Issue 1053

News

On May 14 a group of 10 asylum seekers and their families began a case in the High Court challenging the legality of the government’s policy of offshore detention. The Human Rights Law Centre is running the case on behalf of the asylum seekers. The Centre’s Director of Legal Advocacy Daniel Webb, who is part of the legal team representing the families, said the group has been temporarily returned to Australia but are facing imminent removal back to Nauru.
BLUE MOUNTAINS Come to a forum, Refugees: Let’s Do Better on Sunday May 24 at 2pm. Speakers: Dorothy Hoddinott, Principal Holroyd High School; Two young refugees; Lee Rhiannon, Greens Senator; Phil Glendenning, Refugee Council of Australia. Wentworth Falls School of Arts, Great Western Highway, Wentworth Falls. Entry: $15/$10 concession. Get tickets here. Email. Organised by the Blue Mountains Refugee Support Group. MELBOURNE
More than 100 people filled Thirroul Community Centre for the launch of Women of Steel, a new book on the inspiring “Jobs For Women” campaign. The campaign saw working class, mostly migrant, women take on Australia's biggest corporation BHP, who refused to employ women at the Port Kembla steelworks. The event was opened with a passionate rendition of Solidarity Forever from the Illawarra Union Singers.
The Refugee Council of Australia released this statement on May 8. * * * The Refugee Council of Australia has met delegates of the UN Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment to raise serious ongoing concerns regarding the lack of oversight, safety and protection for asylum seekers detained at Australia’s behest on Nauru.
An open letter to the Australian government calling for the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) to be removed from the list of proscribed terrorist organisations is gathering support. Initiated by the Melbourne-based Australians for Kurdistan campaign committee, the open letter has attracted some notable endorsements. The letter and endorsements can be viewed here.
LONG-THOUGHT EXTINCT FROG REDISCOVERED The large brown tree frog, with its distinctive orange markings on its hind legs, has not been seen or heard in the East Gippsland forest for more than 20 years and was thought to be extinct. But on April 12, Wildlife Unlimited’s Rena Gaborov was doing a spotlight survey for yellow-bellied gliders and greater gliders when she heard the frog’s distinctive call.
Photo: NSW Education Action Network/Facebook. Students took to the streets on May 12, budget day, to call for free education and an end to the fee deregulation bill.
Large numbers of heavily armed federal and Victorian police raided a house in the northern Melbourne suburb of Greenvale on May 8. A 17-year-old male was arrested and charged with “terrorism related offences” after appearing in court on May 11. “Balaclava-clad officers with assault rifles stood guard around a two-storey home while heavily-armoured vehicles blocked off the street,” the ABC reported on May 9. A 14-year-old boy was questioned after raids in Sydney on the same day. The police have not said whether the raids in Melbourne and Sydney were connected.
NSW Greens MP John Kaye has slammed the upper house inquiry, chaired by Christian Democrats leader Fred Nile, into the government's planned privatisation of the state's "poles and wires" electricity network. The public was given just seven days to make written submissions into the future of the NSW electricity grid, and will not be able to appear in person before the inquiry. "By delivering a quick-and-nasty timetable to suit the political convenience of the [Mike] Baird government, Fred Nile has denied his inquiry any credibility," Kaye said on May 11.
Moses Havini, former leader of the Bougainville independence movement, died in Sydney on May 2 after a long battle with cancer. Vikki John from the Bougainville Freedom Movement said: “Moses inspired so many people and will be truly missed. The love, dignity and freedom for his people on Bougainville and their right to self-determination were at the forefront of Moses' life.
Melbourne Resistance Centre was packed on May 9 as people gathered to hear First Nations activists and other anti-racism activists talk about fighting racism in Australia today. The seminar began with Wendy Brabham, nationally-respected Aboriginal academic and traditional owner from the Wamba Wamba, Wergaia, Nyeri Nyeri and Dhudhuroa first nations. Brabham is the former director of the Institute of Koori Education at Deakin University. She outlined the history of colonisation as experienced by her family. Brabham’s mother was born on Ebenezer Mission.
People who regularly visit refugees and asylum seekers detained in the Melbourne Immigration Transit Accommodation in Broadmeadows have reported that the rules for visiting have recently become much more restrictive. Visitors must now give 24 hours notice. They must give the names of the specific detainees they wish to talk to, and are not allowed to talk to any others. This makes it hard for them to make contact with new arrivals in the detention centre. Requests to visit are often refused on the pretext that the visiting room will be full, whereas in fact the room is often half empty.
The Anti-Poverty Network South Australia released this statement on May 11. *** This year marks the 21st anniversary of the last time Newstart Allowance was raised in real terms. Since the 1994 federal budget, when Newstart was raised by a mere $2.95, the level of the payment has stagnated, falling increasingly behind the rest of community, and creating widespread poverty for unemployed people.

Analysis

Joe Hockey may have been hoping that his spin about a "dull" budget would lull the public into a stupor, but the budget is anything but dull if you're a woman, a parent, pregnant, a student, a pensioner, on welfare, need legal aid or are unemployed. The government faced significant, organised, public opposition to its 2014 budget measures, many of which failed to pass in the Senate. It was forced to back down on a number of policies, however it is under increasing economic pressure to get its neoliberal agenda through.
The more things change, the more they stay the same. Particularly when it comes to responsible reporting of Aboriginal poverty. Last week, Four Corners pointed its lens into a few Aboriginal communities in Western Australia and produced a beautiful piece of promotion for the WA government and its plans for a catastrophic assault on Aboriginal homelands.
Following a recent meeting of federal and state ministers with the Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, Christiana Figures, the federal government announced that it will publish by mid-year the emissions target it will take to the Paris Climate Summit in November. However, even if all the world's governments agree to limit future emissions to what would cause the global average surface temperature to rise by no more than 2°C from before industrialisation, it will not be enough to avoid catastrophic climate change.
One of my guilty, I won't say pleasures so let's go with habits, is skimming through the Daily Telegraph while waiting for my coffee at the local cafe. It kills time and I can check out the content without giving any money to Murdoch’s media empire.
Socialist Alliance councillor Sue Bolton spoke to Dave Holmes about her work as an elected socialist local councillor in Moreland, a municipality in Melbourne. This is the second of a series of interviews with Sue Bolton. You can find the whole interview at Links: Online Journal of Socialist Renewal. * * *
New mothers will be pushed to return to work sooner and non-working families will be punished by having childcare subsidies reduced in the government’s latest budget. Treasurer Joe Hockey chose Mother's Day on May 10 to announce that almost 80,000 women will have their existing paid parental leave slashed, saving $1 billion. At the moment the government provides 18 weeks of paid parental leave at the minimum wage of $600 a week.
I have never really thought about the impact free education has had on me. Where would my life be if I had to pay to get an education? I am from Denmark. I would certainly not be here in Australia; I might not even have gone to high school.
Paddy Gibson spoke at a Stop the Intervention Collective public meeting in April on the Northern Territory Intervention and Western Australian community closures. Gibson has lived in Alice Springs, researching the impact of the Intervention. He is a senior researcher with the Jumbunna Indigenous House of Learning, University of Technology Sydney and co-editor of Solidarity magazine. This is an edited version of his speech. * * *
The Abbott government has coped a lot of flak for breaking promises, but this budget bucks the trend. Abbott always promised a “no surprises” approach to government, and with this self-proclaimed “dull” budget, his government has finally delivered. Few may have predicted some of the weirder moments of Abbott's reign, like knighting Prince Philip, threatening to shirtfront Vladimir Putin or making Bronwyn Bishop speaker of the House, but who could honestly say they were surprised by more proposals to hurt the poor and help the rich.

World

With the support of all of the political parties in Dublin's parliament (the Dail), a May 22 referendum on same-sex marriage could bring official state recognition for Ireland’s gay community and their relationships for the first time. Homosexuality in Ireland was decriminalised in 1993. The referendum could mark a further break from a culture which has for decades forced LGBTI members to live covertly or suppress their identity entirely. The referendum has been opposed by most, though not all, of Ireland’s clergy. Polls have shown strong opposition among Ireland’s oldest age groups.
Protest at Kentex factory, Valenzuela City, Metro Manila, May 15. Photo: Partido Lakas ng Masa/Facebook. Revelations have continued emerging over safety and labour abuses at the Philippines factory where 72 people died in a fire on May 13.
A special May Day conference was convened on May 1 and 2 by the five trade unions affiliated to the Right2Water campaign, which is leading the huge struggle against water charges in Ireland. The conference discussed a set of core principles that will underpin a “Platform for Renewal”, with the aim to unite left and progressive forces before the next general election.

Britain's May 7 elections revealed the deep divides emerging in British society and offered the promise of a constitutional crisis and social struggles to come. Most commentators had expected the result to be a hung parliament; polls had consistently shown the Conservative (Tory) and Labour parties to be neck and neck. In Scotland, the polls pointed to a wipe-out of the previously dominant Labour Party, with the Scottish National Party (SNP) poised to make sweeping gains on a platform of opposing austerity and Trident nuclear weapons.

Chile has been hit by another round of protests by student groups demanding substantial reforms to the country’s education system. Two student activists were killed in Chile on May 14 amid nationwide protests. The two students were shot in the city of Valparaiso, near the Plaza Victoria, at the end of a huge rally. Local media said both students were gunned down by a Valparaiso store owner as they attempted to hang a banner over his shop.
Photo: TeleSUR/Rael Mora. A three-day general strike against the Tia Maria mining project of transnational Southern Copper Corporation in the southern region of Arequipa in Peru was launched on May 12.
It is a point of honour for the Venezuelan government that despite the sharp plunge in oil prices and acute shortages of goods, President Nicolas Maduro has ruled out austerity measures. In a recent TV interview with former vice president Jose Vicente Rangel, Venezuelan Central Bank president Nelson Merentes explained why, saying: “Do you remember what happened on February 27, 1989?”
Mexican gov't blocks investigation over missing students Demonstrators demanding justice in the case of the 43 disappeared Ayotzinapa students. Photo: Clayton Conn/TeleSUR. The lawyer representing the parents and relatives of 43 missing Ayotzinapa students criticised the Mexican government on May 14 for stopping a meeting between experts from the Inter-American Court of Human Rights and army officials.
In the United States Senate, Republicans eventually reached a deal on May 13 with a group of Senate Democrats over a bill that Democrats had unanimously rejected a day earlier, TeleSUR English said that day. It grants special “fast-track” powers to President Barack Obama to negotiate key free trade agreements.
The United States was criticised for its human rights standards on May 12 after the country's compliance with international human rights standards were assessed by the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHCR). The UN criticised the US for police violence, racial discrimination, torture, use of the death penalty, and Guantanamo Bay prison, among other issues.
“Greece avoided another financial crisis by paying about €500 million in wages to public sector workers, but suffered another downgrade of its credit rating,” The Guardian on May 16. The payment came with Greece's SYRIZA-led government, that is seeking to break with austerity, locked in difficult talks with its creditors. Greece is seeking to release €7.2 billion in bailout funds to avoid a default and exit from the eurozone.
Two months after‭ ‬19-year-old Black teenager Tony Robinson was fatally shot by Madison police officer Matt Kenny,‭ ‬Wisconsin prosecutors announced on May‭ ‬12‭ ‬that Kenny would not face criminal charges over the shooting.‭ Hundreds of people took to the streets in Madison in the immediate aftermath,‭ Socialist Worker ‬said on May‭ ‬14,‭ ‬with more protests‭ ‬planned.
"After international pressure, today the Indonesian President has claimed that all foreign journalists are now free to report in West Papua without travel restrictions,” the BBC reported on May 11. “This is historic news as for 50 years the Indonesian government has banned foreign journalists from entering West Papua." A global day of action on April 29 featured protests in several cities that called on the Indonesian government to allow free and open access into occupied West Papua for international journalists, humanitarian agencies and human rights groups.
Already struggling to cope with the devastation caused by the April 25 earthquake that measured 7.8 on the Moment Magnitude Scale, Nepal was hit on May 12 by a major aftershock with a magnitude of 7.3 MMS. By May 14, there had been 158 aftershocks. The May 12 aftershock appears to have killed far fewer people than the initial quake, but the combined death toll is more than 9000 and rising. Most casualties have been in Nepal but there have also been deaths in India, Bangladesh and Tibet.
In an atypical move in cases of police killings of unarmed African Americans,‭ ‬six police officers in Baltimore have been charged with serious crimes over the‭ ‬death of‭ ‬25-year-old African American man Freddie Gray last month. Baltimore state attorney Marilyn Mosby announced the charges on May‭ ‬1,‭ ‬which include second-degree murder against one officer.
A commentator for the mainstream Barcelona daily La Vanguardia reported on May 9 on a conversation he overheard in a lift between two “executives of a certain age”. They were talking about an opinion poll giving the radical, movement-based ticket Barcelona Together the lead in the March 24 election for Barcelona City Council. Executive A: “Have you seen that [incumbent Barcelona mayor Xavier] Trias is losing?” Executive B: “Yes, [lead candidate for Barcelona Together Ada] Colau is winning.”

Culture

Thomas Sankara: An African Revolutionary By Ernest Harsch Ohio University Press, 2014 163 pages, $18.56. A popular uprising in 1983 in Upper Volta (now Burkina Faso), a small and poor land-locked country in western Africa, had led to an obscure, but charismatic army officer becoming head of state. This was inspiring news for those looking for a new breakthrough against imperialism. It had come after the depressing news that Margaret Thatcher's Britain had defeated Argentina in the Malvinas and Ronald Reagan's United States had crushed Grenada's revolution.
Prince at the 2015 Grammy awards: “Albums still matter. Like books and Black lives, albums still matter. Tonight and always.”
DC Entertainment, Warner Bros Animation, Warner Bros Consumer Products and Mattel - forming a veritable Hollywood marketing Axis of Evil - issued a joint press release on April 22 saying they were releasing a tsunami of marketing targeted at six-to-12 year-old girls. The product they will be pushing will be “DC Superhero Girls” - including Wonder Woman, Supergirl, Batgirl and more - during their formative years.