Issue 1069

Australia

Industrial action taken by tram workers has already had an impact on Yarra Trams. The company has withdrawn some of its proposals for stripping the working conditions of tram workers.

A community assembly is holding firm outside the Hutchison terminal at Port Botany, with 24-hour attendance and regular gatherings of maritime workers from Hutchison and the other operators, Patricks and DP World. There is a similar assembly at the Port of Brisbane.

The assemblies were established after the provocative sacking of 97 waterfront workers at the two ports at midnight on August 6 and have been maintained as "solidarity camps" ever since. The sackings, imposed via text and email messages, shocked workers in the maritime industry and throughout the whole union movement.

More than 200 people rallied to support of maintaining penalty rates at Capalaba Sports Club on September 5.

The protest was called by United Voice to protest against the club’s decision to scrap penalty rates for workers and sack those who would not sign an agreement to trade away penalty rates, which would mean a wage cut of up to $300 a week.

The 11th Annual Edward Said Memorial Lecture, presented by the Australian Friends of Palestine Association, was held on September 5 at the University of Adelaide.

Dr Salam Fayyad was the guest speaker. He was the inaugural President of the State of Palestine (2007-2013) and one of Time Magazine’s 100 most influential people in 2010.

Community groups from across Sydney have condemned the NSW government's announcement that the community consultation period for the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the M4 East section of the huge WestConnex tollway will be limited to 45 days.

NSW Planning Minister Rob Stokes released the Environmental Impact Statement on September 9.

NSW Greens spokesperson for WestConnex and MP for Newtown Jenny Leong said: “This is the largest, most complex road building project in Australia’s history.

The Freedom Movement, which was born at the Freedom Summit at the Old Telegraph outside of Mparntwe (Alice Springs) last November, will gather once more from September 11 to 13.

Members of tribal nations, including Arrente leader Rosalie Kunoth-Monks, will be present.

Narungga Elder Tauto Sansbury said: “We need to show a united front on this important issue of sovereignty in our country, which has been railroaded by the Recognition campaign, a diversion from the real issues, and will not deliver for all traditional owners.”

If it wasn't painfully obvious before it should now be crystal clear now that there is no such thing as company loyalty. Loyalty from companies that is.

ABC’s 4 Corners revealed last week that convenience store chain 7-Eleven was engaged in a wide-scale rip off of its workers by paying them below award wages, and in some cases below the minimum wage. It seems employees are fair game for the rapacious nature of capitalism.

The Labor-dominated Newcastle council has defied pressure from unions and senior ALP figures to rescind moves to investigate moving a $270 million investment portfolio away from banks that fund ‘‘socially and environmentally’’ harmful projects and industry.

Labor’s Cr Declan Clausen, who moved the original motion, said it was not against the coal industry or coal jobs, but a symbolic move in support of ‘‘different jobs for the future’’ and a shift to renewables and a clean energy industry.

ADELAIDE

Join us at Nuclear Politics in the Pub on Wednesday September 16 at 6.30pm. While submissions are closed for the Royal Commission into the Nuclear Fuel Chain, the discussion is just getting started! Speakers and a special screening of short film Homelands with Bobby Brown. Hosted by SA Nuclear Free Coalition. Governor Hindmarsh Hotel, 59 Fort Rd Hindmarsh. Ph 0432 388 665

BRISBANE

The Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) has launched another round of industrial action, starting with half-day strikes in many Canberra-based public service agencies on September 15.

This is an escalation of its long-running bargaining campaign against the Abbott government. Staff from the Canberra offices of Human Services, the Tax Office, Immigration and Border Protection and Employment will hold a lunch-time rally and half-day walk-outs.

Unite, a group that seeks to organise casual workers in Victoria, has called on the federal government to give an amnesty to any past or present 7-Eleven workers who may have breached their international student visa conditions.

After ABC’s 4 Corners revealed the 7-Eleven half-pay scam the company was forced to launch its own independent investigation of the claims of underpayment. The Fair Work Ombudsman is also investigating the widespread underpayment of wages at 7-Eleven stores.

Senate rejects bid to make unemployed wait for welfare

An attack on young people has been defeated. A measure to force jobseekers under the age of 25 to wait an additional four weeks before accessing unemployment benefits has been defeated in the Senate, 30 votes to 35.

Labor and the Greens opposed the bill, announced in the May federal budget, meaning six of the eight crossbenchers had to vote with the government for the bill to pass.

Taxi drivers and operators stopped work in major cities across Australia on September 10 in protest against Uber, which taxi drivers say is running an illegal, unregulated service.

In Sydney, hundreds of taxi drivers protested against Uber outside NSW Parliament. NSW Taxi Operators and Drivers Association president Anne Turner told Green Left Weekly: "We are here today to save our livelihoods."

In Melbourne, more than 1000 people rallied outside Parliament House, then marched on the Victorian Taxi Services Commission.

About 100 people rallied outside Australia Post in the CBD on September 9 to protest against job cuts at Australia Post.

Australia Post CEO Ahmed Fahour’s plans to “halve the service and double the price for letters” is before the parliament now. This could see the price of stamps increased to $1.

Fahour announced that he had put aside $190 million for redundancies — an indication of how many jobs will go. Australia Post’s revenue has increased by more than $1.5 billion since 2010.

"Boat turn backs, mandatory detention, offshore processing and indefinite limbo do not save lives."

This was the comment made by Refugee Rights Action Network activist Michelle Bui before the 1000-strong #LightTheDark vigil for refugees in Perth on September 7.

"You have to understand," she said that "no one puts their child on a boat unless the water is safer than the land."

PM Tony Abbott's desire to sign Australia up to the “coalition of the killing”, currently dropping bombs over northern Syria, is a gamble that current levels of fear and Islamophobia will indemnify his government.

But there is significant opposition to war and racism to challenge the racism and fear, and a coalition of groups, unions and political parties are organising a rally in Sydney on September 19 to highlight that.

World

Land reforms are essential to achieving a long-standing peace after half a century of conflict, said Colombian academic Alejandro Reyes on September 10 during a forum on agrarian issues in Bogota.

It is the single image that has crystallised the horror of the refugee crisis in Europe: On September 2, a photographer took a picture of the lifeless body of 3-year-old Aylan Kurdi, a Kurdish refugee from Syria, lying face-down on a Turkish beach.

The toddler was one of at least 12 refugees — including his five-year-old brother Galip, and their mother Rihan — who drowned during a desperate bid to reach the Greek island of Kos, joining more than 2500 refugees who have perished in the Mediterranean this year.

Recent statements by Bolivian Vice-President Alvaro Garcia Linera regarding non-government organisations (NGOs) in Bolivia have triggered a heated debate on the left.

On August 11, Garcia Linera accused NGOs of acting like political parties seeking to interfere in Bolivia’s domestic affairs. While respecting their right to criticise government policies, Garcia Linera said foreign-funded NGOs need to understand their place within Bolivian society.


HDP rally ahead of the June 7 election.

The following statement was issued by the foreign affairs commission of the Peoples Democratic Party (HDP) on September 10.

India witnessed a powerful general strike on September 2, across most sectors of the economy and civil administration. The strike was called jointly by central trade unions and supported actively by various sections of the Indian left.

Sometimes the fate of a child is written 100 years before they are born. Some will view this as a reductionist approach or fatalistic, but here we are not talking of a divine fate, we are talking of historical forces, politics, power, hegemony, economic exploitation and colonialism.

The Bolivian government is organising a World People's Conference on Climate Change and Defence of Life to be held in Cochabamba on October 10-12.

The conference was announced in August by Bolivian President Evo Morales, as well as leaders of the Bolivian Workers Central (COB) and the National Coalition for Change (CONALCAM).

Not even Brahma, the Brazilian multinational beer company, stood a chance. Brahma’s plant in the northern Venezuelan city of Barquisimeto was left to be occupied by its workers, who did not accept being fired when the factory closed, after its shares were sold to billionaire Gustavo Cisneros.

The beer business in Venezuela was strategically designed so that only three brewing companies could become part it, which with the passing of time became two: Empresas Polar, owned by the Mendoza family, and Cerveceria Regional, owned by the Cisneros Group.

No one with an ounce of intelligence would have expected Thailand's junta, and its herd of “academics for hire”, to come up with a democratic constitution - or anything other than a host of counter-reforms to set the authoritarian political agenda for years to come.

Overall, the current draft differs little in its tone from the previous draft, although there is a shocking additional article towards the end. The general tone is patronising and banal, with constant references to the monarchy.

An unusually grave political crisis rocking the power-sharing agreement in Northern Ireland was worsened by the arrest of three top republicans on September 9, Irish Republican News said that day. Those arrested included Bobby Storey, the chairperson of Sinn Fein in the six counties in Ireland's north still claimed by Britain.

The tasteless joking between immigration minister Peter Dutton and Prime Minister Tony Abbott about the threat of rising sea levels to Pacific Islands — caught on a microphone after the Pacific Island Forum (PIF) meeting — sums up the Australian government's attitude to the victims of its climate inaction.

The 46th PIF leaders' meeting in Port Moresby ended without reaching agreement on a united position to take to the Paris climate summit later this year. Pacific Island leaders could not convince Australia and New Zealand to agree on more ambitious targets.

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott announced on September 9 a novel approach to stemming the flow of refugees from Syria: bombing the country.

He also announced plans to accept a further 12,000 Syrian refugees on top of his government's miserly quota, but was quick to dispel any hopes that Australia might be abandoning its status as the Western world's leading abuser of refugees. Abbott told ABC Radio National on September 10 that Syrian refugees being held in the Australian-run concentration camps in Nauru and Manus Island would not be released.

Analysis

The federal government re­listed the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) as a terrorist organisation on August 11.

This means it is illegal for Australian citizens to belong to it, actively support it or raise funds for it.

The PKK was first placed on Australia’s list of terrorist groups in December 2005 by John Howard’s government after Turkey’s then Prime Minister — now president — Recip Tayyip Erdogan visited Australia. It was re­listed by Howard in 2007, by Labor under Kevin Rudd in 2009 and by Julia Gillard in 2012.

Students of the Australian National University have launched a campaign to raise awareness about the current situation in Rojava, in northern Syria. The campaign, “Stand With Kobane” aims to raise money to help rebuild the Kurdish city of Kobane.

Kobane made headlines this year when it was the first Kurdish city to successfully break Islamic State's siege. A successful counter-attack resulted in the expulsion of all the IS fighters from the Kobane canton.

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, Resistance National Co-Convener, Mia Sanders discusses the importance of the ongoing struggle for full reproductive rights.

* * *

“But we’re equal now! Why do we need feminism?”

Newcastle is a major centre for coal exports. When Newcastle City Council flirts with any hint of fossil fuel divestment, expect controversy.

On August 25, the council approved a policy giving preference to “environmentally and socially responsible investments”. This was supported by Labor and Greens councillors, and opposed by Liberal and independent councillors.

Reading Rupert Murdoch's Australian is always educational. For instance, Maurice Newman's September 11 op-ed exposed a media gang that represent “by far the major media presence in Australia and, from their bully pulpits, they present a common position on most social, economic and political issues”.

Labor and the Coalition will vote for new laws this week that will strip dual nationals of their citizenship at the discretion of the immigration minister.

Both major parties agree that the laws should also apply retrospectively to those sentenced to at least ten years’ jail.

A bipartisan committee released a report on the proposed laws on September 4 and recommended that some of its measures be watered down.

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 third part of a multi-part series and covers September and October 2013.

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The cycle path known as the Iron Curtain Trail follows the boundary that separated east from west during the cold war period from 1947 to 1989. The 7650 kilometre route that stretches from north of Turkey to the Barents Sea, 400 kilometres inside the Arctic Circle, is not for the faint-hearted.

But such is the desperation of Syrian refugees that up to 20 people a month are using the route to get to the safety of the Norwegian town of Kirkenes on the Russian-Norwegian border. Here they make a formal request for asylum and are then flown to the capital Oslo for further processing.

More than 100 asylum seekers in detention on Manus Island have signed an appeal to Europeans for help. They say that just like the asylum seekers in Europe, they have fled war and persecution and like them they need safety and resettlement. They request European countries “to urge the Australia government to cease the illegal detention of us…”

Almost 1000 refugees and asylum seekers are indefinitely detained on Manus Island and a similar number, including families with children, are on Nauru.

The announcement on September 9 that Australia will accept only 12,000 refugees from Syria and that the government will seek to discriminate on the basis of ethnicity and religion is further proof that the government is lying about leading the world in welcoming refugees.

As part of The Festival of Dangerous Ideas, journalist Helen Joyce presented a talk titled, “The Right to Die”.

Joyce is the international editor of The Economist, which, despite sounding like something millionaire bankers read on the way to work, has a long history of campaigning on issues. It has fought for equal marriage and the decriminalisation of prostitution and drugs — and now it is throwing its considerable weight behind the issue of assisted suicide.


Vienna, September 1.

“Tony Abbott's bizarre proclamation that Australia is leading the world on a per capita basis in welcoming refugees is a lie,” says Sue Bolton, Socialist Alliance Councillor.

Culture

A World to Build: New Paths Toward Twenty-First Century Socialism
Marta Harnecker
Monthly Review Press, 2015
US$19, paperback

The emergence of diverse, complex and popular social projects in Latin America — several of which have involved winning governmental power —- is arguably the most important phenomenon shaping radical politics in the 21st century.

The political practices of popular movements and political parties engaged in these revolutionary projects can inspire and educate radicals and activists all over the world.


Fans of Glasgow's Celtic FC.

All 80 clubs competing in Europe's two most prestigious football competitions — the UEFA Champions League and Europa League — will donate €1 from tickets sold for their opening game towards refugees.


Matildas players earn only $21,000 a year — below the minimum wage.

The simmering industrial dispute between the nation's football (soccer) players and the Football Federation Australia (FFA) over pay and the right to collectively bargain has now boiled over with the national women's team, the Matildas, pulling out of a planned tour of the US.

The focus of discussion about women in sport — specifically the discrimination they face, the lack of support and promotion, the disinterest from the media and the huge pay differences between female and male athletes — has overwhelmingly been on the elite or national level.