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Collisions: prospective, present & past

President's perspective

This month people marched through the streets of Sydney in the traditional Hiroshima day demonstration under the banner: 'Hiroshima, Never Again'. There are approximately 26,000 nuclear weapons in the United States, Britain, France, Russia and China alone. In Australia we must have a debate about these, the ultimate in terrifying weapons of mass destruction. During the same week, a little publicised meeting took place in Omaha, Nebraska, under the auspices of the US Strategic Command, as the Bush Administration sought to codify its plans for acquiring a new generation of nuclear arms. The White House representatives were examining their plans for nuclear weapons with the Pentagon, Department of State, State Weapons Labs, the Energy Department, and its National Security Organisation. Topping the Bush agenda is the development of small nuclear weapons, although the wish list ranges from weapons a fraction of the size of the Hiroshima bomb to several times larger.

As President Bush seeks to assert his military dominance, he seeks to pursue weapons to penetrate deep into the earth. The Pentagon believes that more than seventy nations, big and small, now have some 14,000 underground command posts and sites for ballistic missiles and weapons of mass destruction. The Bush hubris fails to take into account that any sensible person should fear that the relative smallness of the mini nukes will breach the firewall between conventional and nuclear war. The list of dangers, including testing, nuclear fallout and the precedent it creates for other countries, are not being dealt with adequately because of the relative secrecy.

The 'war and order', 'war on terror' hysteria in the United States dominates the news. Our own Prime Minister can be expected to follow this neo-conservative led move away from a long tradition of Nuclear Disarmament initiatives. What Bush and Howard have to face is that, when their bellicose statements on pre-emptive war are linked to nuclear weapons, we will become further alienated from the world community.

This is clearly demonstrated in Iraq today, where the United States government is claiming 13 countries in its coalition. The facts are that the United States has 144,000 service personnel in Iraq and there are 12,400 others, mostly British and a handful from another 12 countries. The Bush Administration is desperately trying to get 19 other countries to contribute troops and spread the financial burden. The three Anglo leaders - Bush, Blair and our own comprador Prime Minister, John Howard - initially benefited from the strong decisive leadership image that was projected in the war on Iraq. But now that war propaganda machine is being challenged, and their reputations and approval are sinking.

Larry Elliott, writing in The Guardian, has pointed out that the US trade deficit is running at more than $US50 million per hour. From 2000 to 2002 the US federal budget moved from a surplus of $US295 billion to a deficit of $US275 billion, and in 2003 it is heading towards a $US500 billion deficit. President Bush faces an election next year with increased insecurity and unemployment at home, and an army that is demoralised and taking casualties in Iraq. In Australia, the Howard-Hill team juggle defence expenditure, compromising Australia's interests, to follow the President's agenda.

In this month's Evatt Newsletter, we approach these fraught world conditions from two directions. We present a paper by British author and Guardian columnist, George Monbiot, who presents an alternative to a globe dominated by America. 'Now is the time to turn our campaigns against the war-mongering, wealth-concentrating, planet-consuming world order into a concerted campaign for global democracy' writes Monbiot, issuing a challenge to all democrats. A paper by John Langmore reinforces aspects of Monbiot's arguments about the international economy, and papers by Stuart Hall and Doug Cameron critique the British Labour and Australian Labor Party responses respectively. From another direction, we also present two papers that focus on the difficult andoften emotional question of religious fundamentalism. Written by the Reverend Ray Richmond and Randa Abdel-Fattah, they contain much wisdom.

Collision on care

Many other vital issues are covered in this issue of the Evatt Journal, which is one of the largest we have ever issued. At the top of the list is our feature on the contemporary collision between work and life, which has turned 'care' into a modern casualty. The care casualty list is a very long one: care of ourselves, each other, our households, families and communities, our quality of life, care in childhood, old age, sickness and death, and our efforts to live well and to reproduce. Longer working hours, insecure jobs, child care, declining birth rates, parental leave, the 'mummy track', the success or failure of feminism - the levels of passion, vitriol, despair and guilt that these subjects engender within our community attest to the enormous importance Australians place on them. Yet, the effects also go well beyond how we feel: they affect vital economic and demographic Australian trends.

In our feature this month, we focus on the issues, presenting a background paper by the ACTU on work and family, a chapter from Dr Barbara Pocock's new book The work/Llfe collision: what work is doing to Australians and what to do about it (Federation Press: 2003). And to discuss the issues, we will be proudly presenting Barbara Pocock in a public seminar in Sydney on 'The Work/Life Collision' on 1 September. Dr Pocock will be joined by Tanya Plibersek MP, the Federal Member for the seat of Sydney, and the seminar will be chaired by the Hon Jeannette McHugh, the Secretary of the Evatt Foundation. Note this is an Evatt sunset seminar, and is at Sydney's Quality Hotel (formerly known as the Southern Cross Hotel).


This month we also publish the papers that were presented at our very popular July breakfast seminar, which highlighted Australia's retreat from egalitarianism over the recent decades. Spelled out by Fred Argy, who spoke to his new book, Where to from here? Australian egalitarianism under threat, the other papers are by Professors Frank Stilwell and Hugh Stretton, who brilliantly cover the field on the deeply disturbing developments associated with fairness and equality in Australia today. Dovetailing with both the concentration on care and growing concern over inequality, we also publish the impassioned addresses by the President and Secretary to the recently concluded ACTU Congress 2003. They should be read closely by everybody with an interest in the labour movement.

Fabricating Aboriginal history

Unleashing an assault on our Indigenous people, our country's past and some of our most distinguished historians that is almost without precedent, last year Keith Windschuttle released his book The fabrication of Aboriginal history that purported to offer a more faithful account of frontier relations in 19th century Tasmania. Posing as 'apolitical', Windschuttle presented a book that was aimed at imposng a political agenda of denial about our past, joining with Prime Minister Howard's policies to undermine the (still inadequate) advances our Indigenous people have made toward social justice in recent decades. Building on the previous essays we have published on this disturbing front in the 'history wars' by Professor's Stuart Macintyre and John Quiggin, I am proud to be able to say that this month we present three more powerful rebuttals: Robert Manne's introduction to his edited collection of major replies to Windschuttle (contained in his just published book Whitewash), a response by Shayne Breen to the attack on Tasmanian Aboriginal society and culture, and an expert account by Naomi Parry of the way in which Windschuttle has shamefully and shabbily denigrated the reputation of one of the leading Tasmanian Aboriginal patriots. Read these three papers and I think you will have a very clear idea of who is the real fabricator in this debate.


We also continue our focus on the media, with a reply by Ken Parish to the popular essay by Tim Dunlop on the phenomenon of weblogging that was published in our last issue opf the Evatt Journal. Also, my colleague on the Evatt Foundation Executive, Tony Moore, assesses the latest attacks on the ABC, while Evan Jones has a hard look at the Australian print media's coverage of the Iraq war. Finally, if you live in Sydney, don't forget to get along to the Mary Alice Evatt -'Mas' - Exhibition, which is showing at the S H Ervin Gallery in The Rocks. The exhibition was opened by Justice Michael Kirby, whose marvellous speech is now on our website and is simply a must read for all Evatt Foundation members.

Until next month, stay active.

Bruce Childs President Evatt Foundation 29 August 2003


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