Issue 1085

News

Murdoch University's Acting Vice Chancellor, Andrew Taggart, joined a student #LetThemStay action on March 3 after controversial actions by university administration the previous week.
Refugee Action Coalition hosted a forum about what women endure on Nauru and Manus. Kyja from Sydney from the Refugee Action Coalition Thea a former save the children worker Pamella Curr from Asylum Seeker Resource Centre
On February 27, hundreds of people rallied in Melbourne to let refugees stay and close the prison camps. The action was in response to a visit by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Opposition leader Bill Shorten with people chanting "let them stay" at both. The action was called by Refugee Action Collective and First Nations Liberation. Heavy handed police assaulted protesters attempting to approach the stage. The Premier Daniel Andrews has called on Turnbull to let the 267 refugees stay in Australia rather than be sent to Nauru.
Profits have soared for the operator of Australia's detention camps for asylum seekers in Papua New Guinea on Manus Island and on Nauru. Broadspectrum, which used to be called Transfield Services, announced it had trebled its net profit for the first half of the year to $25.1 million. Broadspectrum has been awarded a 12-month extension on its contract providing operational, welfare and security services to asylum seekers on Nauru and Manus Island. It has told investors it is the "preferred tenderer" for a new five-year contract it hopes to sign this year.
A disability working group said at least 45,000 people with disabilities will remain in unsatisfactory housing, including nursing homes, living with aging parents and homelessness under the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS). While the key aim of the NDIS is to provide participants with independent living, most of the people with disabilities will not receive housing support. Housing experts believe 110,000 people need appropriate accommodation, meaning about 40% will miss out on the help they need.
Proposals by the NSW Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) to raise public transport fares on the Opal Card system covering public buses, trains and ferries are facing strong opposition from pensioners, retirees and the general travelling public. The Combined Pensioners and Superannuants Association said the government would face a major backlash if it decided to tighten the eligibility or raise the daily cap on the cost of travel for seniors.
Students at Newtown High School of the Performing Arts in Sydney have won a battle to change their uniform policy and allow students to wear boys or girls uniforms regardless of their gender. Jo Dwyer, a year 11 student at the school said: "Our aim was to remove the un-inclusive gender labels from the school uniform, and make it so that anyone could wear any aspect of the uniform without having to go through a long and difficult process."
Two women peacefully occupied a fully-laden coal train in Werris Creek on February 21 and a man occupied the line on February 27 to call for a moratorium on coal and gas production in Australia. They said they wanted to send a message to coal companies and the government.
Twenty graduating Qantas apprentices have become the first aircraft maintenance engineers in decades to complete their training without being offered secure positions by the airline. The Australian Manufacturing Workers' Union, the Australian Workers Union and the Electrical Trades Union intervened in the Fair Work Commission on February 7 to stop Qantas terminating their employment.
International Mother Language Day on February 21 is dedicated to celebrating, preserving and protecting languages of all peoples. In the week leading up to the day, media reported that late last year, Northern Territory MLA Bess Price was told off by parliamentary speaker Kezia Purick for using Warlpiri, her first language, in parliament. Purick told Price “the language of the assembly is English”, although it remains to be seen where, exactly, that rule is written down.
With scores of anti-fracking protesters outside, the Australian Labor Party Northern Territory conference voted on February 13 to approve a moratorium on any development of the fracking industry while critical scientific studies on its impacts are carried out.
A rally of 200 bicycle riders and their supporters was held in the early morning of February 18 in front of NSW State Parliament. The riders were opposing the introduction of mandatory photo identification for riders and a massive increase in fines. There has been no evidence produced by the Mike Baird government that these measures will lead to greater safety for riders and other road users. Riders argue the new rules will be a disincentive to riding, especially for children, as anyone over the age of 12 years is not allowed to ride on the footpath.
CSIRO researchers have uncovered a unique ability in bats that allows them to carry but remain unaffected by lethal diseases. Unlike humans, bats keep their immune systems switched on all the time. Scientists believe this could hold the key to protecting people from deadly diseases.
The University of Sydney Resistance club held a #LetThemStay action on campus on February 24 which was endorsed by the Sydney University Postgraduate Representative Association (SUPRA) and attended by Labor, Greens, socialists and LGBTIQ activists on campus.
Protestors took to the streets around Australia on February 20 against the federal government's proposed cuts to health care in #TheseCutsAreKillingUs rallies. Protesters in Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, Brisbane, Canberra and Perth came out to defend Medicare and to oppose government plans to charge for previously free pathology tests. This could lead to doctors having to charge at least $30 for blood tests, MRIs, X-rays, pap smears, urine tests, ultrasounds and more.
Dear Prime Minister, Following the High Court's recent decision in Plaintiff M68/2015 v Minister for Immigration and Border Protection, we, the undersigned law firms, community legal organisations, legal bodies and legal associations, jointly urge you to let the 267 individuals at risk of removal to offshore processing centres stay in Australia. We strongly advocate for the end of offshore detention and request you bring all asylum seekers and refugees in regional processing facilities back to mainland Australia.
On February 18, a delegation of Victoria University staff and students delivered a letter to the office of Tim Watts, Labor MP for the federal seat of Gellibrand. The letter, signed by 125 students and teachers — in only two days and before most students were back at university — pleaded with Watts to follow Premier Daniel Andrews' example and advocate that the 267 vulnerable asylum seekers, including 36 babies, not be sent back to Nauru.
More than 1000 people rallied on the steps of Western Australia’s Parliament House on February 23 to protest against the Western Australian government’s anti-protest laws.
Sam Wainwright, Socialist Alliance councillor on Fremantle Council, successfully moved the following motion at council’s February 24 meeting: 1. Supports the Palm Sunday Walk for Refugees — March 20, 1pm St George's Cathedral; 2. Calls on the Malcolm Turnbull government to let the 267 refugees that it wants to deport stay; 3. Commits Fremantle to stop doing business with companies who are contracted to run the detention centres, such as Broadspectrum and Wilson Security; and 4. Calls for an end to the offshore mandatory detention regime and boat "turnbacks".
The Senate will shine a much-needed spotlight on BP’s plans to drill for oil in the Great Australian Bight after it voted for an inquiry into the matter. The inquiry will report back by May 12. The Senate’s Environment and Communications References Committee will look into the potential environmental, social and economic impacts of BP’s planned exploratory oil drilling project and any future oil or gas production in the Great Australian Bight.
James Cook University (JCU) management is proposing to make nearly 40 academic staff redundant in Cairns and Townsville as it starts a third year of job cuts at one of the largest employers in northern Queensland. Under the proposals, JCU's Division of Tropical Environments and Societies would lose 10% of its teaching and research staff and Tropical Health and Medicine would lose eight workers. Management's rush to reduce staff numbers, which could see academics sacked in the middle of teaching the semester, shows that this is an inept “balance the budget” exercise.

Analysis

Green Left Weekly hosted a forum on February 17: “After the Paris Climate Talks: Which way forward for the climate movement?”, with John Englart (citizen journalist, observer at Paris Talks); David Spratt (climate policy analyst, People's Climate March organiser) and me (Socialist Alliance and grassroots climate activist). Paris Agreement John Englart summarised the main parts of the Paris Agreement: • A warming target of well below 2°C, with efforts to limit warming to 1.5°C;
Politicians in the Coalition government are attempting to destroy a campaign aimed at making schools safe for queer youth. Urged on by arch-conservatives such as Senators Corey Bernardi and Eric Abetz, the federal education minister Simon Birmingham has announced a federal review into the funding of the Safe Schools program. This program is an attempt to eradicate homophobic and transphobic bullying from schools and encourage diversity and tolerance among young people.
"The Malcolm Turnbull government's proposal to privatise the Medicare payment system is a slippery slope to selling off the whole of Medicare," Peter Boyle, the Socialist Alliance candidate for the seat of Sydney in the upcoming federal elections, said on February 24. "The Socialist Alliance strongly opposes any privatisation of our public health system, as well as any further pathology cuts, co-payments or attacks on our public hospitals."
Hundreds of environmental protestors made their voices heard against coal and coal seam gas (CSG) mining over the weekend of February 20 and 21. In the Pilliga, more than 300 people defied a police roadblock to protest the construction of Santos' Leewood waste water treatment facility and in the Leard State Forest a group of about 30 people blockaded the gates to Whitehaven and Idemitsu's Tarrawonga coal mine. Protest in the Pilliga
I feel privileged to have been able to spend several hours on the community picket outside Lady Cilento Children's Hospital in Brisbane where people were rallying in solidarity with Asha. Asha is the refugee baby who was being treated for burns after an accident in Australia's notorious offshore refugee detention camp, in the increasingly dictatorial Pacific island state of Nauru.
I am not sure if I fully understand recent political developments, but the message I am getting from the Malcolm Turnbull government is that we have to send babies to hellish prison camps or else the gay lobby will persecute Christian students. And we need a big increase in military spending or house prices will tragically collapse, or tragically rise, depending on which tragedy you wish to choose. Say what you will about the Turnbull government, it offers no shortages of tragedies.
At a talk given at the Newcastle Resistance Centre in the mid-1980s, visiting US activist Peter Camejo mentioned that a socialist, Bernie Sanders, had just been re-elected Mayor of the largest city in the state of Vermont. Camejo described his meeting with Sanders in the Burlington City Hall. Banners were stacked in the corner and posters in solidarity with the Third World and women's, black and labour struggles decorated the walls. “It was just like being in an activist centre like this,” he quipped.

World

Since the Mu'l'livaaykkaal killings of 2009, the Tamil diaspora has mostly focused political efforts towards demanding justice for the inhuman crimes committed against Tamil civilians. While such efforts have elevated international awareness of the gross human rights violations committed by the Sri Lankan military during the war, the approach has not yielded results on prosecuting the perpetrators of the international crimes.
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro announced the creation of a National Productive Corporation on February 22, as part of a new socialist enterprise system aimed at coordinating efforts among existing state, communal and mixed firms. Speaking from the Ana Maria Campo Petrochemical Complex in Zulia state, the socialist leader said the new entity would be tasked with unifying the more than 1000 public enterprises in a “single vision of planning, management, productivity, and maximum efficiency”.
A secene from the peoples' power' uprising that ousted the US-backed Marcos dictatorship 30 years ago. The EDSA Uprising of February 25, 1986, overthrew the Philippine's brutal US-backed dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos. The uprising was named after the Manila thoroughfare where events unfolded. It is often known as “EDSA 1” to distinguish it from later uprisings that occurred in EDSA.
Rallies were held around the world on February 23 outside of Apple stores to back the manufacturer in resisting FBI attempts to create an iPhone “backdoor” to allow authorities to access protected information. Demonstrations were organised in about 30 cities, including several US, spearheaded by the internet rights group Fight for the Future. “People are rallying at Apple stores because what the FBI is demanding here will make all of us less safe, not more safe,” said Fight for the Future’s Evan Greer.
Thousands of Argentine public sector workers took to the streets of Buenos Aires and convened at the presidential palace on February 24 as part of a national strike to protest the huge layoffs of state workers by the administration of new right-wing President Mauricio Macri.
Photo: Kavita Krishnan. The article below is abridged from an editorial in ML Update, published by the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) Liberation. ***
Albert Woodfox was finally released on February 19 — his 69th birthday — from the notorious Angola state prison in Louisiana. He was jailed for 45 years, 43 of which were spent in solitary confinement in a two-by-three metre cell. Solitary confinement is becoming widely recognised as a form of torture. Woodfox's ordeal was the longest time any prisoner in the US has been held in solitary.
Bolivian Vice-President Alvaro Garcia Linera and President Evo Morales. The “no” vote narrowly won with 51.3% of the vote in a February 21 referendum in Bolivia held to resolve whether left-wing President Evo Morales could run again in 2019. The vote, involving an unprecedented participation rate of 90% of registered voters, was over whether to change the constitution to allow a president and vice-president to stand for re-election twice.
Kurdish women staged a sit-in in Strasbourg against the silence of European institutions over Turkey's crime A coalition of pro-Kurdish European groups held a five day sit-in in front of European institutions in Strasbourg in eastern France, starting on February 23, to protest Europe's silence on the Turkish government's ongoing massacre of Kurds. The action targeted the European Court of Human Rights.
Spain could go without a government for several more months after left-wing anti-austerity party Podemos cancelled talks with the main opposition party, the Spanish Socialist Workers Party (PSOE), TeleSUR English said on February 24. Podemos walked away from talks when the PSOE tried to make a deal with the right-wing Citizens party.
Palestinians protest in support of jailed journalist Mohammed al-Qeq Thirty three-year-old Mohammed al-Qeq, a Palestinian journalist who has being held for more than six months in administrative detention without charge or trial in an Israeli prison, ended a 94 day hunger strike on February 26. Al-Qeq ended the strike — the longest by any Palestinian prisoner — after Israel agreed not to renew his administrative detention order, which ends on May 21, AFP said that day.
Severe Tropical Cyclone Winston, the Category 5 storm that slammed into Fiji on February 20, was the strongest storm ever to make landfall in the Southern Hemisphere and the second strongest ever in the world, with wind speeds approaching 300 kilometres an hour. At least 44 people were killed, and thousands left homeless, deprived of livelihood and at risk of water- and mosquito-borne diseases.
Peruvians took to the streets of the country's capital Lima in large numbers on February 25 to protest against the pro-corporate Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) involving 12 Pacific Rim nations.
In a January ruling marking a turning point in German transport policy, an administrative court in Wiesbaden ordered the regional government of Hesse to clean up diesel exhaust fumes by September or face a fine. Following the deepening VW diesel emissions testing scandal, the ruling puts pressure on the entire German vehicle industry production of diesel cars — which has been central to their business model.
Secret documents found in the Australian National Archives provide a glimpse of how one of the greatest crimes of the 20th century was executed and covered up. They also help us understand how and for whom the world is run. The documents refer to East Timor, now known as Timor-Leste, and were written by diplomats in the Australian embassy in Jakarta. The date was November 1976, less than a year after the Indonesian dictator General Suharto seized the then-Portuguese colony on the island of Timor.

Culture

Economics After Capitalism: A Guide to the Ruins & a Road to the Future By Derek Wall Pluto Press, 2015 Derek Wall, ecosocialist activist and international coordinator of the Green Party of England and Wales, has written a primer on the main strands of economic critique of globalised capitalism. It is a short and easily readable book, well suited to someone looking for a starting place. For those already embedded in one of these strands, it provides a welcome introduction to some of the others.
Punks For West Papua Directed by Anthony Brennan 46 minutes www.punks4westpapua.com A friend's request to film a punk rock concert and a rushed drive across Sydney to do a last-minute interview with West Papuan independence leader Benny Wenda — without even knowing who the twice Nobel Peace Prize-nominated activist was — was the catalyst for filmmaker Anthony “Ash” Brennan to make his award-winning film Punks For West Papua.