Issue 1001

Australia

The Refugee Action Coalition released the statement below on March 11.

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Refugee advocates are warning of new dangers of attacks on asylum seekers if local staff are re-introduced into the Manus Island detention centre.

Local and national PNG staff and police have been excluded from the detention centre since the night of February 17 when 23-year-old Reza Berati was killed and at least 77 others brutally bashed.

Community opposition may soon put fracking on hold in the Kimberley region of north-western Australia. This could culminate in the first big victory for the anti-fracking movement in Western Australia.

Buru Energy, partnered with Mitsubishi, intends to frack four wells east of Broome 34 times this year, starting in May. This is the largest single fracking proposal to be put forward in Western Australia so far. The area is a wetland used by Aboriginal owners.

As the 1000th issue of Green Left Weekly rolled off the printing machines last week, a Green Left TV crew was there to film the historic moment.

GLTV's Jill Hickson, John Reynolds and Paul Benedek filmed the production of the 1000th issue from the planning stage and they incorporated this footage into a new You Tube video just released: Green Left celebrates 1000 issues.

Coal seam gas (CSG) company Santos has admitted to polluting an aquifer in north-western NSW with uranium, the Sydney Morning Herald reported on March 8.

The incident is the first recorded groundwater contamination in Australia from CSG operations.

Events were held around the country on March 11 to mark three years since an earthquake and subsequent tsunami laid waste to the north-east coast of Japan. The earthquake and tsunami disasters killed 18,600 people and about 2700 bodies have never been recovered.

The disaster damaged the Fukushima nuclear power plant, whose cooling systems failed, leading to a series of explosions and catastrophic meltdowns in three reactor cores. More than 150,000 people who were forced to evacuate the area are still unable to return to their homes in the Fukushima region.

Victoria’s upper house passed the Summary Offences and Sentencing Amendment Bill on March 11. Debate was interrupted by protesters in the public gallery, who were removed by police.

About 30 Aboriginal people with intellectual impairments are locked up in Australian prisons without charges, ABC’s Lateline reported on March 12.

The report highlighted the case of Rosie Anne Fulton who has spent 18 months in a prison in Kalgoorlie without facing trial or being convicted of a crime. There is no specialist accommodation for people with disabilities in the Northern Territory.

Fulton wants to move to Alice Springs to be closer to her family, but an application to house her in specialist accommodation has been rejected.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights provides that “everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favourable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment.”

Yet one of the defining features of latter-day capitalism is the extraordinary levels of youth unemployment. Across the eurozone, youth unemployment is about 25%. In Spain it is almost 58%.

The ex-Labor Party federal president and former national president of the Health Services Union (HSU), Michael Williamson, is now in jail after pleading guilty in October last year to defrauding union members of $5 million.

When he was granted bail after his conviction he immediately filed for bankruptcy. The bankruptcy documents declared he had almost no assets to his name. This is despite his annual salary at the union ranging from $290,000 to more than $500,000.

Green Left Weekly is liveblogging March in March rallies happening this weekend. There are 31 events being held across the country.

For full details of the rallies, visit the March in March Facebook page.

Check back to this page for photos and news about the rallies as they happen.

Photos sent by Green Left supporters are being uploaded to the gallery here.

Three Australian unionists recently returned from Bangladesh gave a reportback to a forum in Melbourne on March 5 on the conditions experienced by its clothing and textile workers.

The meeting was organised by Australia Asia Worker Links (AAWL).

The Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement (TPP) is a secret trade deal being negotiated by the governments of 12 countries, which could have serious implications for the citizens of the nations that sign.

A public forum in Sydney on March 11 hosted a panel of speakers who analysed leaked aspects of the agreement.

Members of the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) at Macquarie University held a strike and picket on March 11 as part of their campaign to win a fair enterprise agreement and a quick resolution to bargaining.

Union members picketed the main entrances to the university and distributed leaflets to students and staff explaining the reasons for the strike.

World

Israel's air force bombed nearly 30 targets in the besieged Palestinian enclave of the Gaza Strip on March 13.

The Israeli military said it pounded the territory in retaliation for rockets fired into southern Israel by Islamic Jihad resistance fighters. But the group said the rocket fire was itself a response to an Israeli air strike on Gaza on March 11 that killed three of its members.

“Forgetting Fukushima makes it more likely that such a nuclear disaster could happen elsewhere,” said Tatsuko Okawara, one of the hundreds of thousands of victims of the Fukushima accident that began on March 11, 2011.

The nuclear industry, however, is trying its hardest to make us forget. It is downplaying the impacts of the accident, ignoring the fact that the Fukushima reactors are still not under control and claiming that lessons have been learned. Nothing is further from the truth.

As the May 25 European elections approach, a question that concerns left and progressive people in the Spanish state is just how many left alternatives will end up running against the “parties of government” ― the ruling conservative People’s Party (PP) and the opposition Spanish Socialist Workers Party (PSOE).

The dangers of global warming due to greenhouse gases in the atmosphere is well-established. But there is more damage done by the capitalist system of production, including the release of toxins into the atmosphere, water and the rest of the biosphere.

Two notable examples have occurred in the first months of this year in the United States.

In January there was a huge spill of 10,000 gallons of crude MCHM, a chemical mixture used in the coal production process, into the Elk River near Charleston, West Virginia.

Jean-Luc Melenchon is co-president of France's Left Party and a member of the European parliament. Melenchon is also leader of the broader Left Front, involving other parties such as the French Communist Party, on whose ticket he won about 11% of the vote in the 2012 presidential elections.

Below, Melenchon gives his perspective on the crisis in Ukraine ― from Russia's actions in Crimea, to the West's saber rattling, to the mass protests that brought down an unpopular government and the new regime, featuring fascist forces, that has taken its place.

The older you get, apparently, the more you abandon the daft socialist ideas of your youth to become sensible and conservative. There will never be a greater retort to this miserable myth than the life of Tony Benn.

Because somehow he became more defiantly, inspiringly, stroppily, youthfully socialist every year up to 88. If he’d lasted to 90, he’d have been on the news wearing a green Mohican and getting arrested for chaining himself to a banker.

A New York judge has overruled the US$9.5 billion (A$10.5 billion) in compensation for toxic waste dumping that Chevron had been ordered to pay to Ecuadorian villagers.

The oil company, the world’s third largest, was found guilty in 2012 by an Ecuadorian court of causing huge environmental damages in the Amazon Basin. At the time, it was the largest environmental damages lawsuit ever.

Texaco oil company, which merged into Chevron Corporation in 2001, operated in the Sucumbios province of Ecuador, in the uppermost headwaters of the Amazon Basin, from 1964 to 1992.

Colombia's election results are all but in and one thing is clear: Álvaro Uribe, the first ex-president to run for senate, is the man of the moment.

President Juan Manual Santos's U Party may have come out on top with 21 out of a possible 102 seats in Congress, compared with 19 from Uribe’s newly formed ultra-right party Democratic Centre ― Firm Hand, Big Heart, but it is clear where the momentum lies.

“Forgetting Fukushima makes it more likely that such a nuclear disaster could happen elsewhere,” said Tatsuko Okawara, one of the hundreds of thousands of victims of the Fukushima accident that began on March 11, 2011.

The nuclear industry, however, is trying its hardest to make us forget. It is downplaying the impacts of the accident, ignoring the fact that the Fukushima reactors are still not under control and claiming that lessons have been learned. Nothing is further from the truth.

The strategy and tactics of the Venezuelan opposition is a replay of events that took place leading up to the coup against Hugo Chavez on April 11, 2002.

The blatant distortions and in some cases lies of the media — CNN in Spanish playing a lead role — represent an essential element in the strategy.

There are two main groups that the United States-funded right-wing opposition has mobilised. From all appearances, the two act in coordination even though their style, and even social background, differs.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ebulliently congratulated president-elect Salvador Sanchez Ceren of El Salvador’s FMLN party, who was declared winner on March 10 by just 6000 votes after a tense electoral race. The left-wing Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN) resisted a string of US backed governments throughout the 1980s during El Salvador’s devastating civil war. Maduro wrote on Twitter: “Sanchez Ceren is a legendary leader for democracy and human rights in El Salvador. The results mean another triumph for left-wing Latin America, thank you for waking up history.”

We interviewed Ali Mustafa live from Egypt on January 24 — the Friday of the weekend marking the third anniversary of the popular uprising that captured the global imagination and put fear in the hearts of despots everywhere.

Over a terrible connection and crackling phone line, Ali’s voice was difficult to make out as he described the scene: “The streets are empty, it’s almost eerie and ominous the way the streets are deserted.”

The Cuban Communist Party said heroine Melba Hernandez, a member of the party’s Central Committee and parliamentary deputy passed away March 9, from complications linked to Diabetes Mellitus, a disease she had suffered from during years.

Hernandez was born July 28, 1921, in the town of Cruces, in the former Las Villas province, today’s Villa Clara in the centre of the country. Hernandez graduated as a lawyer in 1943 at the University of Havana.

Socialist Resistance -- We are deeply shocked at the news that National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers general secretary Bob Crow died suddenly of March 11 of a heart attack at the age of 52.

We send our heartfelt condolences and solidarity to his family and friends, and to the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union and its members. His death is a huge blow to the RMT and to the wider trade union movement and to the cause of militant class-struggle trade unionism.

The statement below was released by several socialist parties from the Asia-Pacific region. Please email international@socialist-alliance.org to add your organisation to sign the statement. *Updated signings on March 18*

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Socialists in the Asia-Pacific region pledge support for Venezuela’s socialist revolution, a year after Chavez’s death.

Dancing to the festive sounds of cumbia and ska music, thousands of supporters of the left-wing Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN) celebrated the expected victory of their candidate, Salvador Sanchez Ceren, as the vote counts in El Salvador’s presidential run-off election poured in on the night of March 9.

The Organization of American States (OAS) approved a statement on March 7 expressing solidarity and support for the Venezuelan government in light of recent events. After two full days of heated debate at its summit, 29 states of the OAS voted in favor of a declaration lamenting the victims of protest-related violence in Venezuela, detailing the need for ongoing dialogue, and decidedly rejecting any intervention into, or sanctions against, Venezuela’s democratically elected government.

Analysis

I have been a single parent for 10 years now. My children are aged 13 and 16. I now face the challenges of raising teenage children on my own, which can leave me at times mentally and physically drained. They are good boys though and I am proud to be their mother.

As single parents we endure discrimination in numerous places, in the workplace, while applying for rental homes, obtaining loans, in the media, from the public and even from some friends and family, but worse still, at the hands of our politicians.

ACTIONS OF GOVERNMENTS

The global boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement has come of age in the past 12 months. Since Palestinian civil society groups made the call for the boycott in 2005, it has become a significant tool that has allowed people around the world to protest against Israel’s relentless and persistent violations of human rights and international law.

Luca Belgiorno-Nettis resigned from his position as chair of the board of the Biennale of Sydney on March 7. Biennale organisers announced it was cutting ties with major sponsor Transfield, of which Belgiorno-Nettis is a director.

The divestment was the result of pressure from artists boycotting the Biennale, because of Transfield's connection to the detention of asylum seekers. The company has a $1.2 billion contract to run the Nauru and Manus Island centres.

Modestly describing herself as “Australia's richest intellect”, Gina Rinehart has launched a new intervention into Australian politics that is calling for a cut in government spending and other measures to make private corporations “thrive”.

True, she is not calling for an end to government subsidies to the mining industry. She is not calling for an end to corporate welfare and she's not calling for a reduction in wasteful military spending.

Another International Women’s Day passes. It’s been 157 years since working women first took to the streets. Back then, thousands of women textile workers marched through the wealthy boroughs of New York, protesting their miserable working conditions.

Western Australia will go to the polls on April 5 to re-elect its federal Senators.

The election was called to fix a mammoth electoral bungle, which left many Western Australians questioning the democracy of the political system.

Greens Senator Scott Ludlam appealed for a recount of the Senate vote when it looked like he had narrowly lost his seat to the Palmer United Party in the September federal election. During the recount, it came to light that 1375 votes had gone missing, and the result of the election was declared void. Six seats are up for re-election.

First there was climate denial. But the mocking laughter of the informed public – along with the indignation of the scientists – finally reached the energy-company boardrooms.

So now instead we get the non sequitur. That’s Latin for “it doesn’t follow”. Rather than lying outright, the fossil-fuel chiefs make nakedly contradictory statements and count on us not to notice.

Most of the first world is still feeling the effects of the global financial crisis (GFC), as economies remain either stagnant or in recession. The financial crisis can be traced back to the decision in the United States to lower interest rates, which fell from 6% in January 2001 to 1% in mid-2003.

This led banks and other financial institutions, awash with cheap money, to conclude that lending to prospective home buyers at risk of being unable to afford their repayments was a safe bet. Between 2002 and 2007, sub-prime lending rose from 3% of US residential mortgages to 15%.

Culture

The Biggest Estate on Earth: How Aboriginal people made Australia
Bill Gammage
434pps, $40
Allen & Unwin, 2012

This is an extraordinary book that details how Australian Aboriginal people cared for the land, or as Bill Gammage calls it the “Biggest Estate on Earth”.

Gammage describes, with many examples, how Aboriginal people looked after the land. No corner was ignored, from deserts and rainforests to rocky outcrops, across the entire continent for at least 60,000 years until British colonisers began to destroy all this work after their arrival in 1788.

Don't Let it Go (Urthboy Flip)
Sietta x Jaytee
Elefant Traks
Released March 6, 2014
Free download

Hip-hop artist Urthboy has hit back at Australia's asylum seeker policy with a free song released online. The rapper drops some radical rhymes over a beat that originally appeared on the new album by bass-heavy Darwin duo Sietta, which was released on his label Elefant Traks this month.

Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal

VIDEO: Tariq Ali on the legacy of Hugo Chavez

Marking one year since the untimely death of former Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez, eminent writer and film maker Tariq Ali gave a passionate memorial lecture in central London on February 20 at an event organised by the British Venezuelan Solidarity Campaign.

VIDEO: Die Linke and the fight against austerity