Issue 1074

News

The National Union of Workers released this statement on October 23. *** Recently the Victorian Trades Hall Council passed a resolution that included this statement: "That VTHC celebrates the contribution to our community from Victorians of many cultures and many faiths. There is no place in Victoria or discrimination or racism and we deplore those who would demonise any group by reason of their faith, race or culture.
The Refugee Action Collective Victoria has filed a complaint at the International Criminal Court over the Australian government's treatment of asylum seekers and refugees. The complaint requests the ICC to investigate and prosecute ministers and former ministers of the Australian government, specifically former prime minister Tony Abbott, former immigration minister Scott Morrison, current immigration minister Peter Dutton, and attorney-general George Brandis.
Australia Palestine Advocacy Network (APAN), a national organisation of Palestine solidarity groups, religious organisations, trade unions, peace groups and individuals has decided to sign on to the international boycotts, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign. Previously, APAN had only expressed general support for the BDS campaign, noting it was a valid and non-violent political tactic. It has not endorsed or advocated it. Last November, at its annual general meeting (AGM), APAN decided against changing its position to consult with its affiliates.
Workers have told Green Left Weekly that Hutchison Ports is seemingly in the process of calling for voluntary redundancies at its Port Botany and Brisbane terminals. This is the latest development in a long-running dispute that erupted following the sudden sacking of 97 workers at Hutchison's two ports on August 6. Since then, members of the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA), along with other unions and supporters, have maintained community assemblies at the two ports.
Khodayar Amini, an Afghan Hazara asylum seeker who feared immigration authorities were planning to put him back in detention, has died after set himself alight on October 18. Amini had been released from Yongah Hill detention centre in Western Australia on a bridging visa after more than two years in detention. Shortly before killing himself, Amini spoke via video phone to Sarah Ross and Michelle Bui from the Refugee Rights Action Network (WA), telling them that he would rather kill himself rather than go back to detention.
Hundreds gathered outside the Immigration Department office in Melbourne on October 19, chanting, “Bring back Abyan” and “Close Nauru, close Manus”. Rallies were also held that day outside Immigration Department offices in Sydney and Darwin. In Brisbane, protesters targeted immigration minister Peter Dutton's office on October 21. Protests were also held in Canberra, Sydney and Perth on October 23 and Melbourne on October 24.
Melbourne Come to a screening of No Free Steps to Heaven. An Israeli journalist who visited Kurdish freedom fighters in Iraqi and Syrian Kurdistan filmed this documentary. Presented by the Socialist Alliance and Green Left Weekly. Entry $10/$5. Friday October 30 at 7pm, meal from 6.30pm. Resistance Centre, Level 5, 407 Swanston St, city. Phone 9639 8622. Sydney
The Zero Carbon Australia: Renewable Energy Superpower report published by Beyond Zero Emissions (BZE) is now available. Author Gerard Drew and a brigade of contributors provide much detailed technical evidence that demonstrates the potential for Australia in a global transition away from reliance on fossil fuels.

George Bender, a 68-year-old cotton farmer from Chinchilla, Queensland, took his own life on October 14. His family lays the blame squarely with the coal seam gas (CSG) industry he had fought against for a decade. Described by his family as “a straight talker” who “told the truth, not the sugar coated bullshit”, George was a fifth generation farmer in the Western Downs. He stood for the right for a farmer to say “no” to the gas industry.

Former police prosecutor Peter Murrihy is the new councillor for the Kildare ward after winning the recent by-election in the Greater Geelong Council. Murrihy defeated 10 other candidates to win the safe Liberal ward with 27.41% of the primary vote. Although Murrihy said he was politically unaffiliated, he received preferences from Liberal Party member Trent Sullivan. Much was made in the local media of the fact that Murrihy put forward no political promises or commitments during his campaign.
Radical Ideas is a 3-day conference of discussion, debate and ideas for radical change, from December 4-6 in Sydney. We are lucky to have a number of guest speakers confirmed so far, including well-known campaigners involved in various movements and Socialist Alliance and Resistance: Young Socialist Alliance activists.
A student occupation demanding that the University of Tasmania (UTAS) divest its $300 million portfolio from the fossil fuel industry has entered its second week. The sit-in outside the university vice-chancellor's office began on October 14, and is part of a nationwide campaign calling on other universities to do the same. Fossil Free UTAS released a statement on October 19 saying: “We are here to demand that the university gets off fossil fuels because it will save students' money today and because it is the morally right thing to do.”
Staff at Lady Cilento Children's Hospital in Brisbane have followed in the footsteps of colleagues at Melbourne's Royal Children's Hospital and called for the immediate release of children being held in immigration detention centres.
The federal government has withdrawn an offer to provide $4 million to any Australian university willing to host climate sceptic Bjorn Lomborg and his “Consensus Centre”. Staff at Flinders University in Adelaide, where management had been considering the proposal, welcomed the news. National Tertiary Education Union Flinders University branch president Ron Slee said, “Today's decision is a welcome relief for a university community that has been relentless in its campaign to protect against the reputational damage that would inevitably travel with the Lomborg money.”
Climate Guardian Angels took over the rooftop of environment minister Greg Hunt's office in Hastings, Victoria, on October 16 to protest his approval of Adani's Carmichael coalmine. Climate Guardian co-convener Dr Liz Conor said, “To be actively expanding Australia's coal export industry now is beyond irresponsible; it is staggeringly negligent. It will consign our children and theirs to a volatile, dangerous climate system, with far-reaching repercussions for their lives.”
By indulging in an ignorant and absurd sledge of the wind industry, NSW Minister for Medical Research Pru Goward is doing yet more damage to the future of this vital energy source, said Greens NSW MP John Kaye. His remarks came in response to comments by Goward reported in the October 20 Sydney Morning Herald supporting claims that wind farms caused headaches and other sickness. "Minister Goward is allowing her flirtation with the worst aspects of internet-based hysteria and non-science to stand uncorrected."
Hundreds joined snap protests across the country, and more than 50,000 signed a petition, within days of Somali refugee Abyan being sent back to Nauru. Abyan became pregnant as a result of being raped while in detention on Nauru. Despite being flown to Australia on October 12 to discuss a planned termination with doctors, Abyan was sent back against her will and without receiving any medical attention.
Rather than reducing traffic congestion in Sydney, a report commissioned by the Leichhardt Council has found that the giant WestConnex tollway project will increase traffic problems in the city's inner west. The report, which analysed the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the M4 East component of WestConnex — a tunnel from Concord to Ashfield — was released on October 20.
The Anti-Poverty Network South Australia hosted a conference, “Speak Out! Stand Up! Ideas, Stories, and Action Against Poverty” on October 16 and 17. The event, part of the nation-wide anti-poverty week of activities from October 11 to 17, was a unique gathering of activists, community workers and welfare recipients who face constant attacks on their rights as they struggle with below-poverty-line incomes and few job openings. Significantly, it was the only anti-poverty week event organised and run by low-income people.
Green Left Weekly is launching a major subscription drive from this issue until the end of the year. We want to get Australia's best socialist weekly newspaper out into the hands of more readers over the next eight weeks. Why? Because in a period of heightened right-wing attacks on civil liberties and free speech, the truth about defending the interests of the people must get out there even more broadly.
Staff of Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull's department have overwhelmingly rejected an enterprise bargaining agreement offer in a ballot which finished on October 18. Public servants at the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet (PM&C) voted no to a management offer which attacked their rights, conditions and real wages. About 76% of staff participated in the ballot. The result is a further nail in the coffin of the federal Coalition government's industrial relations policy towards its own workforce.
Around eight anti-racist protesters drowned out the media conference of Dutch Islamophobe Geert Wilders outside WA parliament house on October 21. We chanted: "Say it loud, say it clear, racism's not welcome here!" WA police sided with the Wilders brigade at every key point in the demonstration.
Around 100 members of the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) rallied at the Sydney Overseas Passenger Terminal at Circular Quay on October 9 to oppose harsh exploitation of crews aboard Royal Caribbean cruise ships, and demand the right of employees and linesmen on the dock to be union members. Sydney MUA secretary Paul McAleer told the rally: "This cruise company imposes a huge level of exploitation on its crews, including underpayment and poor conditions on board. Up to now, the company and the shipping agents, Port Jackson Holdings, have refused to allow port workers to join the union.

Analysis

Ahead of the United Nations Climate Change Conference scheduled for December in Paris, federal resources minister Josh Frydenberg has sought to invoke “a strong moral case” to justify his government's green lighting of the Carmichael mega-coalmine in the Galilee Basin. However, his argument is as spurious as the economic justifications made by Adani and federal and Queensland governments in support of the project.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu raised the odd eyebrow when he insisted in an October 20 speech that Adolf Hitler had no plans to exterminate Jews until convinced to do so by a Palestinian — the then-Mufti of Jerusalem Haj Amin al-Husseini. The German government immediately responded by pointing out that “all Germans” know their nation was responsible, which must have made for an odd phone call: “Is that Mr Netanyahu? Yes, hi, Germany here. Ah, we just wanted to … um ... this is a bit awkward but ... you know that whole Holocaust thing? Yeah? That was us.
Foreign journalists are not welcome in Nauru. This is because of the erosion of rule of law and national sovereignty that has occurred as a result of the tiny and impoverished nation's government hiring out the island as a location for one of Australia's concentration camps for refugees. The point of locating the camps on remote Pacific Islands is so that the deliberate ill-treatment of refugees — which is what “deterrence” means — can happen out of sight and beyond the meagre protection of Australian law.
New revelations shed light on the cruelty being inflicted on refugees in Australia's offshore detention centres. They come just days after the Department of Immigration and Border Protection sent a pregnant Somali refugee woman back to Nauru where she had been raped. Abyan, as she is known, was transferred to Villawood detention centre on October 11 from Nauru where she was going to speak with doctors about her desire for a termination.
Domestic violence — or intimate partner violence — represents an increasingly visible crisis in Australia today. Yet policy makers and opinion shapers continue to deny that the system, which profits from sexism and misogyny, is responsible for perpetrating it. Instead, they blame individuals. This year, two women have been killed every week — double the rate compared to 2014. One in four women will experience intimate partner violence in their lifetime. For women aged between 15 and 44 years' old, domestic violence is the leading cause of death, illness and disability.
Most people think that democracy and elections are pretty much the same thing. The truth is that any meaningful push for genuine democracy would require a lot more than just electoral reform. The change of prime minister from Tony Abbott to Malcolm Turnbull shows that a change of leader means very little in terms of actual policy change. And this is not because the policies they push are popular. We need a change of government: not just a change from the Liberals to Labor, but a change from corporate power to people power.
The new federal energy minister Josh Frydenberg has affirmed that the Turnbull-led government will not budge from policies that afford maximum profits to the outdated and dangerous fossil fuel corporations.
The latest World Bank Global Monitoring Report boasted that only 9.6% of the world's population — 702 million people — are forecast to be living in extreme poverty in 2015, 200 million fewer than in 2012. And this even with the WB now raising its official poverty line from the 2008 US$1.25 a day level to US$1.90. WB president Jim Yong Kim declared that the world has a good chance of ending extreme poverty by 2030.
The onset of the Global Financial Crisis can be dated to July 2007, when two Bear Stearns hedge funds holding almost US$10 billion in mortgage-backed securities collapsed. That same month, bankers at Lehman Brothers paid themselves $US5.7 billion in bonuses. Little more than a year later, Lehman Brothers filed for bankruptcy with debts of $US613 billion. It was the largest bankruptcy in history.

World

An international campaign has been launched to call for the release of Khalid Mohd Ismath, a Malaysian student activist and a member of the Socialist Party of Malaysia (PSM), who has been detained since October 7. Khalid has been active in highlighting human rights violations and misuse of power by the authorities in Malaysia. He was arrested on October 7 under the Malaysian Multimedia and Communications Act 1998 for allegedly posting offensive comments on social media.
Students sit in protest during a mass demonstration on the steps of Jameson Hall at the University of Cape Town, October 22 In a victory for protesting students, South African President Jacob Zuma backtracked on October 23 and cancelled a planned university fee rise next year.
Press conference on October 15 announcing the formation of the Democratic Forces of Syria. Photo via Kurdish Question. The Democratic Forces of Syria held a founding meeting on October 12 and released a final declaration three days later, Kurdish Question reported on October 17.
On October 12, Amnesty International released a report alleging “civilians living in areas of northern Syria under the de facto control of the Autonomous Administration led by the Partiya Yekîtiya Demokrat (Democratic Union Party, PYD) are being subjected to serious abuses that include forced displacement and home demolitions.” The report said some of these alleged abuses were war crimes.
About 300 Tamil political prisoners in 11 prisons began a hunger strike on October 12. Many of the prisoners have been detained without trial under the Prevention of Terrorism Act. Some have been in jail for up to 20 years. They are accused of being members of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), which fought for an independent Tamil homeland in the north and east of the island of Sri Lanka, but was defeated in 2009.
The following statement was issued in Jakarta, Indonesia, on October 24, 2015): Indonesia's freedom of expression and critical thinking are under attack. Series of repressive and violent acts by the authorities against attempts to critically revisit and review the 1965 communist purge for the betterment of the nation and its people are a strong proof that the totalitarian legacy from the New Order Regime is still alive and kicking.
Fadang Randal is a representative of the United People's Party of the Chittagong Hill Tracts (Parbatya Chattagram Jana Samhati Samiti — PCJSS), who visited Australia in September. He spoke to Green Left Weekly's Tony Iltis * * * The PCJSS is working for the social and political rights of the indigenous people of the Chittagong Hill Tracts. We are very much concerned now with the Chittagong Hill Tracts Accord — a treaty signed in 1997 between the government and the PCJSS.
One year ago, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) began its brutal assault on the city of Kobane in the largely Kurdish region of Rojava in the north of Syria. The violent fanatics were seeking to destroy the profoundly democratic, multi-ethnic and feminist revolution under way in the liberated autonomous region.
Tom Iljas visits his mother's grave in West Sumatra. He was stopped from visiting the grave of his father who was killed during the 1965 massacre of leftists. Photo: Yulia Evina Bhara.
Benjamin Netanyahu has publicly asserted that Adolf Hitler had no intention of exterminating Europe's Jews until a Palestinian persuaded him to do it. The Israeli prime minister's attempt to whitewash Hitler and lay the blame for the Holocaust at the door of Palestinians signals a major escalation of his incitement against and demonisation of the people living under his country's military and settler-colonial rule. It also involves a good deal of Holocaust denial.
Podemos activists The December 20 elections in the Spanish state will attract the usual large field of runners. Challengers will represent every imaginable position along the Spanish state's two main political dimensions — the left-to-right social axis and the axis of national rights. This second dimension reaches from the centralism of the ruling People's Party (PP) to the pro-independence stance of various Catalan, Basque and Galician parties.
With elections due on November 8, a loud call for change in Myanmar (formerly Burma) can be heard in the streets. All commentators predict victory for Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD) over the ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP). Several factors, however, indicate it will not be a landslide. Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, known throughout the country simply as “the lady”, came to political prominence in 1988 when she returned to Myanmar to support her ailing mother and became embroiled in the students' struggle against the military regime.
Portuguese President Anibal Cavaco Silva said he will not allow a coalition of left parties to form a government, despite the fact that they won an outright majority in October 4 parliamentary elections - on grounds it would "violate" existing commitments to the European Union.
Canadians elected a new national government on October 19, with new Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's Liberal Party winning 184 seats out of 338. The hated Conservative Party of Prime Minister Stephen Harper came in second place with 99 seats. The historically left-wing New Democratic Party won 44 seats.

Culture

Sydney-based performing arts company Kinetic Energy Theatre Company turned 40 this year. It is a miraculous achievement to survive in a dog-eat-dog world. Our consumer society is ruled by commercialisation and profit-making. The powers that be would rather feed cultural atrophy and political amnesia than cultivate intelligent artistic endeavours for the health and vibrancy of the people.
Inside/Outside — Six Plays from Palestine & the Diaspora Edited by Naomi Wallace & Ismail Khalidi TGC Books, 2015 Sykes-Picot: The Legacy Edited by Kenneth Pickering Arts Canteen, 2015 There is a long tradition of drama in Palestinian culture, but it is not a written one. This point is made by Nathalie Handal in her excellent and detailed introduction to Inside/Outside, a collection of Palestinian plays. Palestinian theatre was — and continues to be — created through collective improvisation. It has its roots in oral storytelling traditions.