Issue 1084

Australia

In the Pilliga Aboriginal land rights, water supply, farming, local economies, world-leading astronomy research, the night sky, biodiversity and endangered species such as koalas are all under threat.

A Pakistani student, Sohail, was paid only 47 cents an hour to work at a 7-Eleven store in Sydney. He is one of 60 workers claiming back pay from 7-Eleven.

When another worker, Pranay Alawala, complained about receiving only $12 an hour, his employer said they would tell immigration officials he had been working too many hours, which was in breach of his student visa. He received $33,000 in back pay.

VicForests has been forced to abandon planned logging operations in forest on the Errinundra plateau in East Gippsland after a citizen science survey recorded a large population of protected Greater Gliders.

Goongerah Environment Centre conducted a late night survey in forest where logging had just commenced. The survey recorded 15 greater gliders in 800m.

The Department of Environment will now create a protection zone for the species. The logging rules require a 100 hectare protected area to be zoned where more than 10 greater gliders are detected in a 1km survey transect.

Gomeroi Traditional Custodians were joined on February 15 by concerned locals and supporters near the gates of Whitehaven's Maules Creek coalmine in the Leard State Forest for a traditional ceremony.

The Emu Ceremony should have been held at the Gomeroi sacred site, Lawlers Well, the last remaining of 11 sites in the forest, but Whitehaven refused access.

The site is part of an estimated 500 hectares of koala habitat in Leard Forest earmarked for clearing this summer by Whitehaven and Japanese miner Idemitsu which operates the Boggabri Coalmine.

Hundreds of people rallied against the federal government’s proposed cuts to health care in #These Cuts are Killing Us rallies around Australia.

Protesters in Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, Brisbane and Perth took to the streets to defend Medicare and against government plans to charge for previously free pathology tests which could lead to doctors having to charge at least $30 for blood tests, MRIs, x-rays, pap smears, urine tests, ultrasounds and more.

The sale of the former Ballerrt Mooroop Indigenous College site in Glenroy, Victoria has been put on hold indefinitely following a traditional owner settlement claim.

Those campaigning to keep it in the public's hands are celebrating the decision, which makes the dream of turning it into a community hub a step closer.

A spokesperson for Victorian education minister James Merlino, confirmed the sale was off, given the land now formed part of a traditional owner settlement claim by the Wurundjeri people.

More than 400 workers from several unions, notably the CFMEU, took their fight straight to billion dollar miner Rio Tinto for its complicity in sacking Australian seafarers and replacing them with foreign workers, who are paid as little as $2 an hour.

On February 5 in the Port of Newcastle, five crew members were marched down the gangway of the CSL Melbourne by more than 30 police. Those same police escorted the foreign replacement crew onto the ship to sail it away.

Baby Asha is facing possible deportation to Nauru.

Over the last week there have being ongoing protests outside Lady Cilento children's hospital in Brisbane, with health professionals at the hospital refusing to discharge baby Asha whilst she could be sent to Nauru. (Read more here: https://www.greenleft.org.au/node/61088)

11:21

The vigil for baby Asha outside the Lady Cilento Children's Hospital in Brisbane continues, as the hospital joined a growing group of institutions offering sanctuary to refugee families.

In a statement on February 12, a Lady Cilento Children's Hospital spokesperson said: “Children's Health Queensland can confirm that a 12-month-old girl from the Nauru Detention Centre is currently receiving care at the Lady Cilento Children's Hospital.

“As is the case with every child who presents at the hospital, this patient will only be discharged once a suitable home environment is identified.

Hundreds of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander grandmothers from across the country converged on Parliament House in Canberra on February 11, to demand an end to the high child removal rate of Aboriginal children.

Most of the elders participating in the protest were members of the Stolen Generation themselves, snatched from their families as children as part of official government policy.

Today, they say, the removals continue unabated, continuing to tear families apart, denying Aboriginal children their culture and creating a new generation of lost children.

Whether it is welfare or wages, the income of youth and students seems to be under attack from the government and big business sectors.

From the beginning of this year, commencing students will no longer receive the start-up scholarship of $1025, paid in two instalments over the year. New students now have the option of applying for a start-up loan of the same amount, which, similarly to the HECS debt, will be repaid to the Australian Tax Office once their income reaches a certain level.

The 267 asylum seekers facing deportation to Nauru and Manus Island by the Australian government could go to New Zealand if they are found to be refugees, the country's Prime Minister John Key said on February 15.

Among those facing deportation are 37 babies born in Australia to asylum seeker parents, and another 54 children, some of whom are attending school. A High Court decision this month ruled Australia's offshore processing regime was legal.

The front page headline “Trash and treasure” on the February 16 edition of South Australia's only daily newspaper, The Advertiser, welcomed the recommendation from the Nuclear Fuel Cycle Royal Commission for a nuclear waste dump in outback SA. The commission had cost a massive tax-payer funded $8 million.

In a step forward for human rights in Australia, human rights commissioner Tim Wilson has resigned. Wilson, formerly policy director of the right-wing think tank Institute of Public Affairs, was two years into a five year contract.

Unfortunately for the people of Andrew Robb's Victorian electorate Goldstein, Wilson has resigned to seek Liberal Party preselection for the federal seat after Robb decided to retire.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull presents himself as a leader who is different to former prime minister Tony Abbott in substance as well as style. But on the issues that most marked Abbott's tenure — his head-in-the-sand attitude to climate change and his "stop the boats" approach to asylum seekers — there have been no changes.

When I am out selling Green Left Weekly on the streets, I am often asked: “Where does the money go?” I have to tell people that it just goes to producing the next issue of the paper. The cover price is not nearly enough to make such a profit that we would have to decide what to do with it.

In fact, GLW would never have survived 25 years without huge ongoing efforts in appealing for donations and organising fundraisers to raise the additional money needed over what we get through sales and subscriptions.

Unions for Refugees released this statement of solidarity with the stand taken by doctors and nurses at Lady Cilento Children's Hospital in Brisbane staff on February 12.

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Unions for Refugees would like to congratulate the stand taken by doctors and nurses at the Lady Cilento Children's Hospital in Brisbane in support of 12-month-old Baby Asha. We encourage every unionist to extend their solidarity to them.

Five climate guardian angels were arrested by police on February 9 while blockading the road to Santos' Leewood wastewater facility in the Pilliga forest near Narrabri in north-west New South Wales.

World


Dublin, February 20. Photo via An Phoblacht.

Tens of thousands of people took to the streets of Dublin on February 20 in support of a Right2Change rally calling for an end to water charges and support for the Right2Change candidates in the February 26 general election, An Phoblacht said the next day

İlham Ehmed is Co-President of the Syrian Democratic Council, the political body with which the Syrian Democratic Forces (QSD) are affiliated, and a leading representative of the Kurdish-led Rojava Revolution in Northern Syria.

She spoke to Firat News Agency on February 22 about the QSD's recent gains and Turkey's bombardment, and threatened invasion, of Rojava.

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What is your evaluation of Turkey's recent escalated attacks on Rojava?

Protesters in working-class western Caracas hijacked trucks belonging to Venezuela’s number one private food chain, Polar, on February 18, demanding the company cease hoarding essential goods.

The Polar food and beverage conglomerate is Venezuela’s largest private food provider, selling a range of products from beer to corn flour. But its owner, millionaire businessman Lorenzo Mendoza, has been consistently embroiled in scandal.

Democrat presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton secured a narrow win over Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders in the Nevada caucus on February 20. The former secretary of state gathered 53% of the vote, while the self-described democratic socialist Sanders secured more than 47%.

Despite his loss, Sanders proved his campaign could mobilise quickly and battle the odds. In a speech following the results, Sanders recalled that just a few weeks ago, he was 25 points behind Clinton in the polls in Nevada. "We have the wind on our backs, we have the momentum," he said.

Britain: Austerity killing the poor

Cuts to social spending could be killing large numbers of vulnerable people in Britain, Public Health England said on February 16, as new figures show last year featured the largest rise in the national death rate for decades.

TeleSUR English said the next day that the new preliminary figures from the Office for National Statistics show mortality rates last year rose by 5.4% compared with 2014.

A whole packet of new economic initiatives are set to take effect in Venezuela after socialist President Nicolas Maduro announced a series of far-reaching measures in response to the country’s economic crisis on February 17.

In a televised five hour address to the nation, Maduro explained the extent of the economic crisis afflicting the country as well as his government’s plan to tackle it. Economic initiatives include changes to the country’s multi-tiered exchange rate, an increase in domestic petrol prices, a new tax system and expansion of community control over food distribution.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement, which involves 12 Pacific rim nations, seriously threatens indigenous land rights, as well as the natural resources they preserve, said United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Victoria Tauli-Corpuz.

In an interview with the International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs, Tauli-Corpuz said a major issue with the trade deal is “the clause of non-discrimination between a local and an international investor ... [it] grants more rights to transnational firms, often at the expense of indigenous rights”.

While Israel’s supporters in Australia have worked themselves up over stationary shop Typo selling a world globe naming the area inhabited by the state of Israel as “Palestine”, this year has already involved new injustices for those living in occupied Palestine.

The “new normal” of extrajudicial killings, set during the escalation of violence in Occupied Palestine last October, remains firmly in place. Israeli occupying forces have also accelerated their policy of housing demolitions.

There has been plenty of heat this Palestinian winter in the campaign for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel.

There have been some important victories, helped by the increased scrutiny of Israeli state violence since October. And equally, the hysteria from Israeli and Western political establishments over the “threat” posed by the BDS campaign has reached new levels.


February 4 protest in Vavuniyaa.

Tamils in the north and east of Sri Lanka held protests on February 4, the former British colony's independence day.


Destruction caused by Turkish military in Diyarbakır (Amed), Turkish Kurdistan (Bakur), February 20.

Australians for Kurdistan (AfK) is circulating an open letter urging Australian academics to support their colleagues in Turkey, who are facing massive repression by the government for denouncing the war on the Kurds.

When veteran socialist Jeremy Corbyn was elected British Labour Party leader in September, many commentators in the corporate media and inside the Labour Party establishment warned his anti-austerity and anti-war positions would be a “disaster” for the party — rendering it “unelectable”.

Assumed to have no chance at the start of the campaign, his staunch opposition to austerity measures impoverishing millions helped generate a tidal wave of enthusiasm.

Russian Prime Minister Dmitri Medvedev said in an interview with German newspaper Handelsblatt on February 11 that a threatened ground invasion of Syria by Western allies Turkey and possibly Saudi Arabia would lead to a “new world war”. On February 18, Hawar News Agency reported that “dozens” of Turkish armoured vehicles had advanced 200 metres across the Syrian border.

Students, journalists and teachers protested at Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) in New Delhi on February 16, demanding the release of an arrested student leader and denouncing violence by Hindu supremacists.

The dispute has sparked new allegations that Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government and his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) are cracking down on political dissent in the name of patriotism.

More than 100 Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) have launched a petition campaign for the removal of the Kurdistan Workers' Party from the EU list of terrorist groups, An Phoblacht said on February 18.

The PKK began an armed campaign for Kurdish liberation against the Turkish state in 1984, although it had been in a peace process until the Turkish government unilaterally ended talks and restarted the conflict last year.


Support for self-described socialist Bernie Sanders is based on his policies, such as supporting union campaigns for a $15 minimum wage.

It can be difficult to understand what capitalist elections say about the relation of class forces. This is especially true for the United States where there are no mass workers parties of any type. The two pro-capitalist parties, the Democrats and the Republicans, dominate.

When an all-female army of journalists, dressed as schoolgirls, burst into laughter at a “lunch party” with the Thailand's military junta chief Prayut Chan-o-cha at Government House on January 8, it became the talk of the town.

Commentators took to social media to lament the wretched state of Thai media. A senior Thai journalist, Pravit Rojanapuruk, labelled the journalists as “lapdogs” in a column in the progressive daily Khaosod English.

Analysis

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull began the annual Prime Minister's “closing the gap” speech on February 10 with a few lines in the Ngunnawal language. But, as an Aboriginal woman, all I heard was more Turnbullshit.

“We recognise that prior to the arrival of European settlers, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians spoke hundreds of languages and over 600 dialects," he said. In my mind this means that, despite the Mabo High Court judgement of 1992, he still believes Australia was "settled".

Not for some years has there been so much justifiable outrage over bipartisan cruelty towards refugees and asylum seekers in Australia.

The groundswell of community organising to keep the 267 asylum seekers, being threatened with deportation to Nauru and Manus Island, is a bright spot on an otherwise bleak horizon.

Kate Carnell, the CEO of the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI), the bosses' main lobby group, was blunt in explaining what she wanted to do with the four out of five people on the age pension who own their own homes. The pension they receive should be treated like a loan, she said, which would then be repaid to the government out of the proceeds of the sale of their homes when they die.

This is the final part of a three-part feature 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 can be found here.
Part 2 can be found here.

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The Gonski Review was commissioned by the Julia Gillard government in 2011 to make recommendations about funding for public education.

Jim Casey, until recently the secretary of the Fire Brigade Employees Union in NSW, has been preselected for the Greens candidate in the seat of Grayndler in Sydney. I interviewed Casey for Green Left Radio on February 5.

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Last week Anthony Albanese, who is the Labor MP for Grayndler, lambasted you for being a socialist.

The #LetThemStay vigil outside Lady Cilento Hospital is a rare and remarkable moment for Brisbane, not only because it makes visible the resurgence of public concern about our government's inhumane treatment of asylum seekers, but because it's already one of the most significant radical uses of urban space this city has seen in decades.

Culture

Making a Murderer
Written & directed by Laura Ricciardi & Moira Demos
Netflix

The Netflix documentary series Making a Murderer, directed by Laura Ricciardi and Moira Demos, tears the mask off the United States criminal justice system. It reveals, in clear-cut, heart-wrenching detail, the depths of its inhumanity.


Beyoncé's backing dancers display a "Justice for Mario Woods" sign.

In the San Francisco Bay Area in California, where tent cities are slowly re-forming under bridges after being swept away in a “cleansing” of the homeless ahead of the February 7 NFL Super Bowl, there is still a palpable buzz about Beyoncé's performance in the Super Bowl half-time show (sorry, Coldplay).

In fact, it is a topic with far more currency than the actual dud of a game — and for good reason.

Unfinished Leninism
By Paul Le Blanc
Haymarket Books, 2014
237 pp., $23.00

This collection of 12 essays rests comfortably alongside Lars Lih’s Lenin Rediscovered and Canadian socialist John Riddell’s huge work in translating the proceedings of the first four congresses of the Comintern, the international organisation set up by the Bolsheviks in 1919.

These works are part of the renewed interest in the “real” Lenin — separate from the mausoleum that Stalinism built and pro-capitalist commentators’ slander.


Liverpool fans at Anfield protesting against ticket price hike.

Owners of English Premier League side Liverpool FC have caved to fan protests against rising ticket prices, backing down after raising tickets to £77 and apologising to fans.

On February 6, 10,000 Liverpool fans walked out of their team’s home game against Sunderland in the 77th minute in protest against the planned ticket price rise.