A powerful new film about the Northern Territory intervention, Our Generation, is being shown to audiences across the NT, and will screen in places across Australia. The film-makers, Sinem Saban and Damien Curtis, spent three years with “just a camera and a microphone and lots of tape stock and time” and no script, allowing Yolngu people in North-East Arnhem Land to tell their stories about how the policies of the intervention — introduced by the Howard government and continued by Labor — have changed their lives.
The Gulf of Mexico is still threatened with an ecological catastrophe, but the US government and British Petroleum (BP) are trying to cover up the scale of BP’s Macondo oil well disaster. About 4.9 million barrels of oil escaped into the sea after the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded on April 20, killing 11 workers. BP capped the well on July 15, but work on the relief well to permanently plug the spill is expected to be delayed until early September, Bloomberg.com said on August 20.
The federal election result was a breakthrough for all who dream of being liberated from the Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee politics that has been foisted on Australia for many years. By denying the major parties a majority mandate, and by swinging strongly to the Greens, the possibility for a very political future has been opened up. Of course, there are many challenges ahead.
At dawn on August 20, the offices of Kurdish groups in Sydney, Perth and Melbourne were raided by Australian Federal Police and state police. Police alleged the groups were linked to the Kurdish Workers Party (PKK), which struggles for self-determination for the oppressed Kurdish minority in Turkey. The PKK was listed as a “terrorist organisation” by the Australian government in 2005. Kurdish leaders in Melbourne, along with the association’s lawyer Chris Ryan, questioned the timing of the raid, coming as it did the day before the federal election.
Just three days after the federal election, with the result still in the balance, the Refugee Action Coalition held a protest outside the Sydney law courts in support of a High Court case that is challenging the legality of off-shore processing of asylum seekers. If the case fails, there will be no further legal barrier to deporting refugees currently held in detention centres.
Safe Climate Perth has called a strategy meeting to plan a grassroots campaign against the new coal-fired power stations approved by the state Liberal government. The campaign will also take up other proposed developments such as a suggested new coal mine at Margaret River, which has already sparked a dynamic community campaign. Safe Climate campaigner Kamala Emanuel told Green Left Weekly: “We are planning a campaign that can win. “The first step to getting to a safe climate future is to stop the increase in emissions of greenhouse pollution from new coal power stations.
Peru’s Amazonian indigenous people have announced the creation of their own political party and will contest the presidential elections in April 2011. The indigenous people clashed with Peruvian President Alan Garcia’s government in 2009 to defend their ancestral lands in the largest indigenous uprising in recent history.
For John, a Socialist Alliance member in his nineties, it was “the best election result in my lifetime”. He was referring to the political impact of a hung parliament and a record vote for the Greens. From the top of the stairs at a polling booth in inner-western Sydney’s once safe, now marginal, seat of Grayndler, John waved the Socialist Alliance’s “how to vote” card to the queued voters and campaigners. His defiant gesture towards the numerous ALP booth workers was a metaphor for the Socialist Alliance’s campaign across the country.
The death of Lance-Corporal Jared Mackinney in Oruzgan province in Afghanistan on August 25 brought the death toll of Australian soldiers to 21 — 10 of whom have died since June. Mackinney was the third Australian soldier killed in Afghanistan in four days. Defence minister Senator John Faulkner defensively admitted at a media conference the same day that Australians are increasingly questioning the near nine-year old war.
Rather than giving us the government we deserve, the August 21 federal election delivered an outcome the two old parties deserved. Because both Labor and the Coalition focused on negative campaigning, sloganeering and scapegoating refugees and other minorities, a large number of voters decided to vote for alternatives with some vision. A hung parliament with the Greens holding the balance of power in the Senate was only a partial reflection of this growing disenchantment with the two-party system.
Barb Shaw, a well-known Aboriginal activist from Alice Springs’ town camps who has campaigned tirelessly against the Northern Territory intervention, doubled the Greens’ vote in the huge NT seat of Lingiari. The result damages the government’s claim that Aboriginal people support the intervention. The intervention imposes a series of discriminatory measures against Aboriginal people in remote communities. It was launched by the Howard Coalition government in August 2007 and has been extended under Labor.
By denying both the Australian Labor Party (ALP) and the the Liberal-National coalition an outright majority in primary votes and in House of Representatives seats, Australian electors voted “neither of the above” for the traditional parties of government. This followed an election campaign in which the major parties conducted an ugly race to the right, most notoriously by scapegoating the few thousand desperate refugees who attempt to get to Australia on boats.
Unexpectedly, it seems to me, a great opportunity for social change has emerged. This might seem strange, with another neo-fascist on the verge of becoming Australian Prime Minister. However remember that real change comes from widespread social participation, over longer periods.