If the last federal election promised the beginnings of a break from the two-parties-for-capitalism electoral system that has plagued Australian politics for the past century, the March 29, 2011 NSW election seems to be a lurch in the other direction. The Liberal-National Coalition won dominance of the Legislative Assembly and (with small right-wing parties) control of the Legislative Council because a large number of working class voters punished the Labor party with a -13.5% swing.
Isn’t it marvellous that all these governments are determined to do “something” about Colonel Gaddafi? For example Hillary Clinton said she supported military action once the Arab League — made up of countries such as Bahrain, Syria, Yemen and Saudi Arabia — backed air strikes. And it is encouraging that the policy of not tolerating a dictator has the backing of so many dictators.
The situation inside every one of Australia’s refugee detention centres has grown dangerously volatile. Just days after the Christmas Island breakout and subsequent protests, nine refugees climbed on the roof of a detention centre in Darwin after watching the assault of another refugee on March 15. Two days later, a 20-year-old Afghan man hanged himself with a bedsheet at the Scherger detention centre after his refugee application was rejected.
Coal seam gas exploration is becoming a key political issue in NSW. The Labor and Liberal parties are pushing for a huge expansion in gas mining, including coal seam gas. But farmers, regional communities and city-dwellers are becoming increasingly worried about the health and environmental consequences of the gas rush. The NSW government recently approved energy company AGL’s bid to drill 90 coal seam gas wells and build a pipeline and processing centre near Gloucester, north of Sydney.
“Commanders in Afghanistan are bracing themselves for possible riots and public fury triggered by the publication of ‘trophy’ photographs of US soldiers posing with the dead bodies of defenceless Afghan civilians they killed”, said the March 21 British Guardian. The photos, compared by officials in NATO’s occupying forces to the infamous Abu Ghraib pictures depicting US soldiers torturing Iraqis, were published by German newspaper Der Spiegel.
There has been intense activity in 2011 around the social and community services pay equity wage case pursued by the Australian Services Union (ASU) and four other unions. The claim, which was lodged in March 2010, is rapidly approaching its conclusion. Since late January 2011, there has been: • A new round of site visits, during which members of the Fair Work Australia tribunal hearing the case visited public sector workplaces to see how the work compared to that in the non-government sector.
Melbourne activists protested outside Zimbabwe Airlines office on Monday 21 March to call for the release of six Zimbabwe activists who are facing charges of treason with threat of a death penalty. The activists were arrested while watching a film about the uprising in Egypt and have been tortured in prison. Forty-five people were arrested but 39 have since been released. The remaining six are still in serious danger.
On March 25, much of the community in Maharlika Village in Manila turned out after Friday prayers to protest against the Western powers’ military attacks against Libya. Maharlika Village is a predominantly Moro community in Taguig City, in the south-east of Metro Manila. The protest was organised by the local council, community leaders, religious leaders from the community’s 16 mosques, the Bangsamoro Solidarity Movement and the Anak Mindanao Party (Amin).
Migrant Trade Union (MTU) president Michel Catuira is facing visa cancellation and possible deportation from South Korea. On February 10, the Korean Immigration Service issued a number of measures against Catuira. These included the cancellation of his visa and a departure order to leave the country by March 7. It also threatened him with forcible deportation to his home country of the Philippines.
More than 40 people attended a rally in Fremantle on March 21 in support of Zimbabwean political activists who have been charged with treason. The rally was held to coincide with the court hearing in Harare for activists Munyaradzi Gwisai, Tafadzwa Choto, Hopewell Gumbo, Welcome Zimuto, Tatenda Mombeyara and Edson Chakuma. Independent MP for Fremantle Adele Carles told the crowd: “These brave men and women are charged with treason and face the death penalty.
“As rain poured down last night, I thought I can’t possibly go this morning, but then I got on WLCentral this morning and Daniel Ellsberg has been arrested in his 80s outside the White House, so we can brave a little rain!” These were the thoughts of one local activist at a Sydney rally in support of alleged WikiLeaks whistleblower Bradley Manning on March 20. The rally was part of an international day of action called by Bradleymanning.org and Courage to Resist.
Twenty people attended a meeting in Melbourne on March 23 organised by the Indigenous Social Justice Association (ISJA) in support of the family of TJ Hickey, a young Aboriginal man who died in February 2004 in the Sydney suburb of Redfern. He was impaled on a fence after being chased through the streets by a police car while riding his bicycle. Barrister Emrys Nekvapil told the meeting the case had been taken to the United Nations Human Rights Committee (UNHRC) by TJ's mother Gail Hickey.
Greetings from prison in Zimbabwe On behalf of the Medical Professional and Allied Workers Union of Zimbabwe, a trade Union that organizes workers in the private Medical sector in Zimbabwe, I wish to express our heartfelt appreciation of the camaraderie you extended to Zimbabwean Comrades who were coldheartedly incarcerated and charged with treason by the ZANU PF regime for merely watching heroic actions by our brothers and sisters in the North part of Africa that dealt with tyrants. We are humbled by your determination to see Zimbabwean working class free.
The public forum “Breaking Australia's silence: WikiLeaks and freedom” took place on March 16 at the Sydney Town Hall. More than 2000 people attended. The event was staged by the Sydney Peace Foundation, Amnesty, Stop the War Coalition, and supported by the City of Sydney. It featured speeches by John Pilger, Andrew Wilkie MP (the only serving Western intelligence officer to expose the truth about the Iraq invasion) and human rights lawyer Julian Burnside QC. Burnsides’s speech to the meeting appears below. The video recording of the event also appears below. * * *
Victorian police led government officials through a blockade set up by residents of the Lake Tyers Aboriginal Trust in eastern Victoria, the Age said on March 23. Aboriginal women from the community set up the peaceful blockade on March 8 — International Women’s Day. Organisers have vowed to keep the blockade until Victoria’s Indigenous affairs minister, Jeanette Powell, agrees to meet with the community. At the start of the blockade, the women released a statement that explained their demands.
A crowd of 200 people marched on the US consulate in the Perth CBD on March 22 to protest the invasion of Bahrain by Saudi Arabian and United Arab Emirates (UAE) soldiers to suppress the democracy movement in the country. Bahrain’s popular uprising threatens to follow the examples of Tunisia and Egypt, and topple its Western-backed authoritarian regime. Chanting outside the US consulate, the protesters — many from the local Bahraini community — made clear the hypocrisy of the US.