Issue 1052

News

The Aboriginal Provisional Government (APG) made the following media release on May 12, 2015. * * * APG diplomat Pekeri Ruska (Goenpul/Yuggera) was harassed and threatened by customs officials at Brisbane international airport this afternoon after presenting only her Aboriginal passport which had been stamped on entry and exit from Honiara, Solomon Islands.
COURT SAYS LANDOWNER CAN REFUSE ACCESS TO COAL COMPANY The Land and Environment Court has upheld Wendy Bowman’s right to refuse a coal company access to her land. The landmark decision means that Chinese-owned Yancoal cannot proceed with the South East Open Cut mine near Glennies Creek.
Anti-WestConnex protesters ‘fine’ Roads Australia Anti-WestConnex activists protested at the annual Roads Australia dinner, with attendees being handed a $15 billion penalty notice for the folly they are about to inflict on Sydney. Members of WestConnex Action Group set up a toll booth at the entrance, next to the red carpet. Guests, including the father of WestConnex, Nick Greiner, were made to run the anti-WestConnex gauntlet on their way into Sydney Town Hall.
Financial evidence in the Queensland Land and Environment Court hearing on the proposed Carmichael coalmine in the Galilee Basin points to a venture that would operate at a loss and not result in projected increases in public revenue. Evidence was presented by Rajesh Gupta, Adani’s local financial controller and Tim Buckley, financial analyst called by Land Services of Coast and Country (LSCC), the environmental group seeking to block the mine. Gupta agreed under cross-examination the company would look to minimise its tax obligations within the law.
On May 2, following the rally in King George Square to oppose the forced closures of Indigenous Communities in WA, activists spontaneously marched into the Auditorium of City Hall and occupied it. The Aboriginal flag was strung over the podium and we engaged in a peaceful but uncompromising sit­-in demanding the media's presence to cover our resistance to what is happening in W.A.
ADELAIDE Come to the National Sorry Day: Stolen Generations track home on Tuesday May 26 at 10.30am – 2.30pm. Join the Stolen Generations calling for reparations with speakers, music, bbq and drinks. Victoria Square/Tarntanyangga. Ph John Browne 0431 234 561. BRISBANE Join the Rally for the future: Lock the gate on Thursday May 21 at 10am. Speakers’ Corner, outside Parliament House, George St. BENDIGO Come to a rally to stop the community closures on Friday May 15 at 4.30pm. Rosalind Park. MELBOURNE
The University of Western Australia (UWA) cancelled the contract for Bjorn Lomborg’s Consensus Centre on May 8 after a "passionate emotional reaction" to the plan. In a statement, UWA Vice Chancellor Paul Johnson said the creation of the centre had attracted "mixed reactions" from staff, students and the general public. "The scale of the strong and passionate emotional reaction was one that the university did not predict," he said.
A north-west NSW food bowl is under threat from a proposed open-cut coalmine that was approved by the state government. But a legal challenge by the Environmental Defenders Office (EDO) is using the local koala population to put a stop to it. The proposed Watermark coalmine project in the Liverpool Plains of NSW would produce up to 10 million tonnes of coal a year for 30 years, the project’s owner Shenhua Australia Holdings said.
Four Corners’ exposure of the massive exploitation of workers on 417 visas — the backpackers’ visa — by farms and factories has triggered inquiries and legal minefields for supermarkets giants such as Coles, Woolworths and Aldi.
Unions have warned that electricity consumers will be hit by worse services, reduced maintenance and slower emergency response times, after a decision by the Australian Energy Regulator (AER) in late April. The AER decision, which takes effect from July 1, sets revenues that the publicly owned NSW network companies Ausgrid, Endeavour Energy, TransGrid and Essential Energy can charge private power retailers.
A group of about 30 cleaners rallied outside the Brookfield offices on May 5 to demand a fair deal and an end to super-exploitation. The rally was organised by the Clean Start campaign, supported by the United Voice union. The cleaners chanted, "What do we want? Clean Start! When do we want it? Now." The building owners, Brookfield, had recently appointed TFM as a new cleaning contractor. TFM advertised cleaning jobs in the building for $15 an hour — less than the minimum wage — and demanded a $500 payment to get the job.
More than 300 people packed the Redfern Community Centre on May 1 to pay their respects to Wiradjuri warrior Ray Jackson, who passed away on April 23. Jackson was the president of the Indigenous Social Justice Association (ISJA) and spent decades campaigning against black deaths in custody. Jackson’s family gave moving messages of thanks to a loving, intelligent father. His granddaughter, Oki, moved the crowd when she said, crying: “I know that if I want to be like you I have to be confident.”
"We are in the fight of our lives," Nadine Flood, national secretary of the Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU), told a central meeting of workplace delegates in Sydney on May 1. "The [federal] government has launched the deepest public service cuts in a generation, cutting 11,000 jobs in one year. "They have gutted the CSIRO, with 21% of the workforce gone — they have given up researching Alzheimer’s. They have gutted the Tax Office, with 4000 jobs gone, and that means that wealthy people and big business will pay even less tax.

Analysis

I’ve never been much of a morning person but some mornings it can be a struggle to get out of bed. Crippling depression aside, peeking at what passes for news in the mainstream media to find out what is going on in the world can be enough to send me running for the covers. Just last week there was the announcement that after his latest pay rise, the Macquarie Bank CEO Nicholas Moore “earned” $1586 every 12 minutes. That’s roughly the same amount the average Australian worker takes home in a week.
Macquarie University has suffered a setback in its courtroom battle against seven students associated with the Macquarie University Postgraduate Research Association (MUPRA). On May 7, the Supreme Court recommended mediation, which was agreed to by both parties. The university also agreed to release MUPRA funds for legal representation in a future mediation hearing. The mediation hearing is set by May 28, and the verdict will be released in a month, if a result is not reached through the mediation process beforehand.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott's harsh regime of cutbacks and user-pays charges has been rejected by the Australian people in poll after poll. But this has not stopped the pro-business media from trying to wear people down and pressure Labor and the Greens to accept some of the government's demands. Typical of this drumbeat was the widely reported Deloitte Access Economics report, which likened the growing budget deficit to a novel by horror writer Stephen King. In an effort to massage a consensus for cutbacks it demands, "For our budget to be sustainable, our politics has to be sustainable".
Rallies have been called in response to the federal government’s attack on education funding in the upcoming budget, and a big one is planned for Sydney on budget day, May 12. Although Christopher Pyne’s education policies have been repeatedly defeated in the Senate, he is determined to continue to try to “fix” the education system by reducing governmental funding and pushing for fee deregulation. The next chance he will have to do this is with mass education spending cutbacks in the budget.
The Moreland council in Melbourne became the first council in Australia to pass a motion last month condemning plans for forced closures of Aboriginal communities, and to send a letter of solidarity to those communities. The motion was moved by me as a Socialist Alliance councillor on Moreland council. The motion passed unanimously, with even the Liberal party councillor voting for it. On April 28, a second Melbourne council, the Moonee Valley council, passed the same motion. The motion was moved by Jim Cusack, a Labor councillor.
When thousands of people hit Melbourne's streets on May 1 to protest planned closures of Aboriginal communities, the Herald Sun followed up its front page denunciation of a similar April 9 protest as a “selfish rabble” with a special double page-spread under the headline: “Still Selfish. Still A Rabble.”
During his visit to Sri Lanka, Australian immigration minister Peter Dutton said the transfer of refugees to Cambodia would “happen very shortly”. Dutton said he wanted to send “a small group” to the south-east Asian country to “send a clear message to the remaining people on Nauru that Cambodia is an appropriate option to consider to start a new life”. The Australian government has been trying to persuade refugees held on Nauru to volunteer to settle in Cambodia, which signed a deal with Australia to take refugees in exchange for aid.
Socialist Alliance councillor Sue Bolton spoke to Dave Holmes about her work as an elected socialist local councillor in Moreland, a municipality in Melbourne. * * * You were elected to the Moreland City Council for Socialist Alliance in October 2012. Many of the themes and issues raised in your campaign struck a chord with a wide range of people. There was also a fair bit of accident and luck: you headed up a ballot with 24 names on it and the ALP ticket was split.
Western Australian Premier Colin Barnett government is slowly backing away from his controversial announcement that up to 150 remote Aboriginal communities are facing closure. In what he described as “a more nuanced approach”, Barnett is now proposing a “hub and orbit” strategy that will leave some communities bigger and better resourced, others reduced in services and the smallest ones abandoned.
Redfern Aboriginal Tent Embassy (RATE) has come under increasing attack at the same time as DeiCorp developers are advertising their proposed development with the tag line “"The Aboriginals have already moved out, now Redfern is the last virgin suburb close to city". RATE was established by Redfern residents as a protest against the proposed development on what is legally Aboriginal land of a block of commercial shops and student housing, by the Aboriginal Housing Company and developer DeiCorp.
Australia has fallen behind similar economies around the world in the generation of renewable energy, a new report has found. The Climate Council’s new report, The global renewable energy boom: How Australia is missing out, says that despite having enough renewable energy resources to power the country 500 times over, jobs and investment in the renewables sector have fallen sharply since the Coalition government came to power.
Environment Victoria released this statement on May 5. * * * Analysis by Environment Victoria has revealed that Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions could rise by up to 20% without breaching the proposed Safeguard Mechanism in the Abbott government’s Emissions Reduction Fund because of the government’s proposed “special treatment” of coal generators in the electricity sector.

World

Protests have rocked the streets of Baltimore, Maryland, after African-American man Freddie Gray died in police custody. Gray was stopped by police while chatting with a friend in broad daylight. After being arrested Gray's spinal cord was broken, and after being in a coma he later died. Baltimore City's Police Department admitted responsibility, saying they mishandled Gray's injury and should have called paramedics earlier.
Khury Petersen-Smith is a 32-year-old African American activist based in Boston, who is actively involved in the growing “Black Lives matter” struggle sweeping the US. I was able to speak with Petersen-Smith, a member of the International Socialist Organization, at the Marxism 2015 conference organised by Socialist Alternative in Melbourne over Easter, at which he was a featured guest.
A 7.8-magnitude earthquake struck Nepal on April 25. By May 1, 120 aftershocks had occurred. The death toll had passed 7800 by May 8 and will almost certainly reach 10,000 or more, as information trickles in from the rural areas. More than 16,000 people are injured and this number will also rise.
Two new global developments emphasised the growing momentum of the global boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign targetting Israel. The campaign was launched in 2005 by more than 100 Palestinian civil society groups in a bid to isolate Israel over its polices of occupation and apartheid against Palestinians.
President Nicolas Maduro at International Workers' Day celebrations in Caracas, May 1. Braving the heat, more than 100,000 Venezuelans flooded the streets of Caracas on May 1 to commemorate the International Workers' Day and gains for working people under the Bolivarian Revolution.
Thousands of German train drivers and railway workers began a week-long strike on May 5, the longest in the country’s post-war history. About two thirds of Germany’s long distance trains and a third of regional trains have been cancelled, with trains in the eastern region around Halle, Leipzig, and Dresden reduced to about 15% of services. Some subway systems were also affected, including in Hamburg and Berlin. Deutsche Bahn (DB) carries a fifth of Germany's freight transport — about 1 million tonnes per day — as well as moving 5.5 million passengers daily.
Demonstrators gathered outside Baltimore City Hall on May 3 to celebrate the restoration of their right to protest without harsh controls in an all-too-rare case of a step towards justice in struggles against police brutality, TeleSUR English said the next day.
The Global Tamil Forum issued a statement on May 1 evaluating the first months of in office of Sri Lanka's new president Maithripala Sirisena. In presidential elections in January, Sirisena defeated the incumbent Mahinda Rajapaksa, who had presided over a genocidal war against the Tamil people and then kept them under military occupation. The GTF praised Sirisena for amending the Sri Lankan constitution to cut the power of the president and increase the power of parliament.
Evo Morales. Photo: ABI — Agencia Boliviana de Información. Bolivia's left-wing president Evo Morales announced various salary rises on May 1 in honour of International Workers’ Day, TeleSUR English said. The national minimum wage will increase by 15% from US$208 to $239 a month and the general salary by 8.5%.
War planes from the US and its allies bombed the village of Birmehli in northern Syria on the night of April‭ ‬30.‭ ‬US Central Command spokesperson Major Curtis Kellogg claimed that at least‭ ‬50‭ ‬fighters from the self-styled Islamic State‭ (‬IS‭) ‬group were killed and there was‭ “‬no indication that any civilians were killed‭”‬. However,‭ ‬human rights groups,‭ ‬including the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights‭ (‬SOHR‭)‬,‭ ‬have reported that all the casualties were civilians:‭ ‬64‭ ‬people,‭ ‬including‭ ‬31‭ ‬children.‭
Photo: Ladyrene Pérez/Cubadebate. An estimated 1 million people marched on May 1 in Havana, Cuba, to celebrate International Workers´ Day, TeleSUR English said.
For three months, from November to February, the Spanish economic and political establishment was in a state of barely suppressed panic. In national opinion polls, support for the “reds” - in the form of radical new force Podemos - had overtaken that for the establishment parties, the ruling People’s Party (PP) and the opposition Spanish Socialist Workers Party (PSOE).
President Rafael Correa led some 55,000 workers into Santo Domingo plaza. Photo: TeleSUR. May Day celebrations in Quito took on a divided political nature with two marches happening simultaneously, TeleSUR English said on May 1.
Prime Minister David Cameron's Conservative Party won a clear victory in Britain's May 7 general elections. In Scotland, however, the Scottish National Party dramatically rose from six seats to 56 out of 59, in a clear sign of opposition to the brutal austerity backed by the major parties in Westminster.
This statement was released by the executive committee of May 7 general elections won by Prime Minister David Cameron's Conservative Party. ***
Photo: CISPES.org. Hundreds of thousands of people filled the streets of San Salvador on May 1 to celebrate May Day and the victories of the working class. Marchers raised demands for justice, equality and self-determination, CISPES.org said on May 4.

Culture

Samba Co-written & directed by Olivier Nakache & Eric Toledano In cinemas now Nobody could say that French film makers Olivier Nakache and Eric Toledano — and their actor of choice, Omar Sy — shy away from heavy subjects. In their 2012 international hit The Intouchables, they dived straight into questions of disability, racism and class. Now in Samba they have tackled the question of illegal migrants struggling to survive without papers in contemporary France.
I fanatically loved the critically acclaimed Baltimore-based television drama The Wire, which ran for five seasons from 2002-08. It is difficult to even imagine my pop-cultural brain without the presence of Omar Little, Stringer Bell, Bunk and “McNutty”. When I started doing my sports radio show eight years ago, I scheduled interviews with as many of the actors as I could for no other reason than I wanted to breathe their air. Talking to Michael K Williams about the method of Omar's “long game” while he aggressively chewed on a sandwich will forever remain a career highlight.
In The Company Of Cowards: Bush, Howard & Injustice at Guantanamo Michael Mori Viking, 2014 292 pages, $29.99 (pb) Murder At Camp Delta: A Staff Sergeant’s Pursuit Of The Truth About Guantanamo Bay Joseph Hickman Simon & Schuster, 2015 245 pages, $29.99 (pb) Major Michael Mori was a Republican-leaning, US military lawyer who “embraced the values I had been taught in scouts, sports, high school, college, law school and the Marines” — above all the ideal of fair play.