The first Free West Papua campaign office in Australia was opened in April in Perth, signalling the growing international campaign for West Papuan self-determination. West Papua has been occupied by Indonesia since the 1960s, despite an ongoing struggle for independence. Benny Wenda, a leader of Free West Papua living in exile, said he hoped the Australian government would withstand pressure from Indonesia over the office opening.
An international March Against Monsanto is scheduled for May 24. Hundreds of events around the world have already been scheduled to protest against the world's biggest agricultural biotechnology company. Like all capitalist monopolies, Monsanto got to where it is today by being ruthless. There are other big biotech companies with shocking records of disregarding people and planet in pursuit of profit — such as DuPont, Bayer and Dow Chemical — but Monsanto's record is so notorious, it warrants its own special international protest day.
A report released last month by Oxfam revealed that Australia's big four banks have invested in land grabs that have dispossessed local land owners across the world. The report, Banking on Shaky Ground, explains that large-scale land acquisitions have risen due to the rise in global food prices since 2008. Companies are eager to acquire more land to grow food in order to benefit from rising prices on the global food markets.
A meeting of the Cartagena Dialogue for Progressive Action took place in the Marshall Islands on April 1. The body is composed of 30 countries working towards a legally binding United Nations climate change convention before of an international summit next year. Delegates had a chance to witness first-hand the effects of climate change in the host country, a small atoll nation in the Pacific Ocean, where no land rises more than two metres above sea level.
Despite its secrecy and lack of appropriate media coverage, many people have heard about the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the huge free trade agreement being negotiated by some of the biggest economies on the Pacific rim. Some of it details have been leaked by WikiLeaks, exposing the behind-closed-doors machinations of governments and large corporations. But very few people have heard about PACER-Plus, a free trade agreement that will include the small island states at the heart of the Pacific.
Community Services Minister Pru Goward announced that 293 public housing in Millers Point and The Rocks on Sydney's harbourside would be sold. The billions gained would be used to invest in public housing in the rest of the state, Goward said. But the sell-off would come at a human cost — the destruction of the close-knit working-class community that has existed there for hundreds of years.
New Caledonia, a French-administered archipelago in the south-west Pacific, passed a law on February 13 banning the importation of genetically modified seeds for cereals and fruits. Vegetables, however, are exempt from the law. A proposal for mandatory labelling of GMO products is still to be approved by the Congress.
Luca Belgiorno-Nettis resigned from his position as chair of the board of the Biennale of Sydney on March 7. Biennale organisers announced it was cutting ties with major sponsor Transfield, of which Belgiorno-Nettis is a director. The divestment was the result of pressure from artists boycotting the Biennale, because of Transfield's connection to the detention of asylum seekers. The company has a $1.2 billion contract to run the Nauru and Manus Island centres.
Four days of talks in Singapore for the proposed TransPacific Partnership (TPP) ended inconclusively on February 25. It is clear big disagreements still exist between the negotiating countries. Combined with unease among the populations in negotiating countries, this is likely to prevent the deal being finalised this year.
Many see Australia as a small power dependent on British and then US power for protection, but it is important to note that Australia has its own imperialist agenda it pushes the Pacific region. From the late 19th century to today, Australia's ruling class has been finding ways of extending its influence on nearby countries. It has even succeeded, if only temporarily, in gaining colonial possessions. This began even before federation in 1901, as the new capitalist class, having accumulated capital from the gold rushes in the mid-19th century, was looking for outlets for investment.