Issue 1033

Australia

This statement was released on November 12 by Socialist Alliance candidate for Pascoe Vale, Sean Brocklehurst, and Socialist Alliance candidate for Geelong, Sarah Hathway, in the November 29 Victorian elections.

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Ford, General Motors Holden and Toyota all plan to close their vehicle manufacturing operations in Australia over the next two or three years. Tens of thousands of workers will lose their jobs in car factories and in factories making car components.

One of the more important promises that Prime Minister Tony Abbott made in September last year was to create jobs at a rate of 200,000 a year. But the scorecard for the first year is just 105,500.

The official Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) October national unemployment figure remained the same as in September at 6.2%. However, in the ACT, which usually has the lowest unemployment rate in the country at less than 4%, this has increased over the last four months to 5.4%. This is a direct result of the federal government’s sacking of public sector workers.

Supporters of women's reproductive rights gathered outside NSW Parliament on November 13.

The push to amend the NSW Crimes Act to grant a foetus personhood rights is likely to collapse after a controversial Private Member’s Bill failed to be debated in the Legislative Council.

The bill, known as “Zoe’s law”, has one more chance to be debated or it will lapse permanently on November 20.

Zoe’s law was first introduced in 2010. It was passed by the Legislative Assembly last year.

Sixty people, including activists from Papua New Guinea (PNG) and ABC radio presenter Julie McCrossin, protested outside the federal government's Asia-Pacific Rainforest Summit on November 12.

The conference featured Liberal MPs Julie Bishop and Greg Hunt speaking to government ministers from the Asia Pacific region.

The Tony Abbott government has refused to establish a Royal Commission into the Commonwealth Bank, despite the clear recommendation of a landmark Senate inquiry into financial planning scandals at the CBA.

"The inquiry, which spanned 12 months and attracted a record number of submissions, scrutinised the performance of the corporate regulator [the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC)] in the wake of revelations by a whistleblower of misconduct and fraud in CBA's financial planning arm," the October 24 Sydney Morning Herald reported.

Kyol Blakeney was elected President of the Student Representative Council (SRC) at the University of Sydney last month and the makeup of the new council promises a fresh approach to student politics.

Blakeney’s election win marks the first Grassroots and non-Labor candidate to run the SRC in 14 years. One of his main aims as president next year is to create more affordable living circumstances for students.

Nineteen demonstrators have been arrested since October 21 in protests against the recent approval of hydraulic fracturing (fracking) in Gloucester Valley, New South Wales.

Police figures obtained by Green Left Weekly said charges range from trepassing, to individuals locking on to machinery or the buses transporting workers to the site.

Fracking is the controversial process of extracting gas from underground coal seams and shale deposits by using high pressure to inject it with a chemical-water mixture.

In February, an immigration database containing the identities of almost 10,000 asylum seekers was mistakenly published on the department’s website.

An investigation by another government office found the immigration department “breached the Privacy Act by failing to put in place reasonable security safeguards to protect the personal information it held against loss, unauthorised access, use, modification or disclosure and against other misuse”.

The Asylum Seeker Resource Centre released the statement below on November 12 in response to the commissioner’s findings.

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The Wilderness Sociey put out this media release on November 13.

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The NSW government’s new policy to offer compensation for those affected by the coal seam gas industry is just a desperate attempt to try to buy support for the toxic industry, the Wilderness Society said today as the government finally released the policy days after leaking it to the media.

As refugee rights groups begin to form ties with lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex asylum seekers on Manus Island, the LGBTI community in Australia is starting to stand up for their rights.

Activists have organised a refugee rights float for the Perth Pride parade and a Facebook page "End the Queer Lockdown on Manus Island" is also gathering steam.

More than 200 people marched through Gloucester on November 8 to protest against AGL’s bid to drill for coal seam gas (CSG). Bernadette Smith joined a contingent from Sydney and reports from the blockade campsite.

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Over November 7 to 9, I camped with the Gloucester Protectors as part of a Sydney support contingent. Arriving on Friday afternoon we were met at the train station by a Gloucester Protector and taken to the Gloucester Protection Camp, only a five-minute drive away.

In the 2010 Victorian elections the Greens scored about 30% of the vote in each of the Labor-held inner-city seats of Brunswick, Richmond and Melbourne.

They are campaigning hard to break into the Legislative Assembly in all three in the November 29 election. A poll reported in the November 7 Age predicted Greens wins in Richmond and Melbourne, but was not conducted in Brunswick.

Tim Read, a medical doctor and researcher, is the Greens candidate for Brunswick. He believes that parliament should stand up to big business.

Stephen Jolly, the Socialist Party candidate for Richmond, is a high profile activist with electoral runs on the board.

He came to prominence with the campaign to reopen Richmond Secondary College in the early 1990s, and has been on the frontlines of many campaigns in Melbourne’s inner north since, including recent efforts to stop the East West Link and to defend public housing.

Labor and Coalition candidates avoided participating in a climate change election forum held on November 12 in the marginal Labor/Greens seat of Northcote.

Last week local climate group, Darebin Climate Action Now (DCAN) held a mock climate forum outside Northcote Town Hall, with empty chairs for Labor and Liberal candidates. DCAN members held a banner: “Who is dodging climate debate?”

As one Liberal Party insider Sunday Age recently: “The last thing the Coalition wants to do is to draw attention to environment policy, because there isn’t one."

About 2000 people gathered at Roma St Forum in Brisbane for the Peoples' March against the G20 Summit on November 15.

Aboriginal activists kicked off the speeches. Callum Clay Dixon said 'What is Australia? It is a colonial state based on genocide and dispossession.”

Multiple issues are being raised at the protest, including Aboriginal deaths in police custody, demand for action on climate change, support for renewable energy, and highlighting the disappearance of 43 students in Mexico, while the Mexican president is in town.

In keeping with its crusade to privatise every public activity it can get away with, the Australian government has outsourced the management of an Ebola treatment hospital in Sierra Leone to private provider Aspen Medical.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott announced on November 5 that the government would allocate $20 million to operate a British-built facility in the West African country over the next eight months.

Leaders from around the world will descend on Brisbane this week for the G20 economic forum.

In response, people are gathering in Brisbane to hold alternative discussions about transforming society to a more just and sustainable one.

Protests will also be held against the impact the decisions made at the G20 will have on the lives of ordinary people.

World

When Thomas Eric Duncan died on October 8, shortly after his arrival from Liberia, west Africa, the Ebola crisis burst onto millions of news screens in the United States, generating deep levels of fear and xenophobia.

To be sure, Ebola is a serious health concern, for it has a 70% mortality rate. But, to beat back the fear, public officials have been playing down the threats posed by the virus, often armed with little more than hope and false confidence.

For politics, often more imagery than reality, is a poor barrier against the seriousness of viruses, disease and death.

A national strike for November 20 to protest the government’s ineffective investigation in the case of 43 missing Ayotzinapa students was announced on November 12 by the Mexican Inter-university Students Assembly, chaired by the Ayotzinapa Teacher Training School “Isidro Burgos”.

The assembly, attended by students from 79 schools, decided to support the national strike summoned by the parents of the missing students.

To mark the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin wall, a direct action took place in Beit Hanina, a neighbourhood in Jerusalem.

Saleh Muslim Mohamed is co-president of the Democratic Union Party (PYD), representing the independent communities of Rojava (Syrian Kurdistan) and its armed wings, the People’s Defence Units (YPG) and Women’s Defence Units (YPJ).

In an interview with Dutch site Tenk, Muslim spoke to Jonas Staal about the fight of Rojava against the Islamic State (IS) and the development of democratic autonomy during the Rojava revolution.

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The November 4 congressional mid-term elections in the US reflect the further shift to the right in capitalist politics.

The obvious aspect of this is the fact that the Republicans won control of the Senate, increased their majority in the House, and won more state governorships.

There has been speculation in the media about how this result came about.

It is arguably the most important political development of South Africa’s post-1994 era. In the early hours of November 8, South Africa’s largest union, the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA), was expelled from South Africa’s largest union federation, the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU).

The political significance of NUMSA’s expulsion derives from three key, interrelated areas of impact.

ANC-led alliance

The Israeli parliament has voted overwhelmingly to suspend Haneen Zoabi, a legislator representing the state’s large Palestinian minority, for six months as a campaign to silence political dissent intensified.

The Israeli parliament, or Knesset, voted by 68 to 16 to endorse a decision in late July by its ethics committee to bar Zoabi from the chamber for what it termed “incitement”.

It is the longest suspension in the Knesset’s history and the maximum punishment allowed under Israeli law. At a press conference, Zoabi denounced her treatment as “political persecution”.

How does capitalism survive? This was the question that greeted the 11th annual Historical Materialism conference in London. Held from November 6 to 9 at the Vernon Square Campus, it was a four-day long broad marriage of global leftist activists and academics run by the Marxist journal of the same name.

Posed as a simple question, it quickly developed into as many answers and narratives as there are positions within the left.

This week, by law, I have to deride Russell Brand as a self-obsessed, annoying idiot.

No article or comment on Twitter can legally be written now unless it does this, so by the weekend the Sunday magazine recipes will go, “Goose and marmalade paella, serves six ― unless one of the six is Russell Brand in which case he can make his own dinner as he’s such a rebel I suppose he doesn’t agree with ovens”.

Images of rioting protesters and burning cars in Brussels were published in mainstream media across the globe on November 7.

The previous day’s protest in Brussels did end in violent clashes, with 50 injured and 30 arrested, but it was the spirited but peaceful demonstration of 120,000 Belgians that was the key aspect of the day.

On November 9, 2.305 million residents of Catalonia defied a November 4 Spanish Constitutional Court ruling and voted on what future political status they wanted for their country, now one of the 17 “autonomous communities” (regions) within the Spanish state.

Because of their rebellion — festive but determined — it was not just another voting day. Initiative for Catalonia-Greens (ICV) co-coordinator Joan Herrera called it “the biggest demonstration in the history of this country”.

Bolivian President Evo Morales asked the Mexican government on November 10 to clarify the case of the 43 students of the Ayotzinapa teachers college. The students were forcibly disappeared in September after an attack by local police, in which six people were also killed.

“I wish to express our solidarity with the families of the 43 students,” Morales said during a press conference. “We regret what has happened in Mexico.”

Nearly twenty-five years to the day after the fall of the Berlin Wall, socialist party Die Linke (“The Left”) looks set to form government in the eastern German state of Thuringia for the first time.

After two months of uncertainty following September 14 state elections, the way was cleared for Die Linke to head a coalition government in December, alongside the Social Democrats (SPD) and the Greens, on November 4 when nearly 70% of SPD members in Thuringia voted to enter the coalition.

Analysis

This speech was given by Tony Iltis of Socialist Alliance to a rally in Melbourne on November 8, calling on the Saudi government to free dissident Sheikh Nimr Baqir al-Nimr. Al-Nimr is a popular Shia sheikh who has been critical of Saudi authorities, suggesting in a 2009 sermon that the Eastern Province would secede if its Shia population's rights were not respected.

Fifty protesters, and a larger-than life Nemo, protested outside Westpac's Sydney office on November 9.

Organised by Australian Youth Climate Coalition (AYCC), the protesters handed more than 15,000 postcards to the bank calling on it not to fund the massive coalmining expansion at Galilee Basin, which would lead to the Great Barrier Reef being dredged to facilitate coal transport. The reef was put on the World Heritage List in 1981.

You know those annoying “We Agree” television ads by the fossil fuel corporate giant Chevron? The ones where an actor playing a student or a concerned member of a community “agrees” with supposedly noble objectives of this multinational?

Those ads make me feel like puking.

The objective of this campaign was to sell the idea that Chevron agrees that "Oil companies should put their profits to good use" and "It's time oil companies get behind renewable energy". As if!

The Australian public has to foot a $500 million bill for hosting the G20 summit in Brisbane last weekend. Just before that, the public funded a delegation — including our Rambo Prime Minister, Tony Abbott — to the APEC summit in Beijing. We don't know what that excursion cost the public, but you can be sure it wasn't peanuts.

So was it worth it? After all, Abbott did not even try to shirtfront Russian President Vladimir Putin.

I still recall the sickening nausea I felt in the aftermath of media reports that X Factor judge and alleged musician Redfoo had been glassed in a Double Bay hotel in August. It wasn't caused by accounts of the pub violence, but washed over me when, never having heard of the guy, I foolishly decided to find out.

Next year will see the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta, the charter of rights that the barons of old England forced King John to sign when they cornered him at Runnymede-on-Thames in 1215.

While we may doubt that the barons intended that the rights they sought should apply to ordinary folk, Magna Carta nevertheless effectively introduced the legal concept of the presumption of innocence — the principle that an accused person is innocent until found guilty beyond reasonable doubt by a jury.

The Great Artesian Basin is one of the world’s largest underground water reservoirs. It is the only source of water for towns and farms across almost a quarter of Australia, from far north Queensland to northern South Australia.

On November 7, the NSW Great Artesian Basin Advisory Group received a scientific report commissioned by the Artesian Bore Water Users Association (ABWUA). The report found that the reservoir’s recharge area is about a third as large as previously thought — covering less than 10% of the basin’s 1.7 million square kilometres.

The Victorian Coalition government looks set to go down in an ignominious defeat at the November 29 state election.

Several recent polls have given Labor a healthy lead of about 56% to 44% in two-party preferred terms.

The Coalition was narrowly elected — to everyone’s surprise (including their own) — in 2010, and thus look like being the first one-term government in Victoria since 1955.

Culture

Stasi Hell or Workers’ Paradise? Socialism in the German Democratic Republic ― What Can We Learn From It?
John Green & Bruni de la Motte
Artery Publications, 2009
50 pp., $7.25
Red Love: The Story of an East German Family
Maxim Leo
Pushkin Press, 2013
272 pp., $31.60

The German Democratic Republic (GDR) disappeared a quarter of a century ago after 41 years’ existence. The East German state is mostly remembered as “Stasiland”, as Anna Funder’s history of its secret police is called.

The Greatest Traitor: The Secret Lives of Agent George Blake
Roger Hermiston
Aurum, 2013
362 pages, $39.99 (hb)

George Blake was smart, resourceful and committed.

A teenage courier with the Dutch anti-Nazi resistance during the war and a British Secret Intelligence Service (SIS) spy after it, Blake then picked the wrong cause, says Roger Hermiston in The Greatest Traitor, converting to Marxism and becoming a Soviet mole in the SIS.

Going round in circles
Like the fans overhead
His mind can’t get the words out
And the spirit weighs like lead

Join the team,
Recurring dream,
Kill Team,
Kill Team

The heat it has no ending
And the isolation stings
Is this what they call ‘R&R’,
A bird with shattered wings?

Join the team,
Recurring dream,
Kill Team,
Kill Team

The face of that civilian
Lurks in fragile fits of sleep
They murdered him for sport
And laughed to hear his widow weep

Join the team,
Recurring dream,
Kill Team,
Kill Team

Routine operation,
Chopper dust-off, village street,

Pride
Directed by Matthew Warchus
Written by Stephen Beresford
Starring Bill Nighy, Imelda Staunton, Dominic West & Ben Schnetzer
In Australian cinemas now

If you haven't seen the recently released Pride yet, you need to get to a cinema. It'll moisten your eyes, swell your heart, make you tap your feet and inspire you to join the next pride parade.

Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal

Gerry Adams on 'Good Old IRA' hypocrisy

“It is right that we remember those from previous generations who fought and died or were imprisoned or exiled for their efforts to liberate Ireland of British rule,” Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams writes over attempts to contrast the early IRA with its later incarnation. “But if there is a wilful amnesia, it is within the Dublin establishment parties.”

Rojava's autonomous cantons: what a revolution looks like