Issue 1068

News

Staff at the federal Department of Human Services (DHS) started voting on a new enterprise bargaining agreement (EBA) on September 4. The public service union strongly recommended a No vote. The Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) has been campaigning hard against new departmental EBA offers that cut wages and conditions. About 34,000 workers at DHS are set to vote down a management proposal that reflects the Abbott government's hard line against workers and unions in its own workforce, as a test case for wage and conditions cuts throughout all sectors of the economy.
Local residents of the Sydney suburb of St Peters successful halted what they suspected was an illegal attempt to remove asbestos from the planned St Peters Interchange site in the ecologically and financially irresponsible $15 billion WestConnex road-tunnel project.
ADELAIDE Join us at the Green Left Quiz Night. A fun evening with great prizes supporting the newspaper. Friday September 18 at 6pm. Entry $15/10 conc. City Soul, 13 Hutt St, city. Bookings ph Gemma 0437 714 786. BRISBANE Come to a book Launch: Women of Steel: the story of the struggle by women for jobs in the steel industry in Wollongong in the 1980s. Special guests co-author Carla Gorton and Ros McLennan, secretary, Queensland Council of Unions. Thursday September 17 at 5pm. QCU, Peel St, South Brisbane. Visit jobsforwomenfilm.com.
Over the past two weeks the Victorian Labor government has ramped up its hostile rhetoric towards rail and tram workers fighting to defend their rights. This culminated in joint legal action taken in the Fair Work Commission with rail boss Metro Trains against the Rail Tram and Bus Union (RTBU) in a bid to stop railway workers from taking strike action on September 4. It failed to stop the strike going ahead.
Combating institutionalised violence and misogyny, a talk by Mehreen Faruqi Mehreen Faruqi presented this talk at the Fighting Misogyny and Sexism Today seminar hosted by Socialist Alliance and Resistance in Sydney on August 8. Mehreen Faruqi is a Greens MLC. Tony Abbott's Greatest Achievements — Episode1: He's One of a Kind
The Canning byelection is attracting national attention as the possibility that the Liberals may lose the seat they hold by a 12% margin is openly discussed. A loss would be a severe blow to the Coalition government — already reeling from controversies ranging from the Border Farce stunt in Melbourne to the choppergate scandal — as well as to the leadership of Tony Abbott.
By the time Manus Island detainee Hamid Kehazaei was transferred to Australia he was already brain dead, documents produced at a pre-inquest conference show. He was transferred from Port Moresby in a comatose state and confirmed dead on arrival at Brisbane’s Mater Hospital. Kehazaei was transferred from Christmas Island to in September 2013. On August 23 last year he was given intravenous antibiotics for a leg ulcer. When it had not improved two days later a request for urgent removal to hospital was made. This was not approved until the following day.
Hundreds of people from across NSW gathered outside AGL's HQ on September 2 to mark the 100th week of a protest first initiated by Camden residents angry that AGL is allowed to frack near their homes. AGL first started fracking in Camden, south west Sydney, in 2001. Speakers included Jennifer Schoelpple; Anne Thompson, an original Knitting Nanna from the Northern Rivers; Greens MP Jeremy Buckingham; and Julie Lyford, president of Groundswell Gloucester.
The Daily Telegraph's Sunday staff were met on August 30 with rainbow banners, chalk, and vibrant queer pride as members of the rainbow community and their friends took a stand against the newspapers vitriol against documentary Gayby Baby. Gayby Baby follows the lives of four children with same-sex parents and shows the challenges they face due to homophobia.
The community assembly outside the Hutchison terminal at Port Botany is holding firm against a threat by the NSW Port Authority to evict the gathering from the entrance to the facility. There was a similar stand-off at Fishermans Island, Port of Brisbane. The assemblies have been maintained for more than four weeks to protest against the sacking of 97 waterside workers by the giant Hutchison company, part of the biggest multinational stevedoring corporation in the world.
Members of Melbourne’s Kurdish community, along with Australian supporters, held a rally and march in Melbourne on August 29 to protest Turkey’s war against its Kurdish population. Speakers denounced the regime of President Recip Tayyip Erdogan for launching a war on the Kurds, who make up over a quarter of Turkey’s population. Kurdish cities, towns and villages have been savagely attacked by security forces. People have been killed in their homes, the death toll is rising and hundreds of Kurdish politicians and activists have been arrested.
Queensland’s environment department has given conditional approval for the controversial expansion of the Acland coalmine. But questions about the link between political donations to the former LNP government and their support for the project remain unanswered. In December last year the Queensland coordinator-general approved Stage 3 of New Hope Coal’s Acland coalmine, despite the project requiring the “clearing of eight endangered and of-concern regional ecosystems” including koala habitat, issues regarded as “matters of state environmental significance”.
Whatever else he might be, John Dyson Heydon is no fool. When he accepted the job of royal commissioner inquiring into trade union governance and corruption, he knew what was expected of him. The commission was set up as a political witch-hunt into unions, designed to give the federal Coalition government an issue with which it thought it could win the next election. Heydon was happy to oblige and has been handsomely paid for doing so.
A delegation of Garawa people from Borroloola and their supporters gathered on September 2 at Parliament House in Darwin to present the NT government with a petition. The petition, signed by 3600 people, calls on the government to shut down and clean up Glencore’s McArthur River lead and zinc mine upstream from Borroloola. Freedom of Information documents recently revealed that several government departments had been aware of the high levels of heavy metals leaking into the waterways for 18 months.
Protesters will soon be banned from harassing women outside Victorian abortion clinics in a deal between the Victorian government and Sex Party MP Fiona Patten. The Labor government has agreed to support Patten’s private member’s bill, which would place 150-metre protest exclusion zones outside fertility clinics, with hefty penalties for protesters who breach them.
The University of Wollongong has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the immigration department to provide training for Border Force officers in maritime border security. Under the terms of the MoU, the University’s Australian National Centre for Ocean Resources and Security (ANCORS) will train Border Force officers in maritime enforcement, civil maritime security policy development, research and regional capacity building.
Newcastle City Council voted on August 26 to join the global push to divest from fossil fuel. This follows the ACT’s announcement that it would become the first Australian government to divest from fossil fuels and aim to have 100% renewable energy by 2025. With a total investment portfolio of $280 million, Newcastle council has also told Australia’s big four banks they need to divest portfolios of assets that include coal and oil.
National Australia Bank (NAB) has decided not to fund the Adani coalmine, rail and port facilities on the Great Barrier Reef coastline. The Korean company LG has also announced it will not buy the company's coal. Korean electronics giant LG signed a letter of intent with Adani last year to purchase 4 million tonnes of coal from the Carmichael mine. However Adani has now lost one of its two big external customers when the letter of intent expired and was not renewed.
The Refugee Action Coalition Sydney released this statement on September 1. A 25 year-old Burmese asylum seeker attempted suicide at Manus Island on August 31. The emergency unfolded over almost four hours as the man climbed onto the roof of Delta Compound around 3pm and made attempts to hang himself using bed sheets and electrical cable, before making a final attempt to jump just before 7pm. More than 50 Transfield and IHMS medical personnel were mobilised during the emergency.
Hundreds from across NSW gathered outside AGL's HQ on September 2 to mark the 100th week of a protest first initiated by Camden residents angry that AGL is allowed to frack near their homes. AGL first started fracking in Camden, south west Sydney, in 2001. Speakers included Jennifer Schoelpple, Anne Thompson, an original Knitting Nanna from the Northern Rivers, Greens MP Jeremy Buckingham and Julie Lyford, president of Groundswell Gloucester.
Gas company Metgasco is so determined to drill for unconventional gas in northern NSW it is prepared to make enemies of old friends — the NSW Coalition government. On September 1, Metgasco declared it was halting talks with Mike Baird's government and suing it for damages.

Analysis

I am sure we all appreciate the federal government's bid to secure Melbourne's borders, but in the aftermath of its farcical Border Force debacle, I have a tactical suggestion. If you really want to catch visa violators, just invite Liverpool FC back to play another match at the MCG, then round up the 90,000 English visa over-stayers who rock up. In fact, once everyone is in, just lock the stadium's gates and you have yourself a brand new ready-made detention centre.
“To change everything, we need everyone.” That is the slogan of the People’s Climate March being held globally on the weekend of November 27-29. The rallies will coincide with the upcoming UN climate talks in Paris and will demand a transition to a safe climate that ensures jobs and social justice. But the rallies are not just about appealing to politicians to make a strong agreement in Paris — there is very little chance of that happening.
It very quickly became “Border Farce”. Within hours of the Australian Border Force — Prime Minister Tony Abbott's paramilitary amalgamation of the Customs Service and immigration department — announcing on August 28 that they would be joining the Victorian police and privatised public transport operators in Operation Fortitude to check the visa status of “anti-social” elements on the streets of Melbourne, hundreds of protesters had gathered at Flinders Street Station and social media had exploded in outrage.
From 1954 to 1972, Australia’s official unemployment rate was under 2% as the economy grew at the most rapid rate in the country’s history. There was one exception, the credit squeeze year of 1961, in which unemployment rose to 2.4%.
Carol Hucker worked on Manus Island as a counsellor for International Health and Medical Services (IHMS) and as a case worker for the Salvation Army from June 2013 to July last year. She has allowed Green Left Weekly to publish her account so that people can become more aware of what is happening on Manus Island. She said: “It is my hope that through this brief account the men on Manus will not be forgotten.” This is the second part of a multi-part series and covers September 2013. * * *
Visiting Canadian author and activist Naomi Klein believes she owes PM Tony Abbott “a debt of thanks”. In Sydney to promote her new book Capitalism versus the Climate: This Changes Everything, Klein said the conflict between what the planet needs and what capitalism needs is exemplified in Australia.
Resistance: Young Socialist Alliance’s “World to Win” series aims to give voice to the ideas and demands of radical young people who are involved in the struggle to make the world a fairer and more just place. This week, Maryam Allami and Claire Thoen discuss the struggle of transgender people against systemic oppression and the possibilities of liberation. * * *
I don’t know about you, but I really enjoyed the August 31 episode of Q&A on the topic “Cheating, Climate, War & Democracy”. It was thanks to three solid lefties from overseas, Naomi Klein, Laurie Penny and Tariq Ali, who were in Australia for the Melbourne Writers Festival and the Festival for Dangerous Ideas in Sydney. The right-winger on the panel, US Studies Centre academic Tom Switzer, had a go at red-baiting Klein. Here is their exchange:
Independent and Peaceful Australia Network (IPAN) released this statement on August 28. Peace activists across the nation are united in anger at the prospect of Australia joining the US in bombing targets in Syria. IPAN is a network of peace groups with affiliates in every state and territory. It has consistently opposed the use of military power to solve international problems and believes that Australia has lost its independence through too close an alliance with the US.

World

Just hours after an arrest warrant was issued against him, Guatemalan President Otto Perez Molina announced he would step down from office on September 2, in the face of a worsening corruption scandal and huge anti-government protests. The next day, a judge sentenced Perez Molina to a provisional jail sentence while the charges against him are heard.
Colombian right-wing paramilitaries. Venezuela and Colombia recalled their ambassadors for consultations on August 26. The move came after a meeting between the two nations’ foreign ministers failed to calm diplomatic tensions over Venezuelan border closures and Colombian smuggling activities. The recall was followed the next day by further border closures announced by Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.
Thousands of people gathered in Dublin, August 29. Tens of thousands of people took part in a huge anti-water charge rally in Dublin on August 29 under the banner: “We’re not going away, you know!” This is the fifth demonstration Right2Water has organised in opposition to deeply unpopular water charges. About 500,000 people have attended Right2Water protests to date.
About 150 million workers across India went on strike on September 2 to protest the "pro-business" policies of the Narendra Modi-led BJP government. Trade unions are opposing government plans to sell off stakes in state-run companies and change labour laws, which will put jobs at risk and worsen working conditions.
Hundreds of people crammed into the Marriott Hotel in Glasgow on August 29 for the launch of RISE – Scotland’s Left Alliance. The new coalition of the left will stand candidates in all eight regional seats in the 2016 Scottish elections.
Big protest against Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's security bill outside parliament in Tokyo, August 30. About 120,000 people rallied outside Japan’s parliament on August 30 opposing what they call the “voluntary war law”.
#BlackLivesMatter activists Marissa Johnson and Mara Willaford stormed the stage as Sanders began speaking and demanded an opportunity to address racial injustice. Seattle, August 8. There is a lull in the large mass mobilisations associated with the Black Lives Matter movement, but the campaign targetting racism and police brutality remains central to politics in the US.
Indigenous anti-Correa protesters. Ecuador’s President Rafael Correa is facing the most important challenge yet to his self-styled “Citizens' Revolution”. A range of indigenous groups, trade unions and leftist parties mobilised across the country on August 13. Their long list of demands included calls for land reform, opposition to mining, support for bilingual education and the shelving of the government’s proposed water and labour laws.
The white police officer who shot two unarmed Black youths in May in Thurston County, Washington state, will not face criminal charges, the Thurston County Prosecutor announced on September 2, because the youths’ skateboards were said to be “threatening” the officer. Prosecutor Jon Tunheim said that rather than charging the cop, whose bullets left one of the young men paralysed from the waist down, assault charges would be filed against the two men, Bryson Chaplin, 21, and Andre Thompson, 24.
Rojava, the Kurdish-majority liberated zone in northern Syria, is the location of a unique experiment in grassroots, participatory democracy. It is undergoing a profound social revolution that emphasises social and economic equality, ecology, religious tolerance, ethnic inclusion, collectivity combined with individual freedom and, most obviously, feminism.
30,000 people marched in Vienna on August 31 to demonstrate against inhumane treatment of refugees. In less than a fortnight a series of tragedies took place on the borders of Europe, spurring a continent-wide debate over refugee policy. On August 26, about 200 refugees perished at sea as their ship capsized off the coast of Libya on its way to Italy.
Malaysian democracy activists estimate that between 300,000 and half a million people peacefully took to the streets of the capital Kuala Lumpur for 34 hours from August 29 to 30. This is much larger than the previous mobilisations by the BERSIH (literally meaning “clean”) movement for free and fair elections.

Culture

Tony Abbott received a much-deserved roasting on the opening night of the Sydney Fringe Comedy festival on September 1. Unfortunately no actual fire was involved, but the prime minister — played disturbingly well by Jonas Holt (whose Abbott impersonation has featured on Weekend Sunrise and the At Home With Tones webseries) — was subjected to an amusing grilling.
LeBron James. If there was ever a moment that signalled how little Black lives mattered to people in power in the US, it was in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, which hit the Gulf of Mexico — especially devastating the city of New Orleans — 10 years ago. This fact was called out in real time by New Orleans residents, racial-justice activists around the country, and Kanye West's off-script and utterly true comments that “George Bush doesn't care about Black people”.
Mrs Engels By Gavin McCrea Scribe, 2015 352 pp, $29.99 For those hankering to know what Communist Manifesto co-author Frederick Engels’ erect penis looked like, page 37 of this novel is for you. “In its vigours, it points up and a bit to the side,” says Lizzie Burns, the first-person narrator of the entire story. Gavin McCrea’s Burns is a brilliant narrative voice, and his writing sparkles. Burns’s rich brogue and incisive humour are wonderful.