Issue 1005

Australia

A motion to dismiss the vice president of the University of Sydney Union (USU), Tom Raue, failed to pass at a board meeting on April 17.

Raue's supporters erupted with delight when the motion, moved by the USU president, did not get the required two thirds majority.

"Money speaks” is the message we should be taking from the resignation of NSW premier Barry O'Farrell, after the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) revealed he accepted a vintage bottle of wine valued at almost $3000 from the head of Australian Water Holdings (AWH), Nick Di Girolamo, who was lobbying for a lucrative state government contract.

AWH is accused of inappropriately billing Sydney Water and using the money for political donations while lobbying for an public/private partnership with state-owned Sydney water to roll out Sydney’s water infrastructure.

More than 400 people turned out in Geelong on April 5 to demand that the government be more humane to refugees and asylum seekers.

The Combined Refugee Action Group (CRAG) organised the rally, and called on the government to: immediately end offshore processing and mandatory detention, re-install family reunion for refugees, and to end the indefinite detention of refugees with negative ASIO status.

In heritage-listed trees around Cairns’ main library, a colony of flying foxes has lived and bred for 30 years.

As evening sets in, thousands of fruit bats fly out across the city and Trinity Inlet in search of food. Tourists look up in wonder at this wildlife event in the heart of a city.

Fruit bats, or spectacled flying foxes, have been listed as vulnerable due to a decline in overall numbers.

An ongoing blockade of an unconventional gas drill site in Bentley, 12 kilometres from Lismore’s CBD in NSW, has so far stopped gas company Metgasco from starting exploration in the area.

This test drill will help determine whether there are commercial quantities of gas available, and if so, up to 1000 wells could potentially be drilled in the area.

Hundreds of people are permanently camping on land next to the drill site, and at times numbers have swelled to 2000, as the community acts to stop heavy machinery from entering.

The Friends of the Earth “Radioactive Exposure Tour” is taking place from April 12 to 27. Forty people will travel from Melbourne and Adelaide through to Alice Springs and Tennant Creek.

The tour will take people to the heart of the Australian nuclear industry, exposing the realities of “radioactive racism” and the environmental impacts of uranium mining.

The Western Australia senate election re-run has resulted in a big drop in support for the major parties and significant swings to the Greens and the Palmer United Party (PUP).

Greens, PUP and Labor have won one seat each while the Liberals have won two seats. The final seat will be decided by preferences and is expected to go to either Liberal or Labor.

For the first time in Australian history, construction workers are facing government moves to seize houses and cars in relation to an industrial dispute.

The 33 workers affected took part in an eight-day strike in north-west WA in 2008. Mick Buchan of the Construction Forestry Mining Energy Union (CFMEU) told the ABC that the dispute between workers and the company was resolved at the time.

“It was some time later that the ABCC [Australian Building Construction Commission] intervened and brought charges against individuals”, he said.

Two hundred people attended a public meeting at the University of Sydney on April 7 to support the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel.

Guest speaker Professor Jake Lynch is facing legal action from an Israeli law centre, the Shurat HaDin, for his refusal to cooperate with Israeli academics in honour of the academic boycott called by Palestinians.

About 500 workers took to the streets of Geelong on April 7 demanding support for manufacturing jobs.

Many workers were from Ford and Alcoa, which have recently announced closures. Workers from other related industries also attended along with firefighters, nurses and teachers showing solidarity on the march.

Not all workers and unions were from blue-collar backgrounds. Clerical workers, technical staff and support services are also affected by the closures.

Public housing residents from the historic inner-suburb of Millers Point rallied at Sydney Town Hall on April 7 to oppose state government plans to sell off nearly 400 public housing properties.

City of Sydney Liberal councillor Christine Forster moved a motion in support of the state government's move to evict the tenants and sell the properties. But the council voted overwhelmingly against the sale plan and instead allocated funds and resources to help the residents' campaign.

Despite two court decisions rejecting Rio Tinto’s bid to expand a Hunter Valley coalmine, the expansion may still go ahead under NSW government rules that allow the company to override environmental concerns and local community objections.

Vanessa Powell has been visiting the Villawood detention centre for three years, and helped to organise a large visit at Christmas last year and a Persian New Year's celebration recently.

When she heard asylum seekers housed there were being forcibly transferred to detention centres in the Northern Territory and Western Australia, she decided to join others in blockading the front entrance to stop the transfers on April 4.

During the protest, Powell, along with many advocates, took photos of refugees handcuffed inside darkened buses and uploaded them to Facebook.

World

Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa’s decision to drill for oil in the ITT block of Yasuni National Park looks set to be reviewed at a referendum. Environmental groups delivered hundreds of thousands of signatures to the National Electoral Commission on 11–12 April petitioning against the decision.

United for Yasuni (Yasunidos) collected 856,704 signatures. Kichwa indigenous federation Ecuarunari delivered more than 200,000 and Amazon Total Defence Front (FDTA) provided 584,008.

Thirty Venezuelan military officers, including several generals, have been arrested for alleged conspiracy to overthrow President Nicolas Maduro, a leading national newspaper has reported. The information, reported by Ultimas Noticias, was attributed to “high level sources” in Miraflores presidential palace. Most arrested were from the Venezuelan Air Force, however a few officers from the National Guard, Navy and Armed Forces were included.

"A new study by researchers from Princeton and Northwestern Universities finds that America's government policies reflect the wishes of the rich and of powerful interest groups, rather than the wishes of the majority of citizens," Gawker reported on April 15.

India's top court officially recognised transgender rights today in a landmark ruling.
The supreme court directed the federal and state governments to allow people to identify themselves as outside the binary male/female gender definitions.

The estimated three million transgender Indians will have the same access to welfare programs for the poor, including education, healthcare and jobs to help them overcome social and economic challenges.

The court also ordered the government fight the social stigma associated with transgender people through a public awareness campaign.

The election of Luis Guillermo Solis on April 6 as president of Costa Rica, with 77% of the votes, represents the end of a historical period and opens the door to unprecedented opportunities for the left.

Solis, representing the Citizens Action Party (PAC), crushed the remnants of the Party of National Liberation (PLN), a party that he once served as general secretary.

A new investigation by the Associated Press into a project of the United States government-funded US Agency for International Development (USAID) project to create a Twitter-style social media network in Cuba has received a lot of attention.

When Barack Obama was elected President in the 2008 election, it marked an historic first. An African-American was elected in the country noted for its oppression of Blacks since the time of slavery.

My next door neighbour, an African-American who knew my history as a supporter of the Black liberation upsurge of the 1950s, '60s and '70s, raised his fist in celebration when he saw me the next day.

El Salvador's Legislative Assembly approved the Social Development and Protection Law on April 3. The law was presented by President Mauricio Funes last year to ensure the groundbreaking social services initiated by his administration continued.

These programs are designed to address the needs of historically abandoned and excluded sectors. The law mandates a “legal framework for human development, protection and social inclusion that promotes, protects and guarantees the fulfillment of people’s rights”.

Farooq Tariq, the general secretary of the Awami Workers Party (AWP) in Pakistan, will be one of the international guests at the 10th national conference of the Socialist Alliance, to be held in Sydney over June 7 to 9. He will speak on “The Struggle for Democracy and Justice in Pakistan” on June 7 at the Addison Road Community Centre in Marrickville. Visit www.socialist-alliance.org for more details.

Ahead of his trip, Green Left Weekly's Peter Boyle spoke to Tariq on Pakistani politics.

* * *

Italy’s new centre-left Prime Minister Matteo Renzi has proclaimed his intention to end corruption and economic woe. But there are doubts as to whether his government's actions will benefit the country's working people.

At 39, Renzi, a member of Italy’s Democratic Party, is the youngest PM in Italy's history. His youth and optimistic rhetoric have earned him the title of “Italy’s Obama”.

Thousands of teachers, civil servants and other workers marched through Casablanca on April 6 to protest against the Moroccan government's austerity plans, the Morning Star said the next day.

During the march, police on motorcycles swooped down and arrested several pro-democracy activists. Officers claimed they were using the rally to denounce the monarchy.

The Spanish congress met in Madrid on April 8 to hear a petition from the parliament of Catalonia: that the power to hold a non-binding referendum on its political future be granted to Catalonia under Section 150 of the Spanish constitution.

The violent anti-government protests that shook Venezuela in February have again thrust the issue of the pace of change into the broader debate over socialist transformation.

Radical Chavistas, reflecting the zeal of the movement’s rank and file, call for a deepening of the “revolutionary process”. Moderate Chavistas favour concessions to avoid an escalation of the violence.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has approved Bs40 million (about $6.75 million) in funding for an environmental mission, and announced the creation of a national ecosocialist school.

During a meeting of Venezuela's environmental movement, Maduro called on students and young people to join in state-sponsored environment rehabilitation projects.

The Venezuelan people have marked the 12th anniversary of the right-wing military coup on April 11, 2002, that briefly ousted former President Hugo Chavez.

In an historically unprecedented event, the coup was overturned within 48 hours by a mass uprising of the people and soldiers loyal to the Bolivarian revolution.

This year’s anniversary occurs in the context of one of the most intense right-wing destabilisation campaigns since the dramatic days of 2002.

Analysis

I am a Year 11 high school student, and when I heard they were trying to transfer more refugees from Villawood, I couldn’t stand by.

Standing outside the detention centre in the early morning of April 5 while waiting for the buses to move, I saw a Facebook status from one of the protest's spokespeople, Clo Schofield, who had just been interviewed on right-wing radio station 2GB. Schofield encouraged us to ring to air our grievances about Australia's cruel and heartless asylum seeker policy.

Most people have heard of the rant by Australia's richest billionaire, Gina Rinehart, against welfare and the “entitlement mentality” of Australians — and her call for a strong political leader like Margaret Thatcher. But have you heard about the US$694 million ($740 million) soft loan from US taxpayers?

The Royal Commission into the use of union funds began on April 9. The commission is not an attempt to stamp out corrupt union practices, but a serious political attack on unions by the Tony Abbott government. It is designed to weaken the union movement and break militant union activity.

Comments made by Coalition ministers before the public hearings have started sets up a presumption of guilt in order to prejudice the public mind.

The Tony Abbott government has moved to crush the right of free speech for federal public servants. In new guidelines issued by the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet (PM&C) on social media policy, employees are threatened with harsh discipline if they are "critical or highly critical of the department, the minister or the prime minister" on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest, Flickr, blogs or elsewhere.

The former Labor government tried and failed with its ill-conceived "people swap" deal with Malaysia in 2011. Now, the Tony Abbott government has said it may try a resettlement deal with the even poorer nation of Cambodia.

After talks with foreign minister Julie Bishop in February, her counterpart, Hor Namhong, said Cambodia was considering an offer to resettle refugees from Australia. Immigration minister Scott Morrison visited Cambodia again this month, to discuss "regional cooperation to deal with asylum seeker movement".

I am not going to bother following the news any more, I am just going to wake up each morning and drive large rusty nails straight into my eyeballs to save time.

After all, efficiency is our new watchword, according to treasurer Joe Hockey. We must all play our part in doing more with less.

Drivers on Sydney’s proposed WestConnex motorway will pay a toll for almost 50 years, according to documents released to state parliament last week. Tolls will also be introduced to existing free motorways and extended on those due to expire.

The government’s plans were revealed when boxes of documents relating plans to build the WestConnex motorway were delivered to New South Wales Parliament House last week at the request of the NSW Greens Roads and Ports spokesperson Mehreen Faruqi.

ANZAC Day, we’re told, is Australia's "most important national occasion”. But beyond the glib cliches about how the ill-fated Anzac “campaign” at Gallipoli Cove in 1915 “shaped Australia's identity”, there is little political and historical reflection on what happened and why.

The preparations for the federal budget, due to be handed down by Treasurer Joe Hockey on May 13, began on October 22 last year. This is the date on which Hockey announced a National Commission of Audit.

The commission is chaired by Tony Shepherd, who just happens to be the President of the Business Council of Australia, the organisation representing Australia’s 100 largest companies. Shepherd’s appointment amounts to an invitation to big business to tell the government how it wants the economy to function in its favour during the Coalition’s term of office.

A new documentary film Radical Wollongong, produced by Green Left TV, will premiere in Wollongong on May 18, 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 rise of fascism in Europe and the actions of Robert Menzies against wharfies who refused to ship pig iron to Japan.

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An important legal action by traditional owners opposed to the Muckaty nuclear waste dump proposal will be the basis of a Federal Court trial in June. Natalie Wasley, spokesperson for the Beyond Nuclear Initiative, spoke to Green Left Weekly about the legal action, and the fight to keep Australia radioactive waste-dump free.

How is the court case to keep Muckaty radioactive-free proceeding?

The Pilliga Forest is at the centre of a large battle over the right for companies to drill for coal seam gas (CSG) on public land.

Coal seam gas company Santos is planning to develop a $2 billion CSG project in the forest and it has already begun operating 40 exploratory gas wells.

The exploration licence was supposed to end on April 3, but Santos has been granted multiple extensions by the NSW government to put in more exploratory drill holes.

When the NSW Coalition government was elected to office in March 2011, it put all new coal seam gas (CSG) exploration licences on hold pending an internal inquiry.

Sixteen months later, in September 2012, the government announced that the results of this “thorough investigation” found all was in order and the industry could proceed apace.

The NSW government has now announced that all new CSG licence applications would again be frozen, this time for six months. The government said this was necessary to implement a "new regime" for allocating future licences.

Culture

Fuck Tony Fuckin’ Abbott
After the revolution
The solution
Abbott made to stand down
Send him to Hanover down town
Spend a term there
Maybe then he’ll care

Fuck Tony Fuckin’ Abbott
Let the boats in, I say
Don’t turn em’ away
The politician’s oversight
Illegals – no
Declaration of Human Rights
That’s the UN
Say it once again

Fuck Tony Fuckin’ Abbott
People waiting in dole queues
He’s giving me the blues
Mental illness is rife
Due partly to his strife

Fuck Tony Fuckin’ Abbott
When it comes to the end

China’s Rise: Strength & Fragility
By Au Loong Yu
Resistance Books, IIRE
Merlin Press, 2012
316 pages

The transformation of the Chinese economy a 20-fold rise in the size of the economy between 1979 and 2010 and huge development of private enterprise has been one of the most significant and remarkable phenomena in recent history.

However, neither the Western media and academia, nor the Chinese regime itself, provide much credible analysis on what is involved in this transformation.

Veteran Canadian punk band DOA have set sail for Australia for one final tour this month. Formed in 1978, Henry Rollins described the band as “live they were monumental, change your life, blow away time … They came to town and we were like WOW!”

DOA’s slogan has been “Talk minus Action equals Zero” and the band has been active on many issues, including anti-racism, anti-globalisation, freedom of speech, and the environment.

In 2003, founding member Joe “Shithead” Keithley released his autobiography, I, Shithead: A Life in Punk.

The experts said that the efforts of the Northwestern University football (gridiron) team to form a union would crash and burn.

The experts scoffed that these naive jocks would lose their case before the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). The experts all believed that this is what they call “settled law”.

Eco-Business: A Big-Brand Takeover of Sustainability
Peter Dauvergne & Jane Lister
MIT Press, 2013, 194 pages

Every big retail brand name you can think of — McDonalds and Starbucks, Coca-Cola and Nestle, Nike and Adidas, Disney and Google — are leading an apparent corporate charge towards ecological sustainability. Or so they would have us believe, say Peter Dauvergne and Jane Lister in Eco-Business.

Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal

Nigeria: Africa’s number one economy -- for wealth evaporation

In 2012, neoliberalism catalysed a national “Occupy Nigeria” strike that nearly overthrew the government after the removal of a petrol subsidy, under direct pressure from the IMF, writes Patrick Bond.

Discussion: Are Russia and China imperialist powers?