Issue 1045

News

Student activists dropped a huge banner from Sydney University’s Fisher Library which read "No cuts, no fees, no dereg. Fightback now!" to raise the alarm about the federal government’s looming attempt to deregulate university fees. Six students also locked themselves to the Vice-Chancellor's office, to demonstrate their opposition, and called on all university Vice-Chancellors to oppose the bill.
An Aboriginal encampment returned to Matagarup (also known as Heirisson Island) on March 1. Police moved in on March 13 to close it down but were unsuccessful.
About 1000 Aboriginal rights activists shut down Melbourne’s CBD on March 13 in a protest against the WA government’s plan to close 150 of the state’s 274 remote Indigenous communities. The communities house more than 12,000 Aboriginal people. Protest organier Meriki Onus, a member of Warriors of the Aboriginal Resistance, said Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s comments that living in remote communities was a “lifestyle choice” were “blatantly racist”.
In much the same way that the Tony Abbott government’s attacks on Gillian Triggs deflected media attention away from the horrific substance of the Human Rights Commission’s report on children living in detention, his “lifestyle choices” comment this week ensured the media has paid little attention to the government’s cuts to Aboriginal services.
The Socialist Alliance released this statement on March 12. *** "The state government's plan to privatise the power industry’s 'poles and wires' would be a disaster for the people of NSW," Duncan Roden, Socialist Alliance candidate for the Legislative Council in the March 28 state elections, said on March 12. "The sell-off would be an economic and political setback for the public interest, and a windfall hand-out to former merchant banker [and now Premier] Mike Baird's big business mates.
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. 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. Sydney: Saturday March 21, 3pm, Resistance Centre, 22 Mountain St, Ultimo
Jenny Leong is the Greens candidate in the NSW seat of Newtown – an area often called the most progressive in the country. Green Left Weekly’s Pip Hinman spoke to her about the Greens’ platform and approach to the election. * * * What are people telling you about the proposed WestConnex tollway and Labor's response? The government wants to dump 10 lanes of traffic on the south end of King Street and spend billions on a tollway that won’t solve Sydney's transport needs.
Australian groups have condemned the decision of US President Barack Obama to issue an executive order on March 9 declaring Venezuela “a national security emergency” and imposing sanctions on Venezuelan officials. Australia-Venezuela Solidarity Network co-convenor Roberto Jorquera said: “We are extremely concerned at this latest escalation in US attacks on the sovereign nation of Venezuela. We share the concern of the Venezuelan government and many others that this could be a prelude to an economic blockade or even military attack.
Staff at the University of NSW took industrial action on March 11 in response to stalled enterprise bargaining negotiations. The National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) is seeking a pay rise of 3.5%, employment for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and greater job security, including opportunities for permanence for casual staff, some of whom have been employed on a casual basis for many years. Classes were cancelled for the day and about 100 NTEU members and students picketed six gates around the campus.
Members of the United Services Union (USU) at Liverpool City Council, NSW, stopped work on March 11 to discuss management’s attacks on members’ working conditions. The stopwork took place in Bigge Park in the centre of Liverpool from 10am. USU state secretary Graham Kelly told the meeting that Liverpool chief executive officer Carl Wulff had begun talking to councillors in August last year about the outsourcing of the council’s customer services.
The tiny community of Bulga will continue their David and Goliath fight in the courts against a coalmine that threatens the very existence of their village. The decision to go back to court comes in the wake of the March 5 approval by the Planning and Assessment Commission (PAC) for the expansion of Rio Tinto’s giant Mount Thorley-Warkworth coalmine, despite two court decisions against the project.
About 100 people gathered at the Construction Forestry Mining Energy Union hall in Lidcombe on February 27 to celebrate the release of the Cuban Five from prison in the US late last year, and to welcome the new Cuban ambassador to Australia, Jose Manuel Galego. The event was organised by the Australia-Cuba Friendship Society (ACFS).
Construction has begun on Australia’s first floating solar power plant. Designed by Infratech Industries, the plant will float on a wastewater treatment facility in the northern South Australia town of Jamestown. The solar panels will be kept cool by the water, helping prevent water evaporation by up to 90%, making them 57% more efficient than land-based solar farms. Director of Infratech Industries Felicia Whiting said: “It’s very much like a traditional solar array with the exception that it’s designed to float on the water.”
Public housing residents in Millers Point facing eviction orders are so distressed that one of them committed suicide this week, Save Millers Point campaigner Barney Gardner told a public housing protest outside NSW Parliament on March 10. The protest united several campaigns against NSW government attempts to privatise public housing in Glebe, Millers Point and elsewhere in the state, to highlight public housing as an important election issue There has been at least one other Millers Point resident who attempted suicide earlier, Gardner told Green Left Weekly.
On Wednesday March 11, members of the United Services Union (USU)at Liverpool City Council will stop work to discuss management’s attacks on members’ working conditions. The stop work is to take place in Bigge Park in the centre of Liverpool from 10am. The NSW government’s “Fit for the Future” process is requiring councils in Sydney to show significant cost savings or be amalgamated. Council’s senior management has used this process as a justification for mounting an attack on the conditions of its employees across the board.

Analysis

Several commentators have pointed out that treasurer Joe Hockey's Intergenerational Report is a partisan document designed to bash Labor over the head.
This month two reports were released in Canberra. The first was an important analysis of economic data, the 2014 national accounts issued by the Australian Bureau of Statistics. What Australia’s national accounts show is an economy in deep trouble. As David Harvey reminds us, to function satisfactorily it is necessary for capitalist economies to achieve a minimum 3% compound growth forever.
It increasingly seems these days that we don't have a prime minister, we have an instant Internet meme creator. In fact, I am starting think that Tony Abbott is proving so good at generating outrage and bemused laughter in equal measures that he might actually be a left-wing plant. How else could he prove so useless at actually pushing the hard-right, pro-rich, anti-poor, socially reactionary agenda he claims to stand for?
The NSW government’s decision to buy back coal seam gas (CSG) licences in the upper Hunter just before a state election raises more questions than it answers.
A couple of weeks ago I was campaigning with Green Left Weekly at our regular Friday afternoon Central station tunnel spot. It’s a pretty frenetic spot as hundreds of people bustle past every minute, eager to catch their trains and get home or out for the night.

To date, Vice-Chancellor of University of Technology Sydney (UTS) Attila Brungs has supported Prime Minister Tony Abbott's fee deregulation legislation. Last year he said fee deregulation “could have some positive impacts” and result in “teaching quality going up”. Arguing that it is positive that students finish their course with $100,000 debt is a hard sell, and Brungs felt the heat as students at UTS signed petitions calling on him to oppose it.

Refugees on Nauru have defied government and police attempts to ban protesting, as the United Nations adds to the growing body of evidence that Australia's asylum policy is violating human rights. The Refugee Action Coalition (RAC) said 300 refugees held a peaceful protest on March 11, “just one week after Nauruan police staged mass arrests on the island in a bid to stifle the campaign of non-cooperation being waged by the refugees”.
I am a political science student, two years into a bachelor degree at the University of Western Sydney. I major in Social and Cultural Analysis. I am also an activist, I campaign day-to-day on campus and on the streets, talking to students and workers. I am a young, unemployed, queer woman and activist from a working-class family. I am not the typical Legislative Council candidate — but that is exactly why I’m standing. Through my candidacy, I seek to actively challenge the notion that the 1% represents the 99%, or that you should be forced to vote for the “lesser evil”.
A month after the Labor landslide electoral victory, Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has begun to fine-tune her government’s opposition to the sale of public assets. The sale of public assets caused the demise of both the previous Labor and Liberal-National Party governments. The Palaszczuk Labor government was elected on a platform of halting the proposed sale of state assets, such as electricity and ports.
In This Changes Everything, author Naomi Klein raises the question of how capitalist societies will “adapt” to the people made homeless and jobless by increasingly intense and frequent natural disasters. One of the issues she focuses on is the reaction of insurance companies, pointing out that the chief executive officer of Swiss Re America admits that climate change is “what keeps us up at night”.
It is hard to distill what it is like to live in poverty into a few words, because poverty is so huge and complex, particularly for single mothers. On my own, it’s easy to feel powerless to do anything about it and as a woman the injustice of poverty makes me so angry. It makes me angry that in one of the most prosperous countries in the world, we have more than 600,000 children living in poverty. It makes me angry that right now there are women and children living in cars or in unsafe and insecure housing because rents have become impossible to manage.
The Literacy for Life Foundation in partnership with the University of New England, hosted a one-day seminar on February 28 to discuss the “Yes I Can” Aboriginal Adult Literacy campaign. This campaign has achieved notable success in raising adult literacy levels in three western NSW communities, using a model originally developed in Cuba. More than 80 people have already graduated in pilot projects in Wilcannia, Bourke and Enngonia.
The stop WestConnex campaign is intensifying heading into the NSW state election. Apart from the proposed electricity sell-off, it has become one of the top issues, damaging both Liberal and Labor. The announcement by Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore of a WestConnex forum at Sydney Town Hall, set for March 16, has ignited campaigners, and will put the unpopular and expensive plan under further scrutiny.

World

After Cyclone Pam caused widespread destruction on Vanuatu, a South Pacific archipelago, on March 14, Prime Minister Baldwin Lonsdale said the devastating cyclones increasingly hitting his nation were directly linked to climate change.
US bars UN torture investigator from jails and Guantanamo The United Nations special investigator on the use of torture criticised the US on March 11 for stalling for over two years in granting the international human rights body access to inmates at Guantanamo Bay and other federal US prisons.
The following statement was released by Aid/Watch, an independent monitor of international aid and trade, on March 5. * * * Australia spends $577 million a year on aid for Papua New Guinea (PNG). Two key focus areas are anti-corruption related — law and justice, and governance. PNG has concurrently undertaken a number of national processes to combat corruption without Australian support.
Experience proves that left-wing movements can win government, but nevertheless not hold power. Democracy, in other words the exercise of power by the people and for the people, requires much more. The problem is now being faced in Greece with with radical left party SYRIZA, which won elections in January. It will have to be faced in Spain if the new anti-austerity party Podemos wins November elections.
US hemispheric policy reached a new low on March 9 when President Barack Obama invoked emergency powers to declare “a national emergency with respect to the unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States posed by the situation in Venezuela.” Thanks to Obama’s action, the US has now blatantly rehabilitated its traditional imperial posture towards the South and challenged the continent-wide Bolivarian cause of Latin American and Caribbean independence and sovereignty.
Western Sahara is recognised by the United Nations as the last non-self-governing territory in Africa. Between 1973 and 1991 it was at war, as the pro-independence Polisario Front fought first against colonial rulers Spain, and after 1975, against Morocco, which invaded with Spanish encouragement. In 1991, a United Nations-sponsored ceasefire was supposed to bring peace, based on a referendum on independence. However, the UN-promised referendum has never been held. Overt support from France, and more tacit support from the US, has enabled Morocco to have it indefinitely postponed.
A largely unknown region to the rest of the world became one of the most talked about globally in recent months. Kobane is a town that suffered a too-harsh fate. Innocent civilians never think that one day they would face massacres — except that being a Kurd in a town like Kobane (in a largely Kurdish area in the north-west of the Syrian state), means you face such things.
What does the victory of radical left party SYRIZA in Greece's January 25 elections mean for politics in Europe, at Europe-wide and national levels? Both levels are closely intertwined, and since SYRIZA’s win have been having rapid feedback effects on each another. Across Europe, the reverberations of SYRIZA’s win are being felt with rising force, both in “peripheral” Europe, but also in the German-led European Union “core”.
Tamil women whose relatives are missing completed a three-day hunger strike at Nalloor, a town in the north of Sri Lanka, on March 8. The women, led by Northern Provincial Council member Ananthy Sasitharan, were demanding an international investigation into the disappearance of their relatives, who were arrested or abducted by the Sri Lankan armed forces. The women were joined by young people who had finished a four-day march from Mullivaikkaal, site of the genocidal massacre of Tamils by the army in the final stages of the war, which ended in May 2009.

In response to US President Barack Obama’s use of an executive order to sanction Venezuelan authorities, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro requested decree powers to pass an “anti-imperialist law to prepare for all scenarios”. On March 11, a majority of Venezuela's National Assembly voted in favour. The bill, which must be approved by 60% of the Assembly according to Venezuela’s constitution, will now move on to a second reading to obtain final approval.

The recent 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz was a reminder of the great crime of fascism, whose Nazi iconography is embedded in our consciousness. Fascism is preserved as history, as flickering footage of goose-stepping blackshirts, their criminality terrible and clear. Yet in the same liberal societies, whose war-making elites urge us never to forget, the accelerating danger of a modern kind of fascism is suppressed; for it is their fascism.
Some 20,000 people marched through central London on Saturday, in the Time to Act! protest, demanding that climate change be taken seriously by political parties in the coming General Election. Time to Act!, launched by the Campaign Against Climate Change, brought together a wide coalition of environmental and left wing organisations. The march was young, vibrant and diverse: placards from the Greens, Socialist Worker and Left Unity mixed with banners and flags from Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, the Peoples’ Assembly and trade unions.
Near the heartland of New Zealand’s renowned wine country, there is a place where visitors are not allowed to go. The peculiar large white domes that protrude from the earth in the Waihopai Valley are surrounded by razor wire and shrouded in secrecy.
Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) secretary-general Ernesto Samper, said on March 9 that the regional bloc offered total support to the government of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro after the US government’s declaration of Venezuela as a national security threat. US President Barack Obama has issued a decree listing Venezuela as a “national security emergency” for the US, citing alleged human rights abuses and corruption. The US has also imposed extra sanctions on several Venezuelan officials.
About 10,000 people took part in a peaceful demonstration in Kuala Lumpur on March 7 against the jailing of opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim, Malaysian Socialist Party (PSM) leader S. Arutchelvan (Arul) told Green Left Weekly. Anwar was jailed for a second time on trumped up “sodomy” charges. The protest was called by a new coalition called KitaLawan (“We Fightback”). Authorities responded by arresting Nik Nazmi, the youth leader of the opposition Justice Party (PKR), and Saifullah Zulkifli, a PKR organiser.
US President Barack Obama issued an Executive Order regarding Venezuela on March 9 that escalated US attacks on Venezuela's left-wing government. The order amounts to an act of aggression against Venezuela's sovereignty by declaring a “national emergency” based on claims the oil-rich South American nation threatens US national security due to alleged human rights violations and corruption.
The following speech was delivered on behalf of the Kurdish Women’s Movement by Seval Ulus to the International Women’s Day rally in Melbourne on March 8. * * * On the anniversary of the March 8, International Women’s Day, women around the world are continuing to resist against the patriarchal system. Over a hundred years ago working women stood up against an oppressive system that has raged for thousands of years. This March, their struggle is still echoing on the streets of the world. The resistance against inequality, sexism and violence is growing by the day.

Culture

I take issue with Ben Courtice’s and Emma Murphy’s criticism of my review of Bill Gammage’s book, The Biggest Estate on Earth: How Aborigines Made Australia in the January 28 Green Left Weekly. I have two major arguments with their criticism. First, Gammage has made a major contribution to our understanding of how Aboriginal Australians cared for the land for more than 60,000 years right across the continent.
The Secret History of Wonder Woman By Jill Lepore Knopf, 2014, 410 pages Wonder Woman cannot marry, according to Amazon law. She doesn’t want to, either. Especially if it would mean that she — the comic book superhero disguised as a secretary — would be stuck in the kitchen cooking dinner for her would-be domesticator, Captain Steve Trevor, the US pilot she fell in love with after rescuing him from his plane crash on her woman-only, feminist island utopia.
Grrl Fest is an independent multi-platform music and arts event, celebrating and empowering women-identified artists. This year, the Melbourne event will be celebrating its third year. Grrl Fest will be held on March 21 at the Northcote Town Hall. There will be an outdoor venue, markets, music, workshops, cocktails and cabaret. The venue is a change up from the dusty warehouse beginnings of Grrl Fest.