Last week was another ugly political week in Australia. There was much to be disgusted about, but one line disgusted me particularly. It was from an apologist for the Julia Gillard Labor government who dared to offer this whispered excuse for the PM's shameless embrace of racist scapegoating of desperate asylum seekers: “Julia Gillard is pretending to be conservative so that [Coalition leader Tony] Abbott can't use this issue to win the elections. Once Labor wins, they will implement a different policy. “It's clever politics.”
About 250 people attended the Students of Sustainability (SoS) conference at Flinders University in Adelaide over July 4-8. A highlight of the conference was the attendance of the Indigenous Solidarity Rides bus full of passengers on their way from Newcastle to the convergence at Alice Springs. They presented workshops on the NT intervention, its effects on Aboriginal communities and the struggle to repeal the racist laws.
On June 30, 31 mainly young activists set off from around NSW in an old converted school bus, for the “Indigenous Solidarity Rides” heading to an Aboriginal rights convergence in Alice Springs over July 6-11. At the same time, 25 activists from Brisbane headed to the convergence, also in a bus, as part of the “Justice Ride”.
Hundreds of activists in Washington, DC demonstrated on July 6 outside the White House to protest against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s visit. Protesters held signs calling on the US government to end military aid to Israel as Netanhayu met US President Barack Obama. After the meeting, Obama said: “I think the Israeli government, working through layers of various governmental entities and jurisdictions, has shown restraint over the last several months that I think has been conducive to the prospects of us getting into direct talks.”
About 800 people joined the NAIDOC week march on July 9. Young Kooris mostly led the chants, as a show of Aboriginal pride. The most popular chant was “Always was, Always will be, Aboriginal land”. Alf Bamblett, executive officer of the Victorian Aboriginal Community Services Association, told the crowd the federal government was extending income management beyond the Northern Territory and there was every chance it could come into Victoria unless it was resisted.
Canada & Israel: Building Apartheid By Yves Engler Fernwood Publishing/Red Publishing Toronto, 2010, 168 pages. Most Canadians today would probably agree that their country's foreign policy is pro-Israel. Even Canada's “liberal” supporters of Israel complain that siding so explicitly with Israel damages Canada's role of a peacemaker. It signals a shift away from the country's perceived balanced approach to the Arab-Israeli conflict.
Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s July 5 announcement that she would solve the refugee crisis by being tougher on refugees did what former PM John Howard failed to do in his 11 years of conservative rule. She has made former One Nation MP Pauline Hanson feel at home. Hanson announced she wasn’t emigrating to Britain, as planned, saying she was in “total agreement” with Gillard’s plan to “sweep political correctness from the debate”, the Australian said on July 6. Gillard’s main proposals cast refugees as a problem to be solved — and blame the refugees for that problem.
Greek workers staged their sixth general strike this year on July 8. The strike halted public transport, stopped ferry services, and closed schools, newspapers, courts and public hospitals. About 100,000 people took part in protest rallies in Athens and Thessaloniki, chanting: “Workers, answer the war declared by capitalists with war” and “Let the oligarchs pay for the crisis”.
“Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the peacemakers for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country.” I can’t help but be reminded of the these words of Nazi war criminal Hermann Goering as the big parties in Australia intensify efforts at scoring goals at the others expense by putting forward players who can kick the ball (in this case asylum seekers) the hardest.
On July 9, 60 people took to the streets to condemn the death of Aboriginal trans woman Veronnica Baxter. She was found dead in the Silverwater Metropolitan Reception and Remand Centre — a prison for men — six days after her arrest by Redfern police on minor drugs charges. The protesters were in Wollongong for Queer Collaborations, a yearly student activist conference supporting lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, intersex and gender diverse rights. The July 5-9 conference had 180 participants and the theme “Fighting Queers Need Fighting Unions”.
Luta Hamutuk, a Dili-based non government organisation, released the following statement on July 7. It was translated from Tetum by Tomas Freitas. * * * The July 7 Java Post said: “Prime Minister Julia Gillard has tightened Australia immigration law. Not wanting to be bothered by the economic and social problems caused by asylum seekers, the Australian leader plans to build a detention center for asylum seekers in Timor-Leste.” The above statement shows how Australian foreign policy contains “racist characteristics” toward Timor-Leste and the region.
Step by Step: Women of East Timor, Stories of Resistance and Survival Edited by Jude Conway Charles Darwin University Press, 2010 241 pages, $44 Review by Niko Leka The title of Step by Step refers to how the Timorese gained their independence. The steps are told through the firsthand narratives of 13 women who grew up in East Timor. When they were born it was a Portuguese colony, which in 1975 was invaded and occupied by Indonesia. It achieved victory in the quarter century-long struggle for independence in 1999.