Issue 1029

News

Steve O'Brien, Socialist Alliance candidate for the byelection in the NSW state seat of Newcastle, slammed the NSW government’s decision to close the heavy rail line to Newcastle at Broadmeadow, cutting the city centre from rail traffic from December 26. "This move is wrong and completely unacceptable for the people of Newcastle," O'Brien said. O'Brien was speaking at the campaign launch at the Rail Sheds, Newcastle East Foreshore Park, on October 12. The by-election will be held on October 25.
About 1000 people rallied in Melbourne for refugee rights on October 11. The date marked the one year anniversary of Operation Sovereign Borders. About 300 protesters from the Kurdish community, marching to defend Kobani, joined the rally. Former detainee Reza Yarahmadi spoke against Temporary Protection Visas. He said: "You know what TPV stands for? I call it Toilet Paper Visa. It is not worth more than that." Australian Council of Trade Unions president Ged Kearney condemned Operation Sovereign Borders. She said: "It is steeped in such lies, a crisis that does not exist."
Something fishy was going on outside Westpac headquarters in Melbourne on October 11, as colourfully dressed protesters came together to reveal the true cost of potential investment in the Great Barrier Reef coal port expansion. Protests took place across Australia against controversial new plans to increase coal shipping through the World Heritage Area. Though Westpac released its own promising report on climate change in 2009, Market Forces estimates it has since lent more than $900 million to fossil fuel export projects within the marine park.
The Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) on October 13 gained Fair Work Australia authorisation for a ballot of members on protected industrial action in support of a fairer agreement in the federal Department of Human Services. The electronic ballot will start in late October for the 15,000 CPSU members in Centrelink, Medicare and Child Support.
The City of Moreland became the first council in Victoria to rule out direct investments in fossil fuels and the first council in Australia to start developing a strategy to move investments away from financial institutions that fund fossil fuel developments, after a vote at its October 8 meeting.
University of Sydney professor Barry Spurr has been suspended following a protest at the university on October 17. Students and staff rallied to express their disgust over reports from New Matilda the professor had vilified minority groups in emails to his colleagues by using terms such as “abos, mussies, chinky-poos” and referred to a woman as a “worthless slut”.
Progressive student activists at the University of Technology (UTS) are running on a ticket to contest the student representative council (SRC) and elect delegates to the National Union of Students (NUS) conference in December. The ticket, called “Grow your SRC and NUS”, is focusing on fighting the proposed fee hikes and providing better support to disadvantaged students, as well as calling on UTS management to divest from fossil fuel corporations.

Analysis

NSW ALP Senator John Faulkner, luminary of the Labor left, has been complaining of the structural flaws in the party for decades. Despite being a long-time beneficiary of the party’s factionalism, almost 10 years ago he was writing of the “shared venality” of party apparatchiks that led it back beyond factionalism. “It is feudalism, and it is killing the ALP.” Last week he was at it again in his address to the “Light on the Hill Society” at Revesby Workers Club in western Sydney.
Now I know things seem pretty bleak in this country right now, but we must remember there is always hope. After all, in 1967, an Australian prime minister entirely disappeared without any warning after he went swimming — and Tony Abbott loves to swim! So don't give in to despair — it might happen again. The key thing is to not lose all hope.
The decision to deny 11-month-old Ferouz Myuddin a protection visa precedes a plan by Tony Abbott’s government to retrospectively deny all babies born to asylum seekers the right to seek refugee status. An amendment bill containing extensive changes to the Migration Act was tabled by the federal government last month. The bill would remove most references to the refugee convention and legalise boat turnarounds. The Coalition government also wants all babies born to asylum seekers who arrived by boat after August 13, 2012 to be declared “unauthorised maritime arrivals”.
Paul Verhaeghe, senior professor of clinical psychology and psychoanalysis at Ghent University in Belgium, has argued in a recently published essay that neoliberal economics brings out the worst in human beings. He finds that thirty years of neoliberalism, and the privatisation and free-market misery that comes with it, have taken their toll on people’s values and even their personalities.
Kurdish fighters in the northern-Syrian city of Kobani have been fighting an armed struggle against Islamic State (IS) fighters for the past month. The Kurdish fighters are resisting IS attempts to take their city, which would result in a massacre. There has been some debate among left activists about whether the Kurdish struggle is anti-imperialist, whether the people’s militia groups in Kobani have been calling for imperialist military intervention, and what issue Australian anti-war activists should focus on.
When the Royal Commission into Trade Union Governance and Corruption was set up by the federal government, it was widely seen as a political witch hunt intended to smear the union movement with guilt by association to the scandals that had emerged in the Health Services Union (HSU). With a bit of good fortune and a lot of spin-doctoring it would also provide the Coalition with handy ammunition against the ALP at the next federal election, likely to be held in late 2016 — a contrived “ticking Tampa”.
Resistance: Young Socialist Alliance released this statement on October 16. *** Resistance: Young Socialist Alliance supports the struggle in Kobani against the Islamic State for a number of reasons. Kobani, is part of an emerging progressive autonomous region called Rojava where people of all ethnicities and religious beliefs are equal and where women are leading the way forward.
Sarah Hathway, the Socialist Alliance candidate for Geelong, and Sean Brocklehurst, the Socialist Alliance candidate for Pascoe Vale, released this statement on October 16. *** We strongly support the Reclaim the Night marches organised across Victoria and the world. Violence against women is endemic to the sexist culture promoted by our oppressive, exploitative, capitalist society. Vibrant public campaigns protesting such violence can help win better safety and rights for women, and are an important part of the struggle for a better world.
Woolworths was caught out this month selling T-shirts with the slogan “If you don’t love it, leave” emblazoned over an Australian flag. After George Craig posted a photo of the shirt on Twitter with the caption: “@woolworths cairns, selling racist singlets for everyday low prices! #racist”, the T-shirt was quickly and widely condemned. Woolworths immediately pulled the stock from its shelves and apologised.
The Queensland capital is getting ready to lock down for a two-day meeting of world leaders in mid-November. More than $171 million has been allocated to “city improvement works” in an effort by the government “to help Brisbane shine” in time for the G20 summit. Homeless people will be offered hotel rooms, bins will be sealed to prevent bomb concealment, public transport will be affected and roads will be closed. The G20 “red zone” will encompass the central business district and Spring Hill along with much of Kangaroo Point, Fortitude Valley and South Brisbane.
The ebola outbreak in West Africa is "unquestionably the most severe acute public health emergency in modern times", World Health Organisation (WHO) director general Dr Margaret Chan said on October 14.
As I watched the slick military-supplied “news” clip of the first Australian Super Hornet mission over Iraq — where the two warplanes dropped not a single bomb on an IS target — I wondered how much that abortive mission cost the supposedly budget-strapped government and certainly budget-slapped Australian public.
"We are now in the world of 'big insurance,' with health funds squarely in the business of providing financial returns to shareholders ... Private health insurers serve their shareholders, meaning they don't necessarily seek to actively protect or advance models of care that result in the best health outcomes for members," chief executive of St Vincents Health Australia Toby Hall, Australia’s largest not-for-profit health-care organisation, wrote in the October 10 Sydney Morning Herald.
Although I had met Luis before, I first got the chance to really speak to him at a BBQ he hosted at his house in late 2010. We spoke for hours that day about many things, including his health. Luis explained to me that his body was riddled with cancers, and that the doctors had told him he probably only had six months to live. “When did they tell you that?” I asked. “Six months ago,” he replied with a grin on his face. “Don’t worry, I still have plenty of fight still left in me.”

World

“Iraq is our main effort, and it has to be, and the things that we’re doing right now in Syria are being done primarily to shape the conditions in Iraq,” General Lloyd Austin, the US commander overseeing the air strikes against Iraq and Syria told an October 17 Washington press conference. However, the first significant victory against the official enemy in the latest US-war in the Middle East ― the ultra-violent terrorist group that calls itself “the Islamic State” (IS) ― is being won in the Kurdish town of Kobane on the Syrian-Turkish border.
New information was released on October 14 at the Financing Development with Transparency annual conference about the controversial operations of US mining company Newmont. Journalist Raul Weiner and accountant Juan Torres released their investigation, claiming it proves the US transnational committed tax fraud by not paying the Peruvian state about US$137 million last year alone. Newmont owns Yanacocha in Peru, a set of five gold mines that make up the second largest gold exploration in the world. The transnational also owns an expansion project called Conga.
As 35 busloads of teacher-training students from Michoacan headed for Guerrero state to join increasingly militant protests for justice, students from major universities in Mexico City called a two-day strike on October 13. The protests were in response to the disappearance of dozens of students.
The Australia West Papua Association (AWPA) has written to Australian foreign minister Julie Bishop over the banning of rallies in West Papua that had been called for October 13. The purpose of the rallies was to call on the Indonesian government to free the two French journalists Valentine Bourrat and Thomas Dandois who were arrested on the 6th of August in Wamena and remain detained in Jayapura. They could face up to five years in prison.

In celebration of the nationally acclaimed Day of Indigenous Resistance on October 13, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro handed over collective land titles to 14 original communities. Maduro also established a presidential council for indigenous peoples, lowered the threshold age for indigenous pensioners, and announced the creation of an institute to protect the country’s 44 native languages.

Hundreds of Kurds gathered in a Turkish border town on October 7 for the funerals of four women killed fighting the Islamic State (IS) group. Across the border, a Kurdish female militia is playing a leading role in defending Kobani (also known as Kobane).
Ever since the foundation of modern Turkey in 1923, the country’s Kurdish population has endured severe discrimination and national oppression. The nationalist officers around Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the victor of Gallipoli who led the struggle to establish Turkey's republic, were ruthless Turkish chauvinists. They saw the large Kurdish minority as a “problem” to be dealt with.
The article below was is taken from a longer message released by Malalai Joya, the renowned Afghan feminist who has resisted the Taliban and US-led occupation of her nation, on October 12. It is abridged from www.malalaijoya.com. ***
Two months after a white cop shot an unarmed African American teenager, Michael Brown, in Ferguson, Missouri, and the police responded to angry demonstrations with a military-style assault, there was a mass four-day protest called “Ferguson October”. The four-day action centred not only on Michael Brown, but on an epidemic of similar police killings nationwide. Ferguson is part of the greater St Louis area, and marches and other events were also held in the city.
In transmitting President Richard Nixon's orders for a “massive” bombing of Cambodia in 1969, Henry Kissinger said: “Anything that flies on everything that moves.” As Barack Obama ignites his seventh war against the Muslim world since he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, the orchestrated hysteria and lies make one almost nostalgic for Kissinger's murderous honesty. As a witness to the human consequences of aerial savagery — including the beheading of victims, their parts festooning trees and fields — I am not surprised by the disregard of memory and history, yet again.
The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine released this statement on October 13. * * * The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine expresses its solidarity with the Kurdish resistance in Kobane struggling to defend themselves and their community from the reactionary armed group, ISIS, whose entry into our region has been facilitated and supported by imperialist powers and their lackeys.
“This was a debate on two models: nationalisation or privatisation,” Bolivian President Evo Morales told a large gathering of supporters after being re-elected with a large majority on October 12. “Nationalisation won with more than 60 percent.”

Culture

Gough Whitlam has passed away aged 98. Green Left will run more detailed analysis of his significance and legacy, but for now here is Sydney-based Celtic punk band Roaring Jack, fronted by Scottish socialist Alistair Hulett, with "The Ballad of '75" about the coup that removed the Whitlam government from power. See also: Uncovering the real Gough Whitlam
What's The Catch is a new three-part documentary series that will premiere on SBS on October 30. The series follows Gourmet Farmer star Matthew Evans as he uncovers the state of Australia's seafood industry and begins a campaign for labelling laws.
Richard Avedon People Exhibition, Art Gallery of Western Australia Until November 17. More than ever, we live in the “society of the spectacle” that Guy Debord theorised in 1967. Bourgeois commodification is augmented by reducing reality to a shallow image of itself. However, the spectacle itself “is the historical movement in which we are caught”.
No Place To Hide: Edward Snowden, The NSA & The Surveillance State Glenn Greenwald Hamish Hamilton, 2014 259 pages, $29.99 (pb) Glenn Greenwald’s No Place To Hide is not just a thrilling account of the award-winning journalist’s “cloak-and-dagger” encounter with National Security Agency (NSA) whistleblower Edward Snowden, but a clinical and impassioned analysis of the danger posed by the US’s vast surveillance state.