Issue 1040

Australia

Three passengers were removed from a Qantas flight from Melbourne to Darwin on February 2 after refusing to take their seats in protest against the transfer of an asylum seeker on the same flight.

A 25-year-old Tamil man known as Puvaneethan was being transferred from Maribyrnong detention centre in Melbourne to Darwin. He was distressed about being separated from his family in Melbourne.

The Refugee Action Coalition released this statement on February 5.

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Fifteen Iranian asylum seekers are on their 19th day of hunger strike in Darwin’s Wickham Point detention centre.

Meanwhile, Martin, who has been on hunger strike since November last year, is very weak and close to death.

Martin and the 15 are part of a group of about 35 Iranian asylum seekers who are being held indefinitely in detention. The government is unable to remove them to Iran because the Iranian government refuses to accept forced removals from Australia.

In the wake of the Queensland election result the federal government has decided to postpone a decision on whether to allow dredge spoil from a north Queensland port expansion to be dumped on nearby wetlands.

Federal Environment Minister Greg Hunt has confirmed that he will delay a decision on whether to allow dredge spoil from the expansion of the Abbot Point coal terminal, near Bowen, to be dumped on the Caley Valley wetlands, until he can talk to the new Queensland government.

About 3000 people marched through Sydney's inner-west suburbs of Newtown and St Peters on February 1 to show their opposition to the $12 billion WestConnex motorway project.

The project would destroy 80 homes and bulldoze sections of six local parks. Iconic Sydney Park is projected to lose 12,000 square metres of green space.

WestConnex Action Group and Reclaim the Streets organised the rally.

The Australian Council of Trade Unions has called national rallies against the federal government on March 4. They released this statement on January 30.

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Our rights at work are again under attack from the Tony Abbott government and employers.

Just last week it became even clearer that the full-scale Productivity Commission inquiry into our rights at work could deliver cuts to penalty rates, the abolition of the minimum wage, bring back unfair individual contracts and swing even more power to the employers.

The time to stand up and fight back is now.

At 10.30am on February 13 at 66 Goulburn St (corner of Castlereagh St), Sydney, Education Minister Christopher Pyne will deliver the Inaugural Hedley Beare Memorial Lecture. And there is a bonus: The address will be followed by a short Q&A session with the audience. Pyne’s proposed deregulation will destroy higher education through the creation of a two-tiered US-style system. Join us in reminding Pyne and the Liberal government that students are ready to fight in 2015 to make sure it's buried for good. Plus who doesn't love a good Q&A with Pyne.

TJ HICKEY RALLY

Refugee activists interrupted the Australian Open tennis tournament during the men’s final, unfurling a banner demanding the closure of the Manus Island immigration detention centre.

In the middle of the second set, protesters draped the banner over the court wall. The protest was filmed by television cameras and broadcast around the world.

The banner read “Australia Open for refugees” with the hashtag #shutdownmanus. Two women who jumped on court were arrested, while at least another four people — wearing handmade “Australia Open for Refugees” shirts — were evicted from the match.

Warehouse workers at the International Flavours & Fragrances (IFF) factory in Dandenong scored a major victory on February 1, after their four-day occupation of the staffroom.

About 30 workers took the action after IFF management locked out the workforce earlier last week.

The workers, covered by the National Union of Workers, had been planning to undertake protected low-level industrial action against the company following months of negotiations for a new enterprise bargaining agreement.

World

Venezuela rejects new US sanctions

The Venezuelan government rejected aggressive new US-imposed sanctions on February 3, TeleSUR English said that day, insisting the measures flout international law.

Venezuela's foreign ministry said in a statement: “The people of Venezuela ratifies its independence and sovereignty. We do not recognise … interference of any kind by foreign powers.”

It accused the US of “violating the principles of national sovereignty, equal rights and non-interference in the internal affairs inherent in international law”.

"When was the last time you saw Greeks protesting in support of the government?", Keep Talking Greece asked on February 5.

If anyone was still wondering whether European politics and a Europe-wide class struggle actually exist, reactions from all quarters to the first two weeks of Greece’s new SYRIZA-led government would have cleared up any doubts.

The conflict between Europe’s ruling elite and the new Greek anti-austerity administration, headed by radical left party SYRIZA, reached a high point on February 4-5.

The statement below was published on Transform-network.org on February 3.

It has been signed by seven out of nine presidents of Germany's trade unions, all members of the executive boards of DGB and IG Metall, and mainly Social Democratic Party politicians in Germany's parliament and the European Parliament, including two vice-chairs of SPD, as well as numerous academics.

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Tens of thousands of people took to the streets in Madrid on January 31 in a huge “March for Change” to support Spain's new anti-austerity party Podemos.

The party has grown in support after the left-wing, anti-austerity SYRIZA party in Greece won last week's elections. This has brought hope that change could be in the air for other European countries whose debt is being used to justify austerity.

On the demonstration, people chanted “yes we can” and “tic tac tic tac” ― suggesting the clock was ticking and time was running out for the political elite.

As Scots gathered together at Christmas and Hogmanay last year, conversations inevitably turned to politics. Most were agreed that the year ahead would be an interesting one.

The impact of the independence referendum on September 18 last year, won by the “No” vote, is still being felt throughout Scottish society. Its impact is reverberating across the British state as well.

Leading trade unionists, Irish republican party Sinn Fein and a range of other left voices have backed a call for a new anti-austerity force in Irish politics capable of winning government.

In the wake of SYRIZA’s historic win in the Greek elections on January 25, Sinn Fein national chairperson, Declan Kearney, called for formal discussions to begin on building an Irish left coalition to cohere an anti-austerity government in the South.

The US’s role in Latin America is facing a growing challenge. The 33 member states of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) vehemently rejected North American intervention in the continent, and particularly the US-led blockade of Cuba and recent sanctions against Venezuela.

These positions were part of the “Belen Declaration”, approved during CELAC’s third annual presidential summit, held on January 28th and 29th in Belen, Costa Rica.

Yemeni President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi, his prime minister and entire cabinet resigned en masse on January 23, just 24 hours after Houthi rebels occupied the presidential compound in Sana'a. The resignations give unprecedented power to the Houthis, a Shi'ite minority from the country’s isolated northern highlands.

The political crisis also opens the door to an all-out war over control of the Yemeni capital, involving Sunni political factions and al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). The conflict could also draw in Saudi Arabia, the United States and Iran.

Germany sending refugees to Nazi concentration camps

On January 27, the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Nazi death camp Auschwitz, the German city of Augsburg decided to turn a branch of the former concentration camp at Dachau into a refugee centre. The asylum seekers will live in a building where thousands of slave labourers suffered and died under the Nazis.

There is a coup underway in Venezuela. The pieces are all falling into place like a bad CIA movie.

At every turn, a new traitor is revealed, a betrayal is born, full of promises to reveal the smoking gun that will justify the unjustifiable. Infiltrations are rampant, rumours spread like wildfire, and the panic mentality threatens to overcome logic.

Headlines scream danger, crisis and imminent demise, while the usual suspects declare covert war on a people whose only crime is being gatekeeper to the largest pot of black gold in the world.

Media attacks

The world has started looking at Kobane and the other two liberated cantons of what the Kurds call Rojava (Western, or Syrian, Kurdistan) since the resistance in Kobane liberated the town from the brutal Islamic State (IS) forces.

Their success is not good news for Turkish President Recip Tayyep Erdogan, achieving a symbolic victory against an underhanded ploy by Turkey’s regime to crush Kurdish resistance in Syria and weaken the Kurdish resistance against the Turkish state.

Why Kobane did not fall

By Dilar Dirik — After 135 days of fearless resistance, the people of Kobane have liberated the city from the so-called Islamic State (IS). Since September 2014, the YPG and YPJ (People’s and Women’s Defence Units) have been leading an epic and unbelievable resistance against the latest wave of attacks by the IS.

South Africa’s electricity crisis: muddle through, meltdown or miracle?

Analysis

The Mekong River is the mother of all south-east Asian rivers, providing life-sustaining resources to millions of people. Now, the future of the Mekong, its people and wildlife are in jeopardy.

The government of Laos plans to build the hydroelectric Don Sahong Dam — the second dam proposed for construction on the Lower Mekong mainstream — on the main pathway in the Mekong that allows for year round fish migration.

"The people of NSW should rise up and reject the Baird government's plan to sell off the state's power industry, just as Queensland voters did last weekend," Susan Price, Socialist Alliance candidate for the seat of Summer Hill in the March 28 NSW elections, said on February 5.

"The massive rejection of Premier Campbell Newman and his Liberal-National Party (LNP) government in the Queensland state election on January 31 has been sheeted home by most commentators to the LNP's disastrous plan to privatise the state's publicly owned electricity industry.

The Labor Party has enjoyed a remarkable recovery in the recent Queensland elections.

Three years ago, after Labor privatised publicly owned railways, ports and forests, the party was reduced to a 27% primary vote and seven state seats.

At the January 31 election, its primary vote rose to 38% and, with a stronger flow of Greens preferences, it won at least 43 seats with a possible total of 45 — the final result will be determined by further counting. Forty five seats would give the party an absolute majority in state parliament.

Phoenix is the name of a mythical bird which, after death, rose from the ashes to live with renewed vigour and start the cycle all over again.

It’s also the name of an illegal activity in Australia where directors wind-up a company and then create a new one while leaving their debts behind.

Workers loose their wages and entitlements, and other creditors are left with no chance of recovering the debts they are owed.

It’s a rort that’s common in the construction industry, and fiddled to the tune of more than $3 billion a year.

If you reading this after Tuesday, there's a chance we could have a new Overlord.

Liberals spooked by polls so bad that an electoral coalition between Islamic State and Ebola — or hell, even the Labor Party — could probably win the next federal election, are holding a leadership spill that could dump Tony Abbott as prime minister less than half way through his first term.

The boats that “just kept coming and coming” under Labor have been “all but stopped”, Prime Minister Tony Abbott declared to the Press Club in his widely described as “crash-and-burn” address on February 2.

“The Abbott government has stopped the boats — and only this government will keep them stopped.”

Dunking her biscuit into the cup now covered in a suitable amount of filth, she thinks about the time she went driving up a mountain range in Cape York. “What a beautiful area — shame about the people.”

Fully aware she’s been accused of intellectual snobbery on more than one occasion, she lulled herself into a meditative state, knowing she would have to turn on the charm once more. “I say vagina and cunt twenty times a day and they still accuse me of it,” she said out loud this time.

On January 30 a meeting of the New South Wales Education Action Network (EAN) was convened at the University of Technology, Sydney. The EAN is a cross campus collective of university students committed to fighting fee deregulation and for free education. It is open to all student activists.

Scientists had long thought the giant East Antarctic ice sheet was barely affected by global warming and that its glaciers were stable. It turns out those assumptions were wrong.

A team of scientists returned on January 26 from a 7-week expedition to East Antarctica with the bad news: warm ocean water is melting the huge Totten glacier from below.

Climate change will threaten the viability of grassroots sport in Australia, and elite tournaments will have to adapt to rising temperatures, extreme rainfall and shrinking snow cover, a report has warned.

Elephants, rhinoceroses and lions are being killed in Africa in record numbers. Despite the work of authorities to stop the practice of poaching, 1020 rhinos were poached in South Africa last year. The Wildlife and Environment Society of South Africa says only 344 arrests were made that year. At the same time, more lions were killed in South Africa than rhinos. At this rate, lions will be extinct in the wild in less than 20 years.

The dramatic dumping of Campbell Newman’s Liberal National Party government in Queensland and the leadership spill against Abbott have starkly revealed the ongoing popular opposition to the Coalition's program of cutbacks and privatisation. It has thrown the federal Liberals into a crisis.

This is a tremendous boost for progressive people in Australia and the anti-Abbott campaign in particular.

On November 27, early in the morning, Jorge Castillo-Riffo was found on the scissor lift at the new Adelaide Hospital construction site. He had been crushed against a beam and died the following day.

Castillo-Riffo cared about his fellow workers and was diligent about Workplace Health and Safety (WHS) at his work site. About 1400 construction workers walked off the site and did not return to work until the following Monday.

The Redfern Aboriginal Tent Embassy (RATE) was established nine months ago. It is a site of resistance to a program to move Aboriginal people out of Redfern led by the Aboriginal Housing Corporation (AHC) and development company DeiCorp. The racist campaign of social cleansing is backed up by Redfern police.

The Tent Embassy has been under sustained attack. RATE activists have suffered verbal and physical assaults and bail conditions imposed on victims that prevent access to the Embassy — all while the perpetrators have no restrictions on their movement.

Culture

Clivosaurus: The Politics Of Clive Palmer
Guy Rundle
Quarterly Essay
November 2014
Black Inc., $19.99

Elected in 2013 by the curious, the disaffected and the dark arts of preference deals, billionaire Queensland coal baron Clive Palmer and his Senate threesome, were, at first, writes Guy Rundle in Clivosaurus, ignored or played for laughs by the establishment media.

Useful Enemies: When Waging Wars Is More Important Than Winning Them
By David Keen
Yale University Press, 2012.

Governments in the US, Britain and Australia seem intent on waging war in faraway lands, supposedly to bring freedom and democracy to foreign peoples and to deliver us from the chaos of terrorism.

David Keen's useful Enemies, however, shows the folly of the policies being pursued. Far from bringing peace, it turns out throwing arms, bombs and money against opponents who refuse to neatly line up as targets is more likely to fuel the conflict.

Songs of Alex Glasgow 1 & 2
Now & Then: Songs of Alex Glasgow 3
Northern Drift & Joe Lives
Alex Glasgow
www.mawson-wareham.com

During the British miners’ strike in 1984, when Margaret Thatcher set out to break the National Union of Miners and push for her neoliberal counter-revolution, I somehow received word that Alex Glasgow was flying to Britain to perform solidarity concerts.

Disunited Kingdom: How Westminster Won a Referendum But Lost Scotland
By Iain MacWhirter
Cargo Publishing, 2014,
174 pages

The independence referendum on September 18 last year has been hailed by many as the most important event in the recent Scottish history.

The result was far closer than any supporter of independence would have dared predict even a few months before the vote. About 1.6 million voters (45%) refused to be swayed by a sustained fear campaign by the British state and its allies ― voting “Yes” to Scottish independence.

Fighting Fund

Green Left Weekly is now in full colour. The new colour look adds to the attractiveness of Australia's premiere weekly socialist newspaper. It is an important step forward as we seek to further expand our distribution, in a period when the need for progressive alternative sources of news and commentary in this country is more critical than ever.

With the ABC and SBS under attack, and the domination of the Murdochracy in Australia's mass media increasing, it is crucial that people support the alternative media, especially Green Left Weekly.