Issue 1087

News

The National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) and the Education Action Group (EAG) of the University of Sydney Students Representative Council (SRC) have called a joint rally for Wednesday March 16 at 1pm in opposition to management's restructuring of Sydney University.
The Dhu inquest — called to consider the death of a 22 year old Aboriginal woman who died in police custody in August 2014 — reconvened in Perth on March 14. WA Police were due to give evidence to the coronial inquiry for the first time on that date.
"Remembering Fukushima: Resisting nuclear waste dumps!" was the title of a public forum held in Redfern on March 3. About 40 people heard a panel of speakers mark five years since the Fukushima tsumani and nuclear disaster in March 2011 and outline the growing opposition movement to federal government plans for a nuclear waste dump in rural Australia. "The nuclear industry has no place in a safe and sustainable future. Five years since the Fukushima disaster, it is time to break the nuclear chain," forum publicity stated. The forum was organised by Uranium Free NSW.
Hundreds of people marched for International Women's Day in Melbourne on March 8.
Childcare workers chained themselves to the entrance doors of Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull's Melbourne office on International Women's Day, March 8 to demand better pay for the mainly women who work in the industry. The protesters said the 150,000 childcare workers nationally were "woefully" underpaid compared with other educators.
My Friend Hugo, a moving film tribute to former Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez made by well-known Hollywood director Oliver Stone, was screened at the Resistance Centre on March 4 to mark the third anniversary of the death of the leader of the Bolivarian revolution in Venezuela. The showing was organised by the Australia-Venezuela Solidarity Network (AVSN) and the Latin American Social Forum (LASF), with the support of the Embassy of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela in Australia.
On International Women’s Day, three women locked themselves to habitat trees in the critically endangered Leard State Forest in north west NSW. Gomeroi women gathered on Leard Forest Road to show support and solidarity for the action.
Aboriginal activist and writer Ken Canning will head the Socialist Alliance NSW Senate ticket — For a People's Movement — in the coming federal election. “I've joined this election campaign to build a people's movement to free all our communities from the tyranny of the old big parties which have been bought out by the rich and the multinational corporations.
Human rights activists protested the visit to Melbourne on March 7 of Israeli war criminal Benny Gantz. “We will always live by our sword,” declared Lieutenant General Gantz on his retirement as Chief of General Staff of the Israel Occupation Forces, 12 months ago. Gantz led two major Israeli military offensives against Palestinians. Operation Protective Edge killed 2200 Palestinians, including 500 children and left tens of thousands of Gaza residents homeless.
The Refugee Action Coalition released this statement on March 9. * * * A 34 year-old Iranian refugee on Nauru was savagely attacked by two Nauruans on March 5 at about 10pm. Two Nauruans on a motor cycle approached the man who was walking alone near the Nibok settlement. The man was struck across the top of the head by a machete, while the attacking Nauruans said, “Fuck refugees”. The Iranian man was left with a deep head wound that required 8 stitches.
An extraordinary, radical experiment in welfare policy will begin on March 15 in the small town of Ceduna and several remote Aboriginal communities in south-western South Australia. The cashless debit card — or “Healthy Welfare Card” as it was dubbed by its leading advocate, billionaire miner Andrew Forrest — will be trialled for 12 months.
The ABC reported on March 3 that the Moort Boodjari Mia Aboriginal maternity centre in Midland, Perth, part of the North Metropolitan Health Service, is expected to close in June due to lack of funding. The centre provides antenatal and postnatal clinical care, guidance, support and education to pregnant Aboriginal women and their families. A team of health professionals works with each woman during her pregnancy and for four weeks after the birth. Since opening in 2011, it has cared for hundreds of families.

Analysis

The powers-that-be in NSW have deemed that there are so many examples of “unsafe protest activities” across the state that, to make everyone safe, we need new laws that will protect “lawful business activity”. Protesters will be able to be jailed for up to seven years for “intentionally” or “recklessly” interfering with a “mine” — the definition of which has been changed to include an exploratory or test site.
The NSW Minerals Council chief executive Stephen Galilee is keen on new anti-protest laws in NSW. He claims to be concerned about the safety of the workers as well as the protesters “illegally accessing mine sites”. Mining and Energy Minister Antony Roberts has been a little more blunt: he says the new law is aimed at better enforcing the protection of private property and “lawful business activity”. Most, however, can see through the spin.
Liberal and Labor politicians, who govern for the big corporations at the expense of people, have overseen decades of cutbacks to social services, privatisations and attacks on our democratic rights. The neoliberal consensus has meant that our public health and education systems have been starved of funds and semi-privatised. It has also meant that our working lives are less secure and our work rights have been undermined.
A recent cartoon by Bill Leake in The Australian gave me a good chuckle, although not for the reason you might expect. Captioned “The Road to Ruin” and featuring references to the recently published book of the same name, there was Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull at his local newsagent picking up “his” morning papers, sighing while saying “just the papers thanks”. The papers were the Sydney Star Observer with the headline “Marriage Equality special edition” and tucked in behind it was a copy of Green Left Weekly.
This interview with Amnesty International's Australian refugee coordinator Graham Thom, was broadcast on Radio 3CR in Melbourne on March 4. * * * Amnesty International has put out a media release criticising the Australian government's draconian laws against refugees. Why did you do that?
The Turnbull Coalition government must call a full royal commission into CommInsure, the Commonwealth Bank and the general financial malpractices of the insurance and banking industry immediately. This Coalition government wasted more than $50 million in taxpayers' funds on the royal commission into the union movement, but adamantly refuses to hold a proper inquiry into its big business mates in the major banks.
“Thank you for these protests. We love you and our hearts are with you in this moment.” This message was sent from a refugee inside Northam Detention Centre in West Australia to activists who were protesting outside in 2014. Messages like this inspire many of us to get active and persist with campaigns to make the world more humane. A whole generation, to which I belong, has only known mandatory detention: it was introduced by “left” Labor immigration minister Gerry Hand in 1992.
A controversy broke out at Sydney's Mardi Gras on March 6 when organisers threatened to ban the No Pride In Detention refugee rights float if they criticised Opposition leader Bill Shorten's refugee policies. And fair enough. The Mardi Gras was begun by people demanding basic human rights and an end to dehumanisation and unjust repression, so there's obviously no connection with the current bipartisan treatment of refugees.
You might expect that this year's Mardi Gras parade, which came just days after the institutional apologies to the original queer rights activists — the 78ers — would be free of the political heavy handedness that launched Mardi Gras as an annual protest march in 1978.
Rob Pyne (MP) is now the independent Member for Cairns in the Queensland Parliament, following his shock resignation from the Australian Labor Party on March 7. Pyne was a student leader at James Cook University, then served on the Cairns Regional Council between 2008 and 2015 before becoming Australia's first quadriplegic member of parliament in last year's Queensland state election.

World

Training for the Right To Movement marathon. Photo: Patrick Harrison. When people imagine Palestinian resistance to Israeli occupation, lacing up some trainers and hitting the pavement is not the first thing that comes to mind. But for some Palestinians, running is one creative and non-violent way to oppose Israeli injustices — rallying behind the banner of the Right to Movement organisation.
A cost-benefit analysis released by the Secretariat of Pacific Communities (SPC) and the European Union on potential deep sea mining (DSM) projects in three Pacific countries found that the projects can be viable. But other research suggests there remain serious concerns about the new, untested DSM industry.
University of Jaffna students stage hunger strike in solidarity with fasting prisoners. Photo: Tamilnet.com. Fourteen Tamil prisoners have been on hunger strike since February 22. They are demanding the release of all Tamil political prisoners and prisoners of war.
Parliamentarians from the Kurdish-led left-wing Peoples Democratic Party (HDP), Osman Baydemir, Ali Atalan and Faik Yağızay, used a press conference in the European Parliament hosted by the European United Left/Nordic Green Left (GUE/NGL) to draw attention to the Turkish state’s war against the Kurdish population.
Turkish military bombardment of Sur, Diyarbakır. The Turkish government has a post-war plan to offer Kurds high-end housing in exchange for civil obedience. Sur is a district in Turkey's southeast, part of the Kurdish capital Diyarbakır, that has been exposed to a round-the-clock curfew since December 2.
On March 13, a bomb explosion killed 37 people in the Turkish capital, Ankara. No group has claimed responsibility for the attack.
United States President Barack Obama renewed an executive order, first issued a year ago, on March 3 that declares Venezuela “an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States”, TeleSUR English said the next day. The order allows the US government to impose sanctions on Venezuela. In protest, Venezuela has withdrawn its charge d'affaires, Maximilian Arvelaez, from the United States, TeleSUR English said on March 9.
European citizens have launched a sign-on appeal for refugees the website of the Transform network. Involving 28 European organisations from 19 countries, Transform is a network for analysis and research associated with the Party of the European Left.
All media outlets in the Spanish state were dominated by the images of two men on March 1: one was leaving jail near the northern city of Logrono to the cheers of inmates he was leaving behind; the other was trying to convince the Spanish parliament in Madrid to vote him in as prime minister.
A recent poll conducted by Hinterlaces, a well-known and usually reliable Venezuelan pollster, showed that Venezuelans, by a substantial majority, oppose neoliberal solutions to their country’s crisis. The poll was based on 1200 interviews in the country as a whole between January 11 and 17. The poll has a 95% level of accuracy and a 2.7% margin of error.
Anti-Trump protesters successfully shut down a Donald Trump rally in Chicago on March 11. Crowds started gathering early to protest Trump's appearance, as part of his campaign to win the Republican presidential primaries. "Mr. Trump just arrived in Chicago and after meeting with law enforcement has determined that for the safety of all of the tens of thousands of people that have gathered in and around the arena, tonight's rally will be postponed to another date," the Trump campaign said in a statement.
In a Democratic presidential primary debate in Miami on March 10, against his rival Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders opposed US invasions, coups and interventions against Latin American nations. The socialist Senator also strongly opposed the ongoing US embargo against Cuba while praising the island for its social gains in health and education.
The United States used drones and manned aircraft on March 8 to drop bombs and missiles on Somalia, ending the lives of at least 150 people. As it virtually always does, the Obama administration instantly claimed the people killed were “terrorists” and militants — members of the Somali group al-Shabaab — but provided no evidence.
Protest against visit of Maithripala Sirisena to Britain, March 2015. The elaborate public facade carefully constructed by Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena, with the hidden assistance of India and the US, is crumbling by the day. Instead, the discomforting truth is revealed that despite Sirisena becoming president last year, Sri Lanka remains a brutal regime dominated by a military mindset.
French President Francois Hollande awarded his country's most prestigious award, the Legion of Honour, to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef on March 4 for “countering extremism and fighting terrorism,” the Saudi Press Agency reported. This understandably received criticism from Human Rights Watch, but its grisly irony passed was largely shrugged off by the Western media and political establishment. The HRW statement referenced Saudi Arabia's appalling human rights record. But it did not mention the year-long Saudi-led air war in neighbouring Yemen that has killed thousands.
Bernie Sanders' campaign has just received a massive boost. The socialist Vermont senator secured a surprise victory in Michigan on March 8, sending a clear message out to Hillary Clinton's campaign, which nonetheless managed to win big in Mississippi after attracting nine out of every 10 Black voters, according to exit polls. Polls indicated that Clinton would win big in Michigan, giving her a lead of 20- 22 points. However, Sanders secured victory by 50% of the vote compared to Hillary's 48%.
The Sudan Democracy First Group is an umbrella group of leading Sudanese independent and democratic civil society sectors. It aims to promote the voices and interests of marginalised groups, as well as peace and human rights. Below is its International Women's Day statement released on March 8. * * *

Culture

Sydney-based Kinetic Energy Theatre Company’s April season opens on April 1 with two plays. It starts with a new show about asylum seekers, Refuge (April 1-3, 8-10, 15-17), and ends with an acclaimed play about urban homelessness, Home (April 22-24).
Hail, Caesar Starring Josh Brolin, George Clooney, Alden Ehrenreich, Ralph Fiennes Written & directed by Ethan Coen & Joel Coen In cinemas There must be something in the zeitgeist. Within weeks, two Hollywood movies have come out referencing the left-wing victims of the McCarthyite period of US anti-communist witch-hunting — the Hollywood 10. But while Jay Roach's Trumbo takes a realistic view of the case and is sympathetic towards the victims, the Coen brothers Hail, Caesar is wild, wacky and hilariously disrespectful of everyone.
Drawing by S Nagaveeran. From Hell to Hell By S Nagaveeran Writing through Fences 2015 Email fenceswritingthrough@gmail.com for copies From Hell to Hell is the powerful new work of poems and drawings by S Nagaveeran, also known as Ravi. In detention for 33 months in Nauru, Ravi turned to writing and drawing as a way of dealing with the emotion and despair that overwhelmed him.
Joe Solo. Joe Solo is a “folk, punk and blues” artist from north Yorkshire, who sings about how it is in working-class Britain, without all the pretence and romance. And, as the name suggests, it's just him and his guitar. He's a prolific live performer, recording artist and writer, and was also instrumental behind various projects like We Shall Overcome (WSO) — a series of gigs with “the purpose of uniting in the face of a government whose agenda of austerity we oppose”.