Issue 1041

News

A refugee has won his claim for protection because the High Court ruled that the basis of his arrival, by boat, was not a valid ground to reject him. Former immigration minister Scott Morrison denied the Pakistani man a visa because he arrived by boat, even though the department had found him to be a genuine refugee and Australia was legally obliged to provide protection. The High Court unanimously ordered the immigration minister, now Peter Dutton, to grant him a permanent protection visa. Dutton said a visa would be issued within seven days.
In the lead-up to the first global divestment day on February 14, the University of Sydney announced it will reduce the carbon footprint of its investments by 20% within three years by divesting from heavy polluters. But it has shied away from divesting from fossil fuels altogether. The decision follows a sustained student-led campaign, with support from Greenpeace, that has been urging the university to completely divest its investments in fossil fuels.
Biologists consider the health of frogs to be indicative of the health of the biosphere as a whole. Frogs have permeable skin that easily absorbs toxins. They require specific aquatic and terrestrial environments to survive and breed, making them highly susceptible to environmental disturbances. Because of this they are considered accurate indicators of environmental stress. Frogs have lived on the Earth for 250 million years, surviving ice ages and other climate changes. Yet around the world, populations of amphibians, particularly frogs, are now in drastic decline.
The Latin American Social Forum held a forum on February 7 in Sydney. About 80 people attended. We were welcomed by the Ecuadorian indigenous folksinger Manuel with a ceremonial greeting in Quechua to Pachamama and soulful pipe playing. The evening began with a video conference with Pablo Fajardo, representing the 30,000 indigenous Ecuadorians fighting against the ecological disaster caused by Chevron-Texaco.
There is obviously volatility in the Australian electorate. I gained an insight into that new mood last weekend when I went doorknocking in Raymond Terrace as part of the NSW Public Service Association’s (PSA) campaign against privatisation. The PSA was not advocating a vote for any party except to ask people to put concerns about privatisation up front when they vote in the NSW elections of March 28.
Radical leftist party SYRIZA has swept to power in Greece promising to end austerity and threatening to spark an anti-austerity fightback across Europe. Green Left Weekly's European correspondent and Socialist Alliance member Dick Nichols, usually based in Barcelona, was in Athens for the historic win. He is speaking across the country about SYRIZA's challenge to austerity and elite rule.
Around 60 people attended a public forum in Sydney on February 9 to commemorate the 33rd anniversary of the re-establishment of the Palestinian People's Party (PPP). The party was retitled from its original name of Palestinian Communist Party, which was founded 96 years ago. Shamikh Badra outlined the history of the PPP, from its early days in 1920s Palestine, to its re-founding in 1982. He explained the role of the PPP after it joined the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) in 1987 and fought for militant policies within the Palestinian liberation movement.
Voices of the Valley released this statement on February 6. *** Latrobe Valley residents’ group Voices of the Valley has released new data and analysis regarding probable deaths resulting from the coalmine fire which began one year ago in the Victorian town of Hazelwood.

Police attacked students with pepper spray during a protest against university fee deregulation in Sydney on February 13. About 30 students gathered to protest against education minister Christopher Pyne, who was giving the Inaugural Hedley Beare Memorial Lecture at the Sydney Masonic Centre. He planned to “outline the Australian government’s achievements in schools since coming to office”. Police sprayed students to stop them entering the lecture to take part in an advertised Q&A with Pyne.

SCOTLAND AND WALES BAN FRACKING The National Assembly of Wales banned shale gas fracking in Wales on February 4. It follows an announcement on January 28 that the Scottish government will temporarily ban fracking until a public health assessment is completed. Early last year British Prime Minister David Cameron said his government was going "all out for shale".
Ten student activists from the NSW Education Action Network were trapped in the small elevator at prime minister Tony Abbott's Manly office on February 9 for more than half an hour. They were told by police and firefighters that the elevator had being switched off while they were inside it. Students were midway through a protest of the Coalition government's attempts to push university fee deregulation through the Senate again.

Analysis

"NSW Liberal Premier Mike Baird is in danger of going the way of his Queensland counterpart Campbell Newman, if he continues down the path of selling essential public assets," Howard Byrnes, Socialist Alliance candidate for the NSW Legislative Council, said on February 11. "The issue of power industry privatisation effectively brought down the Newman Liberal-National Party government in the Queensland elections on January 31, and could cause a huge upset in the upcoming NSW elections as well," he said.
Partly due to luck, and partly due to the heroic efforts of severely overstretched firefighters, the huge bushfires that swept southern Western Australia in early February resulted in no loss of life. These devastating fires also provide a glimpse into our future on a warming planet unless we cut carbon emissions fast.
The Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation (HSBC) is the second-largest bank in the world. It operates in most countries, including Switzerland, which has long had a reputation for the secrecy of its finance sector. In 2008, a former HSBC employee gave the French government a list of the names of 261 Australians who held HSBC bank accounts in Switzerland. In 2010, the year that HSBC’s 25th branch office in Australia was opened in North Sydney by Treasurer Joe Hockey, the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) received a copy of the list — a fact it disclosed on February 9.
This joint statement was issued by unions and campaign organisations on February 10. *** Australia’s universal health insurance scheme, Medicare, has ensured world-leading public health care is accessible for all, for over 30 years. The availability of bulk-billing has delivered a health system that is more cost-effective and equitable than in many comparable OECD countries.
“Half the world is dying of starvation and the other half is dying of boredom.” This expression, one of many popularised during the protests of the 1960s, encapsulates a feeling of alienation that many young people today can still relate to. The capitalist world system, despite its proponents’ claims, does not offer a future worth having to any person, whether they live in the relatively secure - though increasingly less so - core nations or the impoverished and exploited periphery states.
As the excitement subsides on the Queensland election results, we need to take stock of what this means for the left in Australia. While the deep north of our country is a world away from Greece, there is a political trend here. But first let’s stay in Queensland. It was just three years ago that the then Bligh Labor government was thrown out suffering a 15.6% swing, one of the largest against a sitting state government in Australian political history. The Newman government lost with an 8.8% swing against it.
Sharlene Leroy-Dyer, the lead Socialist Alliance candidate for the Legislative Council in the upcoming March 28 NSW elections, released this statement on February 11. * * * The NSW and other state governments must share the blame for the latest shameful and outrageous results of the Closing The Gap Report tabled by PM Tony Abbott in federal parliament today.
The Australian Electoral Commission data from the declaration of donations to the major parties in 2013-14 was made public in early February. They show that a total of more than $278 million in speculative political capital was invested in the ALP, Liberals, Nationals, Palmer United Party (PUP) and the Greens.
What lessons can we learn from the recent victory of SYRIZA for building the anti austerity movement and a political alternative to neoliberalism here in Australia? Greens Senator Lee Rhiannon, in her recent article in New Matilda [see reprinted article on page 6], writes that the left in Australia should wake up and take notice of what is happening in Europe. I couldn’t agree more.
Three new coalmines have been approved by the New South Wales Planning Assessment Commission, just weeks before the state election. The new coalmines will be in Bengalla, near Muswellbrook in the Hunter Valley, the Watermark Coal Project, near Gunnedah on the Liverpool Plains and Moolarben, north-east of Mudgee.
The Electrical Trades Union (ETU) has campaigned against the privatisation and sale of public assets by both the Anna Bligh and Campbell Newman governments. Not4Sale was launched three years ago with financial and organisational support from the ETU and has involved union members and their local communities in the campaign to stop assets sales. This strong, popular and localised resistance was a significant factor in the recent defeat of the Liberal National Party (LNP) government.
Eighty days on hunger strike has put an Iranian man who sought safety in Australia at death's door, as advocates around Australia fight for the immigration department to act to save his life. “Martin” took the non-violent step to refuse to eat last November after the Australian government denied him refugee protection and redetained him in the remote Wickham Point Detention Centre. At least 15 other men in the same situation as Martin have also taken up a hunger strike.

World

Talks between Eurozone finance ministers and Greek officials abruptly broke down on February 16 after Greece was offered a deal that it said was “unacceptable”. Both sides ended debt-restructuring negotiations in Brussels, creating pessimism that a deal will be reached before a February 28 deadline. A draft agreement offered by the eurozone proposed that Greece accept a six-month extension of its bailout under existing bailout conditions.
Following SYRIZA’s victory in the Greek election on January 25, a number of commentators have turned their attention toward Spain, where the left-wing Podemos party, which originally emerged from the Indignados protest movement, has been receiving strong polling numbers since the end of 2014.
The New York Times reported on January 26 that “a CIA drone strike in Yemen … killed three suspected al Qaeda fighters on Monday.” How did they know the identity of the dead? As usual, it was in part because “American officials said.” There was not a whiff of scepticism about this claim despite the fact that “a senior American official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, declined to confirm the names of the victims” and “a CIA spokesman declined to comment”.
A series of coordinated early morning police raids in south-west Dublin have seen at least seventeen people – including several left-wing politicians – arrested for attending a peaceful rally against water charges last November, amid claims of “political policing” and intimidation. Shortly before 7am on Monday February 9, six police arrested Anti-Austerity Alliaaul Murphy TDnce (AAA) TD and Socialist Party member Paul Murphy at his home while he was still in his pyjamas, having breakfast with his children.
Socialists and World War I: Turn the imperialist war into a civil war It has been 100 years since the outbreak of the First World War. The centennial of the “war to end all wars” has had countless commemorations … Yet missing from all of the observances of the war are the deeper questions of its causes —divide colonies among predatory ruling classes – and the heroism of those who opposed the mass slaughter. European Greens: 'We want to cooperate with the new Greek government'
On February 4 a coalition uniting the resistance of Indonesian-occupied West Papua submitted an application to join the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG).
Although the International Monetary Fund (IMF) claims it is part of the solution, the IMF is really part of the problem of underdevelopment and it has been for decades. The latest proof is that the conditions imposed on countries in need have had serious impacts on the development of these countries’ public health services. In some countries, this means letting epidemics destroy the lives of thousands of people. The latest example involves the Ebola epidemic.
Actions in solidarity with Greece’s anti-austerity government are being planned across Europe and beyond as Greece’s left-wing SYRIZA-led government confronts a European elite determined to destroy its pro-people platform. Plans for protests to support Greece came as international institutions failed to reach an agreement with the SYRIZA government, TeleSUR English said on February 11. Talks were set to resume on February 16.
The European political and financial elite reacted with horror to Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras's opening speech to parliament on February 5. In his speech, he ruled out an extension of the financial bailout and the accompanying harsh austerity measures that have plunged the economy into a 1930s-style depression. On February 9, European leaders lined up to warn the SYRIZA government that its proposals, which have included a partial write-off of the country's immense foreign debt, would be rejected by other European nations.
Greece, Venezuela discuss cooperation Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has invited the newly-elected Greek prime minister to Caracas, TeleSUR English said on February 9. “I have invited Alexis Tsipras, comrade Alexis, to visit us as soon as he can, here in Venezuela,” Maduro told Venezuelan public TV. “He plans to come to Latin America. He mentioned all the pressures that he is under. Because of a savage, savage neoliberal system that has been applied in Greece.” Tsipras expressed an interest in touring Latin America, starting with the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.
The following statement was released on February 10 by Parti Sosialis Malaysia secretary general S. Arutchelvan after the conviction of opposition coalition Pakatan Rakyat (PR) leader Anwar Ibrahim on sodomy charges, in a show trial condemned by international legal observers. * * * Parti Sosialis Malaysia is appalled with the disgraceful Judgement by the highest court in the nation on Anwar’s “Sodomy II” case.
A special commission of the two largest associations of Latin American nations, the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC, which includes all of the Latin America and the Caribbean) and Union of South American Nations(UNASUR, which represents South American countries) met to discuss US attacks on Venezuelan democracy in a February 11 meeting. Held in Montevideo, Uruguay, to analyse the relationship between the United States and Venezuela as well as the situation inside Venezuela, the joint commission was convened at the request of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.
Leaders of Ukraine, Russia, Germany and France emerged from negotiations in Minsk, Belarus on the morning of February 12, after 16 hours of talks, and announced that agreement had been reached for a ceasefire in Ukraine's civil war. The conflict has divided Ukraine since the overthrow of the unpopular, but democratically elected, president Viktor Yanukovich in February last year.
The self-styled Islamic State (IS) may be one of the few unifying forces in the Middle East. A range of mutually antagonistic regional and global powers and non-state groups have joined the fight against them. While Western politicians’ pronouncements that the IS has declared war on the world are clichéd, they are echoed by the group’s own statements.
A New York City police officer was indicted by a grand jury on February 10 for the fatal shooting of an unarmed man in a darkened stairwell of a housing project last November, the Wall Street Journal reported. Officer Peter Liang, alongside his partner, was patrolling the stairwell in the Louis H Pink Houses, a Brooklyn housing project on Novemver 20 last year. While in the stairwell, Liang fired a single bullet, killing Akai Gurley, 28, who was in the stairwell a flight below with his girlfriend.
A coup plot against the Venezuelan government has been foiled, with both civilians and members of the military detained, President Nicolas Maduro revealed on February 12 in a televised address. Those involved were being paid in US dollars. One of the suspects had been granted a visa to enter the United States should the plot fail, Maduro said.
Three Muslim students were shot dead in what appears to be a hate crime at the University of North Carolina on February 10. Democracy Now said the next day the victims were killed when a gunman opened fire at a residential complex in Chapel Hill.
A statement released by the Confederation of Revolutionary Trade Unions of Turkey (DISK) in Diyarbakir says the union has 12,000 members who have pledged their willingness to assist in the reconstruction of Kobanê following the offensive from ISIS which left much of the city in ruins.
In response the attempted blackmail by the European Central Bank (ECB) of Greece's new anti-austerity SYRIZA government in response to its bid to renegotiate its crippling debt and austerity programs, the Party of the European Left has called for mass demonstrations from February 11-17 in support of Greece. You can read about the latest developments in Greece's battle with the European elites here.

Culture

Rosewater Written & directed by Jon Stewart Starring Gael Garcia Bernal, Kim Bodnia In cinemas now Written and directed by Jon Stewart of The Daily Show fame, Rosewater is a film set in Iran about the ever-present danger of an unaccountable government. This film is based on Iranian-Canadian journalist Maziar Bahari’s memoir And Then They Came For Me, detailing his jailing by the Iranian regime. While it focuses on the Iranian government, the film should also provoke reflection on the actions of Western governments, including Australia’s.
Sport is a huge feature of Australian society, and the way it is promoted helps shape our view of men and women. So it was refreshing to see a female sports commentator, Stephanie Brantz, leading the discussion on the ABC during the men’s football (soccer) Asian Cup held last month in Australia. The resources and media dedicated to this event, however, is something that women athletes and sports teams can only dream about. Many women athletes and teams have achieved great success, but only a few achieve the esteem and popularity of Dawn Fraser or Kathy Freeman.

Fighting Fund

There has been plenty of analysis and navel gazing from the mainstream media in the wash-up from the Queensland elections. While some looked at the personalities, others looked for someone or something to blame. One commentator, Tom Elliott writing in the Herald Sun, laid the blame for the state of the political system on voters and suggested what he called "a benign dictatorship".