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June 2006   

Interview: Rock Solid
Bill Shorten gives the inside story on the Australian Workers Union's involvement in the Beaconsfield rescue.

Industrial: Eight Simple Rules for Employing My Teenage Daughter
Phil Oswald bought up his kids to believe in their rights; so when his 16-year old daughter was told to cop a pay cut she was never going to take it quietly.

Politics: The Johnnie Code
WorkChoices is encrypted deep in the PM's political DNA, writes Evan Jones

Energy: Fission Fantasies
Adam Ma�anit looks at the big business push behind the 'clean nuclear' debate that is sweeping the globe.

History: All The Way With Clarrie O'Shea
The WorkChoices Penal Powers are the latest in a long line of penal sanctions against trade unions, writes Neale Towart

International: Closer to Home
If Australia can forgive its debt to Iraq, why not to Indonesia and the Philippines, write Luke Fletcher and Karen Iles

Economics: Taking the Fizz
While the Treasurer has been popping the post-Budget champers, Frank Stilwell gives a more sober assessment.

Unions: Stronger Together
Amanada Tattersall looks at the possibilities of strengthening alliances between unions, environmental and community organisations

Review: Montezuma's Revenge
Tommy Lee Jones directs and stars in a film about racism and retribution, writes James Gallaway.

Poetry: Fair Go Gone
Employers in the land rejoice, for we are girt by greed.


The Soapbox
The Beaconsfield Declaration
As the Prime Minister feted Brant Webb and Todd Russell, their colleagues were outside with a message to the rest of Australia.

The Locker Room
Run Like You Stole Something
Phil Doyle observes that there are some tough bastards out there.

The Westie Wing
That fun-loving friend of the workers, Ian West, reports from the red leather of the Bear Pit.

Class Action
Phil Bradley draws the lines between education funding and the current skills crisis.


When the Truth Hurts
Some rare moments of candour this week have vindicated all we�ve been saying about WorkChoices and more.


 Howard's Advocate Fesses Up

 Cowra - Work Slaughter Legal

 You're Killing Us - BHP Charged Again

 Revealed: Beaconsfield Led AWA Charge

 Warehouse Pushes the Envelope

 Independent Schools Push Class Warfare

 Spotlight on Howard�s Porkies

 PM Backs Visa Buster

 Sutton Wants Middle Men Probed

 ATO Recruiting for WorkChoices

 Taxpayers to Fund Ad Orgy

 New Deal on Canberra Menu

 Appeal for East Timor

 Activist's What's On!

 Free Kick
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Closer to Home

If Australia can forgive its debt to Iraq, why not to Indonesia and the Philippines, write Luke Fletcher and Karen Iles

Today is World Debt Day, an annual opportunity to reflect on the poverty and suffering caused by the unjust debts owed by poor nations to wealthy countries and international financial institutions.

Last year the G8 countries signed a deal, since ratified by the IMF and the World Bank, to give debt cancellation initially to eighteen heavily indebted poor countries - mainly African. This number has now increased to nineteen and ten more countries may become eligible for similar debt cancellation in the next couple of years.

The deal means that from July this year, 290 million people from 19 countries will be free from debt slavery, but there are many more people who need debt relief.

Indebtedness is a scourge on the world. Money is funnelled into debt repayments instead of to vital health and education programs that could save lives and lift communities out of poverty. Indebtedness also harms a country's economic prospects, by hindering foreign investment and encouraging indebted governments to take part in unsustainable and ecologically unsound economic practices that will do long term damage to their countries.

The G8 deal was a positive step that will save many lives. But the G8 agreement doesn't go far enough: debt relief programs must be made available to more countries. Not only are IDA countries (countries that the World Bank considers poor enough to receive highly concessional loans) left off the list but so too are many poor countries in the Asia & Pacific Region.

If we are fair dinkum about assisting poor countries to meet the millennium development goals then we must provide debt relief.

Eligibility for debt relief programs must be extended to all 66 countries that the World Bank considers poor enough to grant highly concessional loans to (so called IDA-only countries). A country's poverty reduction needs and the ability to meet the Millennium Development Goals should be the primary and most important consideration when considering eligibility for debt relief.

What about Australia? Does it do as much as it could to help indebted countries?

Australia has cancelled the bilateral debt owed to it by countries that have qualified for the HIPC program, such as Nicaragua and Ethiopia. It has also agreed to fund its share of the recent G8 debt deal, to the tune of $136.2 million dollars or so.

Australia just last week announced that in the current financial year, Australia will cancel over US$668 million dollars in debt to Iraq. Another $221 million is on the way before 2008.

Australia has cancelled much of the debt owed by Iraq. The rationale here is that Iraq's debt was accrued by a dictator with little of the loaned money reaching the people it was meant to help. Iraq is not recognised in the HIPC initiative. We welcome this move. However, Australia could do a lot more.

Countries such as Indonesia and the Philippines in our region fall into a similar category as Iraq. Much of the debt in these cases comes from loans given to corrupt regimes under Marcos and Soeharto that never benefited Indonesians and Filipinos.

Both of these countries spend approximately three times more on debt repayments than they do on health and education, despite having massive problems in these areas and millions living in poverty. Both of these countries will struggle to meet the Millennium Development Goals unless debts are cancelled.

This November, Australia is host to the G20 conference in Melbourne. This meeting will provide a great opportunity for Australia to lead the way with debt relief. Australia should not only encourage further cancellation through multilateral initiatives, such as HIPC, but also the cancellation of debts of non HIPC members. Australia has shown how this can be done - it's our turn to lead the way by brokering further agreements on debt relief.

Luke Fletcher is National Campaign Coordinator for Jubilee Australia. Karen Iles is the Co-Director of AID/WATCH. Both Jubilee Australia and AID/WATCH are members of the Make Poverty History coalition.


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