Issue 1010

Australia

Australians took part in an international March Against Monsanto on May 24. Hundreds of events in 50 countries protested against the world's biggest agricultural biotechnology company.

IN ADELAIDE, STEPS OF PARLIAMENT HOUSE


Photos: Gemma Weedall

An estimated 3000 students have rallied in Sydney against the Coalition government's proposal to deregulate university fees. This was part of a national protest organised by the National Union of Students (NUS) on May 21.

On the same day, staff at the University of Technology Sydney, went on strike for 24 hours and joined the protest. They have been in negotiations with the university for increased job security, fairer pay and equity in the workplace.

About 2000 unionists marched in Gladstone, Queensland, on May 5. It was a good crowd, particularly since it was a workday, but workers were determined to take time off to send Premier Campbell Newman a message that our May Day is in May.

Two years ago, Newman decided to change the date of Labour Day to October. But Gladstone has stuck to tradition and maintained marching on this day, because local unionists we believe that is where it should stay. Gladstone is the only town in Queensland to do this and plans to keep the tradition going into the future.

Farida Iqbal gave this speech on behalf of the March Australia committee in Perth on May 18.

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This is a budget founded on lies. There is no budget emergency. The whole thing is a complete fabrication. The budget deficit is 34.5% of GDP, compared to the average of 117% among OECD countries.
 
But that wasn’t the only lie. Treasurer Joe Hockey told us we have to cut back the safety net because we are a nation of lifters, not leaners. When he said that, he lied to us about who is doing the lifting and who is doing the leaning in this country.
 

Thousands of people marched against the federal budget and took part in March in May rallies on May 18.

About 15,000 people rallied in Melbourne against the proposed budget cuts. Viv Malo from First Nations Liberation told the rally that while $50 million was devoted to police in remote Indigenous communities in the Northern Territory and Queensland, $500 million will be cut from Indigenous services. She said: "You are killing us. This is not a lucky country. You won't have your freedom without ours."

The premiere of new film Radical Wollongong was held in Wollongong, NSW, on May 18. About 230 people attend the event at the Gala cinema. Film writer and co-producer John Rainford introduced the film and Aboriginal leader Mark Bloxsome gave a welcome to country.

Workers cooperative EarthWorker demonstrated their newly made heat pumps and water storage tanks at Melbourne’s Trades Hall on May 18.

The cooperative aims to create local jobs and provide clean energy to help fight the climate crisis at the same time. It has just launched its first solar hot water systems, made at a worker-owned factory in Morwell.

During the event at Trades Hall, members of the cooperative were happy to demonstrate and explain the capabilities of their new systems.

“A huge win for people power” is how campaigners describe the victory against gas company Metgasco, which had its exploration licence at Bentley suspended by the New South Wales government on May 15.

But it took several years of systematic campaigning to get to this decision.

I spent time at the Bentley blockade over May 17 to 19 and spoke to protectors, organisers and participants who were still shocked at the NSW government’s decision.

About 300 pensioners, unemployed people and sole parents attended a rally called by the Fair Go for Pensioners Coalition on May 21.

Marion Lau, deputy chairperson of the Ethnic Communities Council of Victoria, spoke of the injustice of the federal government’s plan to force workers, including those in heavy manual jobs, to work to the age of 70 before they can get the age pension.

The East West Link is not the vote-winner that Victorian Premier Denis Napthine had hoped it would be.

A recent opinion poll shows most Victorians are opposed to the state government’s plan to build the new toll road and want the money spent on public transport infrastructure instead.

The Labor opposition says it opposes the project and would not continue the project if it wins the next state election, due to take place in November. That is, unless contracts have already been signed, in which case an incoming Labor government would allow the project to go ahead.

A determined and vocal crowd of more than 300 union activists packed an all-union meeting called by the Victorian Trades Hall Council on May 20.

The meeting welcomed a call by the council’s executive for a weekday “bust the budget” union rally on June 12.

Speakers from the floor were cheered as they pushed the Trades Hall Council and the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) to go further and organise mass delegates meetings, nationally coordinated action, and a clear focus on the demand to block the budget and bring down the government.

Recent opinion polls show there is widespread opposition in NSW to the Coalition government's plans to privatise remaining public assets.

Polling by UMR Research, reported by the Australian Financial Review on May 1, shows a majority of people are against proposed sell-offs announced recently by Premier Mike Baird.

It found 61% of respondents opposed the privatisation of the state's electricity poles and wires, while only 23% supported the idea. An even bigger 73% are against any sell-off of NSW public hospitals, with just 18% in support.

More than 2000 teaching staff and students took part in a joint protest outside the University of Technology Sydney on May 21.

A strike called by the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) was supported by a picket line formed by students, who were engaging in a national protest against the federal governments harsh education cuts.

The protest received extensive media coverage, including the Daily Telegraph, the ABC and Channel 7.

World

The most striking thing about Thailand's coup d'etat is the speed and size of the anti-coup protests. Int he three days immediately after the coup, mass protests of ordinary people have erupted in many areas of Bangkok, but also in Chiangmai and other towns.

This is history in the making.

In Washington, the Foreign Relations Committee of the US Senate approved, in a 13-to-2 vote, the “Venezuelan Human Rights and Democracy Protection Act” on May 20. The bill includes sanctions on key Venezuelan government representatives and at least US$15 million to “defend human rights… and strengthen the rule of law”. Committee chair, Democrat Robert Menendez, played a lead role in the writing of the proposed legislation. He plans to present the bill before the whole Senate in the coming weeks.

The way the United States government treats soldiers returning from its wars of imperial conquest indicates its priorities.

There have been many reports of failures to adequately treat all the cases of mental illness resulting from the wars of occupation in Afghanistan and Iraq. High levels of alcoholism, drug use, depression and suicide have been reported by veterans and their families.

People in Turkey are sad and angry.

At least 300 workers lost their lives in a May 13 mine accident in Soma, a small town 300 miles from Istanbul. It was the biggest workplace disaster in Turkish history.

But instead of punishing management and promising to improve safety, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has openly defended the company.

All across the country, people are mobilising against the government. The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) has reacted with police violence, pepper gas, and water cannons.

The letter published below was sent to Human Rights Watch's executive director Kenneth Roth on behalf of Nobel Peace Prize Laureates Adolfo Perez Esquivel and Mairead Maguire; former UN Assistant Secretary General Hans von Sponeck; current UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in the Palestinian Territories Richard Falk; and more than 100 scholars (listed below).

It is reprinted from Alternet.

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Dear Kenneth Roth,

The US government has reaffirmed its “deep respect for the Israeli army’s moral code” days after video emerged of a cold-blooded Israeli sniper killings two Palestinian boys.

The boys, 17-year-old Nadim Siam Nuwara and 16-year-old Muhammad Mahmoud Odeh Abu al-Thahir, were killed at a Nakba Day protest near the Ofer military prison in the occupied West Bank village of Beitunia on May 15. Nakba Day commemorates the ethnic cleansing in 1948 when Israel was founded on the back of the expulsion of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians from their homes and land.

Venezuela and Palestine have signed fresh agreements on oil, taxation and diplomatic cooperation, Venezuela Analysis said on May 19. The agreements were made during a visit by Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas to Venezuela.

In a key agreement, Venezuela created a new corporation, Petro-Palestina, through which Venezuelan state oil company PDVSA will send oil to Palestine at a subsidised price. Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro committed to sending an initial shipment of 240,000 barrels of oil.

“We walked and walked and walked for days until we finally settled on the beach of Damour,” said 80-year-old Um Zohair. “On the beach we fetched green banana leaves together and with bamboo sticks we made a hut that sheltered us for three months on the sand.”

Sixty-six years ago, Um Zohair was one of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians ethnically cleansed from their homeland, Palestine. “That was the first time we were displaced,” she said.

Since the ethnic cleansing of Palestine in 1948, a series of upheavals and struggles has marked Palestinian refugees’ nomadic life in exile.

The Danish Red-Green Alliance (RGA) marked 25 years since its founding at a national conference on May 16 to 18.

A radical left unity project marking 25 years in existence is itself a cause for celebration, but this conference was able to celebrate much more. After about 20 years as a fringe party in Danish politics, the RGA has recently emerged as a significant force.

Sonny Melencio is chairperson of the Filipino Party of the Labouring Masses (PLM) and a former council member of Solidarity of Filipino Workers (BMP).

Melencio is also involved in a new coalition against the established “political dynasties” in the Philippines, called Alliance for Truth, Integrity and Nationalism (ATIN).

For the past five years, we have heard a great deal of rhetoric from British politicians about the “tough choices” that the financial crisis has imposed on the nation.

Again and again, we heard that this crisis affected everyone equally, and that all of us were rowing together to put it right and share the burden and hardship.

Representatives from the two sides of Thailand’s political conflict sat around a table on the afternoon of May 22 for the second day of negotiations hosted by the Royal Thai Army. The meeting took place under the military's self-declared martial law.

It was clear from the outset that no agreement between the pro- and anti-democracy forces would be reached. And so at about 3pm, the army chief General Prayuth Chan-Ocha, laid his cards on the table by bluntly presenting government representatives with one option ― resign.

The statement below was released by several Asian socialist groups on May 23 in opposition to the military coup in Thailand. To add the name of your group, email int.psm@gmail.com, cc international@socialist-alliance.org. You can see the updated list of signatories at here.

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We, the undersigned organisations, strongly condemn the latest coup d’etat staged by the Thai military under the leadership of Prayuth Chan-ocha.

Kavita Krishnan has become a well-known international spokesperson for the movement against sexual violence in India that grew after a horrific, internationally-publicised, gang rape of a student in Delhi in 2012.

Bolivian indigenous group the National Council of Ayllus and Markas of Qullasuyu (CONAMAQ) made headlines this year with its threats to blockade the Dakar rally when it passed through Bolivia's highlands region.

This was not the first time that the group caught the attention of the world’s media. Leaders of CONAMAQ have been regularly quoted in the media due to their outspoken criticism of the government of president Evo Morales ― Bolivia's first indigenous head of state.

The articles frequently describe CONAMAQ as “the main indigenous organisation in Bolivia's highlands”.

Thai army general Prayut Chanocha declared martial law on May 20 without consulting the caretaker government or any other elected representatives. Soldiers took over all radio and TV stations and are positioned along major road intersections in Bangkok.

Despite the fact that Prayut claimed that “this is not a coup”, his actions smell, taste and look like a coup. This is from a man who has blood on his hands.

Despite an ongoing outcry by a large group of her supporters, Judge Ronald Zweibel sentenced Occupy Wall Street activist Cecily McMillan to 90 days in jail on May 19.

McMillan had been found guilty of assaulting a police officer during the operation to close down an Occupy protest at Zuccotti Park in March 2012. McMillan says she elbowed police officer Grantley Bovell after he grabbed her breast, leaving it bruised.

Analysis

A forum titled “An Aboriginal Perspective on Inequality, The Intervention, Racism and Struggle” was held on May 6 in Adelaide. Hosted by the South Australia Aboriginal Coalition for Social Justice, the Socialist Alliance and SIMpla, the forum heard from an all-Aboriginal panel including Brisbane Aboriginal Sovereign Embassy member Boe Spearim and Northern Territory-based activist Amelia Kunoth-Monks.

Love Makes A Way is a movement of Christians seeking an end to Australia’s inhumane asylum seeker policies through prayer and non-violent action. The group organised a sit-in protest in Tony Abbott’s office on May 19, leading to seven arrests. Below, Karl Hand explains why he took part in the protest.

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Gemma Weedall gave this speech at the March in May rally in Adelaide on May 18. She is a member of the Climate Emergency Action Network and the Socialist Alliance.

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This week I heard some news that really scared and shook me. Believe it or not, I’m not talking about the budget – although that did too.

The federal government’s budget is a huge economic, social and ideological attack on women. At its heart are government spending cuts aimed directly at depriving working-class women of the means for economic independence.

A report released last week by the National Centre for Social and Economic Modelling (NATSEM) said low-income households headed by women will bear the heaviest burden under the changes proposed in the budget.

Resistance: Young Socialist Alliance released this statement on May 22.

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The struggle against education cuts has exploded onto the national stage in the lead up to and following the budget announcement by the federal Coalition government, a budget set to massively increase student debt.

With a series of political stunts and protests against individual Liberal Party politicians, there has been a serious political response to these fee increases and cuts, not just by students, but by all young people.

After the brutal budget comes the ceaseless round of insulting lies and justifications from the government.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Treasurer Joe Hockey are bare-faced liars. They sold their budget on the idea that we all had to share in the pain to pay for an unsustainable national debt.

But it has been proved beyond any reasonable doubt that we are not all sharing the pain and that the government's debt is not unsustainable.

The turnout and energy at the March in May rallies on May 18 proved that people are not going to take this budget lying down.

Numbers were up in several cities compared with March in March. In Melbourne, Hobart and Brisbane there were sizeable anti budget rallies on the day, even though March Australia groups had decided not to organise protests.

Student rallies against the cuts to education on May 21 were bigger than any seen for a decade.

Culture

Revolutionary Activism in the 1950s & '60s Volumes I
By Ernest Tate
Resistance Books, 2014
www.resistancebooks.org

“A police cruiser with two uniformed officers pulled up alongside me,” recalls Ernest Tate in his newly published memoir Revolutionary Activism.

“They jumped out and asked me for identification. I gave it to them. ‘What’s in your suitcase?’ Dirty underwear, I said. ‘Open it,” they ordered. I told them it was none of their business. They almost went berserk …”

3CR released this statement on May 2.

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As many thousands of people across the country mobilise against the Tony Abbott government, 3CR community radio is asking its listeners and supporters of independent media to join the resistance by donating money to the station during our annual Radiothon.

Radical Wollongong
Written by John Rainford
Directed by John Reynolds and Paul Benedek
Produced by Green Left TV
www.radicalwollongong.com

Radical Wollongong, the first documentary produced by Green left TV, met with significant enthusiasm at its premier screening at the Gala Cinema in the Illawarra on May 18.

With standing room only, in one of the region's few remaining theatres, we were shown a treat of a film on the history of Wollongong ― in particular, its most radical and interesting manifestations of class, politics and working life.

Taking God To School: The End of Australia’s Egalitarian Education?
Marion Maddox
Allen & Unwin, 2014
248 pages, $29.99 (pb)

To the traditional “three Rs”, Australia has added a fourth ― religion.

Religious private schools, religious instruction in public schools and religious counsellors have found generously-funded favour with successive federal and state governments, writes Macquarie University politics professor Marion Maddox, in Taking God to School.