A crude and jingoistic appeal to Australian patriotism is the last refuge of the pro-war scoundrels as we approach the Australian parliamentary debate on Afghanistan. Australia sent troops to Afghanistan in October 2001, but it has taken nine years for parliament to discuss this act of war. Is this how Australia’s celebrated democracy works? Australian troops were sent to wage wars on an impoverished, already war-devastated and traumatised country without even a discussion in parliament, let alone a vote.
The rescue of 33 miners in Chile is an extraordinary drama filled with pathos and heroism. It is also a media windfall for the Chilean government, whose every beneficence is recorded by a forest of cameras. One cannot fail to be impressed. However, like all great media events, it is a facade. The accident that trapped the miners is not unusual in Chile and is the inevitable consequence of a ruthless economic system that has barely changed since the dictatorship of Gen. Augusto Pinochet. Copper is Chile's gold, and the frequency of mining disasters keeps pace with prices and profits.
Workers and students mobilised in their millions on October 12 in the fourth and largest mobilisation in the last month against laws that will reduce the pension entitlements of French workers. The protests and strikes come the French Senate has begun passing aspects of the pension bill that will see an increase in the retirement age from 60 to 62 years of age and increase the qualifying period that workers must work to receive a full pension.
The political situation in France is dominated by the mobilization against the proposed reform of the pension system. This reform is at the heart of Sarkozy’s austerity policy. Although it is presented as an obvious demographic necessity, it is meeting increasing opposition in public opinion.
In August, Truthout conducted soil and water sampling in Pass Christian Harbor, Mississippi, on Grand Isle, Louisiana, and around barrier islands off Louisiana’s coast to test for the presence of oil from BP’s Macondo Well. Laboratory test results from samples taken reveal very high concentrations of oil in the soil and water. These results contradict consistent claims by the federal government and BP since August that much of the Gulf of Mexico is now free of oil and safe for fishing and recreational use.
“Public interest vs private profit” was the theme of Socialist Alliance’s state conference in Melbourne on October 2. In the opening panel, Kenneth Davidson, senior columnist for the Age slammed Victoria as being a corporate state: “Since the election of [Coalition Premier Jeff] Kennett in 1992, we’ve had bad, secretive government. Labor premiers [Steve] Bracks and [John] Brumby have built on the foundations of the Kennett government.”
“No powerlines through koala habitat”, was the main slogan of a protest rally of people from the Logan area, the Gold Coast and the Sunshine Coast outside the Queensland parliament on October 7. The protesters had gathered to present a 2000-strong petition opposing electricity company, Energex, plans to upgrade powerline infrastructure near their homes. Veto Energex Towers Organisation (VETO) spokesperson Laurie Koranski said they did not believe the impacts of the plan had been fully investigated. VETO has already lobbied successfully to have some powerlines placed underground.
WAVE HILL — Aboriginal workers in the community of Kalkaringi — site of the famous 1966 Gurindji walk-off — will stage a protest on October 20 against what they call “a return to the ration days”. Under the NT intervention introduced in 2007, Aboriginal workers on Community Development Employment Projects have been pushed onto work-for-the-dole. They now work for welfare payments only, half of which they receive on a Basics Card that can only be spent on food, clothing and medical supplies.
In December 2009, a Bulgarian court convicted 23-year-old Australian Jock Palfreeman of the murder of 20-year-old Bulgarian man Andrey Monov, who died of a knife wound. Palfreeman was sentenced to 20 years in jail. This resulted from an incident in December 2007 in which Palfreeman, according to his own account, came to the aid of two men of the minority Roma community who were being attacked by a gang of 16 men. Palfreeman was denied bail and spent nearly two years in jail before finally being sentenced.
Over October 8-9, about 70 people attended the Latin America Solidarity Conference, organised by the Latin America Forum in Melbourne, under the theme “Challenging corporate globalisation: people’s power is changing the world”. Feature sessions looked at various issues affecting Latin America today, including “Imperialism, war and resistance”, “Popular power and people’s governments”, and “The battle for environmental justice and survival”.
Popular Thai newspaper Prachatai has reported that, a woman was arrested on October 3 at a freedom bike ride by United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship supporters (popularly known as the Red Shirts) in Ayutthaya for selling slippers with Thailand’s military-installed Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva’s face on them. The slippers were printed with the message, “People died at Ratchaprasong” — referring to the May 19 military massacre against the Red Shirts’ mass protest camp in Bangkok.
Cuban band JJ Son con Idabelis is touring NSW until the end of November. The quartet is playing at construction sites, organised by the Construction Forestry Mining Energy Union (CFMEU), cultural festivals and solidarity concerts supporting the trapped Chilean miners, political prisoners in Colombia and against the Cuban blockade.
With great power comes great responsibility. But Apostle Boyd K. Packer of the Church of Latter Day Saints (LDS, also known as the Mormons) is using his power to hurt the vulnerable by publicly condemning homosexuality after several highly publicised suicides of LGBTI youth in the United States. The media have revealed these suicides were triggered by bullying. This new round of bullying by a leader of the LDS church is one of the most severe kinds: institutionally approved, ideologically enforced, perpetrated by a person in power and aimed at the young.
The marvellous part about a transport strike, such as the one on the London Underground on October 4, is the reports on the news afterwards. This is where we’re told: “One plucky commuter beat the strike by breaking into the Imperial War Museum and stealing a Spitfire, which he used to ferry grateful passengers who’d been left stranded by the union in a swamp with little hope of ever seeing their children again.
Malaysian Socialist Party (PSM) secretary-general S. Arutchelvan called the proposed labour law review by the human resources Ministry was “draconian”, klick4Malaysia.com said on October 1. Arutchelvan said it would destroy the few rights workers have left. “This is the worse amendment in 40 years”, Arutchelvan told a press conference on October 1. He was joined by representatives from the Malaysian Trades Union Congress, the Bar Council, Jaringan Rakyat Tertindas and Suara Rakyat Malaysia, klick4malaysia.com said.
West Papuan leaders have rejected the possibility of talks with the Indonesian government until it acknowledges human rights abuses and ensures economic development, the October 5 Jakarta Globe said. Indonesia has claimed West Papua as its territory since a fraudulent vote by handpicked Papuans in 1969. It continues to deny Papuans the right to self-determination, repressing expressions of support for Papuan independence. Herman Awom of the Papuan People’s Council told the Globe: “We don’t want to talk to Jakarta because Jakarta never wants to talk to us.