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Unionism is not a crime! Drop all charges against Ark Tribe now!

It’s a bloody disgrace! Unionist Ark Tribe will be back in the Adelaide Magistrates Court on 15 June for refusing to appear before the coercive Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC). He faces a possible jail term of up to six months! What’s his crime? Standing up for health and safety on the job, that’s what!

Ark worked on a construction job at Flinders University. Workers described the site as “an accident waiting to happen.” With no safety committee on the job, they drew up a petition written on a paper hand towel. Eventually, the union called in state government inspectors to get the worst problems fixed. But while the company continued to haul in profits, workers were summonsed to appear before the ABCC. Tribe refused and now faces jail.

Far from neutral

. The Rudd government claims that its commission will act as a “tough cop on the beat” with “no tolerance for conduct which breaks the law,” be it by workers or bosses. But Tribe’s treatment exposes this as humbug. While blatant disregard for safety is clearly unlawful, the company was never even asked to appear. Ministerial media releases painting the ABCC as even handed cannot mask its real purpose, which is to weaken the entire union movement by intimidating, demonising and attempting to muzzle well-organised construction unions.

Workers can win

. Building workers will set up camp outside the Adelaide court next June. This is a good start, but more will be needed to get the charges against Tribe dropped and the ABCC permanently scrapped. Tribe is the second unionist to face jail for refusing to cooperate with this Star Chamber. The charges against Victorian organiser, Noel Washington, were dropped when unionists vowed to strike if he was jailed. The time to again prepare the ground for strike action is now!

Resistance to the racist Northern Territory Intervention strengthens

When the Howard government announced its intervention into the Northern Territory (NT), Aboriginal people were divided. Some quickly branded it as racist and assimilationist. Others hoped that – despite the suspension of the Racial Discrimination Act (RDA) to clear this constitutional hurdle – the move might bring improvements to the desperately impoverished communities. Such illusions have been brutally shattered. Child malnutrition is up and healthcare referrals down. Overcrowding continues. Not a single new house has been built for the Aboriginal communities. Meanwhile Arlparra residents pay up to $50 per week in rent to the NT government for a tin humpy!

Very special treatment

. The Rudd government promised to reinstate the RDA and, after two years of dithering, introduced legislation that will continue the suspension until the end of 2010. Then, compulsory welfare quarantining – where a portion of welfare is paid in the form of a restrictive Basics Card – will be extended across the NT. By imposing this demeaning and failed policy on destitute non-Indigenous Territorians, the government misleadingly claims that the measure will conform to the RDA. It cynically labels all the other prongs of the Intervention, which are designed to strip Aboriginal communities of control, “special measures,” meant to assist and be introduced with the expressed consent of those affected.

Communities ignored

. But the NT Intervention does not have the support of Aboriginal people. An independent report, Will They Be Heard?, contradicts the government’s claim that it conducted months of “extensive consultations” in the communities. The authors, former Chief Justice of the Family Court, Alistair Nicholson, and the Jumbunna House of Learning, found no evidence of consent and branded the consultations a sham.

New leadership emerges.

Laced with paternalism, the Intervention presents Aboriginal communities as weak and dysfunctional. But the growing resistance to the Intervention shows the opposite. Strong community leaders spoke out at the “consultations,” passionately condemning the government’s “income management.” Last July – following in the footsteps of the Gurindji, whose historic walk-off sparked the land rights struggle – the Ampilatwatja community, 300 km northwest of Alice Springs, left their “prescribed area” and established a protest camp. Supporters, including trade unions, have rallied and raised more than $20,000 to sink a bore and construct essential infrastructure. Walk-off leader, Richard Downs, expresses the determination of the elders: “Release the chains of control, give us our freedom – let us walk once again as free human beings on this earth.”

Here’s to a world ruled by science and rationality!

On 28 November 1660, a group of scientists met in London to found the “College for the Promoting of Physico-Mathematical Experimental Learning.” Its purpose was to discuss science and to conduct experiments. Two years later, King Charles II formally chartered it as the Royal Society of London. It was a historic coming together of scientists from all disciplines. In many ways, it was also the triumph of capitalist rationality over feudal ignorance. The idea that the world could be explored and explained by deduction and logic took centre stage. It was a severe setback for the priests, rabbis and imams, whose “knowledge” was “handed down from god,” and therefore controlled by a few privileged men. Slowly, science came out of the drawing rooms of the rich and into the classrooms of the working class and the poor.

Fundamentalism rejects science

and adheres to a literal interpretation of the Bible. Such an interpretation goes down well with the bosses. Privately, most capitalists don’t hold fundamentalist views. It’s the political reaction they want. The “brand” doesn’t matter. Reactionary Christians, Zionists and Mullahs are all useful as domestic enforcers of the status quo and as international defenders of the global marketplace. If, as part of this, they get to impose their superstitions upon the population and crush science underfoot it’s OK, just as long as the money keeps flowing into shareholders’ pockets.

The founders of the Royal Society

were mostly very religious men. But their religion was bound up in finding out all of the wonders of, as they would put it, god’s Earth. This is in stark contrast to the onslaught of ultra-right conservatism, masquerading as faith and trampling on the rights and lives of billions of people. Next time you hear the Holocaust denied in the name of Islam, or see the land of the Palestinians stolen in the name of Judaism, or the rights of every woman on the globe abrogated in the name of Christianity, take it as a challenge. Join the fight for a world governed by science and rationality, where the majority is free of all oppressions and their apologists. That’s what socialism is all about.

Indonesian government discovers the futility of censorship

Rudd government must learn the same lesson!

Indonesia’s ruling elite has just learned that, in the Internet age, the fastest way to get a movie into the public arena is to ban it. The movie, Balibo, depicts the murder of six Western journalists by Indonesian troops (together with other atrocities) during the 1975 invasion of Timor Leste. It is now a cult hit throughout the country, as the population buys a cheap pirated DVD at the local market or logs on to a peer-to-peer network. The arrogant few who sit atop Indonesia’s political hierarchy need to realise that the time of the dictator, Suharto, is well and truly past and that history cannot be expunged by decree.

Brutal truths

. The movie is unrelenting and honest in its portrayal of the killing of five media workers in the border village of Balibo and the cold-blooded execution of the sixth, Roger East, who went to Timor Leste to investigate their deaths. It does not gloss over the extermination of entire villages or the mass slaughter of residents of the capital, Dili, during the invasion. It also implicates both the Australian and United States governments not only for their prior knowledge of what was to occur, but also for the supply of weapons. Neither the Whitlam government here, nor the U.S. administration of Gerald Ford, had clean hands in the Timor Leste affair. But the main villain is the Indonesian military: hence the attempted ban.

Filtering our rights.

The Australian government also has an agenda to censor information. The Rudd government is proposing to force Internet Service Providers to deny access to websites on a secret list. The excuse is that this will stop access to child pornography and other material deemed “illegal.” For one thing, anybody with even a modest knowledge of how the World Wide Web works will be able to bypass the filters with ease, so it’s a technical farce. It will also slow access speeds. However that’s not the point. The State has no right to stop adults seeing and reading what they wish, provided that no harm comes to another person. Censorship is a step towards open dictatorship. Tell the Rudd government: hands off the Internet!

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