The case for industrial & civil liberties

President's perspective

This Evatt Newsletter gives you the case for industrial and civil liberties presented at our recent seminar by Geoff Derrick, Secretary NSW-ACT, Branch of the Finance Sector Union and Professor George Williams, Director Gilbert and Tobin Centre of Public Law, UNSW.

We have also been fortunate in obtaining the speech delivered by former High Court Judge, Mary Gaudron, to the Jessie Street Trust Annual Lunch, where she said human rights abuses are occurring across the world, with Australia an offender when it comes to the most vulnerable in society. Mary called for the detention centres to be shut down.

The Iraq war after three years

All of us who thought that the pre-emptive, unilateral invasion of Iraq was wrong and marched and protested have been vindicated. We were right. Bush, Blair and Howard were wrong.

In March 2003, I wrote:

In last month¹s (February 2003) President¹s perspective I referred to the article by the Middle East scholar, Professor Michael Scott Doran ... where he analysed untranslated Bin Laden statements. The undemocratic leaders of his own country and the other US allies in the Middle East are a primary focus for Bin Laden¹s anger. If the US engages in unilateral military action, Bush will unite Moslem people against him and a percentage will gravitate to terrorism. They pick up the crusading language that President Bush uses to appease the religious right in his Republican party.

Bush's language comes from no practical study of the complex issues in the Middle East, but from theoretical visions of the neo-conservatives in and around his administration. It is as though the whole world has now become a greater Texas: a world composed of goodies and baddies, a world based on oil, a world where there is always a long queue on Death Row. As the crisis gets closer, everything confirms that the Bush foreign policy is run according to theology and opportunism, not principle and practicality.

"The National Council of Resistance of Iran has fought and suffered at the hands of the Mullahs and has grass roots support in Iran. Hundreds of parliamentarians across the spectrum in the UK, European and Australian parliaments have demanded that the proscription be lifted."

There is no room for smugness or complacency on our part because there is an even greater threat to world security now. In Iraq we have a majority Shia Government with close links to the Mullahs fundamentalist religious dictatorship in Iran, who - as Nosrat Hosseini highlights this month - have demolished all basic human rights of Iranian citizens over the past 27 years.

Iraq faces a continuous insurgency, teetering on a civil war which could collapse into a failed state. A failed Iraq state would be a breeding ground for terrorists with the potential to ignite a religious war in the Middle East, together with an oil crises that would threaten world economic security.

President Bush has launched a verbal attack on Iran that is characteristically simplistic and counter-productive. He is having the effect of uniting the Iranian people behind their government.

The hidden link between the Iraq war and the Iran regime is the oil stupid. Access to oil is the reason that the European, US and Australian governments have proscribed the peoples democratic movement in Iran as terrorist.

The National Council of Resistance of Iran has fought and suffered at the hands of the Mullahs and has grass roots support in Iran. Hundreds of parliamentarians across the spectrum in the UK, European and Australian parliaments have demanded that the proscription be lifted.

This is the classic example of double talk and double standards where the national liberation group are banned as terrorists while the Mullahs' regime brutally suppresses women, murders innocent people and edges to nuclear weapons and the threat to nuclear war may well escalate in the near future.

Unless the US Congress rejects President Bush's unilateral nuclear arrangement with India we face the unravelling of the Nuclear Proliferation Treaty (NPT). This has tremendous moral implications for Australia and our uranium mining industry. The other moral challenge is that a weapons-of-mass-destruction-free Middle East must be the objective of any long term resolution.

The platform that the nuclear industry has mounted for a massive international media and lobbying campaign to promote nuclear energy is based on the claime that it presents a solution to the enhanced greenhouse effect. Nuclear energy, it is claimed, emits no carbon dioxide (CO2) and can be rapidly deployed to substitute for coal-fired power stations.

This month we publish an article by Dr Mark Diesendorf which presents evidence that these recently recruited supposedly environmental supporters of nuclear energy have been premature in their support/

History & politics

More broadly, we publish two essays on contemporary debates about history and politics.

Distinguished Australian scholars Ann Curthoys & John Docker discuss their new book, Is history fiction?, which, as they explain, has been shaped by many of the present contexts. History has become a source of public debate and anxiety in many societies and differences between historians about the past have become the site for major political contestation and debate. In other cases, it is the very foundation of the nation that is in question, as in Australia's 'history wars' over the degree of violence in the course of British settlement.

Yet another context is the rise of anti-postmodernism, and the argument that postmodernists believe that anything goes and any history is as good as any other. As Curthoys and Docker explain, part of their book is devoted to this question, and in particular to tracing very closely what it is that postmodernists and poststructuralists actually do say in relation to questions of truth. Their book is essential reading for anyone who wishs to follow and participate in the wider debate.

The other essay by Mark Buttigieg considers the viability of the scial democratic agenda. Among other things, Mark argues a case for opening the party up to grass-roots involvement by rank and file union members. The long period of the Howard government implies a cirsis on the Labor side of politics. Mark cites John F Kennedy, who once pointed out: "When written in Chinese, the word crisis is composed of two characters. One represents danger and the other represents opportunity".

Bruce Childs
President
Evatt Foundation
20 April 2006