Issue 1003

Australia

Staff at Villawood detention centre denied Iranian and Afghan asylum seekers the right to celebrate Persian New Year’s, a festival that has been celebrated for more than 3000 years, over the weekend beginning on March 21.

A group of 10 volunteers, including former inmates, were denied the right to take in food during the visit, which occurred during regular visiting hours.

After 1370 votes went missing during the Western Australian senate election last year, the vote was declared void. Another election has been called for April 5.

The difference between this election and the last one is that the agenda of prime minister Tony Abbott is clearer. Anti-Abbott sentiment was particularly dramatic at the March in March rally, which drew 3000 people in Perth.

A forum on the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement will be presented in Sydney on April 8, and will be an opportunity to hear an open and informative discussion on peaceful non-violent resistance in Israel and Palestine.

As the Australian media and politicians debate the effectiveness and legitimacy of the recent Sydney Biennale boycott, a cross section of speakers will offer their support to the global BDS movement — the Palestinian led campaign for justice, equality and peace for all in Israel and Palestine.

University students and staff protested proposed cuts to tertiary education in Sydney’s CBD on March 26.

The event involved about 200 people from various faculties, who marched against the proposed $2.3 billion dollar cuts to their universities.

Students from as far away as the University of Newcastle, gathered outside the University of Technology Sydney Broadway campus.

A public meeting organised by the Queensland Civil Liberties Network was held at Brisbane City Hall on March 24, the second anniversary of the election of the Queensland Liberal National government.

Speakers included Indigenous elder and long-term activist Sam Watson; union and community activist Bob Carnegie; QLD President of the Australian Lawyers Alliance Michelle James; Sisters Inside activist Debbie Kilroy; Queensland Council of Unions president John Battams and Civil Liberties Council spokesperson Terry O’Gorman.

A new documentary film Radical Wollongong, produced by Green Left TV, will premiere in Wollongong in early May, followed by screenings in other cities and regional centres.

The film features activist participants from Wollongong's radical history of strikes and community rallies, from miners’ struggles to Aboriginal justice and environmental protection.

Co-producer John Rainford gives some background to the first coalminers associations, setting up Wollongong with its reputation as a city of militants.

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“We hope Christians will reflect on what it means to follow and worship a refugee God, and to stand in the tradition of a people who were sojourners and strangers in a foreign land,” said Matt Anslow, a Uniting Church member who participated in a prayer vigil protesting the detention of asylum seekers, in the electorate office of Scott Morrison.

On March 21, this group of believers from Uniting, Anglican, Catholic, Hillsong and Anabaptist traditions walked into the office and invited the staff to join them praying for an end to mandatory detention.

In Canberra on April 21, there will be the first meeting of representatives of the groups that together make up the Independent and Peaceful Australia Network (IPAN). The individual representatives will be drawn from every state and territory.

On April 22, the main conference will take place, with invited experts speaking on a range of related topics. The conference will be open to the general public and is expected to draw a large number of people with an interest in creating a more independent Australia.

"We'll win this, because we'll stick together", Barney Gardner, a long-time resident of the Millers Point public housing area in inner-city Sydney, told a rally of several hundred at Argyle Place on March 25.

The rally heard a variety of speakers condemn the Barry O'Farrell NSW government for its decision to sell-off 293 public properties in the historic heartland of Sydney, following a march organised by the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) from the Kent Street Fire Station.

World

Newly re-elected President Michelle Bachelet has reaffirmed her election promise to introduce free tertiary education in Chile — one of the demands of the country’s powerful student movement.

In elections in December, the New Majority coalition of centre-left parties won a majority in both the Chilean Congress and Senate. Bachelet, the New Majority candidate, was elected president.

On March 11, Bachelet began her second term as president, having served as president from 2006-2010. She replaced right-wing president Sebastian Pinera.

When the later president Hugo Chavez was first elected president in 1998, it began a process of change that has sought to expand the democratic and social rights of the poor majority who had previously been excluded. This process is known as the Bolivarian revolution.

It has included a new constitution guaranteeing previously unheard of social rights, re-nationalising the oil industry and promoting participatory democracy.

Shuhada Street was the major thoroughfare, and bustling, principle commercial centre, in the Palestinian town of Hebron in the south of the Israeli occupied West Bank. Today, the street is all but deserted, an empty place of boarded-up houses and shuttered shops.

On February 25, 1994, a Zionist settler from Kiryat Arba, Baruch Goldstein, shot dead 29 Palestinian civilians and injured 125 more during morning prayers in Hebron's Ibrahimi Mosque.

Thailand's notorious Constitutional Court has once again worked hand in glove with the anti-democratic elite, ruling that the February 2 election was “unconstitutional”.

This is a re-run of the ruling that the 2006 elections were null and void. The 2006 ruling, along with anti-democrat protests, led to a military coup and the continuous destruction of Thai democracy.

A court in the Upper Egyptian province of Minya has sentenced 529 defendants to death in a trial that has been condemned as “grotesque” by Amnesty International. Take action now and add your name to the statement below statement published at the British-based Egypt Solidarity Initiative. Signatures will be published and delivered to representatives of Egypt's government by April 28, the likely date for an appeal against the sentences.

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United States President Barack Obama has received scorn for remarks made during a speech in Brussels on March 26. Obama defended the US invasion of Iraq in a bid to chastise Russia for its actions in Crimea and Ukraine.

Fending off repeated accusations that the US has lost its moral authority given the invasion of Iraq and other breaches of international law in recent years, Obama said: “Russia has pointed to America’s decision to go into Iraq as an example of Western hypocrisy. But even in Iraq, America sought to work within the international system.

In a recent article, Amnesty International accused the Venezuelan government of a “witch hunt” when a right-wing opposition mayor Daniel Ceballos was arrested.

However, Amnesty has yet to use such strong language against the five weeks of human rights violations people in Venezuela have suffered at the hands of violent opposition sectors. The “witch hunt” term demonises the people’s right to bring such criminals to justice.

Mainstream media coverage of the first round of France's March 23 local elections stressed the rise in support for the far-right, racist National Front (FN).

The only other stories found worthy of comment were the sharp decline in support for the ruling Socialist Party (PS) of president Francois Hollande and the rise in abstention to a record 36.5%.

Dianne Feinstein, chair of the Senate’s Intelligence Committee, lashed out against the CIA on March 11 in a sharply worded 45-minute speech that took other Senators by surprise.

President Barack Obama’s appointee to head the CIA, John Brennon, issued a denial a few hours after Feinstein’s speech, virtually charging her with lying.

It is no wonder that her speech was a bombshell. Feinstein has a well-earned reputation of being little more than a shill for the CIA, NSA and other spy agencies over the years.

Cracks have been deepening in Turkey's new religious ruling class since the Gezi uprising in May last year. There is now an open and brutal war between two governing factions. This will likely escalate after the local government elections on March 30.

Followers of Turkey’s best-known cleric and moral didact, Fetullah Gulen, have been encouraged for decades to work within Turkey's government and have accrued much power.

Campaigning in India's general elections, to be held in phases over April 7 to May 12, has already been marked by a reign of terror that has included the assassination of left activists.

All political forces in Spain are now straining to adjust to the huge 1 million to 2 million-strong March for Dignity demonstration in Madrid. On March 22, the march greeted the protest columns that had converged on Spain's capital from 12 outlying cities and towns over the previous week.

The enormous success of this initiative is still sinking in. How come an initiative that began outside the mainstream union confederations, the Workers Commissions (CCOO) and the General Workers Union (UGT), could mobilise so many people and eventually force them to declare their support?

The Venezuelan opposition and much of the media use the term “peaceful protests” to distinguish gatherings of protesting students and other young people from the more violent actions by opponents of President Nicolas Maduro's government -- including vandalism and shootings carried out by those outside of the university community.

“Peaceful protests”, however, is a loaded term that serves to plant doubts about the intentions of the Maduro-led Chavista government.

The United Nations general assembly voted on March 27 ― with 100 votes for, 11 against and 58 abstentions ― to not recognise the results of the March 16 referendum in Crimea. In the poll, most voted for the territory to leave Ukraine and join Russia.

The resolution was put by Ukraine and sponsored by the United States, the European Union and other Western powers, including Australia.

Analysis

The tape is searing. There is the voice of an infant screaming as he is wrenched from his mother, who pleads, "There is nothing wrong with my baby. Why are you doing this to us? I would've been hung years ago, wouldn't I? Because [as an Australian Aborigine] you're guilty before you're found innocent."

The child's grandmother demands to know why "the stealing of our kids is happening all over again". A welfare official says, "I'm gunna take him, mate."

It is the end of the “age of entitlement”, we have been told by the federal Coalition government. But now they have brought back feudal titles.

Not content with making the poor poorer and the filthy rich even richer, they want to rub our noses in their class privilege. They add insult to injury, just in case we didn't already know who was running the country.

The Brisbane Aboriginal Sovereign Embassy (BASE) celebrated its two-year anniversary on March 22. During the past two years, BASE has experienced community support and state repression in their struggle to put Indigenous sovereignty on the agenda in Brisbane and has served as a beacon for Indigenous freedom fighters across the country.

Boe Spearim spoke to Green Left Weekly about the history of BASE, its projects, influences and future.

What were the origins of the Brisbane Aboriginal Sovereign Embassy project?

The 10th national conference of the Socialist Alliance will be held in Sydney over the long weekend of June 7-9.

This gathering will take place at a time of extreme inequality, intensified conflict and ecological crisis on a global scale. Even in Australia, one of the “richest suburbs” in the world, the political temperature is rising with the 100,000-strong March in March signalling a broad resistance to the attacks from the Tony Abbott government.

The conference will discuss strategies and tactics to advance people's power in this country and around the world.

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott has defended Papua New Guinea's efforts to shut down at least two legal inquiries into the treatment of asylum seekers in the Manus Island detention centre, after the violence that left one man dead and scores injured.

A PNG National Court judge, Justice David Cannings, announced early last month he would hold an independent inquiry into the conditions in the centre, and determine whether asylum seekers' human rights were being upheld under the country's constitution.

These are dark times, so we should celebrate what victories come the way of working people facing the brunt of the Abbott gang's “kick everyone and their dog” strategy.

And so we should celebrate the big win for workers' rights with media star, would-be politician and part-time Australian Workers Union national secretary Paul Howes' announcing his resignation from the union movement.

PRIME MINISTER TONY Abbott introduced a “red tape repeal day” on March 26. About 9500 regulations contained in more than 50,000 pages of legislation and related documents got the chop.

One of the “red tape regulations” that will be scrapped is the Commonwealth Cleaning Services Guidelines, which apply to cleaners employed on government contracts.

Born in 1929, Michael Denborough studied medicine in Cape Town, South Africa, and as part of his training went to treat people in the black townships. Later as a Rhodes scholar at Oxford, he saw the stark contrast between the two worlds and his passion for social justice was ignited.

World War II had had a profound effect on him as people he had known at school were sacrificed in an “appalling waste of humanity”. He said: “The nuclear industry seems to embody everything that is worst about human nature. It could destroy all life on earth 50 times over simply for greed”.

Community Services Minister Pru Goward announced that 293 public housing in Millers Point and The Rocks on Sydney's harbourside would be sold. The billions gained would be used to invest in public housing in the rest of the state, Goward said. But the sell-off would come at a human cost — the destruction of the close-knit working-class community that has existed there for hundreds of years.

The parade of ALP politicians before the latest NSW corruption inquiry has given way to a cross-party merry-go-round. As the Independent Commission Against Corruption calls the tune, Liberal Party luminaries are now on the carousel.

Liberal Senator and Assistant Treasurer, Arthur Sinodinos, has stood down from his ministerial position after being called to give evidence before the NSW corruption watchdog.

Over the past year, Geelong has been hit hard by job cuts at Ford, Alcoa, Target, Holden, Toyota and Avalon Airport, as well as state and federal government departments. Geelong Trades Hall has organised a rally on April 7, calling for more manufacturing jobs in the region.

Stop Income Management in Playford released this statement on March 26.

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The number of income management clients in the city of Playford in northern Adelaide increased almost 700% over the second half of last year, according to data from the Department of Social Services.

As of December 27, 495 people were on income management. The May 23 figure for Playford, seven months earlier, was 71 people.

Culture

Cuba & Its Neighbours: Democracy in Motion
By Arnold August
Fernwood Publishing
January 2013
288pp, C$29.95

Surrounded by emerging participatory democracies unshackling themselves from US hegemony, Arnold August writes that Cuba is a laboratory for people-powered politics.

Brothers Part One: Gallipoli 1915
By John Tognolini
163pp $20 paperback, $5 ebook
www.writersandebooks.com

The Show Will Go On
Mau Power
Coming soon
www.maupower.com

Mau Power's new album takes listeners through the big changes in his life - and the first of those came when he was jailed. "In 2001, I got incarcerated," the Torres Strait Islands rapper tells Green Left Weekly. "And that time I was in lock-up for nine months."

Mau Power, also known as Patrick Mau, was put away for grievous bodily harm after a street fight in the southern Queensland country town of Toowoomba.

Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal

Bosnia: Tulzla the 'unknown workers' capital of Europe'

Why does Bosnia-Herzegovina inspire so little interest and curiosity in the media and the political class when, on the contrary, Ukraine is front-page news, asks Olivier Besancenot. In recent weeks, this country has also risen in revolt against injustice and poverty, and expressed their desire for change.

Palestine: Anti-Zionism is not anti-Semitism