Issue 1044

Australia

About 400 people turned out to celebrate International Women's Day in Melbourne on March 8.

Photos by Ali Bakhtiarvandi.

Stop CSG Sydney released this statement on March 6.

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Stop CSG Sydney has welcomed the news that the NSW government has decided to cancel the coal seam gas licence covering most of metropolitan Sydney, known as Petroleum Exploration Licence 463. Now the water catchments need to be protected from CSG mining.

GREEK ELECTIONS REPORT BACK

GLW correspondent Dick Nichols reported from Athens during the Greek elections and will speak on SYRIZA and the fight against austerity.

Cairns: Saturday March 14, 2pm, Yungaburra Pub. Phone Jonathan 0437 790 306.

Perth: Wednesday March 18, 12.30pm Hosted by Murdoch University Resistance club. Murdoch University. Phone Gavin 0451 919 680.

Perth: Thursday March 19, 6pm, Perth Activist Centre, 15/509 Aberdeen St. $6/$4 conc. Phone 9218 9608 or email perth@socialist-alliance.org.

On March 3, Resistance: Young Socialist Alliance members took part in the Market Stall Day as part of orientation week at Deakin University's Waurn Ponds Campus in Geelong, Victoria.

Before the office hours of the event started, two Resistance members, both students at Deakin University, were told to change out of their T-shirts which displayed the classic feminist Rosie the Riveter image with the text “Up Yours Abbott”.

About 30 people gathered in the Latin American Plaza, near Sydney’s Central Station on March 5 for a vigil to mark the second anniversary of the death of Venezuelan revolutionary leader Hugo Chavez. The vigil was organised by the Bolivarian Circle, supported by the Australia-Venezuela Solidarity Network (AVSN).

Thousands of people rallied around the country on March 4 to protest against the federal government’s anti-worker laws.

Organised by the Australian Council of Trade Unions, the rallies protested against a range of government policies including cuts to wages and conditions, the deregulation of university fees, cuts to the ABC, and slashing unemployment benefits.

The internet will stay free and open thanks to a ruling by the Federal Communications Commission in the US on February 26. Internet activists waged a grassroots campaign to protect “net neutrality” and galvanised nearly 4 million submissions in support of the campaign to prevent internet service providers (ISPs) discriminating against particular websites.

Rough sleepers in Sydney are under attack from the NSW government. Many have had their possessions removed from their usual sleeping places at the same time as funding for refuges is being cut.

The ABC’s Four Corners recently exposed the practice of live baiting in the multi-billion dollar greyhound racing industry.

It showed greyhound trainers strapping piglets, possums and other animals to mechanical lures and encouraging the dogs to chase them and then maul them while still alive. The trainers say “blooding” the greyhounds helps the dogs run faster.

The suffering inflicted on the bait animals is horrific, but “blooding” is just one part of this notoriously corrupt industry.

Thousands of people threatening to hold a late night pyjama party at Perth train station have forced a backdown from the state government.

State transport minister Dean Nalder issued a media statement on March 3 promising that late night trains on Friday and Saturday evenings would remain.

Previously the Public Transport Authority had announced that the 1am and 2:15am train services would be cancelled.

World

The Bolivarian Alliance of the Peoples of Our America (ALBA) is an anti-imperialist trading bloc first formed by the left-wing governments of Venezuela and Cuba to promote trade on the basis of solidarity rather than competition.

It has since expanded to include 11 nations, with Venezuela and Cuba joined by Bolivia, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Dominica, Antigua and Barbuda, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Saint Lucia, Grenada and Saint Kitts and Nevis. Honduras was an ALBA member, but was forced to withdraw when a 2009 US-backed coup installed a right-wing dictatorship.

The Bolivian government said the Andean nation’s gross domestic product grew US$34 billion last year, establishing it as one of the fastest growing economies in the region.

Vice-President Alvaro Garcia Linera said that the country’s Social Community Productive Economic Model allowed for the economy to grow, despite a fall in prices for raw materials.

“In 1996 the Bolivian economy accounted for $5.3 billion and by 2005, $9.5 billion dollars,” Garcia said.

The left-wing Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN) has won 86 of the 262 mayorships of El Salvador in March 1 elections, including the capital San Salvador, according to preliminary reports, TeleSUR English said on March 4.

The ruling FMLN also announced it won a legislative majority in the National Assembly and the Central American Parliament.

The FMLN said it would now govern areas covering more than 65% of the population, compared to 45% in the past.

Bolivia's fast growing economy fuelled by social spending

The Bolivian government said the Andean nation’s gross domestic product grew US$34 billion last year, establishing it as one of the fastest growing economies in the region, TeleSUR English said on February 17.

Vice-President Alvaro Garcia Linera said that the country’s Social Community Productive Economic Model allowed for the economy to grow, despite a fall in prices for raw materials.

“In 1996 the Bolivian economy accounted for $5.3 billion and by 2005, $9.5 billion dollars,” Garcia said.

The Justice Department’s investigation of the Ferguson Police Department has uncovered an array of racially discriminatory practices that were commonplace in the St Louis, Missouri, suburb, Jack Holmes wrote at TheDailybeast.com on March 3.

Holmes said: “Along with systemic issues, a pattern of personal racial bias among members of law enforcement was uncovered, perhaps best evidenced by a number of racist emails released with the report.”

LA cops shoot dead homeless man

Los Angeles police fatally shot a man on March 1 in a confrontation that was caught on video, TeleSUR English reported on March 2.

The shocking footage shows several officers struggling with a man in an area known for its homeless population. The struggle continued once the man was on the ground and several shots were fired.

Kurdish journalist Ozgur Amed was sentenced on February 21 to three years in prison for political activism for the rights of the Kurdish people, Firat News Agency reported on February 25. The 7th Criminal High Court of Diyarbakir sentenced him under Turkish Penal Code Article 220/6 for “committing an illegal organisation crime while not being an illegal organisation member”.

The Bolivarian Alliance of the Peoples of Our America (ALBA) is an anti-imperialist trading bloc first formed by the left-wing governments of Venezuela and Cuba to promote trade on the basis of solidarity rather than competition.

It has since expanded to include Bolivia, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Dominica, Antigua and Barbuda, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Saint Lucia, Grenada and Saint Kitts and Nevis. Honduras was an ALBA member, but was forced to withdraw when a 2009 US-backed coup installed a right-wing dictatorship.

A new poll released by International Consulting Services, featured several results that suggest Chavismo — the political project pushed by late Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez — continues to be the preferred political option for the country.

The poll, carried out on the eve of the second anniversary of the death of Chavez's death on March 5, found 62% of Venezuelans consider themselves Chavistas — “partisans … of the ideals” of the late Venezuelan leader.

Hugo Chavez was Venezuela's president from 1998 until his death from cancer on March 5, 2013. He led a mass process known as the Bolivarian revolution to redistribute wealth, promote popular power and challenge US domination and exploitation of Latin America. The goal of the Bolivarian revolution is to create a “socialism for the 21st century”.

The 50th anniversary of the assassination of Malcolm X, one of the greatest leaders of the Black liberation movement of the 1960s, was marked on February 21.

Russian revolutionary VI Lenin once wrote: “During the lifetime of great revolutionaries, the oppressing classes constantly hounded them, received their theories with the most savage malice, the most furious hatred and the most unscrupulous campaigns of lies and slander.

The Irish coalition government of Fine Gael and the Labour Party tried to turn the tables on its left-wing opponents in recent days, with efforts to portray them as “dangerous” and “anti-democratic”.

The exchanges came amid ongoing demonstrations over the jailing of anti-austerity protestors in Dublin. Five activists were ordered to be locked up by a court last month for failing to stay away from the installation of water metres.

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, which believes the party should either prepare for, or at least consider, leaving the eurozone and returning to the drachma.

Sinn Fein Member of European Parliament for Ireland South Liadh Ni Riada began a stailc teanga (“language strike”) in the European Parliament.

The representative of the Irish republican party is taking the action against the second-class status afforded the Irish language by the European Union (EU) and to highlight the Irish government’s lack of action on the issue.

In protest, Ni Riada is only speaking Irish for the duration of the Seachtain na Gaeilge (“Irish Language Week”), which runs from March 1 to 17.

Offshore oil drilling operations off Western Sahara, carried out by the US firm Kosmos Energy, were denounced by Western Sahara Resources Watch (WSRW) on March 2.

“Kosmos Energy did nothing to obtain the consent of the people of Western Sahara,” said WSRW chair Erik Hagen.

The Dallas-based company said its exploration well had not yielded a commercial find and would be plugged, Associated Press said on March 2.

About 150 relatives of missing people protested outside a hearing of the Presidential Commission on Missing Persons in Trincomalee, a city on the east coast of Sri Lanka, on February 28.

The protesters were mainly Tamil women whose relatives are still missing after being arrested or abducted by the Sri Lankan armed forces. They expressed their lack of confidence in any commission appointed by the Sri Lankan government, and demanded investigations by a United Nations team.

Venezuela has launched a campaign against the environmental toll of hydraulic fracturing in the United States with a new exhibition entitled “Fucking Fracking”.

Government official Ernesto Villegas announced the inauguration of the exhibition on March 2. It will veature talks by economists and oil experts, as well as an anti-fracking play.

The exhibition's logo is a fractured heart dripping with black oil, with dried up leaves coming from the arteries.

Analysis

The Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Amendment Bill 2014, also known as the “data retention” bill, if passed, will be the third installment of sweeping powers granted to Australian intelligence agencies.

It will mean that every move you make, every call you take, the government will be watching you.

How does data retention impede the role of investigative journalists, political reporters and whistleblowers?

1: METADATA THEFT


As the sun sets on Australia’s mining boom the RBA feels it needs to stimulate the economy by lowering interest rates.

In February the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) reduced the cash rate to 2.25%, a rate it then maintained at its March meeting.

While there has been a great deal of commentary on this in the mainstream press, especially in the Australian Financial Review, the left press (for lack of a better term) has been stunningly silent.


The ABS's steam-powered computer systems are too outdated to run a census.

The various agencies of Australian governments have a capacity to access data generated by individuals that is unprecedented — one of the “benefits” of the communications revolution that we are living through.

When Prime Minister Tony Abbott used a March 3 press conference at Parliament House to announce the deployment of 300 more soldiers to Iraq, it was impossible to ignore the political theatre to serve a partisan domestic agenda.

If you missed it in the content of his talk, you couldn't miss the no-less-than eight flags propped up behind him as he spoke.

A combination of relentless attacks on the living standards of ordinary people and Abbott's incompetence has made his government one of the most unpopular in Australian history.

In August last year, Prime Minister Tony Abbott thought it would be a good idea to send 1000 Australian soldiers to Ukraine. Their intended purpose was to guard the crash site of the Malaysian Airlines plane that was shot down there killing 38 Australian citizens.

The proposal was quietly dropped after military planners advised that, as none of the troops could speak either Ukrainian or Russian, and would not be able to tell the difference between the militias of either country, it was not such a great idea after all.

Former Governor-General Quentin Bryce, who chaired the Special Task force on Domestic and Family Violence, handed the report Not Now, Not Ever: Putting an End to Domestic and Family Violence in Queensland to Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk on February 28.

The task force was established on September 10 last year by the previous LNP government and charged to deliver its findings by February 28. It included several now-former MPs.


The ABS's steam-powered computer systems are too outdated to run a census.

The various agencies of Australian governments have a capacity to access data generated by individuals that is unprecedented — one of the “benefits” of the communications revolution that we are living through.

Blink and you might have missed it, but February 27 was the “Great Debate” between Luke Foley and Mike Baird.

The media reported that Premier Baird handed Labor’s Foley his election slogan, because Baird has no plan B for infrastructure without the electricity sell-off to fund $20 billion in projects.

“We will not be treated like slaves,” a refugee forced to live on Nauru said during a series of public protests held by refugees on the island.

Hundreds of refugees living in the community, alongside asylum seekers still held in detention camps, have been holding a campaign of non-cooperation and protest since February 25. Children have boycotted class, refugees with jobs have begun a stay-away strike and many are refusing to talk to their case mangers.

The onshore gas industry in south-east Australia is in trouble. Public opposition, low international oil prices and projected supply shortfalls have combined to cast doubt on the profitability of the industry.

The international finance company Credit Suisse has indicated that the LNG (liquefied natural gas) export facilities at Gladstone in Queensland may fall short of meeting their export contracts in coming years, by up to 30%.

If Tony Abbott’s government has its way, new laws further empowering Australia's secret police to greatly expand their mass surveillance powers will be rammed through federal parliament by mid-March.

But it will succeed only if the Australian Labor Party backs the Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Amendment (Data Retention) Bill.

“The findings of guilty are set aside and dismissed and appellant’s sentence is vacated.”

With this statement on February 18 the United States Court of Military Commission Review (CMCR), found David Hicks innocent of a previous guilty plea of providing military support to terrorism.

Speaking to Green Left Weekly, Hicks said: “I am not jumping up and down for joy. I am very tired by it all. Then there are the government’s and media’s attitude to it all. I am quite fed up with it all.”

Despite widespread public opposition, Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Education Minister Christopher Pyne are determined to get their higher education deregulation bill through the Senate.

Students, on the other hand, are just as determined to stop it.

Mia Sanders, the UWS Bankstown Student Council Secretary and an education activist, told Green Left Weekly that students would not back down.

Health minister Sussan Ley’s announcement that the GP co-payment has been dropped was welcomed by Save Medicare Sydney (SMS). But the group warns: “Medicare is not safe while the rebate remains frozen and the government looks for other ways to dismantle universal health care.”

Jean Parker from SMS said: “Prime Minister [Tony] Abbott and Ley want Medicare bulk-billing to become a safety-net for the ‘vulnerable’.

Resistance!

Every activist has at some point been told that activism is pointless today, that it achieves nothing and hasn’t since the ’70s. Others say that there’s no point to feminist activism in particular because we already have gender equality. A quick look at the issues feminists are struggling for, and the wins we’ve had recently, show that neither claim is true, nor are they likely to be for some time.

1. Zoe’s Law

Culture

This week RE-fugue is happening. An artistic residency by Marziya Mohammedali about the intersection between art and activism. It's aimed at amplifying the voices of refugees, including those currently in detention and inspiring people to get active.

As you enter the space you're confronted with an installation that resembles a tent from Manus Island detention centre. Depending on when you attend the residency, you might get to help out creating the installation — though you've missed the really fun part of getting the tarpaulins up.

No Good Men Among the Living: America, the Taliban and the War Through Afghan Eyes
By Anand Gopal
Metropolitan books, 2014
304 pp, $27

Anand Gopal's book should be compulsory reading for every federal politician in Australia. Nobody could finish it and still have a shred of belief in US foreign policy.

What comes through this history is that it is very dangerous to be an enemy of the US. However, it is just as dangerous to be an ally.

Citizenfour won the Oscar for best documentary on February 22, an award that its director Laura Poitras and journalist Glenn Greenwald collected, later joined on stage by Edward Snowden's partner Lindsay Mills.

“The disclosures of Edward Snowden don’t only expose a threat to our privacy but to our democracy itself,” said Poitras when receiving the Oscar.

“When the decisions that rule us are taken in secret we lose the power to control and govern ourselves.”

Citizenfour
Directed by Laura Poitras
Staring Edward Snowden, Glenn Greenwald & William Binney
In cinemas now

Directed, filmed, and produced by Laura Poirtas, Citizenfour is a documentary about exposing truths those in power would like hidden, and the danger of mass surveillance in our present society.

Focusing on the case of National Security Agency (NSA) whistleblower Edward Snowden, who exposed the US government body's wholesale spying around the world, it takes the viewer on a thrilling journey to reveal how the story unfolded away from the spotlight.

The son of poor villagers in Niger, Bombino was set to come a long way to perform at WOMADelaide, the annual world music and dance festival held in Adelaide from March 6 to 9. His unique blend of desert blues and hardcore rock 'n' roll was sure to fire up this year’s main stage. Vanessa Powell spoke to the performer.

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Bombino, can you tell me about the traditional music of Niger? Does your music incorporate traditional styles?

Fighting Fund

Recently released data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) shows that the pay gap between men and women is the highest it has been since records began in 1994.

On average, women earn 18.8% less than men for full-time work. The average full-time weekly earnings for men is $1587.50 while for women it is $298 less. The gap had been closing, and decreased to around 15% in 2005 but has since surpassed its 1994 level.

One factor is that male-dominated industries pay more than female-dominated industries. Miners, who are 85% male, earn more than social workers, who are 77% female.