The people smuggler: A review

December 29, 2012 by

THE PEOPLE SMUGGLER, ROBIN DE CRESPIGNY,  PENGUIN VIKING, 2012

By Jenny Haines

This is an important book in the debate about refugees, asylum seekers and people smugglers. It should be read by all members of federal parliament, some of whom stood weeping in parliament during the debate on asylum seekers in 2012, and then allowed the reopening of the Nauru and Manus Island detention centres to add to the misery they claimed to be so concerned about.

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Margaret Thatcher’s memories of power

January 10, 2012 by

The Iron Lady

Directed by Phyllida Lloyd

Starring Meryl Streep and Jim Broadbent

Reviewed by Jenny Haines


The curse of our lives is that as we get older all we are left with, as children leave home and the next generation moves in to our workplaces, is our memories. The Iron Lady, a movie written by Abi Morgan, portrays an aged Margaret Thatcher living with her memories in the confusion of old age, not sure any more what is real and what is not.

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Anything for a quid. Social and environmental costs of Australia’s resources boom

January 9, 2012 by

Dirty Money. The true cost of Australia’s minerals boom

Matthew Benns

Random House Australia, 2011

A review


As an environmental disaster it was world-class — up there with last year’s Gulf of Mexico oil spill, and then a bit. In fact, according to some, BHP’s Ok Tedi mine in Papua New Guinea is the third largest environmental disaster ever, and the largest associated with mining. A sliding scale of environmental disasters is probably meaningless — they all threaten our future on this planet — but this one was on a grand scale.

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Ferguson puts spooks to work for mining companies

January 7, 2012 by

The Sydney Morning Herald and other papers carry reports that Resources and Energy Minister Martin Ferguson has been using a private spy agency, the National Open Source Intelligence Centre, to supply information to the Federal Police on environmental protests and protesters, particularly against mining companies.

According to the report, the Federal Police admit they conduct “covert operations” (ie infiltration and spying) in protest groups, but only “on rare occasions”.

It’s bad enough that people well-known to be committed to non-violent protest are being spied on by police, but what is this other, non-government, private-profit organisation up to? How widely is the government using taxpayer dollars to outsource so-called security operations? Will we be told what is being done in our name, with our money?

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Refugees and offshore processing: a reply to Robert Manne

January 3, 2012 by

By Jenny Haines

In an article in the Sydney Morning Herald’s National Times section on December 22, Robert Manne, stated his opinion that the left got it wrong on boat people.

Manne notes the current stalemate between the political parties in parliament and does not resile from his opposition to John Howard’s Pacific Solution cruelties, but he criticises the left for not recognising the efficiency of the Pacific Solution in reducing the numbers of refugees arriving by boat.

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Paul Howes, coal seam gas and Dutch disease

January 2, 2012 by

Paul Howes, in a demagogic and incoherent article in the January 1 Sydney Sunday Telegraph begins with a description of what some economists call Dutch disease: the collapse of manufacturing export industries under the weight of a currency inflated by a runaway resources boom.

It’s called the Dutch disease because something similar to the current Australian resources boom occurred in The Netherlands between the late 1950s and the late 1970s. The discovery of North Sea oil and gas inflated the Dutch currency, making large parts of the country’s manufacturing industries uncompetitive internationally, contributing to their collapse.

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Too many people? A review

December 28, 2011 by

Too many people? Population, immigration and the environmental crisis

Ian Angus and Simon Butler

Haymarket Books, 2011

Available in Australia from Resistance Books


In about 20 years as an active supporter of the Australian Greens I’ve regularly encountered people advancing populationist points of view, which all share the starting point that overpopulation is the main cause of the global environmental crisis.

Environmentalists are justifiably alarmed about the damage human activity has caused, and is still causing, to our planet, particularly since the industrial revolution that transformed firstly Europe, and then the world, in the 19th century. Too many, however, avoid looking at the role of forms of government and corporate control that developed out of the industrial revolution.

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Agonising about organising

December 13, 2011 by

A response to Max Lane

Max responded to my observations about the Labor Party conference, and particularly the decision on marriage equality, with two fairly long and thoughtful comments on organisation and the left that require a thoughtful response, which I will provide to the best of my ability.

But firstly, because this discussion began on the matter of Labor’s decision to support marriage equality, it is clear that this will now be an issue in the next federal election and it will be important to support any candidates, particularly Labor Party candidates, who come under attack because of their democratic stance.

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The Labor left and its role

December 11, 2011 by

A response to Doug Jordan

Doug Jordan responds on the Green Left discussion list to my post, Left reaction to the Labor conference.

DJ: “Almost implict in Ed’s comments seems to be the idea that any sharp criticism of the ALP is sectarian.”

What does “almost implicit” mean? Perhaps an implication that Doug would like to be able to point to but can’t find? There’s no justification for Doug trying to read implications into my writing. I try to write precisely and avoid ambiguity, which I hope Doug as a historical writer might appreciate. Doug doesn’t indicate which part of my analysis might be ambiguous on this point, which I’m sure wouldn’t pass muster in historical circles.

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Left reaction to the Labor conference

December 9, 2011 by

My prediction that the Labor Party conference would be received with a round of ritual moaning and whingeing on the far left has been largely confirmed, although a couple of people have accused me of dishonesty in saying that.

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Don’t moan, organise

December 4, 2011 by

The Labor conference vote on gay marriage

“Goodbye Bill. I die like a true blue rebel. Don’t waste any time in mourning. Organize.” — Joe Hill, IWW agitator, in a letter to Bill Hayward not long before his execution in 1915 on a framed up murder charge.

The outcome of the Labor Party national conference on gay marriage reform will no doubt bring a chorus of moaning from the far left about the Labor Party. John Passant of Socialist Alternative was quick to lead off the chorus:

“The party that screws over gays and lesbians and refugees and fears the views of its own members, most of whom are part of the 99 per cent, will screw over workers as workers for the 1 per cent.

“And tomorrow, guess what? They will vote to sell uranium to India.

“Labor’s conference is a con — the ALP remains a right-wing party, a party of neoliberalism.”

This was on the day left and democratic forces in the Labor Party won an important victory, changing the Labor Party’s platform to support gay marriage.

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The Rise and Fall of Squizzy Taylor: a review

November 29, 2011 by

Squizzy Taylor. The rise and fall of a larrikin crookSquizzy Taylor. The Rise and Fall of a Larrikin Crook
By Hugh Anderson
Published by Pier 9, Murdoch Books Australia
First published 1971, reprinted 2011
Reviewed by Ed Lewis


I picked up this little book because I’m interested in the working class history of the inner suburbs of Melbourne, particularly Collingwood.

All of my grandparents’ generation on both sides lived in Collingwood, and most worked in boot and shoe factories until the Great Depression closed them down. My father’s parents met in one of Collingwood’s boot factories.

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Bob Brown and the environmental vandal Obama

November 21, 2011 by

Geraldine Brooks delivered her first Boyer Lecture yesterday.

In it she said something Bob Brown and the Greens federal politicians should have considered before encouraging Greens to warmly welcome Barack Obama on his visit to Australia:

“When President Obama took office … he made a speech that promised his inauguration would mark the day ‘the rise of the oceans starts to slow and the planet begins to heal’. If only. Of all the disappointments of the past three years, highest on my personal list is Barack Obama’s silence — his failure to use his gifts of eloquence to explain our predicament and the necessity for urgent action. Instead, Obama greenlights Shell’s drilling in the Arctic, even as the toxins from BP’s blown-out well swirl in the Gulf of Mexico. He fails to act against a tar sands pipeline that would run from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico and that has been described as the fuse on a carbon bomb.”

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Why Greens do not welcome Obama

November 15, 2011 by

By Ed Lewis

A few days ago, Bob Brown said he was looking forward to joining the welcome for US President Barack Obama on his visit to Australia. He said Obama’s visit was “a much happier prospect” than the visit of George W Bush on the eve of the second Iraq war, and he would like to meet Obama.

Bob Brown said Obama would get a great welcome from Australians “and that will include Greens”. Brown should speak for himself on this, as there are plenty of Greens who will not be welcoming Obama. I have worked for the Greens on many election campaigns and in other activities, but I have been politically active for much longer opposing great-power aggression against small nations.

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Alex Mitchell and Peter Fryer. A tale of two journalists

November 13, 2011 by

Come the Revolution, a Memoir
Alex Mitchell
New South Press, 2011
Reviewed by Ed Lewis


Alex Mitchell’s memoir covers a big chunk of history, from the late 1950s up to a few months ago. Mitchell is a skilled and entertaining writer and the book is worthwhile alone for its vignettes of the 1961 Mount Isa strike, the early stages of the Vietnam antiwar movement in Australia and London, the Canberra press gallery, Rupert Murdoch as a rising young mogul challenging entrenched media interests in Australia, Mitchell’s training in tabloid journalism on Murdoch’s afternoon Sydney daily, The Mirror, his later experience in investigative reporting with the Insight team on London’s Sunday Times, his traumatic few days as a reporter in Biafra, his reporting from Idi Amin’s Uganda, in Ireland during “the troubles” and much more.

But Mitchell makes it clear the passion of his life was left politics, and the high point of his involvement in the left was his time in Gerry Healy’s Workers Revolutionary Party, for a few years probably the most successful Trotskyist organisation in Britain, with a daily newspaper, an extensive publishing program, numerous real estate assets, an active membership of probably several hundred and a constellation of celebrities surrounding it, including Vanessa and Corin Redgrave.

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