Issue 1043

News

The Redfern Aboriginal Tent Embassy (RATE) is working hard to defend its right to stay at its current location following being served with an eviction notice from the Aboriginal Housing Company (AHC) on February 20. The eviction orders mobilised a number of supporters and media to defend the site during the past week. So far, AHC head Mick Mundine has not called in police to shut the embassy down.
More than 1000 people attended a meeting at the Enmore theatre in Newtown on February 23 to hear from the builders of the $12 billion motorway WestConnex. The WestConnex Delivery Authority organised the meeting as a community consultation to answer what they call “misinformation” about the project. But they faced an overwhelmingly hostile reaction from the crowd. The crowd booed and heckled WestConnex Delivery Authority chief executive Dennis Cliche as he tried to promote the benefits of the motorway.
Workers in Australia are under an unprecedented and multi-fronted attack, designed to strip away hard-fought wages and conditions, including penalty rates and industrial rights. This attack is part of a drive by Australian capital to shore up profits in the context of a global economic slow down.
In the past three years, the Australian government has recovered more than $41 million that had been fraudulently claimed by private employment agencies. These for-profit employment agencies were found to have submitted forged and doctored records and lodged inflated fee claims. One source, a former agency employee, told ABC’s Four Corners that they had seen “thousands” of jobseeker records modified by the agency to support suspicious claims against the taxpayer.
The Australian Council of Trade Unions says the federal government has cut 8000 public sector jobs since coming to power and plans to slash another 8000 more. Now the government is making a pay offer to public servants that the Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) says is, in effect, a pay cut. The government’s offer of a 3.25% pay rise over three years to employees in the Department of Human Services (DHS) is below the inflation rate — 1.7% according to Trading Economics.
The impending execution in Indonesia of two Australian drug couriers — Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan – has focused Australian media attention on the horrors of capital punishment. Their lawyers, families and supporters, particularly artist Ben Quilty, have ensured that the two have been humanised.
Resistance: Young Socialist Alliance released this statement on February 25. * * * Resistance: Young Socialist Alliance condemns the passing of the Higher Education and Research Amendment Bill, which included fee-deregulation, in the House of Representatives on February 25. This legislation has passed despite the ongoing opposition from students, the National Tertiary Education Union, economists and progressive political parties.
A crowd of up to 80 people rallied on the steps of Western Australian parliament house on February 25 to demand justice for the family of Miss Dhu. Dhu was a 22-year-old Aboriginal woman who died in police custody on August 4 last year. She was imprisoned in Port Hedland for non-payment of fines.
The other night the phone rang. I picked it up and a recorded voice said something like “The NSW Premier Mike Baird isn’t going to lease the state’s electricity assets. He’s not going to sell them. He is going to create jobs. Don’t be fooled.” Indeed, I thought. This happened on the same day that the Hunter Valley’s unemployment rate topped 10% and set a 10-year record. The link between unemployment and privatisation is so obvious that Baird can’t say the “P” word. Gladys Berejiklian, Baird’s Minister for the Hunter, is also coy about the “P” word.
GREEK ELECTIONS REPORTBACK GLW correspondent Dick Nichols reported from Athens during the Greek elections and will speak on SYRIZA and the fight against austerity. Newcastle: Sun March 28, 2pm at the Resistance Centre, 472 Hunter St. Phone (02) 4926 5328. Sydney: Tue March 10, 6pm in the New Law School Lecture Theatre 024, Sydney University. CAIRNS WEEKEND ESCAPE
The Refugee Action Collective held a public meeting in Melbourne on February 23 to discuss the situation in Sri Lanka after the January 8 presidential election, at which Maithripala Sirisena defeated incumbent president Mahinda Rajapaksa. Trevor Grant, the author of Sri Lanka’s Secrets: how the Rajapaksa regime gets away with murder, told the meeting that Sirisena had been a member of Rajapaksa’s cabinet for 10 years. He was acting defence minister in May 2009, in the final days of the war, when the slaughter of Tamils by the Sri Lankan armed forces was at its height.
The Redfern Tent Embassy survives, a week after an eviction notice was served demanding that they vacate by February 23. For four long days, locals and supporters have kept watch to protect the Block from an expected hoard of Redfern police coming to enforce the eviction. About 20 people gathered at the embassy on Monday after the initial 5am call out for supporters, and about 150 people were at the embassy after Mick Mundine, the Chief Executive of the Aboriginal Housing Corporation (AHC), said on NITV that he would “definitely be coming in the afternoon”.
Legal experts have criticised new child protection laws pushed through Northern Territory parliament on February 18 for not including safeguards to protect Aboriginal culture and risking a repeat of the damage done to the Stolen Generations. The new legislation allows children who are removed from their parents by the Department of Children and Families to be placed on Permanent Care Orders, which would mean that their carers would have control over most decisions to do with the child, free from judicial or DCF review.
Last week, as mainstream media across Australia reported on recovery efforts in Queensland following Cyclone Marcia, thousands of Aboriginal people displaced by a different cyclone in the Northern Territory were all but ignored. *** DONATE TO THE CYCLONE LAM DISASTER SUPPORT CAMPAIGN ***

Analysis

An alliance of 46 Sovereign First Nations from across the Murray Darling Basin has proposed a new partnership between government and traditional owners to ensure key reforms on Aboriginal ownership and management of water entitlements are fulfilled.
It seems there is no end to the incredible bias facing the poor, beleaguered Tony Abbott government. If it isn't an ABC journalist daring to ask a government minister a question they don't like, it's the Human Rights Commission releasing a report on the plight of children in immigration detention centres that even the most impartial observer would have to admit shows a distinct and unmistakable bias in favour of respecting human rights.
As the federal government lurches from crisis to crisis, the hand-wringing and finger pointing in the mainstream press continues. A piece by Murdoch mouthpiece Janet Albrechtsen published in the Australian on February 18, blames the Australian public. Titled “We, the people, are the threat to fiscal reform”, Albrechtsen continues the conservative mantra that argues that government budget debt is intergenerational theft.
It seems there is no end to the incredible bias facing the poor, beleaguered Tony Abbott government. If it isn't an ABC journalist daring to ask a government minister a question they don't like, it's the Human Rights Commission releasing a report on the plight of children in immigration detention centres that even the most impartial observer would have to admit shows a distinct and unmistakable bias in favour of respecting human rights.
Cartoon by Norrie. Bellicose and racist jingoism is the last refuge of scoundrel Prime Minister Tony Abbott. His February 23 “National Security Statement” was blatant incitement of hatred, bigotry and suspicion against Australia's Muslim minority.
The Redfern Tent Embassy survives, a week after an eviction notice was served demanding that they vacate by February 23. For four long days, locals and supporters have kept watch to protect the Block from an expected hoard of Redfern police coming to enforce the eviction. About 20 people gathered at the embassy on Monday after the initial 5am call out for supporters, and about 150 people were at the embassy after Mick Mundine, the Chief Executive of the Aboriginal Housing Corporation (AHC), said on NITV that he would “definitely be coming in the afternoon”.
“Labor’s public transport policy lacks vision. It’s just more of the same — and follows the Liberals’ privatisation agenda”, John Coleman, Socialist Alliance candidate for the Legislative Council said. “Labor promised $1 billion for a small-scale light rail project to run from Parramatta to Homebush, matching the Liberals’ promise. But while any money spent on public transport rather than roads is money well spent, Labor’s policy doesn’t address the real problems.
The Darwin Asylum Seeker Support and Advocacy Network released this statement on February 27. * * * The Darwin Asylum Seeker Support and Advocacy Network (DASSAN) has called on the government to immediately halt all transfers of asylum seekers to offshore detention centres until the report into allegations of sexual abuse on Nauru has been released. The Moss Inquiry report was provided to the Minister for Immigration and Border protection on February 9, but its findings have not been made public, and there has been no timeframe provided for its release.
The devastating effects of the coal industry on public health in the NSW Hunter Valley were highlighted in a public forum at Glebe Town Hall on February 23. The forum was organised by the Balmain Defenders of Land, Water, Future and Climate Change, and Climate Change Balmain-Rozelle.
Frack Free Tasmania held a public meeting on February 18 at Sustainable Living Tasmania to warn about possible exploration for shale oil and gas in the island state. The current moratorium on fracking in Tasmania is due to end on March 31. The government put out an issues paper which received 157 submissions, 90% of which were opposed to fracking being allowed in the state. The government responded to the review on February 26 by extending the moratorium until 2020.

World

In Greece's January 25 elections, 388,000 people voted for the fascist, neo-Nazi party Golden Dawn. The election was largely fought as a contest of hope and solidarity against fear and austerity. Radical left party SYRIZA defeated right-wing establishment party New Democracy. SYRIZA placed first in the popular vote with 36% of votes, but the openly fascist party Golden Dawn took third place in the poll with 6.3%. This is significant for three reasons:
Tens of thousands gathered in the North Carolina capital of Raleigh on February 8 for what organisers called the largest civil rights rally in the South since the famous Selma march in 1965. The Mass Moral March has been held annually to protest the right-wing state government’s attacks on voting rights, education, the environment, healthcare and women’s rights.
US President Obama vetoed a Republican bill approving the Keystone XL oil pipeline on February 24. Both houses of the Republican-dominated US Congress had passed a bill that approved building the highly controversial pipeline designed to bring crude from Alberta's tar sands in Canada to refineries in the US South.
He is an economist, academic, poet, blogger, video game consultant, libertarian Marxist, motorbike rider and accidental fashion icon. Now he’s the holder of possibly the most difficult job in the world: Greece’s finance minister. Meet Yanis Varoufakis, SYRIZA Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’s right hand man and the key negotiator between Greece and its creditors. In downtown Athens, Varoufakis is well liked among the public. He is the definitive cosmopolitan, self-made man who sees himself as a citizen of Europe as much as Greece.
Radical candidate for mayor of Chicago Jesus Garcia finished in second place in the first round of the city’s election on February 24. Incumbent Rahm Emanuel, chief of staff for President Barak Obama from 2008-2010, failed to reach the 50%-plus-one threshold, so there will be a runoff election. The New York Times said: “It was a serious blow after a campaign in which Mr. Emanuel had a huge fundraising edge over lesser-known opponents, not to mention an in-person endorsement last week from President Obama in his adopted hometown.”
Support for the Greek government headed by radical left party SYRIZA is growing, new polls show. The polls also found high support for SYRIZA's negotiations with its creditors, which secured a deal to extend its loans package by four months. The deal came with significant concessions to the institutions that have imposed austerity on Greece, which led to strong criticisms from SYRIZA's Left Platform.
Political parties in El Salvador formally wrapped up their campaigns on February 25 ahead of local and legislative elections schedule for March 1, with polls showing the left-wing Farabundu Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN) ahead of right-wing rivals. Electors in Latin America's smallest country will head to the polls to elect mayors as well as representatives to the country's Legislative Assembly.
When unionised oil workers at the Tesoro Golden Eagle plant in Martinez, California walked off the job on February 1 to demand safer working conditions, they received some unexpected company on the picket line. Since the start of the strike, which has expanded from nine to 11 refineries nationwide, environmental activists with Communities for a Better Environment have joined members of the United Steelworkers (USW) union for their daily protests outside the plant.
The huge multinational US oil corporation Texaco operated in Ecuador from 1964 until 1992 (Texaco merged with Chevron in 2001). The corporation poured 72 billion litres of oil waste and 45 million litres of crude oil over 2 million hectares of land in Santa Elena province — land which included the Amazon rainforest, rivers and agricultural land. Texaco just poured the oil into ground-connected pipes which just poured oil directly into the rivers and forests.
If history is any guide, it is reasonable to assume that Greece’s recently-elected left-wing SYRIZA government will be subjected to a foreign-backed destabilisation campaign and possible attempts to install a new right-wing authoritarian regime. There is a long history in Greece of the left being suppressed by the oligarchy collaborating with outside forces.
Fifteen police descended on the home of Socialist Party of Malaysia (PSM) general secretary S Arutchelvan (Arul) in Kajang, a suburban satellite of the capital city Kuala Lumpur, on February 19. They detained him under the Sedition Act for a statement he issued on behalf of the PSM after opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim’s conviction on a sodomy charge.
Venezuela has faced new attempts to subvert its democracy and roll-back the pro-poor process of social change known as the Bolivarian revolution, which aims to build a “socialism of the 21st century”. The attacks have taken the form of new US-imposed sanctions, an economic war by private business owners to cause shortages and what Venezuelan officials say is a thwarted coup plot to overthrow the government. On February 25, Venezuelan National Assembly president Diosdado Cabello presented evidence relating the the coup plot thwarted earlier in the month.
A second round of talks between US and Cuban diplomats began in Washington on February 27, with the aim of restoring diplomatic relations. US President Barack Obama announced, in what he termed the most significant Cuba policy shift in more than 50 years, that he will pursue diplomatic relations and urge Congress to dismantle the US blockade of Cuba.
Greece’s new SYRIZA government submitted its list of proposed economic reforms to the Eurogroup (the finance ministers of eurozone nations) on February 23 as a precondition for its international creditors to approve a four-month loan extension. The deal was signed on February 20. With Greece’s existing loan arrangement expiring on February 28 and bankruptcy looming, a last-minute deal was finally agreed after three weeks of intense negotiations. The talks had been characterised by daily — sometimes hourly — twists and turns, claims and counterclaims, leaks and threats.
The SYRIZA government's list of reforms, drawn up as part of its temporary four-month loan extension deal, was accepted by the Eurogroup on February 24. In a February 25 statement, the Party of the European Left (EL) said: "The fight for democracy and against austerity in Europe is far from being finished, but this bridging agreement is a very important first step.

Culture

Zombie Economics: How Dead Ideas Still Walk Amongst Us John Quiggin Black Inc., 2012 265 pages, $26.95 (pb) “Being already dead,” says John Quiggin of zombie ideas in economics, “they can absorb all kinds of damage and keep lumbering on.” And so, despite severe reality checks such as the historical Great Depression and the more recent Global Financial Crisis (GFC), classical free market economics continues to lead its undead life in the neoliberal form Quiggin calls “market liberalism”.
Two members of the Russian punk band Pussy Riot Nadya Tolokonnikova and Masha Alyokhina, who were jailed for songs criticising Russian President Vladimir Putin, have released a song and video titled "I Can't Breathe". The video shows them being buried alive while wearing Russian riot police uniforms. The Guardian said on February 18 that the song is inspired by their recent trip to New York and the death of African American Eric Garner at the hands of an NYPD officer.
Stolen Provocalz & Lady Lash Released Invasion Day, January 26, 2015 $5 all funds go to the Smith Street Working Party www.provocalz.bandcamp.com Lady Lash says it was her own family's trauma that inspired her to record "Stolen", a song about Indigenous children being taken from their parents. "My grandmother, she went through a lot of the stuff where she was hidden," says the mother-of-three, who recorded the song in collaboration with a fellow Aboriginal rapper and parent, Provocalz.

Good news (for a change)

Tasmania bans fracking for five years The Tasmanian Liberal government will extend the ban on gas fracking until 2020 the minister for primary industries Jeremy Rockliff said on February 26. He said the ban was needed to protect the $1 billion a year agriculture industry and “protect Tasmania's reputation for producing fresh, premium and safe produce.” The move has been backed by the Tasmanian Farmers and Graziers' Association, Dairy Australia and Wine Tasmania as well as the Greens. RADICAL CANDIDATE CHALLENGES CHICAGO MAYOR