Children are Sacred report, the Combined Aboriginal Organisations of the Northern Territory Emergency Response and Development Plan, as well as the recommendations in the 1997 HREOC Social Justice Report.
  • Housing

  • As part of expanding social housing, develop and adequately fund an Indigenous housing plan to address unmet need (17% of people using homelessness services are Indigenous as against less than 2% for the population as a whole).
  • Implement an emergency repair and upgrading plan for Indigenous households.
  • Help Indigenous communities maintain and improve their housing stock by providing the necessary training and resources.
  • Education

  • Ensure that the Department of Education and Training has the resources, staffing and teacher-training programs adequate to provide Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students with the necessary attention.
  • Implement programs to support Aboriginal parents and caregivers with children in the formative 0 to 5 year period.
  • Increase the numbers of Aboriginal teachers and education administrators
  • Increase the level of community involvement in schools and TAFEs, through such programs as “in-class tuition” that brings Aboriginal parents into schools to work with and raise the awareness of non-Aboriginal teachers and children.
  • Employment

  • Ensure that all programs and services in Indigenous communities employ qualified people, and provide training and development for community members.
  • Establish affirmative action quotas in apprenticeships, TAFE and university entrance and all levels of government.
  • Require government agency programs to increase Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander participation.
  • Help Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to retain and or reclaim use of traditional fisheries
  • Abolish work for the dole. Reinstate Community Development Employment Programs (CDEPs) as a transition to real employment, especially in remote in Aboriginal communities, employing all workers on locally negotiated award wages based on community consultation.
  • Indigenous Australians in jail

    Indigenous Australians make up less than 2% of the population, but make up 26% of the jail population. There can be no social justice and equality for Aboriginal Australians until problems that cause this situation are tackled.

  • Implementation of all the 339 recommendations of the 1991 Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody, and full investigation into the scores of avoidable deaths since.
  • Full implementation of the recommendations of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody
  • Boosted funding to Aboriginal Legal Aid
  • Thorough training of court officials, police and prison officers in Indigenous culture and values
  • Proper representation of Indigenous communities on law reform bodies
  • Greater Indigenous representation on juries
  • Indigenous community policing
  • Greater use of suspended sentences
  • 4. Sovereignty, Treaty and Land Rights

    After three decades of Land Rights, and 15 years of Native Title, it is clear that consecutive governments and legislation have failed to meet the aim of increasing the rights of Indigenous people to live on traditional lands. The National Native Title Tribunal has failed to secure Indigenous rights in the face of corporate, especially mining, interests. The Howard government’s abolition of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission (ATSIC) and attack on Land Rights in the Northern Territory shows the vulnerability of Indigenous rights in the face of hostile Governments intent on a racist land-grab.

    Socialist Alliance stands for full Land Rights and compensation for land taken, and recognises the existence of Indigenous self-governance and the right of Indigenous peoples to self-determination.

    Socialist Alliance also calls for increased funding and support for Indigenous community-run services to overcome the lack of necessary expertise among local communities. The Socialist Alliance approach is to strengthen the economic and skills base of the land councils system and local communities, and in this way support Indigenous people in the creation of sustainable, self-managed communities.

    Socialist Alliance says:

  • Restore the permit system in full, under community control, not white manager control
  • No to 5-year and 99-year leases. The use of Aboriginal land for community development is possible without breaking it up and forcibly introducing individual property relations onto a communitarian culture
  • Repeal the Native Title Act, abolish all racist land laws and renegotiate Indigenous Land Rights as part of a constitutionally entrenched Treaty, binding on Federal and State governments
  • Provide support, funding and the necessary specialist training for the development of community cooperative enterprises
  • Develop leadership and skills among local communities—with special incentives for the younger generation to participate.
  • Guarantee popular election of office holders at all level
  • Block the disposal of land of spiritual or cultural value without support by land councils and traditional custodians.
  • Encourage and resource the development of democratic Indigenous representative bodies at regional and national levels.
  • No forced amalgamations or closure of land councils
  • No to the “mainstreaming” of Indigenous services
  • Tuesday, 20 May 2008



    6-8:30 pm, Australia Hall, 150 Elizabeth St Sydney
    * Welcome to Country - Chika Madden
    * MC Intro & Cultural Performance - Greg Eatock
    * How far have we come? - Professor Larissa Behrendt
    * Parliamentary Response - Senator Rachel Siewert (Greens, WA)
    * Update on impact of NT Intervention - Barbara Shaw
    Break & Acoustic Performance
    * Human Rights Implications - Darren Dick HREOC
    * Community Developed Approaches - Muriel Bamblett SNAICC (tbc)

    Redfern Community Centre, 29 Hugo St, Redfern
    Welcome to Country - Chicka Madden
    Conference Welcome - Millie Ingram

    Fifty Years of Struggle: Contextualising the Campaign - Greg Eatock

    The Intervention Unpacked
    9.10 – 10.45 am
    The Intervention: grass roots impacts - Juni Mills, Chris Poulson, Lyle Cooper
    Plus Speakers from the Floor, Individual’s experiences & Communities Input

    MORNING TEA 10:45-11:00

    PANEL - PATERNALISM REVISITED - The Intervention Unpacked (cont’d)
    Welfare Management, Land Legislation, CDEP, Mission Managers, grog & pornography controls, health & education, & the impact on Child Protection - Monitoring the Intervention (Aboriginal organisations & Communities Input)

    The Expanding Intervention
    12-12:30 pm
    Qld’s Experience - Victor Hart
    WA’s Experience - Natasha Moore
    NSW Experience -
    SA Update - Brian Butler

    12:30-1:00pm Questions

    LUNCH 1:00-2:00pm

    Afternoon Sessions
    Ideology Underlying Intervention
    , 2:00-2:15pm
    What’s the thinking behind the NT Intervention? - Cathy Eatock

    Which Way Forward 2:15-2:30pm
    International Precedents & Evidence Based Aboriginal Developments - Muriel Bamblett (tbc)

    Review of NT Intervention 2:45- 3:00pm
    What’s planned next? - Larissa Behrendt

    3:00-3:30pm Questions

    AFTERNOON TEA 3:30-4:00 pm

    State Report Backs
    Alice, Darwin, Perth, Adelaide, Brisbane, Melb, Tas & Sydney - ARC & Affiliated Organisations



    Aboriginal Caucus
    National Coordination, ARC Structure, Community Issues, Future Directions

    Campaign Workshops?

    Engaging Unions, Broadening Support, Managing the Media and Working with Students, and the International Campaign

    LUNCH 12:30-1:30pm

    Koori Caucus Outcomes
    Future Directions Report Back: Where are we going & how do we get there?

    Workshops’ Report Back
    Workshop Recommendations: How the other 97.5% of the population can help!


    Conference Close 4:30 pm

    Friday, 9 May 2008

    Marcus Strom - "Maintain the link, defend the pledge"

    Unions are the bedrock of the Labor Party, writes Marcus Strom

    from Labor Tribune

    Will no one rid me of these troublesome unions? So must be the thoughts of NSW Premier Morris Iemma.

    The stoush over electricity privatisation is turning out to be a dress rehearsal for a showdown over a more fundamental issue: the future of the link between organised workers and the Australian Labor Party.

    The first shots in this battle under a Rudd government came from Mark Aarons, Iemma's former hired hand. His essay in Dear Mr Rudd has described union power in the ALP as so pernicious that it "threatens to grow into a cancer''. He recommends limiting union representation to the party conference in line with affiliate union density, at about 12 per cent. ALP branch membership has fallen below 50,000. Yet unions affiliated to the ALP make up more than 1 million people; that's roughly 90 per cent of membership with 50 per cent of conference vote.

    There is no doubt the union link needs to be democratised, but diminution is not the answer. Political parties are not microcosms of all society, they are voluntary affiliations of a broad range of people committed to pursing common political ends. They percolate and crystallise ideas into a shared agenda. Traditionally in Australia, this has been along a right-left class line. With the Australian Labor Party, there is a bit of a clue in the name. Unions formed this party and remain its bedrock.

    However, the message from the managerial elite of Labor - the staffers, hacks and careerists - is that the business of politics would be a lot easier if our parliamentary representatives did not have to kowtow to these unions.

    On top of this is the stink about corporate donations and the push for state-funded election campaigns. Hand-outs from developers and the hotel lobby have become politically unsustainable. If the ALP is forced to give up the corporate cash cow, it will become more reliant on union funds. For Iemma and Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, that is not on. But to remove the unions from the equation creates a financial problem for the ALP. Enter state funding for elections. From the corporate teat to the state bottle.

    To achieve this seismic shift the ALP machine will need an ideological package. This partly explains the national executive's move to revisit the party's pledge to democratic socialism.

    Every year at ALP state conference, delegates go through a little charade. One branch or other recommends removal of the party's commitment to democratic socialism. Some more modern, neutral words such as fair-go, equality, solidarity are suggested. And every year the party's hierarchy recommends its rejection, all in the interest of party unity.

    But not this year.

    Last weekend the Georges Hall branch submitted a motion calling for the scrapping of the party's socialist pledge. Rather than recommend rejection, the rules committee suggested conference "refer to the ALP national executive for consideration in the forthcoming Review of the Party Pledge''.

    This is the first time most party members will have heard of any such review, but it should come as no surprise. Rudd has emphatically rejected this aspect of Labor's heritage: "I am not a socialist. I have never been a socialist and I never will be a socialist.'' (The Age, December 14, 2006)

    Troublesome unions, controversy over corporate funding and the review of the socialist pledge: together this is a recipe to attain what even Tony Blair could not fully achieve in Britain the delabourisation of Labor and the establishment of a centrist liberal party without the unions.

    This outcome echoes ALP assistant state secretary Luke Foley's concerns as voiced on Four Corners (Dirty, Sexy Money, April 14). "If we're simply a brand with a good advertising campaign every time an election comes round and nothing else, we only engage in the empty pursuit of power.''

    Elections and democracy will be seen as an even more stage-managed affair on behalf of the state and the "urban elites''. Cynicism of the political process will increase. Citizen involvement will decline.

    What is at stake is not only the democratic heart of the Labor Party, but the very fabric of our democracy. Without active citizen participation in the political process, what sort of democracy is it? We cannot afford to let a managerial elite cut itself free of civil society and hook up to a self-perpetuating state-government-party funding cycle.

    Of course the funding process needs radical reform. The corporate donations must stop and the process must be transparent. Donations and declarations must be simultaneous. Further we need participation of party members and beyond that an active and engaged citizenry; we need accountability of our representatives and ALP members deserve accountability within the party. For a start, rather than union secretaries appointing their delegates to state conference, we should move to rank and file election.

    Let's not contemplate abandoning the pledge or ending the union link. Let's work to make it stronger, democratic and accountable.

    Marcus Strom is secretary of the Summer Hill branch of the ALP and editor of Labor Tribune

    This article originally appeared on on May 7, 2008

    Wednesday, 7 May 2008

    Defend Dave Kerin! Union Solidarity Coordinator Faces 6 months jail.

    Union Solidarity Coordinator Faces 6 months jail.

    Union Solidarity Coordinator Dave Kerin is now facing up to 6 months jail for supporting striking workers at Boeing.

    The Australian Workplace Ombudsman has issued Dave with a "Notice to produce documents" [see attachment] in relation to the recent strike at Boeing. Dave is being asked to supply a government agency with all information and documents concerning Union Solidarity, the AMWU and rank & file members by May 8. Basically Dave is being asked to "rat", he wont.

    Union Solidarity will not comply with laws and government agencies whose sole purpose is to prevent workers having the ability to strike and organise. In the last election the Australian people voted overwhelming to get rid of anti-union laws, Union Solidarity operates within the spirit of that intention!

    We are asking you to indicate your public support for Dave Kerin and Union Solidarity.

    Please go here and indicate your public support for Dave Kerin and Union Solidarity. At a later date we will publish the names (but not phone numbers) to show the Workplace Ombudsman how much support Dave Kerin has within the movement.

    Download for printing:
    Messages of support for Dave Kerin can be sent to Dave:

    Yours in Solidarity

    Union Solidarity.

    Black And White Unite! Aboriginal Rights Coalition National Conference 23-25 May!

    70 years since the Day of Mourning.

    Friday 23rd May: Opening forum
    6:30 pm at Australia Hall, 150 Elizabeth Street, Sydney

    Saturday 24th and Sunday 25th May:
    Panels, Discussion & Workshops
    Redfern Community Centre, Hugo Street, Redfern

    Speakers include:
    Larissa Behrendt
    Vince Forrester
    Heather Goodall
    Sam Watson
    Barbara Shaw

    Conference sessions include:
    *History of the struggle
    *Unions and Aboriginal rights
    *Resisting the new paternalism

    Almost one year since the NT intervention began, there is a pressing need for the Aboriginal Rights movement to come together, consolidate recent gains and plan for the fight ahead.

    The new Rudd Government has made some important symbolic gestures - from the apology through to commitments to ‘Close the Gap’ in Indigenous health. But for communities in the NT, Rudd is now the face of an intervention which is causing a new wave of dispossession and, as argued by Mutitjulu elder Vince Forrester, “a return to Apartheid”.

    Welfare quarantines, the destruction of Community Employment Development Projects (CDEP) and the compulsory acquisition of Aboriginal lands, businesses and services has forced thousands of people from their communities into urban centres. There they are met with racism and police repression - 190 people were taken into custody in Alice Springs on 4-5 April in an operation targeting “anti-social behaviour”.

    The ideas of paternalism, assimilation and the free-market driving the intervention, and pushed so hard by the Howard government, are impacting on Aboriginal policy across the country. From the Queensland government’s decision to continue holding stolen wages “in trust”, the “mainstreaming” of Indigenous services which continues, through to the burgeoning national roll out of punitive welfare policies, a policy consensus has emerged in government and media against self-determination.

    The new government is actively campaigning for retention and expansion of the explicitly racist intervention laws. They refuse to acknowledge the social break down taking place. They continue to deny Aboriginal people the basic human rights of protections against discrimination or rights to appeal.

    2,000 people marched in Canberra on February 12, demanding an end to the intervention and campaign groups have been established iwn the major cities. Many trade unionists and activists in the broader community have recognised the need to actively challenge the racism of the intervention and renew the fight for Aboriginal rights around the country.

    The upcoming conference aims to strengthen the networks that have been formed through this campaign. This conference will look to successful struggles from the past and hear from the strong communities leaders of today - to advance the politics of self-determination and forge demands and strategy for the ongoing campaign against the intervention.

    Any groups wishing to become more involved in the campaign through organising and running a workshop at the conference are invited to register their interest with the organisers. For further information, please contact

    Questions for Sydney’s future

    The wombats have been flat out with stuff, nonsense and politics for the past couple of weeks, making it hard to keep up to date with the 1000 and 1 things that appear to be happening around us (sometimes, frustratingly, to no particular purpose). Consequently, we've been looking for bits and bobs that might be worth replicating. This is one such, from The Guardian, paper of the rapidly ageing Communist Party of Oz. While we do, of course, agree with their last point, we tend to think that this might be a better option than the CPA.


    Peter Mac

    Just before the NSW ALP Conference last weekend the popularity rating of current premier Morris Iemma had fallen to just 28 percent, reminiscent of Prime Minister Howard’s last popularity rating before his recent electoral annihilation.

    But it’s not all bad news. For example, the NSW government and the Sydney Council have agreed to erect 700 new inner-city flats for workers on low and medium pay.

    That’s welcome news. Sydney’s workers now travel from as far as Newcastle, Nowra and Blue Mountains. However, the proposal will certainly not meet Sydney’s inner city housing demand, especially given its current appalling rate of mortgage defaults and evictions.

    The government has admitted that the housing proposal is crucial because Sydney needs bus drivers, nurses, police officers and cleaners, but it seems to have overlooked the idea that working people have a right to live in affordable housing in the inner city, a principle which underwrote many of Sydney’s great post-war public housing programs.

    The government is also seeking to associate itself with the far more popular Sydney City Council, currently headed by Clover Moore. That’s pretty ironic, given that numerous Liberal and ALP governments spent enormous time and money over many years attempting to prevent the progressive Ms Moore from gaining the mayor’s position.

    Ms Moore recently announced a number of highly imaginative, if in some cases extremely expensive ideas for improving the human qualities of the city. In comparison the stench of corruption clings to the Iemma government relentlessly. That’s nowhere more evident than in the changes to planning regulations.

    Odious developments

    New planning laws in NSW will in effect grant Frank Sartor, the NSW Minister for Planning, near-dictatorial powers. Sartor has recently announced his intention to appoint a new temporary External Advisory Panel, to make recommendations on major development proposals.

    Sartor is at liberty to ignore their recommendations. The Panel will expire in three months, after the government’s highly controversial new planning laws create the new Planning Assessment Commission.

    The legislation will also enable development proposals which are now dealt with by councils to be handled by "independent" authorities, i.e. private certifiers, arbitrators, joint regional panels and the Planning Assessment Commission, all of which would be appointed by the government.

    Planning experts and legal authorities now claim that the new laws will slow down the development application process, and make it extremely contentious and expensive.

    They also claim that the new alternative planning authorities will be in legal competition with the Land and Environment Court, because the development applicant will be able to apply to the alternative authority if that promises them a more satisfactory outcome.

    A good example of the implications of the new planning powers is the Aboriginal housing complex known as "The Block", in central Redfern.

    In 2004, after the government created the Redfern Waterloo Authority, Ken Morrison from the Property Council of Australia declared with great enthusiasm: "If Redfern Station is to become the hub of a new commercial zone, then the Block will just have to go." The Authority can override local councils and heritage laws, and under the existing planning laws Sartor can compulsorily acquire property and sell it off to developers.

    Greens MP Sylvia Hale commented: "How better to fulfil two of the minister’s long-term ambitions — to move Aborigines out of Redfern while simultaneously assisting those generous donors to the ALP, the development lobby."

    How to get there

    The Iemma government has failed to address the crying need for better, cheaper and more extensive public transport in Sydney.

    That need is nowhere more painfully felt than in Sydney’s western suburbs. Sixty percent of western Sydney residents travel to work alone by car, compared with 53.7 percent for the whole of Sydney. In one western council area the average house has 2.1 vehicles, compared with the city average of 1.5. Only 13.6 percent of western suburbs residents catch a train or bus to work, whereas the average for the city as a whole is 17.7 percent. In some western areas buses come only once per hour, or not at all.

    Water at a cost

    Big rises in the cost of Australia’s water are to be expected, because of long-term diminishing rainfall, which will force the government to invest in extra water supply infrastructure.

    However, the situation in Sydney has been exacerbated by the State government’s assumption that critical new situations demand big, visually impressive new projects, which of course involve huge commissions for the private sector. The government has virtually ignored proposals from the Greens and many environmental groups for extra rainwater collection and the recycling of waste water.

    Construction work is now proceeding for the controversial Sydney desalination plant. The first results were the spillage of construction spoil into the waters of Botany Bay, followed by structural damage to nearby houses.

    That hasn’t helped to the Iemma government’s plummeting popularity.

    Planning’s about the future

    A refusal to focus on issues which will become of crucial importance in the next twenty to thirty years is evident in government planning in NSW and elsewhere in Australia.

    Climate change and the dwindling supply of petroleum will force enormous change on the way we live, on the economy and on our systems of government. The current incentives for energy and water conservation and renewable energy production are praiseworthy, but are entirely inadequate.

    Australian governments have failed to implement good policies with regard to these crucial issues. And that’s the message. If we really want to tackle crucial planning policy issues, we have to look to parties other than those which currently rule Australia’s political domain.

    Ozleft: 'The charge of the corporate heavy brigade'

    Ruthlessly lifted from Ozleft:

    by Ed Lewis

    After last weekend’s revolt of the NSW Labor Party ranks on electricity privatisation, the media are suddenly full of praise for Morris Iemma, previously execrated by the very same media as an incompetent leader of a bungling and corruption ridden government. Iemma is urged play the strongman in opposing the Labor ranks and offered the carrot that this might his improve his dismal opinion poll figures, never mind the fact that he’s going against the opinions of something like 80 per cent of the state.

    This media support for Iemma will be a five-day wonder, and as soon as any danger of a Labor government carrying out Labor policy has passed, the likes of Imre Salusinszky will return to their more customary role of campaigning for the Liberal Party. Labor MPs might want to ponder who Salusinszky and his mates will be barracking for when next they go looking for foot-sloggers for an election campaign.

    The media have even done what they can to help snarling Mick Costa retrieve something from his personal train wreck at the Labor conference, presenting his smiling visage on the front page, rather than the bulging-eyed fury to which he was driven by the prospect of the Labor ranks having any real say in policy.

    Part of the post-conference offensive was to roll out some big guns from the past to advise the Labor caucus not to defy Iemma and his privatisation push. On Tuesday caucus members were given a letter signed by three former Labor premiers, Bob Carr, Neville Wran and Barrie Unsworth, and two former Unions NSW (previously NSW Labor Council) leaders, Michael Easson and John MacBean. This was backed up by an opinion piece by former Labor prime minister Paul Keating in the Sydney Morning Herald, reinforced by a front-page article quoting extensively from Keating.

    Three of these worthies are now employees of investment banks, either directly involved in the case of Keating, or likely to be involved in the case of Carr and Easson, in any privatisation of the NSW electricity assets, or for that matter any other public assets in Australia. But more of that shortly.

    How about the other loyal servants of the Labor Party who signed this letter.

    Well, Neville Wran is a non-executive director of Cabcharge, who owns 250,000 shares in that operation, valued at $9.08 each, or $2,270,000 in total. Not bad for an old Labor stalwart and it’s great to see he that didn’t have to go back on the tools after his term in parliament. Of course, lawyers don’t have unions, so it’s unlikely Wran ever was a member of any union, but he knows the worth of union members’ opinions: they don’t count.

    Cabcharge is not terribly popular with independent taxi owners, as it has a near monopoly on in-cab, non-cash payments, but it’s a good earner so Nev probably doesn’t care too much about a few complaints. After all, as he has just advised Morris Iemma, a good Labor leader is there to ram unpopular policies down the throats of the ranks. Wran might not be a Labor leader any more, but he hasn’t forgotten the ropes.

    Greens MP Lee Rhiannon has raised a few awkward questions about Cabcharge donations to the Labor Party, but again, what’s that to Nev the Labor man? That’s just the business of politics, isn’t it?

    Then there’s Barrie Unsworth. It’s no surprise that he put his scratch on the letter to caucus, since he headed the committee appointed by the Iemma government to inquire into the electricity privatisation proposal and whether it complied with Labor policy. Predictably, his committee found that the privatisation was just hunky dory, although three members of the committee issued a dissenting report and a couple more said their support was conditional on environmental guarantees (which of course the government was happy to give since they will mean nothing when contracts are signed behind the veil of commercial confidentiality).

    Coincidentally, that’s not the only job Unsworth has done for the NSW government. He also conducted a review of bus services, and no doubt his services were well rewarded. Perhaps he can look forward to more consultancy work from a grateful Iemma government, and no doubt his fees will be suitably modest.

    That brings us to Michael Easson, a non-executive director of corporate real estate giant ING and of Macquarie Infrastructure Group, an arm of Macquarie Bank. He’s eminently qualified to advise Morris Iemma on how to tell the Labor ranks to keep their noses out of politics and stick to electoral foot-slogging for politicians who will ignore their wishes.

    Bob Carr’s role with Macquarie Bank is well known, and we’re sure that wouldn’t have influenced him in his decision in the last few days to tell the media Morris Iemma should ignore the Labor ranks.

    Carr says it’s irrelevant whether electricity generation assets are publicly or privately owned. So why is it that he’s so keen for private interests to get their hands on these assets? It couldn’t be the $1.5 billion a year they pump into the NSW budget, could it? What a waste, when all that money could be going into the pockets of private “investors” as they are called in polite company, or speculators as some more honest folk might call them.

    Of course, true believer Paul Keating was loudest, as is his custom, in expressing his opinion of the conference decision of the Labor ranks. He was more polite than Mick Costa, restraining himself to calling the Labor Party members “lemmings”, rather than Costa’s “dickheads”.

    He gives the game away in his second paragraph, though, describing Iemma and Costa a “pair of honest souls”, a description not many others would have thought of.

    Keating goes on to credit Iemma with having won a difficult election for Labor, when in fact it was a huge union effort that revived Labor’s election fortunes, saving a government that was widely recognised to be incompetent. The other factors that saved Labor early last year were that the Liberal opposition appeared even more incompetent than Iemma’s government and the Howard government was on the skids federally.

    Keating goes on to savage NSW Labor president Bernie Riordan for being insufficiently ruthless in keeping the ranks in line. It wouldn’t have happened in his time, he says, and no doubt he’s right.

    Keating shares Carr’s view that the NSW electricity assets should be sold and, by the way he adds, his views are not influenced by the fact that he’s international chairman of Lazard Carnegie Wylie, a corporate investment house that’s up to its neck in the electricity privatisation process.

    Isn’t it a comfort that the NSW Labor government can call on such a collection of good Labor men for advice in difficult times! Why would Morris Iemma need the ranks of the Labor Party when he can assemble a such an impressive collection of disinterested bankers and corporate hangers on?

    NSW electricity sell-off: let the people decide, let Unions NSW prepare industrial action

    Socialist Alliance Press Release:

    “If Morris Iemma is so confident that electricity privatisation represents the best interests of the people of New South Wales, let him put it to a referendum”, Dick Nichols, National Coordinator of the Socialist Alliance said today.

    Nichols was commenting on the New South Wales premier’s decision to ignore the 702-107 vote by the weekend ALP state conference against his government’s planned sell-off of electricity.

    “Iemma and his backers like Paul Keating claim that the ALP conference was unrepresentative, because it was dominated by trade unionists (‘lemmings’ according to the former prime minister). So let’s have a public debate and decision on the pros and cons of his sell-off plan”, Nichols said.

    The Alliance spokesperson said he was completely confident that such a debate would see a NSW-wide repeat of the ALP conference result.

    “What Iemma and treasurer Michael Costa have to grasp is that people are not ignorant sheep who have to have the benefits of electricity privatisation explained to them by all-wise politicos ancient and modern in words of one syllable.

    “The ALP conference debate showed that the delegates, both from the unions and the party branches, actually understood the arguments for electricity privatisation.

    “But they knew enough to see right through the Costa-Iemma line that ‘you can have public spending on electricity generation or on public services but you can’t have both’. Even union delegations pledged to support Iemma (and personally lined up for him by Keating) deserted the premier after the debate.”

    Nichols added that the decision of premier’s office to publish full-page advertisements in support of the sell-off in today’s Daily Telegraph and The Sydney Morning Herald showed the government’s growing desperation, and the need for the union movement to organise industrial action and ongoing protest against it.

    He concluded: “Unions NSW must commit to organise total union resistance to the sell-off, starting with an industrial campaign of complete non-cooperation with government privatisation plans.

    “The whole union movement has to be organised to take whatever action is necessary to win.”

    For interviews contact: Dick Nichols 02 9690 2508
    Also see:
    'Stop the Sell-off: The case against electricity privatisation in New South Wales'

    Email Web

    Monday, 5 May 2008

    Rachel Siewert - Where's the Intervention Train Going?

    By Rachel Siewert

    Read the article and discussion at NewMatilda.

    Greens Senator Rachel Siewert has just been on the road with the Senate Inquiry into the NT Intervention. This is what she was told by the Territory's Indigenous Australians

    I've just been on the road with the Senate Inquiry into the NT Emergency Response Consolidation Bill - the Government's proposed changes to Howard's original legislation.

    It has been obvious for a while that there are some serious flaws with the NT Intervention and some alarming unintended consequences of the emergency response - but now it is becoming increasingly so.

    It has become particularly apparent what a mistake the new Government made in Opposition, when they unreservedly and enthusiastically signed up to the Intervention without knowing the detail.

    Despite a commitment, as part of the national apology to the Stolen Generations, to an evidence-based approach to Indigenous affairs - and assurances that never again would such an injustice be perpetrated on Aboriginal Australians - the Rudd Government has done little to date to moderate or curtail the Intervention juggernaut. Instead, everything still hangs on the promise of a 12 month review, to take place post June this year.

    The NT Emergency Response Consolidation Bill makes limited changes to a couple of elements of the Intervention legislation (the permit system, licensing roadhouses as community stores and adult programs on satellite TV), when it is very clear that a major overhaul of the Intervention is what is really needed.

    While the current Inquiry is meant to focus on these narrow terms of reference, it has been very clear that witnesses wanted to talk about the bigger picture.

    We heard in Alice Springs that there are more people drinking in town (with some previously dry town camps now having problems with illegal drinking) and that there has been a large increase in ‘urban drift' from remote communities. The Alice Springs Town Council reported that their regular patrols were noticing increasing numbers of makeshift camps on the town fringe.

    With the wet season approaching, we are concerned for the well-being of the children of these families living rough in the ‘long grass', and cannot see how this can be a good outcome for their health, their access to educational opportunities, or their protection and safety.

    Not-for-profit community welfare organisations providing support services and emergency relief in the Territory have reported a massive increase in demand for services. At the Darwin hearings a witness reported a 300 per cent increase in demand for support services.

    Witnesses to the Inquiry raised their concerns about the huge amount of money that was being wasted by people not understanding how to use store cards to access their quarantined funds - and were discarding cards which still had some money on them when they were told it wasn't enough for what they wanted to purchase.

    There are also reports of a significant increase in legal aid and consumer advice being sought as a result of the income quarantining.

    Legal advocates expressed a concern that the result of the strong focus of public and media concern on child sexual abuse had lead to an increase in the number of young men being charged with underage sex offences, rather than any increase in prosecutions of adult paedophiles preying on young children.

    These age of consent issues are indeed a matter for concern, but a more appropriate response would be a greater focus on education and counselling - rather than exclusively focusing on a legal approach.

    All of this is outside the scope of the current inquiry but shouldn't be unexpected, as these are the type of concerns that were raised at the time this legislation was introduced into the Parliament.

    It is important to acknowledge that the proposed changes in the Rudd Government's NT Emergency Response Consolidation Bill do not seek exemption from the Racial Discrimination Act, which is a step in the right direction. However, at this stage the Government is doing nothing to remedy the existing exemptions from the Act in Howard's original Intervention legislation.

    The evidence given by the Law Council of the information they obtained (a week after November's Federal election!) through a Freedom of Information request for the report used by former Indigenous Affairs Minister Mal Brough to justify revoking the permit system is particularly interesting.

    The Law Council revealed that 38 Indigenous organisations and individuals made written submissions to the review of the permit system and a further 42 field consultations were conducted by FaCSIA. Most importantly, all 80 consultations revealed unanimous support among Aboriginal communities, individuals and organisations for no change to the permit system;

    In his second reading speech presenting the NT Intervention Bill, Brough stated that:

    "The government has been considering changing the system since it announced a review in September 2006 and the changes follow the release of a discussion paper in October 2006 and the receipt of almost 100 submissions."

    "Over 40 communities were visited during consultations following the release of the discussion paper. It was disturbing to hear from officials conducting the consultations that numerous people came up to them after the consultations, saying that the permit system should be removed. They were afraid to say this in the public meetings."

    Put simply, the evidence the report compiled did not show community support for the abolition of the permit system, neither did the report recommend getting rid of it.

    The most interesting stories we've heard as part of this Inquiry have been some of the things people want to tell you outside of the formal hearings.

    We've heard a lot of anecdotal evidence of medical staff resigning and the high turnaround rate of Centrelink staff.

    I heard a couple of stories of dedicated medical staff from the Territory who've become frustrated by the "parallel system" created by the Intervention and are chucking it in to work elsewhere.

    We've heard stories from teachers fed up with bureaucracy quitting after years in remote communities - and the Territory is now embroiled in a teachers' dispute in which the NT Labor Government is hypocritically invoking the provisions of Howard's WorkChoices legislation and refusing to negotiate on anything but the rate of pay, while some of the teachers' biggest worries are with classroom conditions.

    I have been told of Centrelink staff on secondment from the south were celebrating what they saw as an all-expenses-paid semi holiday - complete with travel allowance and a flash room in a hotel. One wonders how much of the $72.4 million spent on administration of the income quarantining component (between July 2006 and January 2007) has been spent on accommodation for staff. With the increased population strain as a result of the Intervention, it is hard to find accommodation in Darwin these days.

    Two separate communities have told us about Government-appointed business managers who don't interact with the community, stay behind the barbed wire fence in their compound and only seem to want to listen to the white staff.

    What gets the goat of many of the people who provided evidence and others who spoke to us off the record, is the fact that so little resources have actually gone into what should be priority areas such as providing more child protection officers, family support and counselling.

    Yes, the Intervention is going to supply some safe houses - but they still aren't in place nearly 10 months down the track. Instead, sea shipping containers are being used as temporary safe houses, in a mad rush to spend the money before the end of the financial year. Yes that's right - it's use it by end of June, or lose it. What a stupid approach to allocating limited resources to such a pressing problem, and what a terrible waste of opportunity this is.

    After a decade of going cap-in-hand to the Federal Government begging for meagre resources to continue successful but chronically under-funded community projects, how can anyone look on at the stupid way resources are now being squandered without thinking, "Imagine what our community could have done with the $72.4 million they've wasted on administering the welfare quarantining"?

    How many schools and teachers, doctors and clinics, safe houses and child protection workers we could have paid for? How many real jobs and enterprises we could have created? What kind of education program could we have created to promote good nutrition and sound financial management?

    How can we look at this profligate spending after so many years of scarcity and think anything but: what a terrible, terrible waste?

    Union Solidarity Coordinator facing up to 6 months jail

    From LeftClickBlog, with original info at Union Solidarity:

    Union Solidarity Coordinator Dave Kerin (speaking above right ) is now facing up to 6 months jail for supporting striking workers at Boeing.

    The Australian Workplace Ombudsman has issued Dave with a “Notice to produce documents” order in relation to the recent strike at Boeing. Dave is being asked to supply a government agency with all information and documents concerning Union Solidarity, the AMWU and rank & file members by May 8. Failure to do so under the 1996 Workplace Relations Act could result in 6 months jail.

    Quoting from the notice:

    "A contravention, without resonable excuse, of the requirement to produce the documents identified in this notice is an offence under section 819 of the Act. Failure to comply with this notice could result in your being liable to imprisonment for up to 6 months."

    Union Solidarity will not comply with laws and government agencies whose sole purpose is to prevent workers having the ability to strike and organise.

    We are asking you to indicate your public support for Dave Kerin and Union Solidarity. Go to Defend Dave Kerin Sign Up form