Issue 1054

Australia

BRISBANE

Watch a film: Roque Dalton — Let’s Shoot the Night on Saturday May 30 at 12.30pm. Hosted by Latin American Community Association. Marooka Community Centre, 40 Gainsborough St, Brisbane.

GEELONG
Come to a film: Ivory Tower on Thursday Jun 4 at 5.30pm. The film examines the recent student debt crisis through a broad spectrum of institutions and startling statistics that directly address concerns for the future of higher education. Geelong Trades Hall, 127 Myers Street. Bookings visit eventbrite.com.au. Presented by the NTEU.

A 23 year-old Iranian asylum seeker has been savagely attacked on Nauru.

The young woman had been on day-release from the detention centre on May 16, visiting refugees in the community. She was expected back at 5pm so at 4.30pm she left the house she was visiting to catch the bus back to the detention centre.

She never arrived.

At about 8pm Nauruan police were seen wrapping the woman in a blanket and trying to place her in a police car. She had been found naked, distressed and disoriented.

Tasmanian Greens leader Kim Booth quits parliament

Kim Booth has announced he is stepping down as Tasmanian Greens leader and resigning from State Parliament, effective immediately. His seat will be filled on countback by another Greens candidate.

He cited family reasons and the need for renewal in the Greens as the reasons for his shock resignation.

Protesters hold a banner opposing BP oil drilling in the Great Australian Bight, in St Kilda beach on May 16. Photo: Chris Peterson

About 100 people rallied at Glenelg in Adelaide to protest against plans by oil company British Petroleum to explore for oil in the Great Australian Bight.

Perth rally for Rohingyan refugees. Photo: Alex Bainbridge

Rallies were held around the country on May 22 to demand that Australian government end its inhumane policy of turning back refugees and rescue the thousands of Rohingyan refugees abandoned at sea before they starve to death.

NETHERLANDS’ SOLAR BIKE PATHS

A Dutch project to turn the nation's bike paths into energy-generating solar roadways has just cleared its first major test.

Melbourne Fair Go For Pensioners protest, May 20, 2015. Photo: Annaki Rowlands

Pensioners rallied in Melbourne on May 20 to protest against the federal government's budget. The rally was organised by the Fair Go for Pensioners Coalition.

This is how Tony Abbott explained the new work-for-the-dole measures in the latest federal budget to the Queensland Chamber of Commerce: “That person can do up to four weeks of work experience with your business, with a private sector business, without losing unemployment benefits so it gives you a chance to have a kind of try-before-you-buy look at unemployed people.”

Members of Latin American solidarity organisations from various Australian cities met in Canberra on May 9 for a Gathering in Solidarity with Latin American Struggles and in Defence of Venezuela's Bolivarian Revolution. Around 40 representatives attended from Brisbane, Canberra, Melbourne and Sydney.

More than 250 farmers and their city cousins rallied at Queensland Parliament House on May 21 calling for an end to unconventional gas production and coal mining.

The rally was organised by Lock the Gate (Queensland). Farmers from the Bentley Blockade and Northern Rivers in NSW travelled to Brisbane for the rally.

Community and Public Service Union (CPSU) members at the Bureau of Meteorology and Agriculture Department, including Quarantine and Meat Inspectors, are the latest in a growing number of public servants taking industrial action to highlight the federal government’s attacks on workers’ rights, pay and conditions.

Members held one hour stop-work meetings on May 19, part of a week of rolling stoppages across the Commonwealth public service that has already seen tens of thousands of CPSU members walk off the job in Centrelink, Medicare, Child Support and the Tax Office.

I guess there were some people who thought that the leopard Tony Abbott may have changed his spots after his look-we've-changed 2015 federal budget. The polls certainly suggest this.

As William Bowie wrote in his Poll Bludger column in Crikey.com: “A flurry of post-budget opinion polls adds up to a solid increase in the Coalition’s standing, with Tony Abbott’s personal standing now rivalling his least-bad results since his short-lived post-election honeymoon.”

A Friday night march through Sydney city streets marked the 67th anniversary of Al Nakba, “the catastrophe”, the beginning of the violent dispossession of the Palestinian people.


A student action against education cuts was held at the University of Sydney on May 20. It was organised by the National Union of Students. Greens Senator Lee Rhiannon talked about the fantastic campaign in Chile for free education and how students here should take inspiration from the mass campaign there that made it happen. Photo: Pip Hinman.

More than 8000 Rohingyan asylum seekers are stranded in the Malacca Straits. About 200 people have already died and more are at risk from dehydration and starvation.

The stateless Rohingyans are victims of ethnic cleansing in Myanmar. Australia must immediately lift its ban on accepting UNHCR refugees from Indonesia and offer Rohingyan refugees safe passage to Australia.

The lives of the Rohingyan asylum seekers rest in the hands of regional governments of Australia, Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia. Every hour that passes without assistance puts more lives in danger.

Refugee Council of Australia president Phil Glendenning spoke at a public forum in Melbourne on May 13 about the fate of refugees deported from Australia.

Glendenning is also the director of the Edmund Rice Centre, which has investigated the fate of asylum seekers deported to their homeland, or pressured to return "voluntarily".

World

Condolences and tributes to legendary revolutionary and champion of women’s rights Nora Castaneda have been pouring in from across Venezuela after news of the activist’s death on May 16.

An economist, university lecturer and much-loved revolutionary, Castaneda is renowned for having founded and presided over Venezuela’s internationally celebrated Women’s Development Bank, “Banmujer” since 2001. She was also one of the chief protagonists of Venezuela's working-class women’s movement that emerged in the 1980s.


"Resign Now" is the rallying cry of the popular movement bringing together diverse social sectors calling for President Perez Molina's resignation. Photo: Prensa Comunitaria.

Despite growing social movement pressure and emerging corruption scandals, Guatemalan President Perez Molina says he will not resign.

More than 300 migration experts and academics have condemned the European Union's plan of military intervention against the surge of smuggling boats heading to Europe across the Mediterranean Sea.

The academics’ strong condemnation of the plan comes after Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi compared the current migrant crisis to the 18th and 19th century slave trade. In a recent article for the New York Times, he wrote that “human traffickers are the slave traders of the 21st century, and they should be brought to justice”.


Photo: Kurdpress.com.

The June 7 elections to Turkey’s Grand National Assembly are shaping up to be the most important in a long time. The bold decision of the People’s Democratic Party (HDP) to run as a party and strive to exceed the grossly undemocratic 10% threshold needed to win representation in parliament has put the group at the political centre stage.

The fossil fuel industry receives US$5.3 trillion a year in government subsidies, despite its disastrous toll on the environment, human health, and other global inequality issues, a new report by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has found.

That means that governments worldwide are spending $10 million every minute to fund energy companies — more than the estimated public health spending for the entire globe.

Burundi's embattled President Pierre Nkurunziza agreed on May 20 to postpone parliamentary elections, but refused to change the date of the presidential vote.

Parliamentary and local elections were moved back from May 26 to June 6. However, the contentious presidential vote remains scheduled for June 26.

Palestinian Authority‭ (‬PA‭) ‬foreign minister Riyad al-Maliki has described Venezuela as‭ ‬“Palestine's most important ally‭”‬,‭ ‬Venezuelanalysis.com said on May‭ ‬19.‭ ‬Al-Maliki made the comments while in Caracas for bilateral talks with‭ ‬Venezuela's socialist government.

On May 18, Baba Jan was declared the official candidate of the Awami Workers Party (AWP) by the returning officer of Gilgit-Baltistan Legislative Assembly constituency Hunza 6. Baba Jan is in jail serving a life sentence.

This is the first time in the history of the Hunza Valley that a political activist will contest general elections from jail.

Gilgit-Baltistan is a Himalayan territory administered by Pakistan.

A new popular uprising has started in Peru at the port of Callao,‭ ‬crucial for international trade and the handling of the majority of the country‭’‬s seaborne cargo.‭

After‭ ‬10‭ ‬months of unresolved negotiations with transnational company,‭ ‬APM Terminals Peruvian longshore workers from the port of Callao,‭ ‬west of Lima,‭ ‬decided to take to the streets and march.‭

This latest demonstration follows an earlier strike against the company on May‭ ‬13,‭ ‬with workers demanding‭ ‬pay‭ ‬rises in‭ ‬relation to the company's profits,‭ ‬full healthcare coverage,‭ ‬and training.‭

The new British Conservative government has launched an ultra-conservative political agenda that could unravel the peace process in six counties in Ireland's north still claimed by Britain.

Tory plans include scrapping the 1998 Human Rights Act, which underpins a key aspect of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement. The GFA peace deal included a measure that Britain integrate the European Convention of Human Rights into law in the six counties, a process included in the Human Rights Act.

Traces of chemicals commonly used for fracking were found in‭ ‬the‭ ‬drinking‭ ‬water‭ ‬supply of three homes in Bradford County in the US state of Pennsylvania,‭ ‬a study revealed on May‭ ‬18.‭

The investigation,‭ ‬which appeared in scientific‭ ‬journal‭ ‬‬Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences‭‬,‭ ‬proved the long-held worry of damaging underground drinking water sources from the method of extracting gases known as hydraulic fracturing.‭ ‬The report explicitly links the practice with the affected water systems.‭


Greek pensioners joined the march for a better healthcare in Athens.

More than‭ ‬200‭ ‬environmental activists‭ ‬blocked a terminal in Seattle‭’‬s port to protest against Royal Dutch Shell‭’‬s imminent plans to begin drilling for oil in the Arctic.‭

A huge vessel,‭ ‬named Polar Pioneer,‭ ‬is temporarily stationed at the port before heading out to the Arctic to explore for oil.‭ ‬If successful,‭ ‬it will be the first time the multinational has exploited oil in the Arctic.‭

“Almost a third (33%) of the UK population - 19.3 million people - fell below the official poverty line at some point between 2010 and 2013, according to figures released by the Office for National Statistics,” the Press Association reported on May 20.

The article said “The ONS records someone as being in poverty if they live in a household with disposable income below 60% of the national average, before housing costs. Persistent poverty is defined as being in poverty in the current year and at least two of the three preceding years.

Britain's May 7 general elections, in which the Conservative Party won an outright majority, produced a couple of silver linings on a very large black cloud.

One was the success of the Green Party of England and Wales. While the party did not sweep into Westminster, it made progress politically and in terms of votes.

As Nepal struggles to revive from the catastrophe caused by the April 25 earthquake that registered 7.8 on the Moment Magnitude Scale and its aftershocks, Latin America's socialist governments are busy soothing the wounds of the Nepalese people.

The orange-coloured team of Venezuelan aid workers and white-coloured medical team from Cuba have brought to the people of Nepal the spirit of Argentine-born Cuban revolutionary Che Guevara and Venezuela's late revolutionary president Hugo Chavez.

Popular left-wing activist activist Ada Colau has won Barcelona's May 24 mayoral elections. Running on the ticket of Barcelona Together, which united several left groups and grassroots activists, Colau came first with 25% of the vote.

The case of yet another death at the hands of US police of an unarmed Black man — in this case teenager Ariston Waiters in Georgia — will be re-opened after new evidence emerged on May 17. The new evidence revealed Waiters was shot twice in the back when already on the ground.

Dalton County District Attorney Paul Howard reopened the case after Channel 2 Action News revealed new evidence and witnesses. The new elements proves Union City police officer Luther Lewis shot the unarmed 19-year-old Waiters twice in the back, after he already had him on the ground.

A new video has surfaced of the arrest of 25-year-old Black man Freddie Gray by Baltimore police that contradicts previous police accounts and features an extra stop made by police on the way to the station, the Baltimore Sun reported on May 20.

Gray died on April 19 from injuries sustained in the back of a police van. He was arrested after he made eye contact with police and then ran away.

The newspaper obtained the extra cell phone video footage and testimony from neighbours who said they saw the police van stop one block away from where Freddie Gray was arrested April 12.

United States: Thousands of low-paid McDonald's workers protest

Thousands of McDonald's workers seeking a minimum wage of US$15 per hour have protested outside the fast-food giant's headquarters for two days of protests on May 21 and 22.

Reuters said: “Protests by low-wage fast-food and retail workers have helped fuel a national debate about pay levels ...
“Tyree Johnson, 47, of Chicago joined thousands of others for noisy but peaceful protests outside McDonald's headquarters in the Chicago suburb of Oak Brook on Wednesday.

Will Greece's SYRIZA-led government reach a last-minute deal with its creditors, the European Union (EU), European Central Bank (ECB) and International Monetary Fund (IMF) - the “Troika” - to release the last €7.2 billion owed to the country under Greece's second bail-out agreement?

The white US police officer who shot dead Black teenager VonDerrit Myers while off-duty will not be prosecuted, officials said on May 18. The 18-year-old teen was shot 17 times in St Louis in October, six minutes after buying a sandwich at convenience store.

His death exacerbated protests in Missouri state against the killing of unarmed Black teenager Michael Brown in the nearby town of Ferguson in August, also by a white officer. Like the fatal shooting of Brown, the details of Myers’ death contained startling inconsistencies.

With what appears a landslide win amid a high turnout, all indications are Ireland has voted "yes" to marriage equality in a referendum on legalising same-sex marriages. This is the first time marriage equality has been put to a popular vote anywhere in the world, and makes Ireland the 21st nation to legalise same-sex marriages.

Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa announced on May 16 that the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) will provide assistance to the thousands of Asian immigrants stranded off the coast of Thailand.

“This world is crazy, it shows a total disregard for human life to have people stranded on a boat, dying of starvation without being allowed to get off the boat,” Correa stated during his weekly presidential address.

Analysis

In its latest federal budget, the Tony Abbott Liberal-National government announced the setting up of a $5 billion “concessional loan facility” called the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility. The proposal has been condemned by environmental and Aboriginal rights groups.

In January this year, the Prime Minister Tony Abbott drew attention to the “unfolding tragedy” of violence against women and vowed to put the issue of what he misleadingly calls “domestic violence” on the national agenda.

The May 2015 budget was framed by the Abbott government with one issue in mind — winning the next federal election. Although there are some members of the Coalition keen on an early election, it seems unlikely to be called until sometime next year.

The toll of Australia's bipartisan anti-refugee policies in death and suffering is rising. In the past fortnight more than 3000 Rohingya refugees from Arakan state in Burma (Myanmar) have turned up on the shores of Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia, having either swum ashore or been rescued by local fishing boat crews. An estimated 7000 more are trapped on boats that have been described as “floating coffins”.

If you want to meet the best Australians, meet Indigenous men and women who understand this extraordinary country and have fought for the rights of the world's oldest culture. Theirs is a struggle more selfless, heroic and enduring than any historical adventure non-Indigenous Australians are required incessantly to celebrate.

I know this to be true, because I have been reporting from and filming in Indigenous communities for most of my life. In 1984, I met one of the best Australians, Kwementyaye Randall.

It took a long time for politicians to accept that human actions were warming the planet. Climate scientists began warning that human actions in burning fossil fuels were changing the climate in the late 1980s.

The difficulty was how to put the scientific data into a simple form that the public and politicians could understand. Their first effort was to describe Earth as if it were covered by something that kept the heat in: the greenhouse effect.

You would not have thought it possible, but Tony Abbott appears to be degenerating — in literacy skills as well as morality. Having campaigned on a simplistic three word slogan, in office, he's decided that's two too many, and has cut “Stop the boats” to “Nope, nope, nope.”

Socialist Alliance councillor Sue Bolton spoke to Dave Holmes about her work as a local councillor in Moreland, a municipality in Melbourne. This is the third of a series of interviews with Sue Bolton. You can find the whole interview at Links: Online Journal of Socialist Renewal.
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Is there a tension between getting involved in the here-and-now and local issues, and balancing that off with our engagement with national and global issues and vision for a new society?

Culture


Who the hell cares how old Rebel Wilson is?

In recent days, online media began running strange stories — the exact relevance of which was unclear to anything but these site's Google analytics — claiming that Australian comic and actor Rebel Wilson was really in her mid-30s, not 29 as officially claimed.

The open letter that is abridged below was first published at literary magazine Overland, where the full letter and its hundreds of signatories can be read. Artists and arts organisations can add their names to this list of signatories by emailing: overland@vu.edu.au.

If you would to like to sign the general petition, you can do so at the Australians for Artistic Freedom page.

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3CR Community Radio Melbourne is almost 40 years old. On July 3, 1976, broadcasting from its base in Armadale, 3CR began sending its message out to a radius of just 16km. The station now broadcasts on digital radio and online platforms but the core value remains the same: providing a voice for those denied access to the mass media, particularly the working class, women, Indigenous people and the many community groups and issues discriminated against, in, and by, the mass media.