Archive for September, 2011

September 17, 2011

The two levels of climate denialism in Australia

Banner hung by Rising Tide climate activists on Newcastle coal loading conveyer belt on August 15, 2011. Photo by Rising Tide.

This is a country in serious denial. Australia is a world leader in per capita greenhouse gas pollution and in fossil fuel exports. We produce 30 tonnes CO2-equivalent per person per year (or 54 if Australia’s exported CO2 pollution is included).  Pakistan produces 0.9 and Somalia produces 0.1 and yet in these two countries people are dying from climate change as we speak.

On August 5 this year, two young activists from Rising Tide scaled a coal conveyor belt in Newcastle  and hung a sign that said “WE’RE SORRY SOMALIA/COAL= CLIMATE CHANGE AND STARVATION”.

At the same time an unholy alliance of fossil fuel companies, reactionary media shock jocks and politicians is trying to organise a so-called “people revolt” built on climate change denialism. It is monstrous and outrageous but the complete denial of human-induced climate change is really minority phenomenon. But so were the defenders of the slave trade in the nineteenth century.

However, a much bigger climate denial is also at play in Australia. There are influential people who are trying to fool themselves and others that the Gillard Labor government’s climate change measures, now before federal parliament, are real attempts to tackle the climate change emergency. These people include, unfortunately, the leaders, activists and spokespersons of most of the big environmental groups and even the Greens politicians, who have otherwise taken a good stand on most other issues.

Yet every time Labor’s minister for regional development Simon Crean opens his mouth, the real agenda behind the carbon tax/pollution trading scheme comes out. Australia is poised to become the “Saudi Arabia of gas”, Crean has boasted.

Using the analogy about the debate about the slave trade in the nineteenth century, what the Gillard Labor government is doing with fossil fuels today  is the equivalent of supporting the right of some slave traders to continue trading because they claim to treat their slaves a little better!

Green Left Weekly rejects the argument that the climate movement should put a “positive spin” on Labor’s carbon tax/pollution trading bills. We will speak the truth no matter what because we know that the climate change emergency is real. The people dying or being dislocated in Pakistan and Somalia as we speak remind us of that hard truth. And science tells us what our society must do: move rapidly towards 100% renewable energy sources and sustainable practices in all fields.

If you support us in telling the truth about the global climate change emergency please dig deeply. We need to raise $20,000 each month for the rest of the year to make our annual fighting fund target of $250,000. There is a little army of  supporters organising fundraisers for Green Left Weekly every week but we need some sizeable donations now. If you can help – or know someone else who can – please help us make our target.

Donate online today. Or direct deposits can be made to Greenleft, Commonwealth Bank, BSB 062-006, Account No. 00901992. Otherwise, you can send a cheque or money order to PO Box 515, Broadway NSW 2007 or phone in a donation through on the toll-free line at 1800 634 206 (within Australia).

September 14, 2011

Pakistan floods: ‘This is not a natural disaster’ – Farooq Tariq

Last year's floods were the worst in Pakistan's history. 20 million were affected and about 2000 lost their lives. Now there is record flooding for the second year in a row.

“This is not a natural disaster”,  Farooq Tariq , the national spokesperson for the Labour Party Pakistan, told Green Left Weekly, referring to widespread and unprecedented monsoonal flooding that has hit Pakistan over the last few days, already killing hundreds of people and making nearly a million homeless. And this is just the beginning of the monsoon season.

Farooq Tariq will be one of the guest speakers at the  Climate Change Social Change activist conference in Melbourne, over September 30 to October 3.

“There have been big debates about the changing global climate and its effects on Pakistan. This latest rain wave is unprecedented. Looking at the history of our weather, it is reported that once in seven years there has been a bad flood. But this has changed. But this is second year in a row that there is a devastating flood.”

The 2010 floods inundated a fifth of Pakistan, directly affected about 20 million people – mostly by destruction of property, livelihood and infrastructure – and killed about 2,000 people. Folowing that disaster, aid groups had warned the Pakistani government to invest in prevention measures to mitigate against seasonal rains, avoid a repeat of last year’s experience. But it failed to act.

Farooq Tariq.

“The government failed miserably because they never care about people. The warring “partners” in the Sindh state government were too busy in kill each other in Karachi through out the Ramadan.

“The Sindh government was busy trying to save it self from collapse because all the four partners of Sindh government were fighting each other. More than 2000 were killed in Karachi during August alone.  So despite all the warnings there were no precautionary measures taken.

“Now there are very heavy rains in Sindh, in particular. Hundreds have been killed and 10 millions on the roads again. There is an emergency situation in most of the Sindh districts. There is a total collapse of the civil life. The military has been called in and they are doing some relief work and rescuing people.

“I just saw on television hundreds of starving flood victims attacking a government food store and looting everything. People are desperate.

“The Labour Relief Campaign sent 300,000 rupees yesterday to our Sindh comrades to buy medicines for the flood victims. We have set up camps in Hyderabad to collect funds. The Labour Relief Campaign committee is meeting this evening in Lahore to discuss further relief efforts.”

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September 6, 2011

Warning: Work Choices zombie on the move!

Greedy corporate bosses bring out the Work Choices zombie.

When Liberal leader Tony Abbott promised in the last federal election campaign that the notorious anti-worker “Work Choices” laws of the former Howard Liberal-National government was “dead, buried and cremated” very few people believed him.  This scepticism could soon be proved justified with an opinion poll-drubbed Gillard Labor government just one former trade union bureaucrat’s grubby scandal away from collapse.

Emboldened corporate bosses have ramped up their demands on the Gillard government to abandon the Fair Work Australia laws (Labor’s Work Choices Lite) and swing back to the Liberals’ individual contract-based Work Choices Strong. The allegedly dead, buried and cremated Work Choices is now rising like a zombie.

It began with retail sector bosses demanding their workers – already among the lowest paid – sacrifice their penalty rates and unfair dismissal rights. More recently Helen Ridout, the CEO of the Australian Industry Group, and former BHP Billiton chairman Don Argus, called for a return to individual contracts.

Never mind the fact that Australia’s corporations are enjoying a massive profit surge. In the three months to June, the Australian Bureau of Statistics reported, company profits rose an average of 6.7% on a seasonally adjusted basis while wages and salaries rose just 2.3%.  Mining company profits led the charge rising a whopping 15.2% and all sectors, except manufacturing, saw profit rises. Even the retail sector – which has been grumbling that consumers have been shopping less because of fears of global recession and rising energy, water and housing costs – enjoyed a profit rise of 6.2%.

David Pope's portrait of Labor PM Julia Gillard as published in the Canberra Times.

Yet the greedy corporate bosses still want to put the boot into their workers. This insatiable greed (and the social and ecological vandalism that goes with it) is chronic under the capitalist system, a system gripped and distorted by a mindless drive for more profit. According to Credit Suisse Global Wealth Report, 83% of the world’s wealth  now in the hands of the richest 10%, capital, concentrated as never before in history, demands a profit regardless of anything else.

The big question is whether the Australian trade union movement is ready to confront the return of Work Choices Strong. The Your Rights At Work campaign – which actually brought down the former Howard Liberal government – was shelved after Labor took office, even though the Labor government refused to fully repeal Howard’s anti-worker laws. Most union leaderships went back into the tamecat box under Labor and the movement has paid a terrible price. After rising during the period of the mass fight against Howard’s Work Choices, union membership has begun to fall again. According to the ABS, the proportion of employees who were trade union members in their main job decreased from 20% in August 2009 to 18% in August 2010. Shop floor organisation has weakened in many industries and many union leaderships are more discredited in the eyes of rank and file workers because they have excused or remained silent while the Labor government has implemented the corporate profits-first agenda.

There is no way out of this mess without the trade union movement breaking from the shackles of the Australian Labor Party and rebuilding itself as an independent and fighting voice of the working class.

Green Left Weekly campaigns for an independent, democratic and fighting trade union . Please make a contribution this week to the Green Left Fighting Fund. Donate online today. Or direct deposits can be made to Greenleft, Commonwealth Bank, BSB 062-006, Account No. 00901992. Otherwise, you can send a cheque or money order to PO Box 515, Broadway NSW 2007 or phone in a donation through on the toll-free line at 1800 634 206 (within Australia).

The opinion polls as graphed by the Pollytics blog.