Issue 1062

News

The crew of Caltex oil tanker the Alexander Spirit have ended a three-week industrial dispute that began on July 2. They have set sail from Tasmania to Singapore, where the company intends to replace the Australian crew with seafarers on drastically reduced pay and working conditions. The Alexander Spirit is the fifth tanker that primarily circuits the Australian coastline to have its crew replaced in 12 months.
At a protest outside the Turkish Consulate in Sydney on July 23, Kurdish activists and their supporters accused the Turkish government of complicity in the massacre in Suruc of 32 young socialists on their way to help rebuild Kobane, in the liberated area of Rojava in northern Syria.
MELBOURNE Come to Rage for refugees, a fundraiser for the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre:. Lineup: Anchors; Raccoon City Police Department; Tired Minds; Summer Blood; Pitt the Elder; Knife Hands. Tickets: $10 online; $15 at door. Sunday August 2 at 1pm. Wrangler Studios, 8C Whitely Pde, West Footscray. Tickets: visit oztix.com.au.
On the weekend of July 18 and 19 rallies were held around Australia to counter the racist rallies organised by Reclaim Australia and the fascist United Patriots Front. Following is a roundup of some of the rallies. * * * Melbourne A planned show of strength by racists and neo-Nazis in Melbourne backfired when once again far-right protesters were outnumbered 20 to one on July 18.
Melbourne woman sacked in pay dispute takes Grill'd to court A Melbourne woman has launched Federal Court action against fast-food company Grill'd, alleging she lost her job after complaining about being underpaid. Kahlani Pyrah, a member of United Voice, said she received a flat rate that was less than the award wage and did not receive the shift loadings she was entitled to, while working at the Camberwell outlet.
The Melbourne Street Medic Collective released this statement on July 19. * * * On July 18, first aiders and medical professionals working as part of the Melbourne Street Medic Collective provided medical support to anti-racist/fascist protesters at the Rally Against Racism near the Victorian Parliament. During the course of this rally, officers from Victoria Police deployed chemical weapons in the form of OC (pepper) spray against the crowd. As a result several people required urgent medical attention and eventually hospitalisation, directly as a result of exposure to the spray.
About 50 people took part in a lively protest outside the Resources and Energy Division of the NSW Department of Industry on July 22. The protest, organised by Land, Water, Future and Protect Sydney's Water Alliance, was against coalmining in Sydney's water catchment area. Wollongong Coal has two coalmines in Sydney’s water catchments — Russell Vale and Wongawilli — and is now seeking approval to triple-seam mine under the catchment for Sydney's drinking water. Triple-seam mining has never been tried before in Australia.
The Refugee Rights Action Network (RAAN) released this statement on July 23. * * * Baby Y Nhu and four year olds Khoi and Chuong are among those on board the Vietnamese asylum seeker boat intercepted by WA Water Police off the coast of Western Australia on July 20. At least eight children and about 30 adults are now being held by Border Force. They are on board a navy boat, possibly the HMAS Choules, which was used in April to hand back another group of asylum seekers from Vietnam.
The Bandyup Action Group (BAG) held its most recent speak out on July 18 to protest against conditions in Bandyup Women's Prison. There has been a dramatic rise in incarceration rates, particularly for non-violent acts such as non-payment of fines. About 30% of women detained at Bandyup are there because of unpaid fines; 30% have existing and severe mental health problems; and 90% have been physically and/or sexually assaulted at some point in their lives.
Protests against coal, for real action on climate change, for the rights of refugees and for a binding vote in support of equal marriage rights took place outside the ALP conference in Melbourne on July 25.
Perth protests against Reclaim Australia Between 300 and 400 anti-racist activists faced off against racist and Islamophobic "Reclaim Australia" demonstrators in Perth on July 19. This was part of a national weekend of counter-rallies against those called by the far right group “Reclaim Australia”.
The union movement’s opposition to the China Australia Free Trade Agreement (ChAFTA) has ratcheted up since the agreement was signed in Canberra on June 17. ChAFTA allows for 95% of Australian exports to China to be tariff free. These will include many agricultural products, including beef and dairy. In addition, there will be liberalisation of market access for the Australia's services sector, and investments by private companies from China under A$1.078 billion will not be subject to Foreign Investment Review Board approval.
Sixty people listened as refugees gave harrowing accounts of what had led them to seek asylum in Australia at a forum in Parramatta on July 15 organised by People Just Like Us. Shokufa Tahiri and Ezatullah Salar spoke about the long history of oppression of the Hazara minority in Afghanistan. In 1890, Abdur Rahman Khan exterminated 63% of the minority group and until the 1930s Hazaras were systematically driven out of cities, and deprived of citizenship and education. Under the Taliban, it became a crime to be Hazara, Turkic or Shia.
A few days before the National ALP Conference on July 22, Labor leader Bill Shorten announced that he would support a policy to turn back boatloads of asylum seekers at sea if it is elected to government. The announcement shocked and angered refugee rights advocates around the country, including members of his own party.
45 people gathered in Perth on July 24 to express solidarity with a group of young people who were victims of an Islamic State suicide bombing in the Kurdish town of Suruç on July 20.
The call for help below comes from the Melbourne Street Medic Collective in the aftermath of the police pepper-spray attack on an anti-racist protest on July 18. The group has launched a crowd-funding appeal for badly needed first aid supplies. Visit their crowd-funding page for more information and to donate. ***

Analysis

Clearfelling old growth forest in Tasmania. Previously destroyed for woodchips, native forests are now in danger of being burned to create electricity. Reports that the owner of Victoria’s Hazelwood coal power station, GDF Suez, has been considering plans to convert it into a co-firing facility, allowing it to burn native forest waste as well as brown coal, have been slammed by environmentalists.
The Australian Marine Conservation Society released this statement on July 21. * * * The Australian Marine Conservation Society and the Australian environmental movement is in mourning over the sudden and unexpected loss of Felicity “Flic” Wishart who passed away in her sleep on July 19 aged 49. Flic was one of Australia’s leading conservationists and was a great and inspiring champion for the planet, the cause she dedicated her life to.
Opposition to Shenhua Watermark’s unpopular $1.2 billion open-cut coal mine, proposed for the Liverpool Plains in the north-west of NSW, is growing. The Coalition cabinet is split, as are NSW and federal National Party MPs. Federal agriculture minister Barnaby Joyce, who is fighting to hold his New England seat, opposes the mine. His cabinet colleague, federal environment minister Greg Hunt, signed the mine’s approval on July 4.
Tropical storms are increasing in frequency and strength. City of Tacloban, Leyte, Philippines, after Super Typhoon Yolanda, the strongest tropical storm to make landfall in history, struck in November 2013. Photo: Partido Lakas ng Masa.
When Labor leader Bill Shorten announced his support for yet one more draconian and inhumane Abbott federal government policy — this time, towing back asylum seeker boats in violation of international law and respect for human life — some pointed out the usual role of the Opposition leader is to oppose things. But that's not fair. In recent times, we've seen Shorten oppose many things. They just happen to be the same things PM Tony Abbott opposes, like international humanitarian obligations, the rule of law and basic human decency.
On the weekend of July 18 and 19 there was another round of right-wing Reclaim Australia (RA) protests. The stated aim of RA and its offshoot, the United Patriots Front (UPF), was to defend what they call “Australian values” from the threat of “Islamicisation”.
Supporters of maintaining the rail line into Newcastle are hopeful that their fight against NSW government’s plans to remove the line into the CBD will prevail. The community has fought for more than a decade against state government attempts to cut the rail into the city centre. Developers have long wanted to exploit the city centre’s prime rail line land as it has never been mined and is considered ideal for multi-story developments. Their mates in the NSW parliament have been only too keen to help out.
Casuals now make up about half of the academic workforce in Australia’s universities. For most of them it is precarious work at its worst. Those lucky enough to get two 13-week sessional contracts a year are unemployed academics for the other half of the year, forced to then compete with a growing precariat for temporary employment elsewhere while still at the call of their part-time employer. And the 13 weeks are not necessarily standard 35-hour weeks, they can be for as little as one hour a week.
Around the corner from where I used to live in northern Brisbane, there was an abandoned flourmill. It had been abandoned for decades, left to slowly decay, and became home to pigeons, homeless people and drunk young people trying to scale its enormous silos and inner frameworks. The story of the mill is one of capitalism as a whole, of post-industrial decay in advanced capitalist societies where wages have become too expensive. Work moves offshore, or into the outer suburbs, and the mill decays.
The neoliberal agenda for the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) meeting in Sydney on July 23 was set by NSW Premier Mike Baird, who proposed increasing the GST from its present 10% to 15%. Baird wants the extra funds to be primarily used to fund health services, which account for almost 30% of state budgets, including spending on hospitals of about 20%. What he neglected to say was that under his mate Tony Abbott’s federal government, spending has been drastically reduced on health along with education. The total reduction across both areas is about $80 billion.

World

Three huge free trade deals are being negotiated right now, that will sacrifice workers' rights, health care and the environment across much of the world on the altar of corporate profits. The Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP), Trade in Services Agreement (TISA) and Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) are being negotiated in secret, with privileged access for selected corporations.
The world has been focused on the spectacle of the “Troika” of the International Monetary Fund, European Union and the European Central Bank crushing the Greek people, but it is far from the only example of strong nations using a “debt crisis” to extract more wealth from those that are weaker. A case in point is the US colony of Puerto Rico. In a June 28 New York Times interview, the governor of the Caribbean archipelago nation declared its debt of US$73 billion “is not payable. There is no other option. I would love to have an easier option. This is not politics. This is math.”
When Bolivian President Evo Morales announced in May that his government was allowing oil and gas drilling in national parks, mainstream and progressive media outlets alike were quick to condemn his supposed hypocrisy on environmental issues. Writing for the Associated Press, Frank Bajak argued that although Morales is known internationally for his outspoken campaigning on climate change, at home he faces constant criticism from conservationists “who say he puts extraction ahead of clean water and forests”.
An event of profound importance took place in Brussels on July 12. The significance of the European summit negotiations extends well beyond the immediate — and devastating — consequences for the people of Greece. The fallout will not just affect the stability of the Greek government and the political future of SYRIZA and Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras.
There has been a huge rise in asylum seekers in Bulgaria as a direct result of instability in North Africa and the Middle East. They use Bulgaria as a land entry into the European Union. The Bulgarian tabloid press has coined the phrase “wave”, which has now entered political and popular language. In 2009, the newly-elected government greatly changed the way the law was interpreted and enforced. Before 2010, there was not a single “illegal immigrant” convicted and jailed in the criminal prisons.
Supporters of Die Linke (The Left) demonstrate in front of the Federal Chancellery, Berlin. Protests took place in 14 cities in Germany on July 16 against the German government’s aggressive treatment of the Greek crisis and in solidarity with their European Mediterranean neighbours.
Internationally renowned US intellectual Noam Chomsky told Mexican newspaper La Jornada on July 20 that it was because Washington was becoming increasingly isolated from “their own backyard” of Latin America, that the US decided to normalise relations with Cuba. Chomsky said the fourth Summit of the Americas of 2012 in Colombia was a major turning point for the US. It saw itself, along with Canada, completely marginalised from all the crucial issues being debated — including Cuba.
The Greek parliament passed a second bill on July 23 including measures needed for Greece to open negotiations over the eurozone's bailout package of 86 billion euros, TeleSUR English said that day.
Guatemala: UN says corporate positioning of river 'ecocide' The United Nations said 23 species of fish and 21 species of birds, reptiles and mammals in Guatemala's Pasion River have been affected by contamination caused by industrial African oil palm production, TeleSUR English said.
Showers off Lake Xolotlan sprinkled the huge crowds massed on July 19 for the 36th anniversary of the triumph of Nicaragua's popular revolution over the murderous tyranny of the Anastasio Somoza dictatorship in 1979. The revolution was led by the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN).
United States: Death of Black activist to be 'treated like murder' After a public outcry, a district attorney in Texas announced on July 20 that the death of African American activist Sandra Bland in a police cell will be investigated as thoroughly as a murder, TeleSUR English said.

If a Catalan Rip Van Winkle were to wake up today after a sleep of only six years, his disorientation with Catalonia would be as great as that of the original Rip Van Winkle after he dozed right through the American War of Independence. “Am I hallucinating?” he might ask, struggling to find the right answer to questions like:

On July 20, 32 people were killed in a suicide bombing attack on a cultural centre in Suruç, a town in Turkish Kurdistan. More than 100 were injured. Suruç is located across the border from the Syrian Kurdish town of Kobanê, which was besieged by forces of the self-styled Islamic State terrorist group, also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), between September and January.
SGDF activists in Suruç momements before the blast. The three women pictured were killed in the attacked. They are sisters.
Thousands of people protested on July‭ ‬15‭ ‬across Europe‭ – ‬and in cities around the world‭ – ‬in solidarity with Greece's struggle against austerity. The next day,‭ ‬Marina Prentoulis,‭ ‬spokesperson for Syriza in Britain,‭ told TeleSUR that what was needed was a‭ “‬pan-European movement‭” ‬capable of confronting the power of European capital and the neoliberal agenda of European leaders.‭
Obama publicly supported and assisted Israel's 2014 Gaza massacre that killed more than 2,200 Palestinians, including 551 children. The deal between the five permanent members of the UN Security Council and Iran over the latter’s nuclear program lifts an ominous shadow from a region already ravaged by bloodshed and conflict.
Child killed by Saudi bombing of Yemen. Twenty million people in Yemen, the poorest country in the Arab world, are at risk of dying from hunger or thirst. That’s 80% of the country’s population, which, according to UN agencies, badly needs emergency supplies of food and water, along with fuel and medicine. This almost unimaginable crisis sounds like something out of a disaster movie. But the cause is not an earthquake or a tsunami.
Ireland passed a new Gender Recognition Bill on July 15 that will allow transgender people to change their birth certificates and other documents, and achieve full legal recognition of their preferred gender. The bill is an elaboration on a previous one that allowed the legal changes, but only with a supporting statement from a doctor.
An historic betrayal has consumed Greece. Having set aside the mandate of the Greek electorate, the Syriza government has willfully ignored last week's landslide "No" vote and secretly agreed a raft of repressive, impoverishing measures in return for a "bailout" that means sinister foreign control and a warning to the world. Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has pushed through parliament a proposal to cut at least 13 billion euros from the public purse - 4 billion euros more than the "austerity" figure rejected overwhelmingly by the majority of the Greek population in a referendum on 5 July.
Colombian Indigenous refugees in Ecaudor. Migrant rights bill says 'no one is illegal' Ecuadorian National Assembly deputy Esteban Melo said that under a new migration bill presented to the Ecuadorian National Assembly on July 16, “No human being will be considered illegal”.

Culture

Here's this month's radical record round-up, with an emphasis on Guantanamo Bay. What album, or albums, would you suggest? Comment below, on Twitter or Facebook.

1. VARIOUS ARTISTS - NINA REVISITED

Battlers & Billionaires: The Story of Inequality in Australia Andrew Leigh Black Inc. Books, 2013 210 pages, $19.99 (pb) In Australia, notes economist and Labor MP Andrew Leigh, the poorest 20% of the population own just 1% of total household wealth. The top 20%, however, hog a fat 62%.
What Happened, Miss Simone? Directed by Liz Garbus Distributed by Netflix Liz Garbus' beautifully composed and riveting documentary What Happened, Miss Simone? honours the African American musician and civil rights activist who came to be known as “The High Priestess of Soul”.
In the aftermath of Cold Chisel frontman Jimmy Barnes' Facebook statement asking the far-right Reclaim Australia movement to stop playing his songs at their rallies, other musicians whose songs have featured have issued similar calls.
Singer Jimmy Barnes, best known as frontman for iconic Australian pub rock band Cold Chisel, released a statement slamming the far-right Reclaim Australia movement for using his songs at their rallies. In a statement on his official Facebook page, Barnes said: “It has come to my attention that certain groups of people have been using my voice, my songs as their anthems at rallies.