February 7, 2013
After a conference in Nadi last month attended by more than 400 delegates from all affiliates of the Fijian Trade Union Congress (FTUC), Fiji’s trade unionists have begun forming a new political party. Felix Antony, secretary of the FTUC and a one time a Labour Party MP who left the party last year citing a lack of internal democracy told Radio Australia;
“The people of Fiji and the workers of Fiji have little choice and what we need really is a political voice that represents a cross section of people and more so the workers of Fiji. It’s really a necessity that drives the trade unions at this time to consider a political movement and a political party.”
Fiji’s union movement is the largest democratic organisation in the country and a truly multi-ethnic institution in a country where the legacy of colonialism has been ethnicity-based politics. The Labour Party, also founded by the FTUC and maintaining close links until recently, has been a multi-ethnic party but Anthony, who is Indian, believes that it has become an Indian party, and is now represented mainly by people from just one union, the National Farmers Union and colleagues of leader Mahendra Chaudhry.
Antony said that the meeting indicated the diversity of the union movement in Fiji; “we had a very good mix of union activists and office bearers present. In fact, unlike other political parties, there is no need for the trade union movement to pretend to be multi-racial. We’ve always been”
It’s not yet been decided if the new party will stand in the September 2014 elections announced by the interim government, or if it would cooperate with the other parties who are coordinating their approach to standing in the election. The union movement has been one of the strongest critics of the regime in Fiji. Read the rest of this entry »
February 4, 2013
The bush fires ravaging Australia this summer could turn out to be the worst on record.
Public reaction on both sides of the Tasman has been full of humanitarian concern for the victims. Meanwhile, our leaders plough on with policies which will spread more disasters like these globally – including here in Aotearoa.
The fires have been sparked by record-breaking temperatures. “The current heatwave – in terms of its duration, its intensity and its extent – is unprecedented,” said David Jones from the Australian Bureau of Meteorology. Temperatures at Sydney’s Observatory Hill have hit 45.8 oC – shattering the 1939 record by half a degree. In the South Australian town of Oodnadatta, it has been so hot that petrol evaporated at the pump, making it impossible for people to refill their cars.
Prime Minister Julia Gillard said she felt “overwhelmed by the bravery and stoicism that people are showing in such difficult circumstances” and promised disaster relief payments for the victims, even acknowledging that “as a result of climate change, we are going to see more extreme weather events”. But she added only, “We live in a country that is hot and dry… so we live with this risk”.
There was no mention of climate policy. Under her government, Australia remains the highest per capita emitter of greenhouse gases in the world.
The story of the fires does not just concern Australia, however. The disasters also came less than two months after our own prime minister, John Key, announced that New Zealand would be pulling out of the Kyoto Protocol on climate change from the end of 2012. Read the rest of this entry »
February 1, 2013
At their most recent conference Labour leader David Shearer, under immense pressure from both inside and outside the Labour Party, announced a keynote policy which promises 100,000 new homes to be built over the ten years following a Labour Party electoral victory in 2014.
The response to date, with a few exceptions, has been divided according to two positions. The first is that Labour’s policy is a rebirth or reaffirmation of the principles of the first Labour government. The second position is that Labour is simply announcing an unaffordable election bribe, and that the policy is simply middle-class welfare and an example of big government. Both positions are analytically superficial.
In a New Zealand Herald DigiPoll survey released on January 10, over 70% of respondents approved of Labour’s promise to enter the housing market to build 100,000 low-cost homes over the next 10 years, with only 26 per cent disapproving.
This is portrayed as being a return to old-Labour values, a line in the sand ideologically with the National Party. However, below that hark back to the past, much of what Labour has presented is more aligned to a modern neoliberal perspective than a social democratic framework from the past. Read the rest of this entry »