A well attended “Bust the Budget” meeting on June 12 organised by Unions NSW has decided to organise a union and community rally on July 6. The meeting of more than 500 delegates and unionists came to an abrupt halt when Unions NSW Secretary Mark Lennon closed it down before two amendments strengthening the resolution could be voted on. Susan Price, a National Tertiary Education Union member and national co-convenor of Socialist Alliance, moved the amendments during the discussion, which were seconded by a delegate from the Construction Forestry Mining Energy Union (CFMEU).
A protest against mining giant Whitehaven Coal in Sydney’s CBD on June 4 drew around 200 people to hear farmers, activists and politicians speak out against an expanding coal mine which is destroying a forest. The Maules Creek project, north of Gunnedah and east of Narrabri, is the largest coal mine currently under construction in Australia. About 1660 hectares of native woodland is under threat. A 30,000 strong petition opposing the open cut coal mine’s expansion was to be presented to Planning Minister Pru Goward and Environment Minister Rob Stokes.
In the 18th and 19th century, scientists often used themselves as guinea pigs in the course of conducting experiments to determine the causes of disease and test the efficacy of new drugs. One of the earlier and more heroic examples comes from the Scottish physiologist and surgeon John Hunter (1728-93). Hunter was investigating syphilis, a disease surrounded by secrecy and shame whose origins were unlikely to be acknowledged at any level. The French called it the Italian disease and the Italians called it the French disease.
There are plenty examples of sporting “droughts”, but there has never been a more harrowing athletic drought — rife with pain, pathos and perseverance — quite like that of the Palestinian national football team. This is a national team without a recognised nation to call home; a national team that has never qualified for a major international tournament; a national team that, like its people, struggles to be seen. That drought, 86 years in the making, is now over.
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.
The US House of Representatives disregarded regional consensus on May 28 by voting to impose sanctions against Venezuela. The vote by acclamation was overwhelming, despite a last-ditch appeal by Michigan’s John Conyers and 13 other progressive Democrats who opposed sanctions and called for restoration of diplomatic relations between the two nations. They pointed out that regional bodies, including the Organisation of American States, the Caribbean Community and the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR), had all rejected the case for sanctions.
In 2012, Quebec’s student movement carried out a months-long strike, managing to push back and hold off a neoliberal government’s bid to raise tuition fees. Repeatedly mobilising upwards of 200,000 people at monthly “mega-manifs”, the “Maple Spring” was an all-too rare win against the forces of austerity, and so it captured imaginations around the world.
The Venezuelan government and the commune movement are taking steps to move towards the creation of what is referred to as a “communal state”, which involves community groups assuming collective control of local production and decision making. Communes in Venezuela are formed out of groups of community councils, which are small neighbourhood groups representing 250 to 400 families. In communal councils, local residents organise to develop their local community and run community affairs. They can also receive public funds to undertake social projects in their area.
It seems to have been decided that the best response to the success of Nigel Farage, the leader of the UK Independence Party that won 27.45% of the vote in the May European elections, is to try to copy him. The Tories will soon reveal that one of their councillors declared that “the shape of a Romanian’s spine proves he’s actually a type of stinging nettle” on an election leaflet, but it was a mistake anyone could make, especially as the councillor had an earache at the time.
There has been a minor earthquake in Irish politics in recent days. Republican party Sinn Fein has made a breakthrough into mainstream southern Irish politics. It almost doubled its vote to 17% in municipal polls for the southern state and won more than 20% in the European election. This was alongside a surge of electoral success from those further to the left and independents. Overall in the municipal elections in Ireland's south, Sinn Fein won 150 seats and those further left won about 40.
About 300 garment workers, NGO staff, civil servants and media staged a “fashion show” at the United Sisterhood Alliance-Worker’s Information Center (US-WIC) in Phnom Penh on May 25, called “Beautiful Clothes, Ugly realities”. As the Cambodian government still bans its opponents from using Freedom Park for protests, the fashion show was seen as a new, creative way of getting across our message.
"This country can afford a universal healthcare system that provides access to quality health care for everyone," Judith Kiejda, assistant general secretary of the NSW Nurses and Midwives Association (NSW NMWA), told a forum at the University of Technology Sydney on May 27. The forum, organised by the Save Medicare Campaign, heard Kiejda and Professor Bill Mitchell, director of the Centre of Full Employment and Equity (CofFEE) at Newcastle University, addressed the topic, "No to Abbott-Care. Hands Off Medicare."
Repealing the carbon tax, abolishing the department of climate change, and getting rid of the Clean Energy Fund were the top three wishes in “75 radical ideas to transform Australia”, released by the Institute of Public Affairs (IPA) in 2012. Number six was to repeal the Renewable Energy Target (RET). In the recent federal budget, the Coalition government is aiming to do all four.
On the evening of May 23, the United States suffered another massacre of the type that has become all too familiar. Elliot Rodger, a 22-year old student at the University of California campus in Santa Barbara went on a killing spree that left seven dead, including himself. He left a video and a manifesto that made clear his motive was hatred of women.
Why would the victim of a brutal military dictatorship appoint someone accused of covering up the regime’s crimes as ambassador to the country in which she once sought exile? This is the question many Chileans are asking after the new government of President Michelle Bachelet named James Sinclair as Chile’s highest diplomatic representative in Australia. In response, several groups have begun organising a campaign against the appointment.
About 150 people took to the streets of Brisbane on May 24 to protest against biotechnology corporation Monsanto, one of the foremost proponents of genetically modified (GM) technologies. The event was part of an international day of action that called for all products with genetically modified organisms to be labelled, Monsanto products to be banned in Australia, and a more transparent handling of GM products by the Australian government. Speakers described the history of Monsanto and neoliberal laws and free trade agreements that help the corporation.