Issue 1007

Australia

Doctors for the Environment Australia released the statement below on May 2.

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Doctors and medical students are calling climate change a “public health emergency” and will join hundreds of Australians for the National Day of Divestment, organised by 350.org and Market Forces, on May 3.

Across Australia, doctors and medical students will deliver letters to their banks calling on them to divest from fossil fuels, while others will close their accounts.

About 2000 people rallied in Tasmania’s Upper Florentine Valley on April 27 to defend World Heritage listed forests.

The rally was organised by the Bob Brown Foundation to oppose the proposed removal of the Upper Florentine from the World Heritage Area by the federal government.

Organisers say the proposal will exclude some of the world’s most intact temperate forests and some of the tallest hardwood forests on Earth and would allow them to be opened up to environmentally destructive practices such as logging.

The Wilderness Society released this statement on April 19.

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BP, the company responsible for the disastrous Gulf of Mexico oil spill in 2010, plan to start deep sea drilling for oil and gas in waters in the Great Australian Bight off South Australia as early as 2015.

The Wilderness Society Campaigner Kathryn Warhurst said: “BP wants to drill in waters off South Australia that are far rougher, and far more remote than the Gulf of Mexico. That disaster was in 1.5 kilometres of water, here BP could be drilling in waters far deeper.

A new book exposing the reality of the Nauru detention centre was launched in Melbourne of April 28.

The Undesirables, written by former Salvation Army worker Mark Isaacs, details what he witnessed while stationed at the camp.

Isaacs said: “When we first went to the camp … it was purposely disorganised, supposedly to meet these men’s needs. When the government sent several hundreds of people to Nauru, we expected it to be ready.”

A national gathering of Aboriginal people is planned to coincide with the G20 in Brisbane later this year. The overall purpose of this gathering will be to reignite the push for self-determination and decolonisation.

Leaders of the world’s most powerful nations, from [US president] Barack Obama to [Russian president] Vladimir Putin, will converge on the Queensland state capital in November. The summit will take place from November 15-16 at the Convention and Exhibition Centre in South Bank.

More than 100 people attended a forum on the federal government’s proposed amendments to the Racial Discrimination Act. The meeting, called by the Darebin Ethnic Communities Council, was held in Northcote Town Hall on April 24.

Attorney-general George Brandis was invited to attend, but did not show up.

Shadow attorney-general Mark Dreyfus told the meeting the government’s planned changes amount to scrapping the existing law against racial vilification. He said this would give a “green light for racism”.

Long-time Socialist Alliance member Zoltan Torrey — a gentle, thoughtful, uplifting and inspiring man — died suddenly at home on January 16.

He wrote two extraordinary books. Out of Darkness is his memoir. He describes his youth in Hungary when it was occupied by Nazi Germany, and his arrival in Australia post World War II.

The defection by three Aboriginal members of the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly (MLAs) to the Palmer United Party (PUP) has the potential to topple the Country Liberal Party government.

The three rebel MLAs — Larisa Lee, Alison Anderson and Francis Xavier Kurrupuwu — left the CLP on March 27, saying it was failing to deliver outcomes for Aboriginal people in the NT.

The three were part of the “bush bloc” that brought the CLP to power in the 2012 election, taking the necessary seats from the incumbent ALP to form government.

World

A four-day sit-in by brick kiln workers in Lahore in late April ended after successful negotiations held with the labour minister over their demand of implementation of a minimum rate of 740 rupee (about $8.1) per thousand bricks. Workers from all over the Punjab took part in this sit-in.

After daily threats by government and police, the labour minster finally agreed to negotiate with leaders of the workers. Brick kiln workers are among the most exploited in Pakistan. There is widespread use of child labour and debt bondage ― both against the law in Pakistan.

Campaigners for Scottish independence have received another boost as a branch of the public sector trade union Unison sided “positively with the Yes side” in a debate on Scotland's September 18 referendum on whether to remain part of Britain.

Before Hugo Chavez became president of Venezuela in 1999, the barrios of Caracas, built provisionally on the hills surrounding the capital, did not even appear on the city map.

Officially they did not exist, so neither the city nor the state maintained their infrastructure. The poor inhabitants of these neighbourhoods obtained water and electricity by tapping pipes and cables themselves. They lacked access to services such as garbage collection, health care and education.

During the six years of economic crisis in Europe, its elites have not just attacked the living standards of workers, unemployed and poor. They’ve also been engaged in a three-and-a-half year scrap among themselves.

Their fight is over a financial transactions tax (FTT), first mooted by the European Commission (EC) in October 2010 for all 28 members states of the European Union. It was finally agreed to in January last year by 11 Eurozone members ― Belgium, Germany, Estonia, Greece, Spain, France, Italy, Austria, Portugal, Slovenia and Slovakia (the “EU11”).

Aims

The project is called “The Different Europe with Alexis Tsipras”. It name is written on a red background. Predictions indicate it could surpass, maybe easily, the 4% electoral threshold needed to win seats in the coming European elections.

In 2009, this threshold prevented both left lists, the Communist Refoundation Party (PRC) and the Left Ecology Freedom (SEL), both of which received only a little more than 3%, from winning seats.

This new project, however, is not a mere electoral coalition set up to clear this hurdle. In its foundation and structure it is something very different.

Green Left Weekly's Peter Boyle spoke to Kevin Lin, who is doing research for his PhD at the University of Technology Sydney on the labour movement in China, about the background to a new wave of strikes in the country.

Alexis Tsipras, leader of Greece party SYRIZA and the Party of the European Left's candidate for president of the European Commission, released a statement on May 2 in opposition to the arrest of Gerry Adams, president of the Irish republican party Sinn Fein, on April 30.

On my wall in London is my favourite photograph from South Africa. Always thrilling to behold, it is Paul Weinberg's image of a lone woman standing between two armoured vehicles, the infamous “hippos”, as they rolled into Soweto. Her arms are raised, fists clenched, her thin body both beckoning and defiant of the enemy.

Millions of workers across the globe hit the streets on May 1 for mass rallies marking International Workers' Day.

The day was chosen in 1889 as a global day to mark the struggle of the working class by representatives of socialist parties in the Second International. It was held to commemorate the Haymarket Martyrs, anarchists executed in Chicago for their role in the struggle for an eight-hour day in 1886.

Three years ago the Portuguese government, unable to raise funds on the capital markets, went for help to the infamous troika ― the combination of the International Monetary Fund, European Central Bank and European Union. In return for their bail-out, the troika imposed punitive conditions that have wrecked livelihoods.

In Portugal last September, the negative impact was expressed for me in one biting comment: “They are draining the life blood from Portugal.”

In his May Day speech at a large rally in Caracas, President Nicolas Maduro announced the extension of social programs and benefits to workers and the population in general. The opposition held its own march to criticise the state of the economy.

Some of Maduo's announcements to thousands of workers included: a new fund to protect and increase the value of workers’ social security savings, the extension of social programs to workplaces, and the introduction of free wifi in many public parks and urban spaces.

For a man who spent nearly four decades of his 76 years under the restrictive eye of the United States correctional system, few have ever touched as many lives as Rubin “Hurricane” Carter.

The world-class boxer-turned-wrongfully accused prisoner-turned-advocate for the rights of the unjustly jailed succumbed to cancer on April 20. But his memory and work will endure as long as there are people outside and inside the prisons of the world fighting for justice.

The United States Supreme Court ruled on April 22 that states can ban affirmative action in admissions to their public universities.

At issue was a constitutional amendment passed in Michigan that banned consideration of race in admissions to the state’s education institutions.

States that have banned affirmative action in higher education, such as Florida and California, as well as Michigan, have recorded a significant drop in the enrollment of Black and Latino students.

In a move denounced by Irish republicans as hypocritical and politically motived, Sinn Fein president and member of the Irish Dail (parliament) Gerry Adams was taken into custody by the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) on April 30.

He was questioned over the Irish Republican Army's 1972 killing of Belfast woman Jean McConville.

Analysis

Call it reckless, short-sighted or just “plane stupid”, but the federal government’s decision to press ahead with a second Sydney airport at Badgerys Creek defies logic.

Along with the noise pollution it will inflict on western Sydney, the airport will spawn a huge amount of extra carbon pollution — something we cannot afford in an age of dangerous climate change.

Youth unemployment has risen to double the national unemployment rate, a new report by the Brotherhood of St Laurence has found.

The overall unemployment rate is 6%. But for 15 to 24 year olds it is 12.5% and in some areas as high as 20%. The rates of youth unemployment have risen for the past two years. The length of time young people are unemployed is also rising.

Young people who choose to study at university are also facing a life of poverty.

The Commission of Audit report is a declaration of open class war by the corporate ruling class against Australia's working people and the poor.

Released symbolically on May 1, the international workers' day, it is a clear challenge to the labour movement and social organisations.

If its 86 recommendations are implemented, it would be a wholesale destruction of the welfare state, hard fought for over a century or more by working people, and a huge victory for big business in shifting wealth from the poor to the rich.

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.

Here, co-producer John Rainford describes workers’ campaigns in the Illawarra that defeated greedy bosses and saved jobs.

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As we brace for the Coalition government's first budget — with its foreshadowed cuts to Medicare, education, welfare and public service jobs — the salt in these wounds was Prime Minister Tony Abbott's announcement that his government plans to buy 58 F35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter war planes for $12.5 billion.

It is difficult to accept that NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell lost his position over the alleged gift of a $3000 bottle of Grange connected with the push to award lucrative contracts to Australian Water Holdings (AWH).

Conceivably, he could have stonewalled that accusation and ridden out the storm had he enjoyed the backing of cabinet and the Daily Telegraph.

Last year we had the hottest week, hottest day, month and year on record broken in Australia.

Worryingly, the fossil fuel companies already have 2795 gigatonnes of fossil fuels in reserves they planning on burning.

That is five times more than the planet can handle if we want to stay below two degrees of warming their business plans, the planet tanks. We need to rewrite this script and go down a different path.

One of the custodial deaths that launched the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody will be remembered this year with a national day of action, rallies and marches.

Eddie Murray died while in police custody in 1981 and his family and supporters are demanding a new inquiry into his death. They claim missing clothes and a coroner's report, which proved he suffered a broken sternum while in custody, were proof that he was murdered.

I am one of the organisers for the March in March and March in May and a social justice advocate.

The leaflet for the Sydney Institute dinner [held on April 28] declares that the honourable Tony Abbott has had a “long and distinguished political career”. I disagree with this statement, and from here on will refer to our prime minister as the dishonourable Tony Abbott.

Since taking office in September last year, the dishonourable Tony Abbott and his government have worked hard to undermine the needs and rights of Australians, giving us plenty to get worked up about.

A casino was a fitting venue to host Prime Minister Tony Abbott's keynote address to the 25th anniversary dinner of conservative think tank the Sydney Institute on April 28.

Abbott's speech, coming two weeks before the federal budget, was full of promises of “happiness”, “security” and “a better life”. But in reality, Australian workers, pensioners and the poor will be lucky if they are left with much more than the shirts on their backs once the government is done fleecing them.

The budget is approaching and it seems we are a bit short on cash. This isn't surprising really, seeing as we’re stumping up about $12 billion for a bunch of new fighter jets with such serious flaws they are expected to cost a further $12 billion in repairs and maintenance.

Plus we appear to be overrun by marauding hordes of free-loading pensioners clogging up doctors’ waiting rooms and bankrupting the economy with their subsidised medicines. The solution seems obvious to me: we should kill two birds with one stone and save some cash by burning these old people as jet fuel.

Culture

Boots Riley is lead singer of US-based hip-hop group The Coup and a radical activist, heavily involved in Occupy Oakland and other struggles.

He was a featured speaker at the Marxism 2014 conference in Melbourne over April 17-20. Green Left Weekly's Gemma Weedall spoke to him.

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Why do you think we need revolutionary change today?

The Snowden Files
Luke Harding
Random House
February 2014
352 pages, $30

Luke Harding's The Snowden Files is a well-constructed overview of the biggest intelligence leak in history - but it is not without its flaws.

The Guardian journalist tells a detailed story of Edward Snowden - from his childhood in a military, Republican family, his short education and brief, failed army career, to his meteoric rise through the intelligence services that eventually enabled him to turn whistleblower.

The world of mother nature has been overthrown
From her, her garments torn
Ripped away her ozone
The rapist that threatens has sworn
Take away her rain forests
the dreaded terror ravaged her breast
kissed upon the pure air smog and stench
a passion of pollution has been blessed
what was once an innocent pure birth
now a harsh scorched earth
and in the ravage and the power
the scourge was once a loving flower
like any mother she does what she can
but she will not be defeated by her son man