Issue 1064

News

'Put the bill, pass the bill' was the message as 700 people marched through the streets of Perth in support of marriage equality on August 9. The rally began with a new song by Luke John O'Dell and featured speakers including Joey Cookman from Playgroups with Pride, trans activist Jayne McFadyen and Greens parliamentarian Lynn MacLaren.
Students say ‘Resign Pyne’ About 100 people protested outside the Melbourne launch of federal education minister Christopher Pyne’s new book, A Letter to My Children, on July 31. The day before, Pyne had been chased off La Trobe University by students chanting, "Pyne the Minister. Can he fix it? No he can’t.” The protest was called to draw attention to Pyne's ongoing attempts to deregulate university fees. This would condemn future students to pay much higher fees to gain a tertiary education.
More than 100 unionists rallied in freezing conditions outside the ACT Magistrates Court on August 5 in support of Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) official John Lomax. Lomax was charged with blackmail last month in relation to evidence given to the Royal Commission into Trade Union Governance and Corruption. He pleaded not guilty. The charges follow the arrest of former CFMEU organiser Fihi Kivalu on blackmail charges following allegations that he demanded bribes from ACT builders to secure them work.
A meeting of trade ministers in Honolulu, Hawaii, over July 28 to 31, failed to reach final agreement on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) free trade deal. The TPP is a free trade deal being negotiated by countries on the Pacific rim: the US, Australia, Singapore, New Zealand, Chile, Brunei, Canada, Malaysia, Mexico, Peru, Vietnam and Japan. These countries represent about 40% of global GDP. Key stumbling blocks were over protectionist policies. The US, Mexico and Japan could not find agreement over cars, and the US and Japan disagreed on dairy.
The midnight text message that sacked 100 workers — this is the face of Australian industrial relations today. Workers at Hutchison Ports in Sydney and Brisbane received their marching orders by text and email overnight on August 7, informing them that their positions had been made redundant, there were no redeployment opportunities and their personal belongings would be couriered to them.
Brisbane Come and watch The Liberator, a film about the life of Simon Bolivar “El Libertador”. Hosted by Australia Venezuela Solidarity Network. Sunday August 16 at 3pm. The New Globe Theatre, 220 Brunswick Street, Fortitude Valley. Phone Margaret 0439 411 330 or Eulalia 0424 364 588. Melbourne
The Sydney University National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) organised a rally in trying weather conditions on Wednesday 5th August. They were joined by lively contingents from the Student Representative Council, Sydney University Postgrad Student Association, Socialist Alliance, Socialist Alternative, Greens members and staff from a variety of departments. Kyol Blakney, SRC president gave an acknowledgement of country and condemned the corporatism of universities.
The Papua New Guinea Supreme Court has declared an inquiry into the Manus Island detention centre null and void because of perceived bias. The court unanimously decided that Justice David Cannings, who started the inquiry, could not, according to PNG law, also preside over the proceedings. He also failed to disclose that an expert witness was his friend.
Photo: Peter Boyle Waterside workers and supporters rallied outside the Port Botany and Port Brisbane terminals of Hutchison Ports on August 7 in protest at the sudden sacking of 97 employees—57 in Sydney and 40 in Brisbane—the previous night. “Solidarity is the strongest force in the union movement. We will fight this till we win”, Sydney Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) branch secretary Paul McAleer told those assembled.
Students are returning to university campuses for second semester classes and Green Left Weekly is there too. This is part of a special campaign the paper is waging to boost distribution, and in particular to raise the number of campaigners involved. One example is Griffith University in Brisbane. A number of new members of the Socialist Alliance were studying at Griffith and decided to begin regular distribution of Green Left Weekly towards the end of last semester. Recently they were back for the university open day as preparation for second semester.
It was standing room only as more than 250 people packed an auditorium in Sydney, to hear speakers discuss conditions in the Nauru and Manus Island detention centres. As speaking about conditions in these detention centres has now been criminalised by the federal government's Border Force Act, the three speakers were whistleblowers. Two speakers, who had worked in or visited the detention centres, risk prosecution.
On July 30, Liverpool Council outdoor staff walked off the job after hearing that management wants to “tender out” cleaners’ jobs. Management wants to “cut costs” by tendering the jobs to cheaper firms which would pay less and provide a poorer service for residents. The United Services Union (USU) said that management, cynically, had offered to help workers prepare a tender for their own jobs!
A group of Free West Papua supporters attended a morning tea fundraiser in Darwin on August 2. The special guest was foreign affairs minister Julie Bishop. We wanted to meet her to discuss human rights in West Papua. Bishop was the key speaker. She took a few questions from the crowd but, although she knew I wanted to speak to her, she ignored me every time.
The anniversary of the death in custody of 22-year-old Aboriginal woman, known as Julieka Dhu, was marked around Australia on August 4. Dhu died while in police custody in Western Australia’s Pilbara region for non-payment of fines that totalled about $1000.

Analysis

What do working people in a country like Australia need with trade unions or legal protections when employers in this country are so thoughtful as to email their workers at midnight to tell them they were sacked, as Hutchison Ports kindly did on August 6 to nearly 100 port workers in Sydney and Brisbane?
Victoria Police announced on August 6 they had arrested and charged a 38-year-old man in connection with death threats made against Socialist Party councillor Steve Jolly, from Yarra Council in Melbourne’s inner north. The threats referred to Jolly’s prominent role in mobilisations countering the far right Islamophobic groups Reclaim Australia and United Patriots Front (UPF).
The conservative right has launched a last ditch campaign to swing public opinion away from support for marriage equality. The Marriage Alliance, a new organisation dedicated to opposing what it sees as a threat to “family values”, was launched on August 2. Backed by wealthy businesspeople, the campaign hopes to scare people away from marriage equality by raising vague but menacing threats about damage to children and loss of “rights and freedoms”.
For a long time, superannuation was available only to permanent public sector workers and managerial employees in the private sector. So-called “blue collar” workers were not so privileged. In the mid-1980s, only about a quarter of these workers had access to superannuation, more often than not following union-led campaigns in targeted industries.
Public disgust at Bronwyn Bishop's $5000 helicopter ride from Melbourne to Geelong is entirely justified. However, Tony Abbott's “root and branch” review of politicians' “entitlements” is designed to whitewash, not solve, the problem. After all, it is not as if we haven't had “root and branch” inquiries into politicians' entitlements before.
When Tony Abbott’s government asked the Productivity Commission to review Australia’s “workplace relations framework” it was for the sole purpose of providing it with cover for more attacks on workers’ pay and conditions. One of its terms of reference was to examine the ability that employers had to “flexibly” manage and engage with their employees. Flexibility is a word that once commonly conveyed a positive sense of resourcefulness and adaptability. But the notion of flexibility that the Productivity Commission refers to is one shaped by employers.
Activists are hoping that a bill to tighten the rules governing unconventional gas exploration and production in New South Wales will pass the Legislative Council on August 13. Such is the groundswell of opposition to this part of the fossil fuel industry, a Greens Bill has support from NSW Labor and a couple of small right-wing parties. Greens MP Jeremy Buckingham told Green Left Weekly that he expects the Bill to pass, with amendments proposed by Labor.
Mining giant Adani’s plan for a mega coalmine in Queensland’s Galilee Basin was dealt a near death blow on August 5 when the Federal Court set aside approval for the Carmichael licence. The mine, if built, would be Australia’s largest, exporting up to 60 million tonnes of coal from the Great Barrier Reef coast every year. The federal environment minister gave the $16.5 billion mine and rail project approval in July last year. The current and former Queensland governments have been gung-ho in their support for the mine.
Jamie Williams, a 28-year-old Melbourne man, was remanded in custody on July 27 after being charged by the Melbourne Joint Counter Terrorism Team for attempting to leave Australia on December 28 to travel to northern Iraq and fight with Kurdish forces against the Islamic State and Iraq and Syria (ISIS). Green Left Weekly’s Zane Alcorn spoke to Rob Stary, who has been representing Williams in this case, about the anti-terror laws and the Kurdish liberation struggle. * * *
Has a not-for-profit or charity (an NGO) contacted you to suggest switching electricity retailer? Are you convinced this helps them promote their causes while also addressing climate change? Several NGOs are now promoting an electricity retailer Powershop to their supporters. Australian activist group GetUp! pioneered such marketing. Others forming partnerships with Powershop include anti-poverty charity Oxfam, and environmental NGOs.
Thank god the age of entitlement is over and the days of the lifters carrying the leaners is finished. Otherwise, just imagine what sort of absurd things politicians like Bronwyn Bishop might claim. Instead of a $5000 helicopter ride from Melbourne to Geelong for a Liberal Party fundraiser, the Speaker might have taken a taxpayer-funded gold-plated spaceship via Pluto, stocked with black truffle mushrooms and caviar.

World

Ecuador: Correa says Latin American left faces 'new Cold War' Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa said on August 5 that left-wing governments in Latin America are facing “a new Cold War” that seeks to “annihilate them” through strategies of political destabilisation. The statements of the socialist leader come as opposition groups, including many from the far right, are planning a new series of protests against his government.
The extent of anger at austerity in Britain — and desire for an alternative to the pro-corporate politics of Britain's major parties — is being exposed by the scale of enthusiasm and support for the campaign of veteran socialist Jeremy Corbyn for leadership of the Labour Party.
For the first time in its history, the US colony of Puerto Rico has gone into default, Moody's Investors Service said on August 3. The news comes after years of economic turmoil in the island, produced mainly by the 2007-2010 recession and housing crisis that have affected the US. The default came soon after the island's Government Development Bank announced that it was only able to make a partial payment on its US$72 billion debt. This debt crisis directly hurts the Caribbean island's residents, since the debt is mostly owned by residents through credit unions.
Bersih 3.0 mass protest for democracy in Kuala Lumpar, April 2012.
CONALCAM brings Bolivia’s main indigenous and popular organisations together with state representatives to coordinate and debate economic policies. The small Andean nation of Bolivia has received praise from many quarters due to the economic transformation it has undergone over the past decade.
South Kordofan residents at a makeshift UN camp near Kadugli. Amnesty International released a report on August 3 detailing horrific war crimes committed against the people of South Kordofan by the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and its militias.
The 70th anniversary of the United States' atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki is a reminder that when the United States' enemies commit crimes, they are crimes. But when the United States commits crimes, they did not happen. In 1928, Arthur Ponsonby, a British politician, said: “When war is declared, the first casualty is the truth”. But he never specified what the distorted “truth” might be. If one were to examine all wars the US has engaged in, however, one might conclude the casualty to be civilian death counts.
Temperatures across the Middle East this week have soared in an unprecedented heat wave, forcing residents to stay indoors. In the Iranian city of Basrah, located in the epicentre of the heat wave, temperatures exceeded 48°C for the seventh day in a row on August 1. On the same day, the Iraq capital of Baghdad sweltered through its fourth consecutive day of temperatures higher than 48 degrees. Governments from both countries have been forced to declare public holidays to protect people from the sweltering temperatures.
Cornel West addresses the protest. Photo: Edward Leavy Jr. Thousands braved heat and no shade to rally and march in Newark, New Jersey, on July 25 and police brutality, racial injustice and economic inequality. The majority African-American crowd were supporting a demonstration initiated by the Newark-based People’s Organization for Progress.
Anti-water charge protests in Letterkenny, County Donegal on November 1. The Irish government’s unpopular public utility, Irish Water, has been dealt a body blow. It failed two key tests within the space of a fortnight — gifting a huge victory to opposition parties and the huge anti-water charges movement.
The July 23 deal between the US and Turkey — which gives the US access to Turkey's Incirlik airbase and officially brings Turkey into the US-led “war on ISIS” — makes one thing clear. For Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), the real enemy is not the terrorist group calling itself the Islamic State — more commonly known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). It is the Kurdish freedom movement and the Turkish left.
Had Hugo Chavez not passed away in 2013, the former Venezuelan president and revolutionary socialist would have turned 61 on July 28. However, though Chavez is gone, his indelible imprint on Venezuela’s political landscape endures.
Turkish police repress protests against Erdogan's renewed war. The outcome of Turkey’s June 7 parliamentary elections promised so much.

Culture

Labor and the Locavore: The Making of a Comprehensive Food Ethic By Margaret Gray University of California Press, 2014 Over the past few decades there has been a rapid growth of interest in buying food that does not come from large-scale industrial farms. Concerns exist over their use of large amounts of commercial fertilisers, pesticides and genetically modified organisms, and inhumane treatment of farm animals.
“What we do matters.” “We are many, they are few.” “The squeaky wheel gets the grease.” These phrases are what people trying to effect change often say quietly to avoid slouching into despair. Today, they are what crews of Bostonians are singing to one another over rowdy, joyous toasts, confident that their actions just beat back the most powerful plutocrats in town.
Anti-government protests in Bahrain, 2011. Sectarian Gulf: Bahrain, Saudi Arabia & the Arab Spring That Wasn’t Toby Matthiesen Stanford University Press, 2013 In 2011, when a wave of protest and rebellion swept the Arab world, the monarchical states making up the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) were not exempt from the unrest.