Issue 1015

News

Australian environmental and international solidarity campaigner Natalie Lowrey was arrested and detained for six days in Kuantan, Malaysia for standing with Malaysian activists campaigning against Australian company Lynas Corp's toxic rare earth refinery near that city. At a peaceful protest of more than 1000 people outside the Lynas plant on June 22, 16 protesters were arrested and a number were injured by police, one very severely. Lowrey was released with no charge on June 27, the other 15 protesters faced court on July 8 on a variety of charges. She has since returned to Australia.
Communities in Maules Creek, New South Wales, are banding together with environmental activists in order to stop coal mining in the Leard State Forest, which threatens to kill wildlife, destroy forestry and worsen climate change due to increased greenhouse gas emissions. Whitehaven Coal, a relatively small coal-mining company, is opening up new mines in various communities around Australia, aiming to maximise profit through the destruction of the environment.

More than 2000 people marched in Melbourne on June 28 to protest the proposed East West Link motorway. The East West Link is to be a partially tunnelled toll road that would give commuters crossing the Yarra River an alternative to the currently overloaded West Gate Bridge. Protesters, however, said the East West Link will be excessively costly, will contribute to pollution and will generate far fewer jobs than an equivalent public transport project. Demonstrators also voiced concerns that the East West Link would erode Melbourne’s culture of public transport.

The NSW Coalition government's proposed private North West rail link, from Chatswood to Rouse Hill, will be "unfit for the purpose" it is intended for, according to Gavin Gatenby, co-convener of EcoTransit Sydney. Instead of being a more efficient mode of mass commuter transport, the planned single-deck line would be an "entry wedge for the privatisation of the city's rail system”.
More than 80 people attended a community forum and organising meeting at the Ingleburn Community Centre in Sydney’s south west on June 29 in opposition to coal seam gas (CSG) mining. Stop CSG Illawarra spokesperson Jess Moore, Doctors for the Environment’s Helen Redmond and Australia Institute researcher Mark Ogge addressed the meeting. Moore presented a brief introduction to the nature of the CSG industry and detailed the environmental catastrophes that have followed the industry from the US to Australia.
About 120 Sydney residents, concerned about the impact of the proposed WestConnex motorway, met at the Annandale Neighbourhood Centre on June 25. The meeting heard that WestConnex, the biggest and most expensive motorway in the Australia, will not reduce congestion and is just an excuse for a developer land grab along Parramatta Road.
Kirstyn Jones is from Davoren Park near Playford in Adelaide's northern suburbs, where there has been an income management trial for two years. She is the first Playford resident forced on to income management to speak publicly. She was put on income management, despite being financially competent and working part time, solely because she was on Youth Allowance and not living at home.
Many local residents in Victorian regional city Bendigo were shocked when right-wing groups from outside of Bendigo began mobilising residents against the proposal for the city’s first mosque. The mosque is planned to be built on underdeveloped industrial land in East Bendigo. It is to include a prayer centre, a cafe and a sports centre which would be available for the general community to use. A heated council meeting on June 18 approved the mosque plans by a vote of 7 to 2. However, opponents say they will appeal to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT).
Conservative Murdoch mouthpiece Janet Albrechtsen and former deputy Liberal Party leader Neil Brown have been appointed as new members of the panel that oversees appointments to the ABC and SBS boards. The appointments by the Tony Abbott government come after the announcement of serious funding cuts to both public broadcasters in the May federal budget. The cuts were passed in parliament with the support of Labor and the Greens.
Sunrays pierced the cold rain to make a sudden halo around the Blackbird as it approached the Collins Landing wharf in Melbourne on June 21, docking across from the Republic of West Papua’s new state of the art Department of Foreign Affairs, Immigration and Trade office. People in suits, high heels, dreadlocks and traditional Melanesian headdresses sang, danced and waved West Papua’s outlawed Morning Star flag as they gathered to greet the boat of West Papuan Foreign Affairs staff arriving to formally open their new office.

Analysis

Moreland City Councillor and Socialist Alliance member Sue Bolton delivered the following speech at the Trains Not Tolls rally in Melbourne on June 28. The rally was organised to protest against the new East West Link motorway. *** It’s great seeing people here from all over Melbourne, because this issue affects not just people from the inner city where the East West Link is designed to go, but it affects people from all over Melbourne and all over Victoria.
Palmer United Party leader Clive Palmer held an unlikely joint press conference on June 25 with former US vice president and climate campaigner Al Gore. It was one of those mindboggling moments in Australian politics that seem to be a more frequent occurrence in recent times. Palmer used the opportunity to announce his position on some key climate-related policies the incoming Senate will be voting on.
For controversial sporting bans for violating “common decency”, forget Luis Suarez and his four-month ban from all football-related activities after the Uruguayan striker decided to taste a little Italian. If you want a really outrageous penalty for a sporting star, it is hard to overlook the sacking of rugby league player Todd Carney.
Clive Palmer is proving to be a more adept and unpredictable populist than many of us gave him credit for. The latest surprise was his decision to back the abolition of the carbon tax while opposing the scrapping of the Renewable Energy Target, Clean Energy Finance Corporation and the Climate Change Commission.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott said in a recent address to the Committee for Economic Development of Australia, “all fit young people should be ... expected to persevere for six months to find a job or to choose a further training programme before accessing welfare payments”. The government’s stubbornness in persisting with the changes to Newstart Allowance for job-seekers under 30 ignores the advice from welfare agencies and other parties that it will lead to poverty or crime, not increased employment.
Welfare groups have expressed anger at changes to welfare for people with disabilities, which the federal government released in a draft report on June 29. The McClure report proposes far-reaching changes to the welfare system and cuts the number of welfare payments to just four; a working age payment, disability support, child support and the age pension. There are 830,000 recipients on the Disability Support Pension (DSP). Social services minister Kevin Andrews has suggested only people with a permanent disability would be eligible for the DSP.
The Tony Abbott government has recently been at pains to emphasise that it is “protecting” the community from Australian-born “jihadists” returning from participation in conflicts in the Middle East. Having learned the tools of the terrorist trade in zones of sectarian strife, they argue, these “extremists” might well embark on a campaign of politically-motivated civil slaughter in this country. Citing this as a motivating factor, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has recently cancelled several Australian passports.
“The Australian government has reached a frightening new low as a human rights’ denier and perpetrator,” the Tamil Refugee Council said on July 3. The council was responding to “credible media reports” about immigration minister Scott Morrison's “abhorrent act of secretly sending back a boatload of Tamil asylum-seekers to the certainty of a Sri Lankan jail and the probability of rape and torture”.
Sri Lanka has confirmed plans for asylum seekers from its persecuted Tamil ethnic minority to be directly handed over by Australia at sea. Although the Australian government has refused to confirm or deny such plans, Prime Minister Tony Abbott said on July 3 that Sri Lanka was “a society at peace” that had made “much progress” on human rights. That day, the Tamil Refugee Council released a statement explaining the true situation in Sri Lanka that included the ive points below. * * *

World

Less than two weeks after concluding its largest military assault on the occupied West Bank in more than a decade, Israel has relentlessly pounded the besieged Gaza Strip since July 7. The ongoing bombing campaign is the most severe violence inflicted by Israel on Gaza since its eight-day assault in November 2012, during which more than 150 Palestinians were killed, 33 of them children. More than 1400 Palestinians were killed in Gaza, including 350 children, during Israel’s three consecutive weeks of attacks from air, land and sea during winter 2008-09.
The stadium in Phokeng outside Rustenburg in South Africa's North West Province exploded in jubilation when the end of the longest strike in South Africa's history was announced on June 23. Men and women waved their arms victoriously in the air and resounding ululations and cheering reverberated as a great burden of domestic hardship lifted. Workers had changed history.
Venezuela: Social programs expanded in poorest communities The Venezuelan government has initiated its policy of expanding social programs in the country’s most deprived areas in a bid to eradicate extreme poverty, Venezuelanalysis.com said on June 30. The initiative, called “Red Sundays”, involves teams of social program workers visiting poorer communities every Sunday to diagnose which households are deprived of certain basic needs and which social programs are required to attend to these needs.
Players in Algeria's national football team have announced that they plan to put prize money earned in the World Cup to good use, BleacherReport.com said on July 2. Striker Islam Slimani said the entire squad would donate the earnings to the people of embattled Gaza, saying “They need it more than us”.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro announced on July 1 the need for “a complete and profound revolution within public administration”. Maduro appointed planning minister Ricardo Menendez and vice-president Jorge Arreaza to facilitate a “restructuring” of the government system, to take place until July 15. “From July 1 to 15, we’re going to shake-up the revolutionary government entirely, to change everything and authentically improve socialist efficiency in the Homeland Plan’s development,” Maduro said from the Caracas working-class neighbourhood Los Magallanes de Catia.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas challenged Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on July 2 to condemn the abduction and murder of teenager Mohammed Abu Khdeir in east Jerusalem. Abbas accused extremist Jewish settlers of “killing and burning a little boy” and demanded Israel “hold the killers accountable”. Just hours after Israel buried three teenagers recently murdered in the West Bank, relatives of Khdeir said the 17-year-old had been forced into a car in east Jerusalem before it sped off. His burned body was found shortly afterward in a Jerusalem woodland beauty spot.
The Party of the European Left is a European-wide political grouping that unites 26 parties to the left of social democracy, such as SYRIZA in Greece. It released the statement below on July 2. For more information visit Europe-Left.org. * * * We consider the main factors in the Ukraine crisis to be the imperial atttitude towards the country, as shown by all major powers involved: the deliberately provocative and bellicose moves by the US, NATO and European Union, as well as the aggressive steps taken by Russia.
When I was in Brazil for those first days of the World Cup, I was ― with many other journalists ― tear gassed by military police. I saw sleek, urban-outfitted tanks in the streets and I felt concussion grenades send subsonic shrapnel crashing into my eardrums. I didn’t see the drones flying overhead, but then again, no one without a Hubble telescope is supposed to see the drones.
Kavita Krishnan is a socialist activist and a well-known international spokesperson for the movement against sexual violence in India. A Communist Party of India―Marxist-Leninist (CPI-ML) Liberation leader, Krishnan was a featured guest at the Socialist Alliance's national conference held in Sydney from June 7 to 9. An abridged version of the speech she gave to the conference is published below the Green Left TV video of her ful speech.
In the early hours of July 1, Israel Defense Forces (IDF) bombed dozens of sites across Gaza, hours after three missing teenage Israeli settlers were found dead. The Israeli government, led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, predictably seized on the boys' disappearance and death as the pretext to raid Palestinian territory, attack Hamas and expand illegal settlements.
As the autocratic rule of Big Brother Generalissimo Prayut Chan-ocha trundles forward, we are seeing the militarisation of politics, economics and society in Thailand. All government ministries are controlled by military personnel. Civil servants who were in their posts before the May 23 military coup are being replaced by loyal lapdogs or cronies of the junta.
Dr Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu, executive director of the Centre for Policy Alternatives in Sri Lanka, gave a talk on “The challenge of moving from post-war to post-conflict in Sri Lanka” at a June 21 meeting held in the Darebin Intercultural Centre in Melbourne. The following is a summary of his talk compiled by Michael Cooke. *** The end of the war [between the Sri Lankan state and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam in 2009] does not mean the end of conflict. The guns are silent, but the sources of conflict remain, and are being reproduced.
If anyone can get the different forces of the Catalan left to unite in support of a common cause, it is Ada Colau. The spokesperson of the anti-eviction Mortgage Victims Platform (PAH) until early May, Colau is almost certainly the most popular and respected social activist in the Spanish state. On June 26, Colau launched Let’s Win Barcelona platform for next year's May municipal elections in the Catalan capital.

Culture

“Budget Reply (Hey Joe)” is Australia’s first musical response to Joe Hockey’s deeply unpopular 2014 budget. Written by Les Thomas, the song is a protest against cuts targeting the young, unemployed, elderly, Indigenous programs, Medicare, education, science and the environment. Thomas has already performed the song at a number of rallies and events in Melbourne.
Perth's May 18 March in May demonstration was led by a very interesting character. Baloney Abbott is quite a sex symbol in his bright red “budget smugglers”, fake rubber chest and oversised “Proudly Australian” badge. Waving a bloodied meat cleaver, he really brought the point home that the cuts are for the good of the nation. Only Baloney Abbott could lead a 2000-strong crowd of peasants with the chant “Budget cuts, all the way! Make the sick and the poor pay!”
Diary of a Foreign Minister Bob Carr Newsouth, 2014 502 pages Too often, Bob Carr’s diary sounds like an episode of Grumpy Old Ministers. An 18-month stint as foreign minister in the doomed Rudd-Gillard-Rudd federal Labor government, the globe-trotting Carr gripes about the dead prose of his departmental talking points, the lifeless food and draining jetlag of plane travel, the awfulness of hotels, Canberra (“the City of the Dead”) and contracting viruses from shaking hands all day on the campaign trail “without a hand sanitiser in the car ― damn!”
Reclaim Your Voice Various artists Released June 2014 Blue Mountain Sound www.bluemountainsound.com.au Andy Busuttil of Blue Mountain Sound released the following statement on June 28. *** We would like to think of our Australia as a nation with a big heart. A nation that stands for the dispossessed and does its damndest to help those in need, especially those attempting to flee tyranny.

Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal

On 'broad left parties' Murray Smith, a member of the European Left Party's executive bureau, looks at the emergence of new parties in Europe over the past 25 years. He responds to criticisms of his perspective by Mick Armstrong from Australia's Socialist Alternative. Ireland: 'We have to convince people that Sinn Fein is different'