Issue 1049

News

VIC TRADES HALL CONDEMNS SDA ON PENALTY RATES The Victorian Trades Hall Council has condemned the Shop Distributive and Allied Employees' Association’s agreement with the South Australian Chamber of Commerce to remove penalty rates for retail workers. The VTHC said it opposed any move to further the federal government’s agenda by attacking hard fought entitlements and condemns attacks by the business lobby to reduce workers' wages. EAST WEST LINK PAYOUT
SOUTH AUSTRALIA’S ABORIGINAL COMMUNITIES TO REMAIN OPEN Remote Aboriginal communities in South Australia will remain open despite federal funding cuts. Last year, the federal government announced it would leave it up to the states to fund remote communities. About 150 Aboriginal communities in Western Australia are under threat of closure after the Western Australian government refused to step in and fund them.
BRISBANE Join us on International Workers’ Memorial Day on Tuesday April 28 at 10am to remember all those who have been injured or killed at work and renew the call for safe workplaces. Emma Miller Place, Roma St, Brisbane. CAIRNS Come to a May Day Dinner on Friday May 1 at 7pm to celebrate workers’ solidarity. With Jeremiah Johnson and band, great speakers and bar. Entry including food $35/$25; entry only $10/$7. Machans Beach Hall. Ph Jonathan 0437 790 306. MELBOURNE
Australian Nuclear Free Alliance released this statement on April 14. *** A delegation of Australian nuclear free campaigners travelled to Canada to present at the World Uranium Symposium being held in Quebec City on April 14 to 16. The group included representatives from Aboriginal communities impacted by nuclear projects and national environment groups.
Federal education minister Christopher Pyne has given $4 million to Danish climate sceptic Bjørn Lomborg to set up the Australian Consensus Centre at the University of Western Australia. Lomborg is a well-known climate policy sceptic and the director of the Copenhagen Consensus Center, whose funding was cut by the Danish government in 2012.
Community Solidarity Action was launched in Darwin to respond to funding cuts under the federal government's Indigenous Advancement Strategy and to protest against the closure of communities in Western Australia. The group was launched by community organisations, unions and individuals concerned about or affected by the recent funding announcements and community closures.
In December last year, minister for employment Eric Abetz and Treasurer Joe Hockey announced the terms of reference for an inquiry into Australia’s workplace relations framework by the Productivity Commission that was established by John Howard’s Coalition government in 1998. In a paper released in January, the Productivity Commission indicated that what was up for grabs were the minimum wage, penalty rates, unfair dismissal laws and the role of unions in collective bargaining.
Environment Victoria released this statement on April 14. *** Environment Victoria has labelled new figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) identifying 2300 job losses in the renewable energy sector in just two years as proof that the Tony Abbott government’s anti-renewable energy policies are hurting the economy. The ABS analysis of employment in the renewable energy sector is a first, and comes following a failure of the Abbott government to negotiate an outcome over the Renewable Energy Target (RET).
The Palestine Action Group released the following statement on April 9. * * * Today, April 9, we remember 67 years since the Deir Yassin massacre. Over 100 Palestinians were murdered, with many children left orphaned. Palestinians soon began to leave their homes after witnessing such atrocities, even before the mass exodus that came with the Nakba. And still 67 years on, the effects of diaspora are being felt harshly by Palestinians. After being forced to flee their homeland, Palestinians in the Yarmouk refugee camp are under attack yet again.
Clashes erupted on April 15 at the Wickham Point detention centre in Darwin when refugees resisted attempts to send them back to the Australian-run concentration camp in Nauru where they have suffered serious human rights abuses.
Police have cautioned the Knitting Nannas Against Gas that their actions could be illegal and warned them to stop protesting. For three years the group has met weekly outside the offices of MPs in NSW to protest against coal seam gas development in the state. The nannas say their knitting is a form of non-violent political activism to remind politicians they are being watched.

Thousands of people took to the streets of Melbourne and Sydney on April 10 to protest against the forced closure of remote Aboriginal communities.

Zakia Baig from the Australian Hazara Women’s Friendship Network speaking at the rally. One hundred and fifty people rallied in Melbourne on April 11 against the kidnapping of 31 Hazara people in Afghanistan. This action was part of Australia-wide rallies.
More than 100 people joined a rally at Sydney Town Hall on April 11 to demand "US hands off Venezuela!" The rally demands were: "No more coups; End foreign intervention; Respect Venezuela's revolution; and Peace in Latin America!"

Analysis

Recently I went to an asylum seeker forum at Gosford Anglican Parish. Hosted by the awesome Father Rod Bower and chaired by Labor’s Senator Deborah O’Neill, it featured special guest speaker, Labor’s Shadow immigration minister Richard Marles. I was nervous when I arrived. When I left, I was furious! Here’s why… Despite talking a lot, and very well, Marles made just seven points. Let’s take a look at each of these points individually. 1. Liberal is worse than Labor
Tony Abbott’s government is gearing up for another budget, and much has been made about how to raise revenue and what to cut. The government has toned down its previous rhetoric about a budget emergency, which appears to have disappeared despite the government failing to pass most of last year’s budget measures, but it still looks as if they will make the most disadvantaged pay while keeping things sweet for their mates in the big end of town.
Danny Nahlliah, Australia First Candidate, Pastor for Catch the Fire Ministries and keynote speaker at the Melbourne Reclaim Australia rally on April 4, rang Tom Elliott on 3AW on April 7 and accused Socialist Alliance of planting neo-Nazis in the Reclaim Australia crowd to make the rallies and participants look bad. This is an accusation that is even more ridiculous than their other claim that Halal certification funds terrorism.
Last week the Minister for Social Services Scott Morrison announced that from January 1 next year parents who do not vaccinate their children for reasons of “conscientious objection” will be denied access to child care payments (Child Care Benefit and Child Care Rebate) and the Family Tax Benefit Part A end of year supplement. These payments are worth up to $15,000 a year.
The head of the Business Council of Australia (BCA), Catherine Livingstone, has called for a national “conversation” about what the federal government and the business community euphemistically call “economic reform”. Ever in thrall to trickle-down economics, they manage to talk in “doublespeak”, a close relative of the doublethink that George Orwell wrote about in his novel Nineteen Eighty-Four.
The 100th anniversary of the Gallipoli landing is nearly upon us and the government decided to kick off commemorating the sacrifice of nearly 9000 Australian soldiers in the failed invasion of Turkey by sending 300 more soldiers to take part in the seemingly endless failed war on Iraq. This government is sometimes accused of insensitivity, but who could disagree that the best way to remember a disastrous invasion of a country half-way around the world that poses no threat to Australia on behalf of an incompetent foreign power is to repeat the exercise.
As the Galilee Basin project faces legal challenges by Aboriginal and other community groups and international banks refuse to finance it, the environment movement is focusing its campaign on ensuring that the Australian Big 4 banks also withhold finance.
Four Jobs for Women leaders in front of the steelworks in the early 1980s. Photo: Jobs for Women Facebook In Wollongong in the early 1980s, jobs for women were scarce. They either had to wake at dawn to travel to Sydney on the diesel train or they sewed in backyard sweatshops for minimal wages.
Lines of grey muttering faces, masked with fear, They leave their trenches, going over the top, While time ticks blank and busy on their wrists, And hope, with furtive eyes and grasping fists, Flounders in mud. O Jesus, make it stop! — Siegfried Sassoon. Implausible as it might seem, it was the violent protest of a group of Bosnian high school students that sparked World War I.

World

Sudan’s ruling National Congress Party (NCP) persisted with April 13-15 national elections, despite widespread condemnation of the process from inside and outside the country. Sudanese President Omer al-Bashir, who came to power in a 1989 coup, contested the presidency among 15 mostly unknown candidates. The election was boycotted by opposition groups. They have called for an inclusive consultation process to resolve the country’s substantial problems, establishing a transitional government, and immediately ending the repression of dissent as prerequisites for free and fair elections.

Whistleblower website WikiLeaks published a slew of documents on April 16 casting light on secretive efforts by entertainment and electronics giant Sony to lobby the US government on hot button issues such as cracking down on online piracy. One collection of emails indicates staff from Sony's US subsidiary, Sony Pictures Entertainment (SPE), sought to maneuver around a US$5,000 limit on corporate contributions to political campaigns to contribute to Democratic New York Governor Andrew Cuomo's re-election war chest.
Workers in more than US 200 cities across the US went on strike and joined marches on April 15 “during what organisers claimed was the largest protest by low-wage workers in US history”, the Guardian said the next day.
Meral Cicek (pictured) is the chair of Kurt Kadin Iliskiler Merkezi, the Kurdish Centre for Women's Affairs in Erbil, in the autonomous Kurdish Region in northern Iraq). Cicek spoke to the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation’s Florian Wilde during the World Social Forum (WSF) in Tunis last month. It has been translated by Leandros Fischer. * * *
Photo: Unite.org.nz. Striking McDonald’s workers took part in marches and pickets in Auckland, Palmerston North, Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin on April 15, with many speaking to the crowds and media about the hardship of living with insecure work and income.
Up to 90% of the electorate voted in Bolivia’s “local” elections on March 29 for governors, mayors and departmental assembly and municipal council members throughout the country. The governing Movement for Socialism (MAS) of left-wing President Evo Morales once again emerged as the only party with national representation. It is by far the major political force in Bolivia, and far ahead of the opposition parties, none of which has a significant presence in all nine departments.

“A high-ranking official close to Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said the Greek government is not planning to give in to its creditors’ pressures and go against the program they had promised to the Greek people who brought them to power,” GreekReporter.com said on April 16. The comment came amid rising tensions between Greece's SYRIZA-led anti-austerity government and its creditors — the European Central Bank, the European Commission and the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

The revolutionary “The Law for Labour Justice and Recognition of Work from Home,” was passed by Ecuador's National Assembly on April 14, TeleSUR English reported on April 15. The law, which was first proposed by President Rafael Correa on November 15 to about 100,000 workers, passed by 91 votes to 29. The law will extend the benefits of the social security system to all Ecuadoreans wishing to be affiliated.

A recently published report has revealed that the 2003 US invasion and occupation of Iraq was responsible for the deaths of about 1 million Iraqis, or 5% of the population. The report also tallies hundreds of thousands of casualties in Afghanistan and Pakistan as a result of the US-led war.
President Nicolas Maduro of Venezuela began his visit to Panama City for the Summit of the Americas with a visit to the impoverished neighbourhood of El Chorrillo to lay a wreath at the monument to those killed by the US bombing of the community during the 1989 US invasion of Panama. The seventh Summit of the Americas, held in Panama City on April 10 and 11, was widely hailed as a victory for left-leaning and progressive forces in the region, particularly Venezuela and Cuba.
The Greek government said on April 17 that it was releasing detainees in its neglected immigration centers. “The people that were there, were living an indescribable barbarity,” said Greek immigration minister Tasia Christodoulopoulou. According to Christodoulopoulou, many of the detainees were illegally being held indefinitely.
United States politics is witnessing a new sorry spectacle — and one with real consequences for Australia, as well as other nations on the Pacific rim. US President Barack Obama is trying to drum up support from his party to implement the agenda of the huge corporations that sought to block his election and re-election via the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) “free trade” deal involving 12 Pacific rim nations. The text of the proposed agreement and the negotiations have been kept secret, but key chapters have leaked and been published by WikiLeaks.
Ecuador has lifted 1.3 million people out of poverty in the past eight years, a new survey revealed on April 13, TeleSUR English said that day. The results of the first “Survey of Living Conditions in Ecuador” showed that poverty has fallen by one third. It also revealed that 900,000 individuals have been lifted out of extreme poverty, whilst the Gini coefficient, which measures wealth gaps, has dropped 4.8 points since 2006.
A video released by Minority Rights Group on April 8 shows the aftermath of the “Paniai massacre” in West Papua in December last year, bringing to light Indonesia's human rights abuses. On December 8,Indonesian security forces shot dead four protesters — Simon Degei, 18; Otianus Gobai, 18; Alfius Youw, 17; Yulian Yeimo, 17 — and wounded dozens of others in Enarotali, Paniai district, in West Papua.
Spain's left-wing Podemos party would win a general election if it were held today, a Metroscopa poll released on April 12 found. General elections are scheduled for December. Podemos, which was founded in January last year, came first with the support of 22.1% of those questioned. The opposition Spanish Socialist Workers Party (PSOE) regained lost ground to come second with 21.9% of the vote. The ruling conservative Popular Party (PP) would come third with 20.8% of the vote.
Protesters demanding widespread reform of the police took the streets on April 14, as killings of unarmed black men have become all-too frequent in US headlines. Activists from various civil rights groups rallied in different cities throughout the country. Signs carried by the protesters in New York read: “Stop Police brutality and mass murder.” Protesters spread the message on social media websites using hashtags, including the popular #BlackLivesMatter.
A new police murder of an unarmed Black man in the United States has received global attention. It comes as the #BlackLivesMatter movement has swept the country since the police murder of an unarmed Black teenager in Ferguson, Missouri last August. On April 4, officer Michael Slager in North Charleston, South Carolina, shot 50-year-old Walter Scott in the back as he was fleeing. The police initially tried to whitewash the incident, with the all-too-familiar assertion that Slager was assaulted by Scott and feared for his life. So the killing was justified. Q.E.D.

Culture

The People’s Referendum: Why Scotland Will Never Be the Same Again by Paul Geoghegan Luath Press 2015 177 pages The British-wide general election for the Westminster parliament scheduled for May 7 looks set to be very close, perhaps even closer than the 2010 election that resulted in the Labour Party being replaced by a Conservative Party-Liberal Democrat coalition government. Opinion polls suggest that neither of the two main British parties, Conservative or Labour, will win enough seats for a majority of their own in the House of Commons.
Günter Grass, who was one of Germany’s most important post-war novelists, died on April 13 at the age of 87 in the town of Lübeck, in northern Germany. Grass was perhaps most famous for his 1959 book The Tin Drum, a novel that embodied fantastical elements in its critique of Weimar and Nazi Germany. As such, his style bore resemblances to Latin America’s genre of magical realism. In 1979, the book was turned into an Academy Award winning film by Volker Schlöndorff, which won the Oscar for best foreign film.
Internationally awarded Uruguayan author and journalist Eduardo Galeano died on April 13 of lung cancer at age 75 in Montevideo, the capital of Uruguay. Born September 3, 1940, Galeano was author of about 35 books, including 1971’s Open Veins of Latin America, which details how Western powers have exploited Latin America and its resources for centuries. It became a bestseller overnight after the late Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez handed the book a Barack Obama during the fifth Summit of the Americas in 2009.