Issue 1066

Australia

BRISBANE

Come to a Red Cinema screening of Pride on Friday August 28 at 6pm at the Activist Centre, 74b Wickham St, Fortitude Valley with special guest, Bob Carnegie, Queensland secretary of the Maritime Union of Australia.

The film portrays the inspirational true story of the rainbow community’s solidarity with the miners’ strike in Britain under Margaret Thatcher.

MELBOURNE

Students rallied across the country on August 19 to protest education minister Christopher Pyne's third attempt to introduce a fee deregulation bill.

Tony Abbott’s government has twice failed to pass fee deregulation, which could allow fees in excess of $100,000 for students. The bill has not yet been put for a third time, but Pyne is determined to pass it.

More than 80 people rallied at the Sydney University protest, called by the National Union of Students, to oppose deregulation, defend current degrees and oppose all course and job cuts.

West Papua supporters held a peaceful rally at the Prime Minister’s Sydney residence, Kirribilli House, on August 15 to mark the signing of the New York Agreement, which betrayed the people of West Papua.

On August 15, 1962 an agreement was signed between the Republic of Indonesia and the Kingdom of the Netherlands concerning West New Guinea.

A vote on a Dutch/Indonesian resolution on the agreement by the UN General Assembly on September 21, 1962 was adopted and included this statement:

The federal Coalition’s plan to repeal a section of a 16-year-old environmental law can only be for one reason — to support mining companies at the expense of communities and the environment.

Attorney General George Brandis announced on August 19the government planned to repeal section 487 of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (the EPBC Act) which gives the community the right to enforce Australia’s environmental laws and hold decision makers and corporations to account.

The battle continues at Hutchison Ports terminals in Sydney and Brisbane against the sacking of 97 waterside workers by the company on August 6.

The campaign for reinstatement of the workers and for the defence of jobs on the waterfront refuses to die.

After a huge amount of political pressure from the Victorian government, the Rail Tram and Bus Union (RTBU) agreed to postpone its August 21 tram and train strike, and Metro Rail and Yarra Trams agreed to return to the negotiating table.

Had the strike gone ahead it would have been the first such strike in 18 years.

RTBU members were clearly fed up with their respective train and tram companies, with 98% of railway workers and 99.4% of tram workers who returned ballots voting for industrial action.

About 7000 people marched for equal marriage rights in Melbourne on August 15. It was the largest such rally in years. Contingents of teachers, nurses and other unions were out in force.

The march featured a portable rainbow and ended with a mass illegal wedding outside the registry office. Rally chair Anthony Wallace rejected PM Tony Abbott's call for a referendum and said "Just pass the bloody bill!".

The Victorian government has fined three conservationists from the Goongerah Environment Centre who entered a logging coupe to document illegal rainforest logging. They were each fined $440 for entering a “timber harvesting safety zone”.

In April the three entered an area being harvested by VicForests to investigate concerns that rules designed to protect vulnerable plant communities were being flouted by the government logging corporation.

The Victorian Auditor General released a report on August 19 that warned that well-recognised risks may make unconventional gas mining unsuitable for Victoria because of its dense population, scarce water resources and reliance on agriculture.

Asylum seekers from Iran whose claims for refugee status have been rejected are being intimidated into “voluntary” repatriation. The Australian government does not have an agreement with the Iranian government which will not accept the forced return of those who have fled the country.

Fears are growing for the health of a 23-year-old Iranian asylum seeker on Nauru who has been flown to Australia for medical treatment.

Nazinan was allegedly raped in May while on day release in the community from the detention centre. Her physical and mental health have deteriorated badly since the attack: her family says she has not been eating or drinking for the past few weeks and has attempted suicide.

John Percy, well-known socialist and member of Socialist Alternative, died in Sydney on August 19. He was a life-long activist and his involvement in many campaigns spanned more than 50 years, from the protests against the Vietnam War in the 1960s.

On August 19, the refugee rights group People Just Like Us hosted another in its series of meetings in Parramatta Library. Speakers included Sayid Kasim, a Rohingya from Arkan and Salmore, a Rohingya from Myanmar who told their stories of fleeing for their lives. Rohingya are stateless people, victims of racism and genocide. Dhugel, from Bhutan, told of his escape via India to Nepal. Paul Power from the Refugee Council of Australia told the meeting that governments should listen to refugees when making policy. “They are not a threat to our values”, he said.

The Friends of Palestine WA (FOPWA) led a 50-strong protest of students, activists and Palestinians to boycott the opening of the Israeli Film Festival in Perth on August 20.

Workers from DP World and Patricks are continuing to drop by the community assembly at Hutchisons Ports at Port Botany. Supporters are urged to come down and join them at the corner Sirius and Foreshore Roads, Port Botany — day or night.

Meanwhile, talks are underway between the Maritime Union of Australia and Hutchisons’ senior management. Workers are quietly hopeful, but determined to stand united for a fair result.

World

Running scared. That is the only explanation for the increasingly desperate and angry denunciations from the right wing of Britain's Labour Party, as Islington North MP Jeremy Corbyn's campaign looks more and more likely to win party’s leadership election on September 12.


Photo: CUT.

About 1 million people across Brazil protested on August 20 against right-wing attempts to impeach President Dilma Rousseff.

The marches were joined by Brazil's big social movements, including the Movement of Landless Workers (MST) and the United Workers' Central (CUT), the largest trade union federation in Latin America.


Factory making high-speed trains, a symbol of China's rapid growth.

The dramatic slowing of China’s economy has significant consequences for world growth. Official statistics likely overstate China’s official growth rate of 7%.

The Obama administration's announcement that the United States' power sector would deliver a 30% cut in emissions by 2030 was hailed by many as a breakthrough in meaningful action.

US Secretary of State John Kerry suggests the “US is setting an example to the world on climate change”. Reuters said, “U.S. unveils sweeping plan to slash power plant pollution” and the president of the World Resources Institute declared the proposals to be a “momentous development”.


Tianjin residents protest, August 20.

Capitalism with Chinese characteristics is in some strife. This is largely because the government’s attempt to keep growth at an unsustainable 7% a year is fuelled by equally unsustainable debt.

Corporate and local government debt has grown by 50% since 2009, and total debt, which includes household debt, is now close to 187% of GDP.


Tamils protest in Geneva to demand a UN investigation into Sri Lankan war crimes. Photo via Tamilnet.

Less than a month after giving the green light for Royal Dutch Shell to start oil exploration in the Arctic, the US government approved a bid from the oil giant to drill even deeper on August 17 .

The Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) is allowing the European oil giant to modify its Chukchi Sea drilling permit, where its vessels have begun working about 140 miles from Alaska’s north-west shoreline.


Ecuadorian chapter of the The Latin American Coordination of Rural Organisations, which is calling for the creation of a Agrarian Council. Photo via TeleSUR Eglish.

More than 6000 people and 500 group have participated in public meetings on a proposed land law with the government of President Rafael Correa.


Palestinians in Susiya demonstrate in May against Israel’s plans to destroy the village. Photo: Sarah Levy/Electronic Intifada.

The Palestinian village of Susiya is at imminent risk of demolition. On May 5, Israel’s High Court of Justice refused to grant an interim order to freeze the demolition until the outcome of an appeal brought by villagers to prove the village’s legitimacy.

Palestinian girls walk past the rubble of a destroyed building in the aftermath of last year's July-August Israeli bombing of Gaza.


Israeli bulldozers uproot olive trees on Palestinian lands to make way for a separation wall in Beit Jala.

Palestinian farmers have called for international solidarity against ongoing Israeli destruction of their olive groves and livelihoods.

Since Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's new wave of attacks on North Kurdistan within the Turkish state in the wake of Turkey's June election, people of all ages have joined the effort to defend and govern themselves in the area.

Since the 1990s, the Turkish state has used tactics of denial, assimilation and annihilation in the North Kurdistan. Although the promises of peace that the Erdogan's Justice and Development Party (AKP) made when it first came to power awakened hope for many, 13 years later the promises remain unfulfilled.

There were huge protests against the Trans-Pacific Partnership held across New Zealand on August 15. About 10,000 protesters marched in Auckland, 5000 in Wellington, 4000 in Christchurch and thousands more in other parts of the country.

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.

When it comes to elections in Venezuela, there are at least three things you can usually count on. The upcoming December 6 elections for the National Assembly are no different — even if the result is far from certain.

The first is that much is at stake.

In a country where the poor majority has sought to advance radical change through popular mobilisations and votes, every election since Hugo Chavez’s successful 1998 bid for president has been transformed into a referendum on the future of the country’s “Bolivarian revolution”.


Vigil of government supporters outside the presidential palace.

After days of anti-government demonstrations, some indigenous groups aligned with the right-wing opposition have vowed to continue protests and strike against President Rafael Correa. The opposition has described its national strike as indefinite.

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras announced Thursday that he will step down and call snap elections for September 20, after facing strong resistance from within his own SYRIZA party.

“I will ask the Greek people if they think we have made achievements,” said the prime minister. “You will decide how we will recuperate the Greek economy, with your vote you will decide the future of Greece.”


Vendors salvage goods from ruins of their shops following Saudi airs strike.

Civilians and hospitals are being targeted deliberately in Yemen by the Saudi-led Arab coalition airstrikes against the rebels in the country, officials from the Doctors Without Borders (MSF) medical charity said on July 30.

Analysis

This is a reply by GetUp!’s Anthony Gough to Andrea Bunting’s article “GetUp, Oxfam’s Powershop partnership raises questions” printed in Green Left Weekly #1064.

It has been about 12 months since we at GetUp! launched the Better Power campaign, and so far we have encouraged 12,000 people to switch their household electricity away from Australia's biggest polluters.

Combating institutionalised violence and misogyny

Margarita Windisch presented this talk at the “Fighting Misogyny and Sexism Today” seminar, hosted by Socialist Alliance and Resistance, in Sydney on August 8. Margarita is a sexual assault worker, a lecturer and a member of the Socialist Alliance.

MUA outlines Hutchison situation in Brisbane

New polls show that had an election been held in mid-August, Tony Abbott's federal Coalition would have suffered a 7.5% swing against it. The Prime Minister’s prevarication on marriage equality and the scandal over entitlements are fueling the dissent.

The IPSOS-Fairfax and Essential Research polls revealed that the Coalition would have lost between 36 and 44 seats — with Labor and the Greens being the main beneficiaries.

Did you hear the one about how Vegemite was going to be banned in some alcohol-free remote communities because it was being used to make homebrew?

This wasn’t satire, this was a widely reported story in the mainstream press. It ticked all the right boxes for successful click bait, but there was just one problem: it was bullshit. The source for these claims? The Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Nigel Scullion.

The future of the federal government’s anti-union, kangaroo court — the Royal Commission into Trade Union Governance and Corruption — is in doubt, following media revelations that the commissioner, retired High Court Justice John Dyson Heydon, accepted an invitation — not once, but twice — to speak at a Liberal Party fundraiser while serving on the body. The commission first sat on April 9 last year and media reports say Heydon received the invitation to speak via email just one day later, on April 10. He was approached again in March.

Kumanjayi Langdon, 59, from Yuendumu in Central Australia, died of heart failure in Darwin Police Watch House on May 21 — “on a concrete bench with two strangers” — three hours after being taken into custody following a paperless arrest “for drinking in a regulated place”.

At the inquest into Langdon’s death, Northern Territory Coroner Greg Cavenagh found he died from natural causes but should have been able to die in freedom, with his family and friends.

"In my view Kumanjayi Langdon had the right to die as a free man," Cavanagh said.

The financial scandal in the Health Services Union (HSU) involving its national president Michael Williamson and former national secretary Craig Thompson ended in the courts when both of them were convicted for fraud and theft offences.

It became the trigger for Prime Minister Tony Abbott to announce on February 10 last year that he was setting up a Royal Commission into Trade Union Governance and Corruption headed by former High Court judge Dyson Heydon.

Today, thanks to the power of social media, I have come across this despicable act. I am so angry about it that I feel compelled to write something in the 20 minutes I have remaining in my lunch break.

The accompanying photo is of the so-called “Uluru bark petition”. It was presented to the federal government, much to the gleeful hand-rubbing of the Liberal Party and particularly anti-marriage equality campaigner Senator Eric Abetz.

After an eleven-year fight, the Australian government has recently come under intensified pressure to let LGBTI couples marry.

The success of marriage equality in Ireland and then the United States has made Australia more isolated. It seems clear that the marriage equality campaign is going to win. Nevertheless, the government is still trying to stall marriage equality.

Many blame the Liberal Party. It is true that Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s desperate measures to suppress the conscience vote show just how homophobic the party is. But the Labor Party should not be let off the hook.

Universal Basic Income (UBI) is not a new idea. But it is an idea whose time has come. It is one of the simplest, most obvious pieces of social policy imaginable: every member of a society, with no exceptions, is entitled to enough money to live on.

Eligibility is not conditional on age or employment status, or education or criminal record like the poorly-built social welfare programs of modern Australia that have deep, but invisible, cracks for the most vulnerable to fall into.

Rallies calling for marriage equality were held in major cities across Australia over the past few weekends. The turnout was large, with numbers reaching the thousands. The overwhelming presence of youth was particularly noticeable.

In many areas of the LGBTI struggle today, youth are helping lead the charge. Opinion polls conducted by Australian Marriage Equality found that 80% of those under 24 support equal marriage, the highest percentage for any demographic group.

Why was John Dyson Heydon QC liberal prime minister Tony Abbott’s “captain's pick” to run the royal commission into the trade unions?

It could be from the shared solidarity that you’d expect of Rhodes scholars. Or perhaps it was just innocent association from the time former Prime Minister John Howard appointed Dyson Heydon to the High Court in 2003, a position he retired from under the compulsory age rule of 70 in 2013.

Culture

Son of Nun
Son of Nun
Firebrand Records
www.firebrandrecords.com

For Baltimore-based rapper Son of Nun, the forming of Ryan Harvey and Tom Morello's new rebel music record label Firebrand Records offered an opportunity to redeem his rhymes.

Born Kevin James, the 37-year-old emcee took a lengthy hiatus from hip hop until Harvey, who he met through activist circles years back, approached him to become part of his experiment.


Marines join protesting German workers in Berlin during the November 1918 revolution.

The German Left & the Weimar Republic
By Ben Fowkes
Haymarket Books, 2015
399 pages, US$28.

Socialist historian Ben Fowkes has given us a unique and vivid text documentary of the German workers’ movement during the tumultuous years of its greatest influence — from November 1918 to its defeat by Nazism 15 years later.

African American singer-songwriter Janelle Monae, who is seeking to use her popularity to speak out against police brutality and racism, had her comments in support of the #BlackLivesMatter movement cut from a performance on the NBC's Today show on August 14.