Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Arrest Wolfowitz!

SA Vic election candidate: Arrest Wolfowitz!:
"Margarita Windisch, an activist from Melbourne group 'Stop the War,' called for the arrest of World Bank President and former U.S. Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz for genocide for his part in the U.S. invasion of Iraq. Mr. Wolfowitz is currently attending the summit.

Ms. Windisch then pulled out some handcuffs and a mock warrant of arrest for Mr. Wolfowitz.

'You want to arrest Paul Wolfowitz today?' She shouted to the crowd. 'We will go to the Hyatt and ask the police to lock up this war criminal!'

See story and more pics
More reports on SA Vic election campaign>

Friday, November 17, 2006

Work Choices ad on YouTube

November 30 - You Tube Video on YouTube [Click video to share script on sites or emails]

0 Check rally locations: www.rightsatwork.com.au

Clean, green energy is possible!

Even John Howard has got the point at last: after Al Gore's film An Inconvenient Truth and former World Bank chief economist Nicolas Stern's report, human-made climate change can't be denied. It threatens the survival of our planet.

The minor reductions in carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions available from existing "solutions"-from the Kyoto Protocol to John Howard's technofixes-won't stave off further destruction. We need a radically different approach-a massive, immediate turn to renewable, eco-friendly energy sources.

Many claim that renewables are simply too costly or unreliable. They even argue that only nuclear power can rescue us from global warming.

This is dishonest. It comes from industry groups and leaders who want society to keep using coal, oil and uranium because they make huge profits from these lethal energy sources.

The Socialist Alliance joins with all those campaigning for a nuclear-free future and real solutions to climate change. We call for:

# No nuclear power plants.

# No new nuclear reactors and the immediate closure of the HIFAR reactor at Lucas Heights.

# Closure of the Ranger, Roxby Downs and Beverley uranium mines, and no new mines.

# No dumping of nuclear waste: waste producers must manage their own waste in secure, monitored facilities at their own expense.

# No new coal-fired power stations.

# More investment in renewable energy technologies and infrastructure.

# Establishment of an industry-funded 10% renewable energy target by 2010.

# Full public ownership of all energy/electricity industries

# Free public transport

# A comprehensive scheme of energy saving

Technologies dependent on finite resources are immensely more profitable than renewable, energy-efficient alternatives. Take the example of the electric car, which runs much more smoothly and needs much less maintenance than its hydrocarbon-powered counterpart. After intense oil and automotive industry lobbying this technology has been sidelined in the US (see the recently released Who Killed the Electric Car?).

Scores of renewable energy technologies are now available. Some of the more well-known include solar, wind, biomass, geothermal, tide and hydro. None by itself can supply all energy needs, but together they offer real solutions.

The main barrier isn't technological: it's lack of funding and, in many cases, the determination of oil and coal multinationals to defend their profits to the point of killing off any competition.

No more coal!

However, in the face of global warming even the John Howards have to be seen to be "doing something". Inevitably they favour those technologies that least threaten the profits of BHP-Billiton, Rio Tinto and Woodside. That's why we are offered the myth of "clean coal", which is still many times more CO2-producing than gas and is to receive more federal research funding than non-polluting alternatives.

Technologies like geo-sequestration are basically flawed because they don't tackle CO2 release, but seek to stick the gas somewhere hopefully safe. The amount of CO2 involved is immense (in Australia alone 1.3 billion 200 litre drums a day), and any scheme to concentrate the gas increases energy loss and the risks of leakage. Moreover, the technology is so new that the treatment falls further and further behind the spread of the global warming disease.

Just as worrying is the rush into nuclear, another "treatment" that could kill the patient. Once again the stampede is being driven by the mining corporations' search for ever-greater profits. Australia has 30% of the world's proven uranium ore reserves.

The number of mining companies prospecting for uranium has increased from five in 2003 to more than 70 today.

The nuclear myths

The movement against global warming must see through the following myths about nuclear power.

Myth 1: Nuclear power is "greenhouse free".

No, huge amounts of energy are needed to construct nuclear power plants and produce nuclear fuel, generating substantial greenhouse gases.

Myth 2: Nuclear power would reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

To replace fossil-fuel generated electricity with nuclear power globally would require a five-fold increase in the number of nuclear reactors, but would reduce global greenhouse emissions by only 5-10%-nowhere near the 60% reduction required to stabilise their atmospheric concentration.

Meanwhile, the extra 1760 reactors required would produce 2.6 million tonnes of highlevel nuclear waste over a 50-year lifespan.

While emissions per unit of energy from nuclear power are about one-third of those from large gas-fired electricity plants, this comparative benefit declines as higher-grade uranium ores are depleted. All higher-grade ore will be depleted in 50 years at the current rate of usage.

Myth 3: Nuclear power is safe.

An expansion of nuclear power would inevitably lead to the proliferation of nuclear weapons. The "peaceful" nuclear power and research sectors have produced enough fissile material to build more than 110,000 nuclear weapons. Of the 60 countries that have built nuclear power or research reactors, around 25 are known to have used their "peaceful" nuclear facilities for covert weapons research and/or production.

With nuclear reactors comes the constant danger of catastrophic accidents, due to mechanical failures and human error. The 1986 Chernobyl accident caused an additional 200,000 deaths in Russia, the Ukraine and Belarus between 1990-2004. Since then, industry deregulation and privatisation have allowed corporations to cut corners on safety regulations and adequate staffing, increasing the chance of accidents.

Myth 4: Nuclear waste can now be safely stored.

There is still no safe storage system for nuclear waste. Not a single repository exists for the disposal of high-level radioactive waste, which is produced at an annual rate of about 10,000 tonnes worldwide. Technologies exist to encapsulate or immobilise radionuclides, but encapsulated radioactive waste remains a public health and environmental threat that will last for millennia.

Reprocessing spent reactor fuel is polluting, and most of the uranium and plutonium arising from reprocessing is simply stockpiled with no plans for its use. (For further information see Jim Green's "A nuclear answer to global warming?" in Seeing Red, No. 5)

Carbon trading-no magic solution

If coal and nuclear are part of the problem, how can we implement the needed massive turn to renewable energy sources as quickly as possible?

Most mainstream experts, including Nicolas Stern and Howard government adviser Warwick McKibbon, are placing their faith in a carbon tax, specifically a system of tradeable quotas in carbon emission. The idea is that the cost to business of sticking with hydrocarbon-based technologies would be so high that they would rush into renewables.

In theory this "market-based instrument" could certainly have this impact-if the total quota is small enough and the price of buying extra quotas (ie the right to pollute) is high enough. However, the difficulties encountered with Kyoto and in establishing a Europe-wide system of tradeable quotas reveal a huge gap between the theory and practice.

In the European case the total level of tradeable quotas has been increased by harsh pressure from business. It has now reached the point where it is having negligible impact on greenhouse gas emissions. This confirms the 1992 prediction of US economist Thomas Schelling (in "Some Economics of Global Warming" in the American Economic Review):

"A carbon tax sufficient to make a big dent in the greenhouse problem would have to be roughly equivalent at least to a dollar per gallon motor fuel [equivalent to $1.40 in 2005 dollars] … Reduce the tax by an order of magnitude and it becomes imaginable, but then it becomes trivial as greenhouse policy."

Carbon trading is a classic band-aid solution. Moreover, even where quotas are small enough to have an impact, someone has to pay the bill, and it won't be the boardrooms whose job is to "maximise shareholder value". The greater the impact of any tax or quota the more the polluters will pass it on to their "end-users"-ordinary working people. One small example: the Labor states' recently announced carbon emissions trading scheme wouldn't hurt the electricity companies, but it would increase annual electricity bills in all states (in NSW by up to $122), with no plans for compensation.

(For further information see Carbon Trading: a critical conversation on climate change, privatisation and power from the Dag Hammarsk├Âld Foundation.)

The socialist approach

The solutions are out there-and they have even been tested. Since the early 1990s, Cuba has dramatically cut its oil consumption. Basically it was able to do this because it does not have a government run by mega-corporations and it was able to mobilise its people to tackle all aspects of the problem of energy conversion (see the documentary The Power of Community: How Cuba Survived Peak Oil, available from the Socialist Alliance).

In Australia, the heart of any shift to energy sustainability must be a massive increase in research and development of renewables. It cannot be achieved without a public Renewable Energy Scheme that brings together all expertise and develops an overall plan for energy conversion and energy saving.

How much would such an effort cost?

In their 2004 study A Clean Energy Future for Australia Hugh Saddler, Mark Diesendorf and Richard Denniss show-on very conservative assumptions-how greenhouse emissions from non-transport energy use could be made to fall by 50% by 2050 (the minimum target required). They cost their main policy proposal for sustainable stationary energy at $630 million a year, just 12% of the annual "perverse subsidies" going to the production and use of fossil fuels and less than a year's spending on the Howard government's criminal Iraq adventure.

A clean, green energy future is possible. Join the Socialist Alliance and fight for it.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Community solidarity targets Alcoa

By Ian Jamieson (from Green Left Weekly 4 November 2006)

The construction of the giant Alcoa aluminium processing plant in Pinjarra, south of Perth, was held up for several hours on November 1 as the local community protested against sackings at the site.

Thirty workers employed by Moore’s civil earthworks and building services at the refinery found themselves without a job on October 31 after Alcoa decided to terminate Moore’s contract. The workers were immediately approached by a successful contractor, C.E.C.K., with an offer to re-employ them under Australian Workplace Agreements (AWAs — individual contracts) that would have reduced their earnings by 25% and cut their conditions.

Incensed by this attempt to cut wages, approaches were made to the newly formed Peel Community Solidarity group to help protest Alcoa’s decision. The Australian Workers Union (AWU) tried unsuccessfully to negotiate with Alcoa management about the issue.

Within 24 hours, 120 Peel Community Solidarity supporters assembled on the main access road to the refinery. The protesters decided to hold a public meeting in the middle of the road during the morning shift change at the plant. Alcoa employs around 2,000 workers at the plant and the road meeting caused a massive traffic jam.

The community protesters were determined not only to show their contempt for Alcoa’s decision to sack the 30 workers, but also to force management to negotiate with the AWU. When the rally adjourned after 45 minutes, there was agreement that if Alcoa did not make a serious attempt to negotiate, the protesters would re-assemble the next morning to decide further action.

Alcoa stonewalled during the day and Peel Community Solidarity members issued a wide appeal for supporters to rally during the shift change on November 2. Fifty protesters rallied again and Alcoa, desperate to thwart the protest, used security guards to divert traffic "

2006 Socialist Alliance conference held in Geelong Trades Hall

"'If there’s an organisation that can lead the trade union movement to where it should be going, it’s this one', Chris Cain, Western Australian state secretary of the Maritime Union of Australia told the opening plenary of the fifth Socialist Alliance national conference held at Geelong Trades Hall on October 29.

Some 53 delegates from across Australia met in regional Victoria to discuss how to help defeat the Howard government and build fighting social movements - in particular in the trade unions.

Reflecting on the current push to join or back the ALP as the only way of defeating Howard, Cain said, 'I’ve been approached on many occasions to join the ALP'. He added: 'I know how to be a trade unionist, and if that means becoming part of something humanitarian, then I won’t be budging from the Socialist Alliance.'

Commenting on the discussion among many union leaders about the movement’s relationship with the Labor Party, Cain said, 'I’m not going to say that if the ALP doesn’t get in at the next election, we’re all finished. The reason is that the way to get rid of Howard is not what the majority of trade union leaders are saying.' He went on to argue for an independent trade union movement to continue to take the fight for workers’ rights up to the government of the day - Liberal or Labor.

Cain’s comments encapsulated the fighting spirit and optimism of the 130-strong conference.

Delegates unanimously adopted the draft resolution presented by the outgoing national executive which states that 'the Socialist Alliance will campaign for the defeat of the Howard government in the next federal election and for its replacement by a Labor government'. The statement continues: 'However we have little confidence that a Beazley government will stand by its promise to rip up Work Choices and Australian Workplace Agreements and introduce an industrial relations system that enshrines our rights at work"

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

About the Socialist Alliance

The Socialist Alliance is an anti-capitalist party. We stand for socialism - a democratic society that is run by and for working people, not the tiny, greedy, destructive elite that now rules. We stand for putting people before profit - for the millions not the millionaires.

We believe that a society based on satisfying human need is totally realistic, in Australia and around the world. And we believe that it is necessary if humanity and our planet are to survive.

The Socialist Alliance is made up of ordinary people who, like millions of others, are sick of being ruled by warmongers, racists, union bashers, and barely distinguishable Liberal and Labor politicians, and who are determined to doing something about it. We believe that the masses people, if we act collectively - in the workplaces, on the streets, in our communities have the power to fundamentally change the way society is run.

The Socialist Alliance was formed on February 17, 2001, by eight socialist groups and parties that saw an urgent need for greater left unity in Australia at a time of escalating government attacks on the rights and living conditions of workers and the poor, in Australia and overseas. The founding conference of the Socialist Alliance took place in Melbourne on August 4-5, 2001.

Since then the Alliance has grown in size and strength, establishing branches right across urban and regional Australia, and building up a membership in which the original founding parties' members are now a minority in the Alliance. National conferences have been held annually and each one has decided to take further steps to strengthen the unity of all those fighting for a different Australia.

Members of the Alliance are active in a wide range of campaigns around the country, from community campaigns to save local environments, to civil liberties and refugee rights campaigns, to campaigns for justice for Indigenous people, and gays and lesbians.

Socialist Alliance members are leaders in the trade union movement, and in the anti-war movement. We are also involved in solidarity work with movements for freedom and democracy in other countries.

The Socialist Alliance is an electorally registered party and stands candidates in elections at every level of government. But we are different from most other parties in that we seek election to parliament not to "represent" the movements, but to help build them, resource them and help them win their demands.

Anyone who broadly agrees with the aims and objectives of the Alliance, and agrees to participate in the cooperative spirit of the Alliance, is eligible to join. Annual membership rates are: $60 waged, $24 low waged, $12 unwaged and $6 high school students

Monday, November 6, 2006

SA Perth Photo Gallery