Issue 1083

Australia

Activists unfurl banner off eastern freeway overpass in Melbourne

Join the February 20 #TheseCutsAreKillingUs rallies against the Turnbull government's cuts to Medicare.

All rallies on Saturday 20 February

Adelaide
1pm Parliament House North Terrace
www.facebook.com/events/497916927055345

Brisbane
1pm Queens Park cnr Elizabeth & George Sts, Brisbane

Love Makes a Way, a national movement of Christians concerned about refugee rights, protested outside Immigration Minister Peter Dutton's electorate office on February 10.

The protest is a part of some 20 events to take place around the country over the next two weeks.

TJ Hickey was a young Aboriginal man, just 17 years old. On February 14, 2004, TJ died as a consequence of a Redfern police pursuit.

Thousands of people came out around Australia in cities and regional centres as part of the growing #letthemstay movement, aimed at preventing the removal of 267 asylum seekers, including 37 babies, from the Australian mainland to detention in Nauru.

Protests were held in Adelaide, Canberra, Darwin, Melbourne, Hobart, Sydney and Perth on February 8, as artists, writers, state and territory leaders and ordinary citizens voiced their support for the asylum seekers, most of whom were detained in Nauru and have been flown to Australia for medical treatment.

Sydney

Some of Australia's most important climate research institutions will be gutted as 350 jobs are cut at the CSIRO. Up to 110 positions in the Oceans and Atmosphere division will go, with a similar reduction in the Land and Water division. Data and Manufacturing divisions will also be hit.

The Queensland government gave Indian mining company Adani environmental approval to build Australia's largest coalmine in the Galilee Basin on February 3.

Tony Fontes of the Environment Council of Central Queensland said: “This project has no money, no social license, is universally hated, and has been rejected by most of the world's largest banks.

"With coal prices at an all-time low, support for protecting the Great Barrier Reef at an all-time high, the Palaszczuk government is treading a dangerous line in supporting this reef-wrecking coal project.”

After two decades of failing to secure a nuclear waste dump site in South Australia and the Northern Territory through a top down approach, early last year the federal government initiated a voluntary nomination process calling on landholders to put forward their land for assessment.

A shortlist of six was released after 28 sites were nominated around Australia: Hill End in NSW; Omanama in Queensland; Hale in the Northern Territory; Cortlinye and Pinkawillinie in the Kimba region of South Australia; and Barndioota station in the Flinders Ranges, South Australia.

A television advertisement featuring a barista paying his way through university, a mother working at a checkout who is missing her children's sporting activities and an emergency department nurse whose weekend work makes up one-third of her salary, is part of the Save Our Weekend campaign authorised by the ACTU.


Photo by Marziya Mohammedali

The High Court ruled on February 3 that the federal government has the power to send 267 refugees and asylum seekers to Nauru, with only 72 hours' notice. But a #LetThemStay groundswell across the country is demanding the refugees be allowed to stay -- with snap protests across the country.

The 267 people includes 37 babies — many of whom were born in Australia — and at least 15 women who were allegedly sexually assaulted on Nauru.

“Coal seam gas in New South Wales is dead in the water”, Julie Lyford, spokesperson for Groundswell Gloucester, said after AGL announced on February 4 it was quitting Gloucester.

AGL had planned to drill at 300 sites in a geologically complex and rich farming region north-west of Newcastle. It had been facing fierce opposition for conducting tests in the Gloucester region under PEL 285.

The decision has been welcomed by anti-coal seam gas (CSG) campaigners across NSW. AGL's licence was due for renewal on February 22.

Protesters opposing a coal seam gas (CSG) wastewater plant in northern NSW say they will not let police use of pepper spray deter them from their fight against Santos' plans to drill up to 850 CSG wells in the Pilliga.

The Pilliga forest is a vital recharge area for the Great Artesian Basin, which forms the lifeblood of eastern Australia.

As part of its CSG plans, Santos is building a wastewater treatment works at Leewood, which was approved without an environmental impact statement and without public consultation.

"The NSW Coalition government's proposed sell-off of public housing to property developers is a huge hand-out to big business from the public purse," Peter Boyle, Socialist Alliance candidate for the seat of Sydney in the upcoming federal election, said on February 3.

"And the planned 'redevelopments' of public housing will make the housing crisis for workers and poor people even worse than now."

This week marks 25 years since Green Left Weekly was launched.

When it was first published on February 18, 1991, Bob Hawke was prime minister, the worst drought in Australia's recorded history was beginning and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) had just released its First Assessment Report, which concluded that “immediate reductions in emissions from human activities of over 60% [were needed] to stabilise their concentrations at today's levels”.

The high court just threw out a challenge by the Human Rights Law Centre alleging the government had unlawfully detained people on Nauru, before they were brought to Australia temporarily for medical reasons.

Now the government is free to send 267 vulnerable people back to Nauru.

Here are 5 reasons to come and join protests on Thursday 4 February calling for the government to #LetThemStay and not send them to Nauru.

1. Babies

World

After 77 days on hunger strike in protest against his arbitrary detention by Israeli forces, Palestinian journalist Mohammed Al-Qeeq is on the verge of death.

Al-Qeeq is currently in detention in a hospital in the northern city of Afula; his petition to be transferred to a clinic in Ramallah has been rejected by the Israeli government.

His lawyer says he refuses to stay in Israeli hospitals and will only accept medical treatment in the West Bank. He was arrested on November 21 last year on charges of being an activist with the Gaza-based Palestinian resistance movement Hamas.

Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders and Republican candidate Donald Trump have won the New Hampshire primary, according to the the Associated Press and NBC news. Early exit polls had suggested that Sanders and Trump could secure victories with big margins.

According to the Washington Post, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton conceded defeat before voting finished, as Sanders claimed victory while urging people to continue voting.

Exit polls showed Sanders secured more than 85%of the vote among young people in the state compared to 14% for Clinton.

A six-year-old boy, Tharshan Kugathasan, was found dead near a navy base at Champoor on the east coast of Sri Lanka on January 26.

The boy's body was found in a disused well. The body had been weighed down with a large stone tied to his body by military-style shoelaces. He had earlier been seen with Sri Lankan navy personnel who used to offer him food and chocolates, according to local residents quoted by the Tamilnet website. Evidence indicates that he was raped and murdered by navy personnel.

Brandon Astor Jones, a 72-year-old African American prisoner on death row in Georgia, was executed by lethal injection on February 3.

The oldest death row inmate in Georgia, Jones had spent decades in jail. He was convicted over the killing of a convenience store manager in an robbery in 1979. Van Roosevelt Solomon, who took part in the robbery and was also convicted of murder, as executed in 1985.


Anti-TPP protesters in Auckland.

Amid angry protests in the streets, Pacific rim countries signed the controversial Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal on February 4 in New Zealand's capital Auckland.

The new Zika virus threat has caused alarm among pregnant women around the world, due to the threat of those infected giving birth to babies with microcephaly, or small brain, which can cause brain damage and mental incapacity.

Indirect internationally-brokered peace talks in Geneva between the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad and a Saudi-backed coalition of some opposition groups were suspended on February 3 — just two days after they started.

Associated Press said that day that “neither the government nor the opposition even acknowledged that the negotiations had officially begun”.

Inside Syria, meanwhile, fighting intensified and the humanitarian situation deteriorated. Advances by government forces, backed by Russian air strikes, were the apparent cause for the talks’ collapse.


Protest against Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in Quito, Ecuador on February 4, 2016. Photo: Giran Özcan.

Supporters of the Kurdish struggle took to the streets of Ecuador's capital, Quito, on February 4 to protest against Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who is in Ecuador on an official two-day visit. At the protest, one Erdoğan's bodyguards broke the nose of Ecuadorean member of parliament Diego Vintimilla.

Democratic presidential nominee Bernie Sanders came close to winning the Iowa caucus on February 1. His opponent Hillary Clinton got 49.9% while Sanders got 49.6%. This was a remarkable achievement for a candidate who many commentators said was too radical and stood no chance against the well-entrenched and well-resourced Clinton.

Protests erupted throughout Pakistan after the shooting dead on the picket line of three striking workers at Karachi Airport on February 2. The Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) employees were part of a nationwide strike against the privatisation of the state-owned airline.

One of those killed, Inayat Raza, was a veteran trade unionist and former leader of the left-wing National Students' Federation (NSF) in Karachi in the 1980s.

A 24-hour general strike in Greece against the “odious plan to dismantle the country’s social security system” shut down transportation, schools, courts, pharmacies and non-emergency hospital services on February 4.

Up to 100,000 people attended, according to organisers, while police estimated 50,000 hit the Athens streets. The strike is the largest since the leftist Syriza party took power in January last year on a platform of opposing the type of austerity measures the strike targetted.

Over the next five years, France will install 1000 kilometres of solar roadway using Colas' Wattway solar pavement.

The collaboration between Colas, a transport infrastructure company, and France's National Institute for Solar Energy (INES) is sanctioned by France's Agency of Environment and Energy Management.

The new Wattway system does not replace the road itself, but is designed to be glued onto the top of existing pavement.

The Costa Rican Electricity Institute said it had achieved 99% renewable energy generation last year. It also said that for 285 days last year the country managed to power its grid on 100% renewable sources.

The bulk of Costa Rica's power generation comes from hydropower thanks to a large river system and heavy tropical rainfalls. The rest is made up of a mix of geothermal energy, wind, biomass and solar power.

The 2016 summit of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) began on January 26 with the meeting of foreign ministers and chancellors of the Latin American nations at the headquarters of the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) in Mitad del Mundo, Quito, Ecuador.

CELAC, a regional body involving all nations in the Americas except for the United States and Canada, was officially created in Caracas in 2011 under the leadership of then-Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez.

Despite having the entire Democratic establishment against him, the self-described democratic socialist candidate in the US Democratic primaries, Bernie Sanders, continues to make waves, backed by huge enthusiasm from supporters inspired by his call for a “political revolution” against the corporate elite. Although Sanders fell short in the Democratic Iowa caucuses on February 1, he picked up 84% of the youth vote.

One of the epic miscarriages of justice of our time is unravelling. The United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention — an international tribunal that adjudicates and decides whether governments comply with their human rights obligations — has ruled that Julian Assange has been detained unlawfully by Britain and Sweden.

The following statement was released by Socialist Alliance (Australia) on February 3.

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Socialist Alliance (Australia) condemns the murder by the Pakistani military on January 30 of Dr Mannan Baloch, Secretary General of Baloch National Movement (BNM), and four other BNM members. According to eyewitnesses, the military attacked the house where they were staying with mortar fire, then troops entered and shot each of the occupants in the chest and head. The youngest victim was just 19 years old. All the victims were unarmed.

Analysis

Do we need to debate whether Australia should become a republic?

After all, it is not just parties that say Australian society should be transformed (Socialist Alliance) or reformed (the Greens) that want a republic. The national leaders of the major capitalist political parties and all the state premiers agree on ending the situation where a British monarch is Australia's head of state.

I suspect this is in line with what most Australians think: who gave birth to you should not make you the head of state, even nominally. So why is there an argument about this?

"WOW. This is something you don't often see. Goldman Sachs says it may have to question capitalism itself." So went the tweet from Bloomberg TV correspondent Joseph Weisenthal.

I wondered what could possibly cause one of the world’s largest investment banks, a company that is heavily invested in capitalism (both literally and figuratively) to “question capitalism itself”? Why isn't this bigger news?

Green Left Weekly is marking its 25th anniversary this week, which is a truly remarkable achievement for an independent paper without corporate funding — and one that could not be achieved without a lot of hard work over many years by more people than could be named.

Some of these Liberal politicians must think that the rest of us are stupid. Take NSW Premier Mike Baird, the always-smiling poster boy for this deeply right-wing party, whose latest pitch for raising the GST from 10% to 15% is a politician's promise that he would spend the proceeds on health and education.

Although about 99% of Victoria's volcanic plains grasslands have been destroyed by development, some outstanding remnants of this unique ecosystem persist, especially on the western fringes of Melbourne.

The grasslands ecosystem was listed by the federal government as critically endangered in 2008. But at the same time, the then-Labor government of Victoria was initiating an expansion of Melbourne's Urban Growth Boundary that would severely impact some of its best remaining areas.

The geologically recent volcanic activity across western Victoria created a landscape with rich, but often shallow, soils, that supported a unique grassland ecosystem.

Climate, soil, herbivory and fire history, among other factors, have combined to maintain tussock grasses, such as kangaroo grass, as a dominant species, with small herbs including diverse orchids, daisies and lilies growing in the spaces between tussocks and few or no trees over large areas.

This is the second part of an article on an exposure tour of Malaysia hosted by the Socialist Party of Malaysia (PSM), in which five Resistance: Young Socialist Alliance members participated over January 15 to 26.

Part 1 was published in #1082 and can be found here. Part 3 will published in the next issue.

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Culture

Jessica Jones
Created by Melissa Rosenburg
Staring Krysten Ritter, David Tennant & Rachael Taylor
Released by Netflix

Jessica Jones is the second instalment in the fruitful Netflix-Marvel TV collaboration. Like the fantastic Daredevil before it, it is ruthlessly grim, dark and bloody, superbly well-acted and gorgeously produced.

The gore and thematic material may not be for everyone. Viewers who have been looking for a dose of Daredevil's grittiness with compelling, complex female characters at its centre have found their poison.

Full Scale Revolution (formerly known as Full Scale Deflection and then just Full Scale) are an Australian alternative metal band that formed in Perth in 1998, before relocating to Melbourne in 2001.

Fronted by Ezekiel Ox, a frequent performer at protests, Full Scale are an intense live experience. As Full Scale Deflection, the band released their debut album, Symptoms of Chaos in 2000. As Full Scale, they released in 2003, two EPs — Black Arrows and White Arrows — and a self-titled album in 2005.

Police officers from the Diyarbakir Anti-Terror Department in south-eastern Turkey raided the facilities of football club Amedspor after its 2-1 cup win at Bursapo on January 31. The win put the club, with a strong following among Turkey's persecuted Kurdish minority, into the last eight of the Turkish League Cup.

“In a touching tribute to thousands of refugees who lost their lives crossing the Mediterranean from Turkey into the EU, two Greek football teams orchestrated a sit-in at the start of the match to protest against the policies of 'brutal indifference',” RT.com said on February 1.


Police respond to "exuberant fan behaviour".

The Senate has called on Football Federation Australia and A-League clubs to take action to ensure football fans are not over-policed, AAP said on February 2.

A-League fans, especially from clubs with strong multicultural fan bases such as the Western Sydney Wanderers and Melbourne Victory, have long complained about over-policing, as well as unfair bans imposed without any right to appeal by the FFA and frequent media demonisation.