Issue 1075

Australia

Christian Schmidt, Germany's Agricultural Minister, announced on October 20 that “chick shredding” will be banned from 2017, making Germany the first country in the world to stop the practice.

Every year, millions of tiny male chicks are ground up alive shortly after hatching because as males they don't lay eggs. Now there is hope that this brutal practice could come to an end.

Previously egg producers had to wait until the chick hatched to tell if it was male or female. But new technology will enable the sex of each fertilised egg to be determined before the chick inside develops.


Members of an Australia Palestine Advocacy Network study tour in front of the Apartheid Wall in the West Bank in January last year. Photo from APAN.org.au.

Around two thousand people rallied in Sydney on October 11 in support of refugees. The protest was called by the Refugee Action Coalition and came in the wake of claims of mistreatment and sexual abuse against refugee women on Nauru and Manus Island.

The rally's demands included that the government bring the women to Australia for medical treatment and that all refugees be freed.

BlueScope's October 26 announcement that the Port Kembla steelworks would be saved from closure came as an obvious relief for the workforce, who had agreed to 500 job losses to save 4500 jobs, together with a three-year pay freeze and foregone bonuses for the next 12 months.

These union concessions are reportedly worth $40 million to BlueScope. The New South Wales government agreed to defer $60 million in payroll tax payments over the next three years, and the company will save a further $100 million through “worker flexibility”.

Under pressure from an industrial campaign by the Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU), the Turnbull government has announced it will lift its cap on wage rises for federal public sector workers from 1.5% to 2%.

The government is maintaining its hard line on stripping existing workplace rights and conditions.

Only a handful of government agencies have so far this year reached EBA settlements with their workers.

Thirteen years after launching their land claim, the Mithaka people of south-west Queensland were granted native title over more than 33,800 square kilometres of their land and waters on October 27.

This is one of the largest successful native title determinations in Queensland history: the claim area covers land and waters in the Diamantina and Barcoo shires, and in the expansive Channel Country of outback Queensland.

Paediatricians and health workers and researchers in Darwin gathered at the Royal Darwin Hospital campus on October 29 to make a public statement that "Detention Harms Children".

The protest followed the weekly Paediatric Grand Round meeting that focused on the impact of trauma on refugee and asylum seeker children.

Staff from Royal Children's Hospital in Melbourne and Lady Cilento Children's Hospital in Brisbane have held similar protests in recent weeks.


Wollongong activists before their large Reclaim the Night rally on October 29.

Two hundred people rallied in Melbourne on October 24 as part of the annual Reclaim the Night march to stop violence against women.

Rally speakers spoke in support of the Somali refugee woman known as Abyan and other women who have been sexually assaulted while imprisoned in Nauru detention centre.

The National Tertiary Education Union, which covers university staff across Australia, is backing the November 27-29 People's Climate March.

In a letter to members, NTEU NSW secretary Genevieve Kelly wrote: “NTEU is proud to be part of a broad and diverse coalition organising the People's Climate March, with members involved in planning and promoting Sydney's rally.

“We are marching because we know we can change the world when we work together. It is time for action.”

Protesters occupied environment minister Greg Hunt's office in Melbourne on October 30, in protest at his re-approval of Australia's largest new mega coalmine — the Adani-Carmichael mine in Queensland.

Protesters hung a banner from the roof with “Greg Hunt: Minister for Coal” emblazoned across it.

“It is clear that our Minister for the Environment doesn't stand for the environment at all”, said student activist Sam Dariol.

Norrie has spent a lot of time in the offices of the NSW Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages (BDM). When Norrie went on October 28, it was for love and equality.

Norrie is sex non-specific — neither man nor woman. Five years ago, Norrie went to the office to get them to change zie's (the pronoun for a person of non-specific sex) birth certificate to read “sex: non-specific”.

BDM complied, but the New South Wales state government appealed. It took four years and an April 2014 High Court ruling for Norrie to be formally recognised as sex non-specific.

Reza, an asylum seeker who had been living in the community on a bridging visa, took his life at the Brisbane airport on October 29.

According to friends, he feared being deported back to Iran. “He was scared to stay here”, a friend of the 26-year-old Iranian told the Guardian Australia. He had grown worried that he was being followed and that he would be taken into detention, the friend added.

The friend said Reza called him early on October 25 and said: “I am tired. Always police and people follow me. I want to kill myself. Tell my family.”

Brisbane

See a film at Red Cinema: Disruption. This film looks at the 2014 People’s Climate March in New York. Entry $15/$10 conc. Meal and drinks available. Friday November 6 at 6pm. Brisbane Activist Centre, 74B Wickham St, Fortitude Valley. Phone Angus 0431 935 576.

Melbourne

Moreland councilors voted on October 26 to elect Sam Ratnam as the first Green mayor. Left Labor councilor Lita Gillies was voted in as her deputy. I voted for the Green mayor to break the stranglehold of the two big-business parties, Liberal and Labor. The Labor Party has controlled the Moreland council for many years.

However I was surprised that, immediately after electing the mayor, the Greens councillors voted for Liberal Party councillor Rob Thompson to be her deputy.

The long-running dispute between the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) and Hutchison Ports is edging closer to settlement.

An MUA member at the Port Botany community assembly told Green Left Weekly on October 30 that letters offering voluntary redundancies were being issued by the company that day. MUA members have a week to reply.

They said that substantially improved redundancy entitlements, “roughly equivalent to 26 weeks' pay,” are being offered — a big gain on the previous offer of nine weeks' pay for three years of service.

Members of the Teachers and Education Support Staff Alliance (TESA) have been re-elected to the state-wide council of the Victorian branch of the Australian Education Union (AEU) in elections that took place in October.

TESA also contested the four senior officer positions: branch president, branch deputy president, branch secretary and branch deputy secretary.

The Western Sydney University (WSU) Resistance club has been successful in electing one of its members onto the editorial board of the university's student magazine, Cruwsible.

WSU students had the chance to vote from October 12 to 23 for six editor positions for 2016 as part of the student elections held on campus.

Resistance members Philip Craig and myself nominated for the editor roles. While Philip unfortunately missed out by a small margin, I was voted in as the sixth editor.

In an October 26 editorial in the Medical Journal of Australia Caroline M de Costa and Heather Douglas argue that laws relating to abortion are out of date, and variations in laws between states have led to serious barriers for women access terminations.

The editorial calls for uniform legislation across the country, “so that the law is in step with modern medical practice and so that women regardless of where they live have equal access to abortion services”.

“Current Australian abortion laws continue to disadvantage many women.

Radical solutions to poverty were put forward at a public conversation titled “Pushed to the Margins” held at the Newcastle City Hall on October 21.

The ABC’s Lateline co-presenter Emma Alberici hosted the forum and seemed to be taken aback by economist Professor Bill Mitchell’s simple solutions to poverty.

Asked by Alberici, “What causes unemployment?”, Mitchell responded: “Lack of jobs”.

Mitchell went on to advocate a “job guarantee”, where the government funds job creation through a massive programme of productive public works.

Anti-Poverty Network SA hosted the “Stand Up! Speak Out!” conference in Adelaide on October 16 and 17. The grassroots gathering of welfare recipients, community workers and activists from South Australian and Victorian groups was part of Anti-Poverty Week.

One of the highlights was the “War On The Poor” session. Rob Graham from Green Left Weekly and Pas Forgione from Anti-Poverty Network SA spoke to Owen Bennett from the Australian Unemployed Workers' Union and Kerry Arch from the Australian United Sole Parents Network about the attacks on welfare recipients.

Moreland council has become one of the first organisations to vote against participating in the federal Work for the Dole scheme. The federal government scheme was expanded in July to incorporate jobseekers aged under 50 who have been receiving welfare payments for more than six months.

Sue Bolton, a Socialist Alliance councillor on Moreland council moved a motion on October 7 against council participating in the Work for the Dole scheme.

“If it were ever completed, WestConnex would be the biggest underground motorway system anywhere in the world and certainly, per kilometre, the most expensive,” states the October edition of EcoTansit News.

“Yet it won’t solve Sydney’s traffic problems and instead, will take much-needed funding away from other, integrated public transport. It just doesn’t add up!”

Iranian refugee Majid Rabet could not hold back his tears as he recounted the details of the suicide of his best friend, an Iraqi refugee, in Villawood Detention Centre.

“I was the first person who went in the bathroom and saw he hanged himself. I lifted him upwards to keep him alive, but he was already dead,” Majid said.

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.

The National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) announced on October 27 that it will join the movement to screen out fossil fuel interests from its investment portfolio. It will also look for ethical investment opportunities in renewable energy.

It is the first Australian union to commit to divest from fossil fuels, and follows its decision to adopt a position on ethical investment at its national meeting held in Melbourne, October 8-10.

The union represents tens of thousands working at tertiary education institutions around the country.

World

A Cuban girl is being deprived of urgently needed cancer treatment due to the United States' blockade, doctors said on October 28, TeleSUR English reported that day.

More than 10 million people have learned to read and write through a Cuban program aimed at mature age students, the Cuban government announced on October 26, TeleSUR English reported that day.

The program, Yo Si Puedo (Yes I Can), aims to provide free education to adults who lacked opportunities to learn to read and write as children, with a focus on the poor.

İlham Ehmed is a member of the Executive Committee of the Movement For A Democratic Society (TEV-DEM), the leading political movement in the self-governing cantons in Rojava (Syrian Kurdistan). She was interviewed by Günay Aksoy and Zana Kaya for Özgür Gündem on October 26.

The Australia Western Sahara Association has launched an appeal for funds, in conjunction with APHEDA — Union Aid Abroad, to assist relief work in the Western Sahara refugee camps where week-long torrential rains have devastated homes, hospitals and schools and destroyed food stores.


Bedouins living in Israel's southern Negev region protest against government plans to confiscate their land.

Hundreds of university professors in Britain have declared a boycott of Israeli schools in an effort to draw attention to the Israeli government's many human rights offenses against Palestinians and violations of international law, TeleSUR English said on October 28.

The petition, titled “A Commitment by U.K. Scholars to the Rights of Palestinians”, was printed as a full-page advertisement in the October 27 Guardian.

October marked 50 years since the start of the campaign of mass killing of Indonesian Communist Party (PKI) members and sympathisers in Indonesia. It is estimated as many as 1 million people were killed or jailed during 1965-1966, carried out as part of Suharto's Western-backed military coup.

The European Parliament voted on October 29 to drop all criminal charges against NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden and offer him asylum and protection from rendition from third parties, The Independent said that day.


Aftermath of Saudi bombing of MSF hospital.

The Saudi-led coalition bombed a Doctors Without Borders (MSF) clinic in Yemen, the charity’s mission head said.

The Morning Star said that Hassan Boucenine said two air raids hit the facility in northern Saada province at about 11pm on October 26. “It’s completely destroyed,” he said.

Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu has confirmed that Turkish forces attacked Kurdish militia in northern Syria on October 25, Morning Star said on October 28.

The Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) said the next day that its forces in the border town of Tal Abyad had come under machine-gun fire from across the frontier in Akcakale.

Once again, the United States and Israel voted against a motion to end economic sanctions at the United Nations General Assembly on October 27. Similar motions have been adopted by overwhelming majorities at the UN for the past 23 years.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon presented a report that concludes that the economic sanctions, which have caused about US$833.8 billion in damages to the Caribbean island, should be lifted.

Cuban foreign minister Bruno Rodriguez addressed the UN, calling the blockade a “flagrant, massive and systematic violation of human rights of all Cubans”.

Portugal's incoming government will most probably prove to be the briefest in modern Portuguese history.

It is headed by conservative Social Democratic Party (PSD) leader Pedro Passos Coelho, whom Portuguese President Cavaco Silva appointed on October 22 to continue as prime minister. Passos Coelho has already overseen the 2011 “bail-out” memorandum applied to Portugal by the “Troika” (European Commission, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund).

Hurricane Patricia — the most intense hurricane ever recorded in the Western Hemisphere — was downgraded to a tropical depression on October 24. It offered a reminder of the consequences of a warming planet.

Reversing earlier promises to end US military involvement in Afghanistan, President Barack Obama has announced that US troops will remain indefinitely. He said they will not be ground combat forces, but trainers and advisers to the forces of the US-imposed warlord-dominated regime.

US air strikes in support of the regime, by both piloted aircraft and drones, will continue. One such strike was the deliberate bombing of the Doctors Without Borders (MSF) hospital in Kunduz.


Wits students protest in Johannesburg against a proposed tuition fee hike tuition fees on October 15.

A historic victory over neoliberalism in South Africa was won on October 23, after the most intense three-week burst of mobilisation in the country since liberation from apartheid in 1994.

Khalid Ismath, a member of the Socialist Party of Malaysia (PSM), was arrested on October 7 and later charged under Malaysia's sedition and communication acts for posting allegedly offensive comments on social media.

He was initially denied bail over posts relating to the arrest of lawyer Kamal Hisham Jaafar, a former legal advisor to the Johor royal family. As of October 27, Khalid had been held in solitary confinement for 18 days. His lawyer had not been permitted to visit him.


Jeremy Corbyn's success is one sign, and perhaps the most dramatic, of a wider movement challenging the British establishment.

Jeremy Corbyn's election as Labour Party leader has already had a dramatic effect on British politics.

All of us on the left in Britain need to ask how we can support him — and consider what the long term implications of his success may be. Those outside Britain, especially on the green left, need to ask whether there are lessons that can be learned.

The United Nation's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change estimated in 2011 that carbon dioxide emissions had to be limited to 1000 gigatons to have a two-thirds chance of keeping global warming below 2°C.

By mid-October, there were more than 100,000 fires raging in the Indonesian provinces of Sumatra and Kalimantan that had released an estimated 995 million metric tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere over the past four months. This is just short of 1 gigaton.

Analysis

Several polls show that the new PM — and by extension, the Coalition — is very popular. Explaining Malcolm Turnbull's high approval rating is relatively easy: it is not too hard to be more popular than the hated Tony Abbott and Labor has long since given up on being an opposition.

According to Newspoll, Fairfax-Ipsos, Roy Morgan and Essential Research, Turnbull's numbers keep improving, even after 6 weeks in office. Depending on which poll you look at, Turnbull's approval is either Mr 52%, Mr 53% or Mr 68%.

The Coalition Against Israeli Apartheid held a speak-out for Palestine in Melbourne on October 23. Among the demands were: end Israeli occupation now; dismantle Israeli apartheid; tear down the apartheid wall; lift the siege on Gaza; and end extrajudicial killings.

Speakers called on the Australian government to cut all ties with Israel and spoke in support of the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign.

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 for discrimination or racism and we deplore those who would demonise any group by reason of their faith, race or culture.

The recent knifing of Tony Abbott by Malcolm Turnbull held a brief glimpse of hope for marriage equality in Australia. Unfortunately, the change of PM did not bring any change of policy, and the Liberal Party’s homophobic agenda has remained the same.

Turnbull professes to personally support marriage equality, but has asked the rainbow community to wait for a plebiscite until after the federal elections. This amounts to a position worse than Abbott who was dragged kicking and screaming to agree to a plebiscite together with the elections.

It is rare that a critical article on Australia's military spending appears in one of the corporate newspapers but on October 25, the Melbourne Age published such an article by senior correspondent Daniel Flitton entitled “Does Australia's military need such tentacles of defence?”.

Flitton argued that while Australian governments have “talked the good talk of regional co-operation and engagement for decades” their “staggering shopping list of new military hardware was signalling a very different message to the region.

Resistance: Young Socialist Alliance (RYSA) released the following statement on October 27 in support of the Fossil Free UTas occupation.

The following day Fossil Free UTas announced that they were ending the occupation and restarting negotiations after two days of productive meetings with the university management.

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Carol Hucker worked in Manus Island Detention Centre 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 in Australia’s offshore detention centres.

She said: “It is my hope that through this brief account the men on Manus will not be forgotten.”

This is the eight part of a multi-part series and covers her time there in June and July 2014.

* * *

Feminist author and career academic Germaine Greer has sparked outrage once again following a controversial interview she gave to the BBC on October 24 where she reaffirmed her position that transgender women are not “real” women.

Greer's devolution from an ideological pillar of the 1960's women's liberation movement to a source of loathing for sections of the feminist community needs to be discussed. Her comments provide an important opportunity for putting forward a clear argument against trans-exclusionary feminism.

Culture

Tracks
By Channa Wickremesekera
Samayawardhana Printers
156 pages, paperback

Class, family, lust, the need to fit in and hero worship are the recurrent tropes in Sri Lankan-born Melbourne-based author Channa Wickremesekera's latest novel Tracks.

He explores the sexual confusion of a young middle-class boy of Sri Lankan descent (Sheehan) who develops a huge crush on one of the more rebellious “Anglo” boys (Robbie) in his school.

Melbourne-based author and community radio presenter Iain McIntyre has been documenting and celebrating Australian radical history since the 1990s. A series of zines he created entitled How To Make Trouble And Influence People were compiled into an expanded edition by Breakdown Press in 2009 with a second edition released in conjunction with US publisher PM Press in 2013.

The author of the Harry Potter series of novels, JK Rowling, has disappointed many of her fans by signing a letter opposing a boycott of Israel.

The letter, which was also signed by other British cultural figures, such as TV presenter Melvyn Bragg, popular historian Tom Holland and author Hilary Mantel, proclaims its support for what it called “an independent UK network” called Culture for Coexistence.

Faction Man: Bill Shorten's Path to Power
David Marr
Quarterly Essay No. 59
Black Inc., 2015

Even the usually perceptive journalist David Marr, in his latest political profile for Quarterly Essay, is defeated by the indistinct and bland Shorten who, in public opinion polls, trails behind “Someone Else” as preferred leader of the Labor Opposition.