Issue 1082

Australia

Residents attending a public inquiry on February 2 at Wests Ashfield into the New South Wales government's plan to amalgamate Ashfield, Leichhardt and Marrickville Councils were of one mind: they opposed it.

About 50 people spoke in the afternoon session, and only 5, including Ashfield Liberal councillor Julie Passas and a self-described businessman, supported the plan.

Similar meetings were organised at Sandringham, Bankstown, Manly, North Sydney, Parramatta, Mona Vale, Deniliquin and Shellharbour and more will take place over the next fortnight.

China Shenhua Energy reported an 18% decline in coal sales in 2015. Shenhua’s internal coal production was down 8.4% — with a further 10% drop in sales from third-party providers.

Its coal imports fell to almost nothing, reflecting an overall trend in which China’s total coal imports were down 30%.

Shenhua still says it is committed to the $1 billion Watermark coal project in the Liverpool Plains of New South Wales, but the project now appears to lack financial backers.

Grandmothers Against Removals (GMAR) Sydney and supporters protested outside the offices of the NSW Department of Families and Community Services in Strawberry Hills on January 29 to demand the immediate return of Aboriginal children forcibly removed from a Queensland family and placed in out-of-home care in Sydney.

Kukulangi Grandmother Aunty Karen Fusi from the Brisbane Sovereign Grannies Group addressed the crowd of around 60 about the case. Other speakers included Aunty Jenny Munro, Aunty Val Colbung from WA, Greens NSW MP David Shoebridge and STICS activist Paddy Gibson.

Former Greens leader Bob Brown has been arrested while protesting against logging in Tasmania's Lapoinya Forest. He is the third person to be charged under the Tasmanian government's pro-forestry legislation, the Workplaces (Protection from Protesters) Act 2014.

Brown was arrested in an area of state forest marked for logging at Lapoinya in north-western Tasmania on January 25. The area is designated forestry land and has been selectively logged in the past. Last year Forestry Tasmania announced a plan to clearfell 49 hectares of the forest.

Perceptions of corruption in the Australian government and public sector increased in 2015 for the fourth year running.

Transparency International’s annual index ranks Australia 13 globally for perceived openness, the country’s equal lowest ranking in the 20-year history of the index.

A federal anti-corruption agency, strong anti-foreign bribery laws and political donations reform were required to help arrest the slide, the anti-corruption group said.

Perceptions of corruption in the Australian government and public sector increased in 2015 for the fourth year running.

Yale’s environmental performance index has placed Australia so low in its rankings that only Saudi Arabia has a worse ranking among wealthy nations.

The index ranks countries’ performance in protecting human health and ecosystems, and looks at nine areas including air quality, climate and energy, forests and water resources.

Australia was ranked 150th out of 180 countries for its carbon emissions for electricity generation. Overall in the climate and energy category, Australia was ranked 82nd.

About 300 unionists rallied on January 27 outside the Melbourne Liberal Party headquarters to demand an investigation into Alcoa's actions after the American-based company forcibly replaced Australian seafarers with foreign workers. A simultaneous rally in Sydney attracted about 100 workers.

A union picket line has been established against Dulux in Rocklea. The workers are fighting for two key elements: the payment of sick leave and for redundancy payouts to be uncapped.

Currently redundancy payments are capped at 20 years, reducing the payout for workers who have worked for Dulux for upwards of 35 years. The issue arose when, in March last year, 60 redundancies were announced. This was later reduced to 40.

A former member of Bahrain's parliament, Jassim Hussain, who resigned in protest at the repression of the 2011 reform movement, spoke about the current situation in Bahrain and the broader Gulf region on January 24.

Hussain said the falling price of oil has caused economic problems for the Gulf States. They have also spent a lot of money on the wars in Yemen and Syria.

As a result, there have been cuts to government subsidies for meat, fuel and electricity, as well as cuts to unemployment and retirement benefits.

In a move designed to restrict examination and comment, the NSW government released the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the New M5 in late November. The EIS was on public exhibition until January 29 — virtually the whole summer holiday period.

The New M5 is the second major tunnel section of WestConnex and will run between the existing M5 East at Kingsgrove and the new interchange at St Peters.

Thousands protested at Invasion Day rallies held across the country to remember the First Fleet's arrival at Port Jackson in 1788 and the ensuing genocide of Aboriginal people, racial discrimination and dispossession of their land.

Large crowds gathered at rallies in cities including Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Hobart, Perth, Canberra, Darwin and Adelaide.

Sydney

One of the biggest protests in many years was in Sydney, where about 3000 protesters marched from Redfern's historic The Block to Sydney Town Hall.

Photos by Zebedee Parkes

More than 64% of those surveyed have backed changing the national flag, with a design dubbed the Southern Horizon gaining the most support.

A survey of more than 8000 people that put forward six alternative designs has found that this design, in which the Federation Star and the Southern Cross continue to feature prominently on a blue background, was the most popular.

Gone is any sign of the Union Jack and instead, the national colours of green and gold feature in a wave-like design at the bottom of the flag.

Queensland Senator Glenn Lazarus says he hopes a Senate inquiry into unconventional gas mining will restart a push for farmer land rights, which has waned in the months since the death of activist George Bender.

Lazarus has dubbed it the “Bender inquiry”, in honour of the farmer whose suicide last October after a 10-year battle with gas companies put the issue on the national agenda.

Information on how to make a submission or where to attend a public hearing can be found here.

CANBERRA

Come to a rally: Stop continuing Stolen Generations. More Aboriginal kids are being taken from their families than ever before. Called by Grandmothers Against Removals. Thursday February 11 at 12pm. Aboriginal Tent Embassy, Parliament House.

MELBOURNE

Photos from Invasion day rallies across the country where thousands of people marched for Aboriginal rights.

Always Was! Always Will Be! Aboriginal Land!

Sydney

Photos by Zebedee Parkes

World

Bernie Sanders speaks to supporters after the Iowa caucus.

In a speech to supporters on the night of February 1, after the narrowest of losses to Hillary Clinton in the Iowa caucuses,, self-described democratic socialist candidate in the Democratic primaries Bernie Sanders hailed his strong result as the "launch of a political revoluiton".

“We must reach out the hand of humanity to the victims of war and brutal repression,” Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn said during a visit to the Gande Synthe refugee camp near Dunkirk in northern France.

Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro has announced the establishment of a committee to oversee the creation of a revolutionary assembly on January 23.

The assembly will bring together the country's progressive social movements and socialist politicians to reinvigorate the Bolivarian revolution, Maduro said.

Maduro oversaw the first meeting of an interim committee, which will lead to the creation of the broader people's congress, being called the Congress of the Homeland. About 100 people were sworn-in to the committee.

The fact sheet below was produced by the ecosocialist Red-Green Alliance in response to the Danish parliament passing a savagely anti-refugee law.

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On January 26, a broad majority in the Danish parliament passed a bill that introduces a long series of restrictive measures aimed at making it less attractive to seek asylum in Denmark.

It won’t come as a surprise to many readers that Chevron is not the most honest or law-abiding company in the world. In Australia, the International Transport Workers Federation has exposed over $35 billion in unpaid tax revenue for its offshore gas operations, while the Maritime Union of Australia has repeatedly protested the company’s exploitation of immigrant labour.

“This year has not started easy, and I am not optimistic,” the EU Commissioner for Migration, Dimitris Avramopoulos told a press conference on January 25.

He was warning Europe that its worries about security had to be balanced with the Schengen agreement (which allows free movement) and the protection of asylum seekers. He said: “Last year, more than a million people reached Europe's shore looking for protection. More than 30,000 have already arrived by sea in 2016 so far, in only three weeks!”


Slogan on T-shirts reads, "We will not obey".

Sixty-eight grassroots groups in Haiti have issued an urgent call for solidarity with their struggle for free and fair elections, dignity and justice. The statement was written right before the postponement of the planned presidential “run-off” elections on January 24.

Vermont Senator and Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders called for a “political revolution” while Hillary Clinton emphasised pragmatism and experience in the final town hall meeting before the February 1 Iowa caucuses, TeleSUR English said on January 26.


Greek pensioners rally in Athens on January 21.

Thousands of Greek white-collar professionals, including doctors, lawyers and engineers, took to the streets on January 21, protesting against major tax and pension reforms required by the country’s creditors.

Ireland: Protests hit 30 cities against water charge

Tens of people took in 30 different protests across the Ireland against water charges on January 23, An Phoblacht said that day. The protests coincided with the Ard Fheis (congress) of Fine Gael, which heads the Irish government, that took place in Dublin.

Since Spain's December 20 elections produced no clear majority, debate has raged over what sort of government should be formed.

The governing conservative People's Party (PP) won 123 seats in the 250-seat Congress and the right-populist Citizens won 40. On the left, the main opposition Spanish Socialist Workers Party (PSOE) won 90 seats, while radical anti-austerity party Podemos and the three alliances in which it took part together with nationalist forces won 69.

The article below is by Pablo Iglesias, secretary-general of the radical Spanish political force Podemos. It abridged from the January 24 El Pais and was translated from Spanish by Dick Nichols.

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The result of the December 20 election put an end to Spain's political shift-system. It opened up the historic possibility of our country having a government not exclusively dominated by the old party machines that have shared power over the last decades.

The article below is January 27 editorial published by the International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers' Association (IUF). The IUF is a global federation of trade unions, with 412 organisations in 126 countries, representing more than 12 million workers.

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One of the most worst cases of environmental pollution in US history is taking place in Flint, Michigan — a suburb of Detroit that is majority African American.

The citizens of this small city of 100,000 have been deliberately poisoned through their drinking water for more than a year. The worst exposure has been to lead, a known neurotoxin that, once in the body, cannot be removed.

Lead harms everyone exposed to it, but it hits children especially hard. It causes permanent damage to the brain and other parts of the nervous system.

Turkey is rapidly descending into civil war as the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan deepens its offensive against the Kurdish population, left-wing opposition parties, journalists and academics.

The Turkish government says it is fighting the armed forces of the left-wing Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), with which the government terminated peace talks last year. But the brunt of the state's violence has been directed against civilians.

Analysis

On December 15, the Queensland Land Court recommended the giant Adani-Carmichael open-cut coalmine be given the go-ahead in central Queensland subject to several conditions including the protection of the endangered Black Throated Finch.

The hearing was prompted by a number of objections to the mine, including from the conservation group Land Services of Coast and Country.

The New South Wales Baird government has announced an historic decision to privatise public housing.

In a $22 billion bonanza for the government's property developer mates, public housing estates will be torn down and rebuilt into places where private tenants and homeowners outnumber social housing tenants by 70% to 30%.

NSW Coalition Minister for Social Housing Brad Hazzard announced the state government's "Future Directions for Social Housing" policy. It includes the transfer of 35% of public housing to community housing organisations.

North-western Tasmania is home to one of the world's last remnants of primeval temperate rainforest, part of an ecosystem that once spread across the supercontinent of Gondwana. Thousand-year-old trees tower above ancient ferns, their roots growing in peat accumulated over millennia. This is why the region has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Eucalyptus forests in the rest of Australia need fire to regenerate. But these plants evolved before the cycle of conflagration and renewal began. If they burn they die.

From January 15 to 26, five Resistance: Young Socialist Alliance members participated in an exposure tour of Malaysia, hosted by the Socialist Party of Malaysia (PSM).

Day 1: Arriving in Kuala Lumpur and Bersih rallies

We arrived in Kuala Lumpur late on Friday evening and stayed in dormitories that served as a training facility for the Catholic Church.

That night, PSM members told us about the Bersih rallies, which have been among the largest demonstrations to have taken place in Malaysia.

Boys at Xavier College, an expensive Catholic boys school, abused students from government schools on a Facebook VCE forum late last year, according to the Herald Sun.

The Xavier students' put downs included “retards” and “povo fucks”. Girls were told to “let the men handle business” and “Could all woman please refrain from expressing there (sic) opinions thank you.” Obviously, the $25,000-a-year school isn't very good at teaching literacy skills.

As the demand for Australian farm products skyrockets in Asia, corporate Australia is buying up drought-crippled but viable rural properties at bargain prices.

Clive Palmer, mining magnate, politician, “citizen of Queensland” — who accused the Greens and Greenpeace of being CIA-funded traitors — has left 237 employees of his Queensland Nickel refinery out of work and robbed of their entitlements.

Palmer asserts that he bears no personal responsibility for the workers' entitlements. The focus is now on whether Palmer was still authorising expenditure for Queensland Nickel after having announced his withdrawal as a director of the company.

Culture


PKMM rally, 1946.

Radicals: Resistance & Protest in Colonial Malaya
By Syed Muhd Khairudin Aljunied
Northern Illinois University Press (NUI), 2015
228 pages

On a night in 2010, a crowd of onlookers gathered to watch the demolition of a 300 metre wall of the century-old Purdu prison in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia’s capital.

Never Enough: Donald Trump & the Pursuit of Success
Michael D’Antonio
St Martin’s Press, 2015
389 pages

What will the United States and the world be getting from “President Donald Trump” if such a frightful prospect comes to pass?

Michael D’Antonio’s biography of the Republican Party’s front-running presidential candidate gives us some clues — denial of global warming, vaccination, marriage equality and abortion; insults and worse for religious and ethnic minorities, and for women and the disabled; and a turbo-charged US imperial power.

Spotlight
Directed by Thomas McCarthy
Starring Mark Ruffalo, Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams, Liev Schreiber, John Slattery & Stanley Tucci
In cinemas now

In 2002, the Boston Globe newspaper's Spotlight investigative journalism team dropped a bombshell when they reported that at least 87 paedophile Roman Catholic priests had been actively shielded for decades by the archdiocese.