Friday, June 30, 2006

Adelaide Protests Target 'Task Force'...

A large and diverse crowd of around 5000 protested against the Howard Government's new 'Work Choices' legislation in Adelaide’s City Centre on Wednesday. Starting at Victoria Square the rally was kicked off with some fine anti-Howard songs before various speakers took the stage.

AMWU secretary John Camillo gave a brief overview of the current situation, pointing to the fact that many were already suffering under the Federal Government’s anti-worker legislation. Mr Camillo gave one example of a BP petrol station worker who, having seven years of dedicated service under his belt, was recently told that in order to keep his job he would have to sign an AWA and accept $6 per hour less than his previous wage.

Karen Grogan from the South Australian Council of Social Services (SACOSS) reminded the crowd that it is not only workers and unions that will be disadvantaged by these reforms. She stated that this was yet another attack on the disadvantaged, referring to the fact that around one quarter of South Australians are economically marginalised or living in poverty. Howard’s Work Choices legislation is certainly going to make matters worse.

The noise level rose as the rally moved through the city and stopped outside the offices housing the infamous Building Industry ‘Task Force’, a group set up to inform on workers conducting union business on and off the job. The crowd got particularly vocal during some passionate words from CFMEU secretary Martin O’Malley who revved things up by attacking the ‘Task Force’ snitches for what they are; cowardly, dirty, rats! Janet Giles from SA Unions ended proceedings by asking the crowd to recite a pledge to fight against the unfair Work Choices legislation. Click here to listen.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Spotlight protest in the Port

A very vocal community protest took place outside Spotlight’s Port Adelaide store last Saturday morning. It was organised by Western Workers Fight Back Committee (a group formed to support the ACTU’s Your Rights at Work campaign) and brought the attention of shoppers to the appalling cuts in pay and conditions contained in the Australian Workplace Agreement (AWA) being given to new Spotlight employees.

In South Australia, Spotlight staff were previously employed under the state Shop Conciliation Award which includes Sunday penalty rates and a host of other modest conditions, now being axed under the WorkChoices-inspired AWA. A senior worker used to receive $14.97 an hour. That will be reduced to $14.30 an hour on any day, including Sunday. A 15-year-old junior (Spotlight relies heavily on younger workers) will have her/his pay cut from $7.48 an hour to $5.72 an hour and the $7.30 meal allowance will be scrapped for all staff.

Committee members are planning other protests at Spotlight stores and hope to co-ordinate their efforts with the three other community union support groups in Adelaide. Like other groups, the western suburbs committee has been leafleting neighbourhoods and a recent Port Adelaide Magpies game to help maximise the turnout for the June 28 rally to be held at 12pm in Victoria Square.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Australian’s Broadcasting Conservatism - correcting the ABC acronym

‘Van Diemens’ Land was host to nothing that resembled genocide’….. Most of the story is just ‘myth piled upon myth’..… 'Aboriginal thieves had little compunction about killing anyone they found in their way’.

Do you recognise any of these quotes? If so, you may also be aware that the board of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) has just gained the services of one of John Howard’s top conservative ideologues and the author of this blatantly revisionist rhetoric. The man in question is Australia’s foremost genocide denialist and historian, Keith Windschuttle. He is the author of The Fabrication of Aboriginal History and various other colonialist accounts of Australia’s past.

Windschuttle has made a career out of nitpicking at the footnotes of the work of respected historian’s such as Robert Manne, Manning Clark and Henry Reynolds, but rarely makes a convincing argument to challenge their research. He is also fond of sharing his bizarre views with ultra-conservative think-tanks such as the Sydney Institute.

Given that there is now a wealth of academic research and supporting anecdotal evidence on the subject, it’s truly amazing that Keith Windschuttle persists in trying to disprove the now widely accepted view that Indigenous Australians were violently dispossessed of their land and culture.

One need only take a brief tour of Windschuttle’s website The Sydney Line to see how he has made a target out of academics, and even more shamefully, Indigenous Australians. His website is host to a large number of his Blaineyesque texts. One that can’t go unmentioned is his critique of the infamous White Australia Policy in which he deviously argues that the policy was actually driven by ‘progressive political thinkers’ of the 50’, 60’s and 70’s:

‘there were some Australians who did subscribe to theories of racist nationalism, and they were the people who most strongly argued for a White Australia. In their day, they constituted the intelligentsia. They were in favour of the fashionable new ideas, theories and political movements out of Europe. They were in favour of socialism, republicanism, feminism, eugenics, the strong state and the romanticist, racist form of nationalism that emerged in Germany at the time.’

Certainly there were Australians who subscribed to theories of racist nationalism but these people could not be referred to as truly ‘progressive’ given that they were guided by ruling class ideology. To suggest that the ‘progressive left’ was the driving force behind the policy is nothing more than petty one-upmanship: Windschuttle seems intent on waging an ogoing war against the left academics, even at the expense of serious historical analysis.

In the same article Windschuttle goes on to suggest that the ABC’s flagship radio station, Radio National, is merely servicing cultural elites and is out of step with the average Aussie in the suburbs. Windschuttle is really suggesting that the ABC should cease to operate as an independent public broadcaster and transform itself into another banal, commercial broadcaster.

It has been a long held ambition of the Howard Government to privatise the ABC, which it seems to see as a propaganda machine for the political left. As the nation’s independent broadcaster the ABC has a duty to foster debate on issues of national concern and as it turns out, much of the public debate hasn’t been favourable to his Government’s policies. The reality is that since coming to office, John Howard has acted on any opportunity to silence public criticism of his government. The allegations made by the then Communications Minister Richard Alston in 2003 that the ABC showed 'anti-American' bias are a classic example.

Windschuttle’s animosity toward the ABC is obvious. Why then was he so willing to accept a position on the national broadcaster’s board of directors? Windschuttle and his newly appointed colleague Peter Hurley could hardly serve their ideological masters more thoroughly than to undermine the editorial independence of the ABC from within its own boardroom.

The likes of Keith Windschuttle clearly have no place on the board of the Australian national broadcaster. His well-known disdain for the ABC and Indigenous Australians is obviously highly regarded by his appointer, Communications Minister Helen Coonan, and is testament to the fact that the Howard Government’s agenda is to transform the ABC into another mouthpiece for conservative neo-liberal ideology.

In the face of some strong criticism immediately following Windschuttle’s appointment Senator Coonan qualified her decision by referring to the historian’s previous experience in the media, suggesting that this was the main thrust behind his appointment. This is highly dubious given that Keith Windschuttle is renowned for his ultra-conservative views and persistent attacks on journalists or academics whose values sit slightly left of centre.

Senator Coonan must think ABC listeners came down in the last shower. It also seems certain that the Senator thinks experience in the field of racist reporting and genocide denial is a pre-requisite for a job on the ABC board. As long as such appointments continue we are sure to see an increased push for commercialisation and eventually full privatisation of the ABC.

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Wednesday, June 07, 2006

New Refugee Bill Opposed....

The steps of Parliament House in Adelaide was the venue for a rally in opposition to the Federal Government’s new migration amendment bill last Sunday. Initiated by Amnesty International and supported by other refugee advocacy groups such as Justice for Refugees (JRSA), the rally attracted around 300 people. The vocal crowd heard speakers from various political and social justice organisations denounce the proposed bill as inhumane and heartless.

The bill was introduced by the Parliamentary Secretary for Immigration Andrew Robb on May the 11th and if adopted will further tighten Australia’s immigration policy which many people believe is extremely rigid and unfair. The legislation aims to ensure that all asylum seekers are sent to off-shore processing centres while they await the processing of their claim for refugee status.

MC Sarah Hanson-Young from Amnesty International introduced Don McMaster from JRSA who told the crowd that the new bill must be stopped. He stated that the bill is inhumane and that like much of the Federal Government’s policy on refugees it contravenes various United Nations human rights policies, in particular those that relate to the rights of the child. He also suggested that the Federal Government had failed in its obligation to meet international human rights benchmarks.

Among the other speakers, which included Democrats Senator Natasha Stott-Despoja and Labor MP Senator Annette Hurley, was Jake Wishart, a member of the Glenunga High School based Student Activist Alliance. Mr Wishart made an impassioned plea to the protestors to “organise and campaign hard so we can challenge our backwards government on this bill”. He finished his speech by promising that he and his fellow students would continue to fight for a better world whilst building the movement against these oppressive laws.

All of the speakers encouraged members of the public to write to Members of Parliament, particularly moderate Liberals, some of whom have already expressed their discontent with the bill.

Amnesty International (Australia) has started a petition which can be signed on the web at

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