Issue 1013

Australia

NSW Greens MP Dr Mehreen Faruqi has initiated the first abortion decriminalisation bill in New South Wales. This long overdue reform aims to remove abortion from the NSW Crimes Act of 1900.

Faruqi gave notice of a motion she will move when NSW parliament resumes in the second week of August after its winter recess.

“Tasmania, the ACT and Victoria have taken courageous and difficult steps to moving towards ensuring women’s reproductive rights. It is now time for New South Wales,” Faruqi said on June 19.

Moreland council has threatened to divest from any bank that invests in fossil fuel projects.

Since 2008, the big four banks — Commonwealth, ANZ, Westpac and NAB — have invested $18.8 billion in fossil fuel projects in Australia. Moreland council has traditionally banked with the Commonwealth Bank, which provides more than $1 billion to new projects that will ship coal and gas through the Great Barrier Reef.

Greens leader Christine Milne is challenging Prime Minister Tony Abbott to call a double dissolution election this year over the passage of a renewable energy bill.

Milne said: “The Greens are ready for an election over the prime minister's global warming denial and his brutal budget.”

Many people were shocked in January when non-profit development organisation Oxfam released a report that showed that the richest 85 people in the world owned more wealth than half of the world's population.

Within the space of a few months, that number has dropped to just 66.

Oxfam's latest report, Still The Lucky Country?, produced in preparation for the G20 summit in Brisbane in November, explodes the myth of an egalitarian Australia.

About 5000 people protested outside Parliament House in Hobart on June 14 to call for the protection of Tasmania’s World Heritage forests.

The World Heritage Committee unanimously approved the extension of 120,000 hectares of new reserves to the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage property at a meeting in June last year. The forests were judged to have met all four natural heritage criteria.

Hundreds of mourners packed St Mary’s Cathedral on June 18 for the funeral of Leo Seemanpillai, who died on June 1 from full thickness burns to 90% of his body after setting himself on fire.

Seemanpillai was a Tamil asylum seeker who was living on a bridging visa in the Victorian town of Geelong.

Father Pancras Jordan led the service and welcomed those attending, saying: "We are gathered to say thank you and goodbye to our brother and friend, Leo Seemanpillai, who was killed by the harsh, unjust and cruel policies of our government.”

The Environment Centre NT released this statement on June 19.

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The Environment Centre NT welcomes news that the Northern Land Council and the federal government have agreed not to act on the nomination to establish a nuclear waste dump on Aboriginal land at Muckaty.

Members of the Hazara community held a vigil in Melbourne on June 15 for the victims of the Taftan bombing in Pakistan.The bombing was part of ongoing attacks on Hazara people and Shia Muslims in Pakistan.

Ali Haider, a member of the Hazara community in Melbourne, said: "A bombing took place [on June 8] in which 30 people were killed and more than 50 injured. These were poor people on pilgrimage."

Colleen Hartland from the Greens called for the Australian government to accept refugees from Pakistan.

Barney Gardner, spokesperson for the Save Millers Point residents action group, told a Sydney forum of more than 100 people on June 14: “The Baird Coalition government is continuing with the policies of [former premier] Barry O'Farrell and [former housing minister] Pru Goward.”

The New South Wales government is pushing ahead with its plan to sell off 393 public houses in the historic Millers Point neighbourhood of inner-city Sydney and force public housing tenants to move.


Doug Jordan is arrested during the 1990 tramway strike.

The conference room at the North Melbourne offices of the Electrical Trades Union was packed for a memorial for long-time socialist activist Doug Jordan who died on May 19.

About 130 people attended the moving June 14 function. This showed the high regard in which Doug was held by a wide range of people and his consistent commitment to the struggle on various fronts.

World

Ecuador accused US scientists on June 16 of taking thousands of unauthorised blood samples from indigenous Huaorani and selling them.

The Huaorani are known for a unique genetic profile and disease immunity and the samples are believed to have been sold by the Coriell Institute for Medical Research to Harvard University Medical School.

Ecuador’s constitution bans the use of genetic material and scientific research in violation of human rights.

Thirty-nine months after multiple explosions at the nuclear plant in Fukushima, thyroid cancer rates among nearby children have skyrocketed to more than forty times the normal rate.

“We seek a New Republic with equality and social justice at its core,” Sinn Fein President and member of the Dail (Irish parliament) Gerry Adams said in his June 15 address at the annual Wolfe Tone Commemoration at Bodenstown, County Kildare.

The address came less than a month after republican party Sinn Fein caused shockwaves in European and local elections by becoming the largest party across all Ireland.

Left forces from Ukraine, Russia and Belarus held a two-day anti-war conference near Minsk on June 7 and 8. The conference was organised by participants of internet project “Prasvet” with the support of the Belarus web journal Left.

The aim of the conference was to help coordinate the internationalist, Marxist left forces of three countries under circumstances of military-nationalist hysteria and the outburst of violence and repression in Ukraine.

“FIFA has opened disciplinary proceedings against the Argentinian Football Association,” The Guardian said on June 14, after Argentinian players displayed a banner before a June 8 friendly against Slovenia insisting the Malvinas (known as the Falkland Islands in Britain) belonged to Argentina.

At the G77 plus China Summit held in Bolivia that ended on June 15, several Latin American presidents gave public backing to Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro. They called for regional unity against an bid for “conservative restoration” under way in the South American country.

The summit, held in Santa Cruz, eastern Bolivia, brought together 133 countries, about two-thirds of the member states of the United Nations.

When I was travelling from Manila to Australia, I bought a copy of a book to read on the plane. It was Dan Brown’s novel Inferno. Actually, when this book first hit the bookshops, the Philippines went crazy about a small part of the novel that referred to Manila as the “gate of hell”.

Dr Chee Soon Juan, secretary-general of the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP), has been arrested and jailed several times for holding demonstrations and for making public speeches critical of Singapore's ruling People's Action Party (PAP) government.

Activists from across Venezuela met this month to form the National Communard Council, which aims to coordinate the country’s commune movement and present its demands to the national government.

The council was formed in the western state of Lara during a three-day meeting of about 2000 communards (commune members) from around the country. Most represented a particular commune.

The meeting was the fifth national gathering of the independent National Communard Network since the organisation was founded in 2009.

Before returning to the favela (local neighbourhood) Vila Autodromo for the first time since 2012, I had already been told that the community would not look the same. As a friend said to me, “It will resemble a perfect smile with several teeth knocked out.”

Vila Autodromo is just yards away from the site of the 2016 Rio Olympic village. Olympic planners, as well as building interests, have long targeted this close-knit community for demolition.

The five seats and 7.9% won by the new Podemos (“We Can”) ticket in the May 25 European election was an earthquake in Spanish politics.

Podemos was inspired by the indignado movement that exploded across the Spanish state in 2011 against austerity and for “real democracy”. The movement was driven by mass popular assemblies, which provided a striking counter-point to the frequently corrupt “politics as usual”.

General Prayuth Chan-ocha's vile military junta, which seized power in Thailand last month, is playing the nationalistic and racist card.

Hundreds of thousands of workers from Cambodia and Burma are being persecuted and driven out of the country. As usual the junta claims it is “cracking down” on “illegal” workers. But the Thai ruling class has long used a hypocritical and repressive policy towards workers from neighbouring countries.

Argentinian President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner refused point blank to go along with a US judge’s ruling requiring a US$1.5 billion repayment of defaulted bonds on June 16.

Earlier that day, the US supreme court had backed vulture capitalist hedge fund NML Capital in its quest to extort full-value repayment for junk bonds for which it paid only fractions of their face value.

But in a national address, Fernandez said she would not submit to “extortion” and was working on ways to keep Argentina’s commitments to other creditors.

US President Barack Obama announced the deployment of 300 special forces troops to Iraq on June 19. It followed a week of denials that the US would respond militarily to the rapid advance toward Baghdad of anti-government forces led by the Sunni fundamentalist Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

We, the undersigned parties and organisations in the Asia region, condemn the moves by the United States government to impose sanctions on Venezuelan citizens it deems to have “abused human rights”.

The US House of Representatives’ May 28 vote for such sanctions is a violation of the right of all nations to sovereignty and self-determination.

More than a decade after the most contested military intervention of modern times, the fall of Mosul, Iraq's second largest city, to Islamic fundamentalists ISIS, underlines the disastrous consequences of the Bush-Blair war in Iraq.

As Iraq disintegrates, Barack Obama's statement that he doesn't rule out anything in dealing with the crisis, shows how little he recognises US and Western responsibility for the chaos now spreading across the region.

It beggars belief that there are still voices calling for bombing or more intervention to deal with "a terrorist threat".

We are currently in Malaysia standing in solidarity with hundreds of thousands of Malaysians who vehemently oppose Australian rare earth miner, Lynas Corporation and their highly toxic and radioactive rare earth refinery plant near this city of 600,000 people.

Tony Blair was branded a “demented warmonger” on June 15 after the slippery former prime minister tried to rescue his reputation from the embers of the Iraq conflict.

Blair argued in a long essay published on his website that Iraq would be a much worse place today if he had not ordered British troops to invade the country.

He added that the ongoing occupation of Mosul by jihadist organisation Isis could have been prevented with British intervention in the Syrian civil war.

WikiLeaks cables released on June 9 shed new light on the United States' role in the Bagua Massacre in Peru on June 5, 2009.

The cables suggest then-US ambassador Michael McKinley may have encouraged the Peruvian government to use force against protesters in an operation that cost 10 protesters and 24 police officers their lives.

Indigenous groups in the Amazon had been blockading highways for seven weeks. They were protesting against decrees passed by Peru’s then-president Alan Garcia.

Analysis

To summarise the NSW Coalition state budget announced on June 17: Sell off public electricity assets; build more private roads.

This first budget from new Premier Mike Baird is in line with the drive led by the federal government to privatise all remaining public enterprises in the interests of their big business masters.

NSW Treasurer Andrew Constance told state parliament: "We are now in control of the budget. It's no longer in control of us."

This is code for: We plan to sell off the remains of the people's property in this state, whether you like it or not.

So apparently there is a crisis in Iraq. Really, who could have predicted this? Who among us could possibly have guessed a full-scale invasion and occupation of the country, destruction of its infrastructure and society leading directly to the deaths of at least 1 million people could have actually led to such problems?

Much of the public debate on the Senate “blocking supply” suggests that it is an all or nothing tactic. However this is not the case. The Senate can carefully cherry-pick the elements in the budget that it demands be amended and force the Abbott government to either accept those amendments or see its budget fail.

This is a short explanation of the Senate’s powers and its ability to force a budget debate on its terms with the government-dominated House of Representatives.

THE BILLS

The Federal budget contains two main pieces of legislation:

More than half a million Iraqis have been displaced and hundreds killed after the fall of Iraq's second largest city of Mosul to Islamic fundamentalists. But even as the crisis in Iraq dramatically worsens, Australia is refusing to offer any reprieve for the thousands of Iraqi refugees in its care.

Union activists have written an open letter to Victoria Trades Hall Council calling for a state-wide delegates meeting to organise a strike to bust the budget.

A similar petition has been launched in NSW, calling on Unions NSW to organise a mass delegates meeting to plan for a stop work protest against the budget. Sign the letter at change.org.

Read the letter to the Victorian Trades Hall Council below.

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Prime minister Tony Abbott chalked up his first budget win on June 17 when the 2% “levy” on high income earners passed both houses of parliament. The next day, the Greens trumpeted the emergence of a double dissolution “trigger” when the Senate rejected the bill to abolish the Clean Energy Finance Corporation.

It is no coincidence that Abbott wanted the temporary tax on high-income earners to be the first budget measure passed. He wants people to believe his lie that “the burden” of this budget is “shared” by all sections of the community.

Jo di Pietro gave the following speech to a “bust the budget” meeting organised by Unions NSW in Sydney on June 12.

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I am a technical officer in the NSW Public Health laboratories at Lidcombe (otherwise called FASS) and a proud member of the Health Services Union.

NSW Health has decided to privatise food safety testing, to tender it to the private sector, so the government can distance itself from food safety work, and ultimately from its responsibility to the public.

The Socialist Alliance released this statement on June 19.

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The US, Australia and other partners-in-crime in the more than a decade-long war on Iraq must not be allowed to use the latest conflicts in that country to increase their military intervention in the region.

The Socialist Alliance adds its voice to others in Australia rejecting Prime Minister Tony Abbott's all-the-way-with-the USA commitment made to US President Barack Obama over Iraq.

An opinion poll showing that only 24% of Victorians support the government's flagship road project, the East West Link, has sent shockwaves through the Victorian government.

The revolution might not be televised, but you can see the Royal Commission into Trade Union Governance and Corruption proceedings live-streamed into your lounge room.

Such is the overwhelming public demand for riveting daytime televised reality shows that the commission is competing with Judge Judy in bringing this much-awaited courtroom drama to a computer near you via a mere click on their website.

The proceedings began in earnest on June 10, but much of what was heard in evidence has been well rehearsed in the Murdoch press over the past couple of years.

When Muckaty traditional owners first heard about a proposed waste dump on their land seven years ago, it didn’t seem like such a bad idea.

Many thought it was a general rubbish tip that would recycle, sell reclaimed materials and provide work opportunities for people living in the remote area of the Northern Territory.

Millions of dollars were promised for roads and scholarships. In an area with few employment prospects or education opportunities, it is little wonder the offer seemed attractive.

Culture

Where No Doctor Has Gone Before: Cuba’s Place in the Global Health Landscape
By Robert Huish
Wilfred Laurier University Press, 2013
Out of the Mountains: The Coming Age of the Urban Guerrilla
By David Kilcullen
Scribe, 2013
342 pp, $32.95

It is interesting that Robert Huish and David Kilcullen inhabit the same world, because their books indicate that they view the planet differently, like black and white or perhaps like life and death.

Even if you have no interest in football and have never watched a single game before now, this is the time to accept that all of us, including you, should hate Sepp Blatter.

Partly this is because recent investigations, which have taken years to complete, show that he's repulsive. He may have responded with a statement that “I completely deny I am in any way repulsive”, but the evidence is overwhelming, with further reports set to disclose staggering global levels of repulsion he can't ignore.

The Collaboration: Hollywood’s Pact with Hitler
Ben Urwand
Belknap, 2013
327 pages, $39.95 (hb)

Throughout the 1930s, movie-goers all over the world got to see the German Nazi’s cut of every Hollywood film. Any movie touching on Germany contained no mention of Nazism or Jews.

Both these silences, as Harvard University’s Ben Urwand unearths in The Collaboration, were the result of a remarkable agreement allowing the Nazis to dictate Hollywood movie content in return for Hollywood studios keeping their access to the lucrative German market.

The Merry Grinchmas Mixtape
MC Bunz
Released December 25, 2013
Free download

When Glen Anderson was playing sport with his schoolfriends, he was suddenly surrounded by police who ordered him to lay flat on the ground.