Issue 1089

Australia

Refugee Action Coalition released this statement on March 29.

* * *

Meetings in the Manus Island detention centre compounds on March 29 have revealed a series of moves by Australian and PNG Immigration to resolve the detention and resettlement issue before the Supreme Court challenge to the Manus Island detention centre, scheduled for the end of April.

Asylum seekers on Nauru have been protesting their long-term detention every day since March 20. Good Friday marked 1000 days in detention with no refugee determination for some asylum seekers.

The Socialist Alliance released this statement on March 30.

* * *

Ken Canning, lead Senate candidate for Socialist Alliance in the federal election described the Daily Telegraph's condemnation of the University of NSW's Diversity Toolkit — guidelines for appropriate language to describe Indigenous history — as “the usual type of Neanderthal reporting”.

“News.com slams the term 'invasion' when referring to James Cook's arrival in 1770.

“Does the Daily Telegraph seriously think Aboriginal people laid out the red carpet for him?

The Illawarra Knitting Nannas Against Gas (I KNAG), held a "knit-in", in Edgecliff in Sydney, at the office of Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull on March 21.

He was not there and had not answered the two simple questions the Nannas had left him earlier. “Do you support a ban on coal seam gas (CSG) mining in drinking water catchments?" and “Would you move federal legislation to enact a ban on CSG mining in drinking water catchments?”

Hundreds attended the Kurdish New Year celebrations — Newroz — in Sydney and Melbourne on March 26 and 27 respectively.

In Sydney, several hundred gathered in Blacktown to hear from community representatives and musicians.

About 800 people gathered at the Irish Memorial at the Waverley Cemetery in Sydney's eastern suburbs on March 27 over two events to commemorate the centenary of Ireland’s 1916 Easter Rising against British rule.

The first commemoration was organised by the James Connolly Association (JCA) and the second by the Irish National Association (INA), which maintains the cemetery’s famous memorial to martyrs of Ireland’s freedom struggle.

On the 28th anniversary of the Halabja genocide, about 120 people held a candlelight vigil in Sydney's Parramatta Mall. The vigil was organised by the Sydney Kurdish Youth Society.

The massacre was carried out against the Kurdish people on March 16, 1988, in the closing days of the Iran–Iraq War in the Kurdish-dominated city of Halabja in Southern Kurdistan (Iraq).

The attack took place as thousands of Kurds were fleeing attacks by the Saddam Hussein regime.

British Fidelity, the last Australian-crewed oil tanker serving the Australian coast, has been removed from service by petroleum giant BP. British Fidelity had transported petroleum from Kwinana in South Australia to Devenport and Hobart in Tasmania.

The crew received a letter from the ship manager, ASP, stating that BP had terminated the contract for the British Fidelity. This came after the crew had raised objections to sailing to Singapore.

Victorian paramedics are to receive a pay rise of up to $18,000 as part of a $54 million wage upgrade, after the state government accepted the role has become more difficult and complex in the past decade.

This month the Fair Work Commission heard evidence about the increase in skills and responsibilities paramedics have required over the past decade and found that "these changes constitute a significant net addition to work requirements".

Charges of assault against Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) organiser Justin Steele have been dropped by Queensland police after the complaint against him was withdrawn. This is the fifth time a construction union official has had criminal charges made by the Royal Commission into Trade Union Governance and Corruption taskforce dropped.

Federal police alleged Steele struck a female builder-developer’s arm and pushed her shoulder during a standoff at a South Brisbane site in May last year. The charges against him were dropped on March 23.

Tony Shepherd is the former chair of Abbott's National Audit Commission, former president of the Business Council of Australia, a right-wing lobby group that represents some of the biggest corporations in Australia and a former member of the board of directors of Transfield, the company that profits from the misery of asylum seeks locked up in Australia's offshore refugee detention camps.

Apart from that he has been an over-paid fat cat for conservative governments. Shepherd is the embodiment of the greed and evil of corporate rich.

Detention Voices from Manus, Nauru, Christmas Island and Australia released this transcript of a letter from people held in detention on Nauru on March 26.

* * *

Message from Nauru detention to the world.

Many hearts, one voice, that's our freedom.

Several hundred residents of inner-city Millers Point public housing and supporters marched from the Kent Street Fire Station to the Village Green in Argyle Place on March 19 to protest against the ongoing sell-off of their homes by the state government.

Unions, including the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA), the Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU), and the Electrical Trades Union (ETU), were well represented in the march.

People rallied demanding the federal government restore and refund the anti-bullying, pro-sex and gender diverse Safe Schools program.

World

A by-election in the Single Member Constituency of Bukit Batok, which has about 25,000 eligible voters, is needed following the resignation of the People's Action Party (PAP) MP David Ong on March 14.

The PAP has ruled Singapore since 1959, when it was still a British colony. Its rule has relied on a combination of independent Singapore’s affluence in comparison with its neighbours and political repression.

Ong won 72% of the vote in the September’s general elections, defeating the Singapore Democratic Party’s (SDP) Sadasivam Veriyah (26.4%) and independent Samir Salim Neji (0.6%).

“Nations cannot realise the full promise of independence until they fully protect the rights of their people,” Barrack Obama, president of the United States, said on tour to Kenya and Ethiopia last year. This is ironic, because on that trip he failed to criticise human rights abuses by the Ethiopian government, which he hailed as “democratically elected”.

Ethiopians are very familiar with the government’s attempts to oppress any opposition. The Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) government took power in 1991. All opponents are persecuted as terrorist collaborators.


Teachers protest outside the front of the Chicago Public Schools headquarters.

Chicago teachers staged a one-day strike on April 1 in a bid to get lawmakers to adequately fund education and other programs in the United States' third-largest school district.


At Hillary Clinton's urging, and with American logistical support, NATO launched 9700 "strike sorties" against Libya of which more than a third were aimed at civilian targets.

Protesters have demanded the reinstatement of the United States’ Voting Rights Act of 1965, a complete count of provisional ballots in Arizona’s March 22 presidential primaries and a public random recount of unsorted mail ballots in the state, Alternet.org said on March 28.

Hundreds of thousands of French workers and students joined a general strike on March 31 against their government's attacks on hard-won workers' rights, Morning Star Online said the next day.

Protests erupted across France against proposed sweeping attacks on workers' rights, shutting down dozens of schools, transportation and the Eiffel Tower.

Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders scored resounding caucus victories in Alaska, Hawaii, Idaho, Utah and Washington in recent days, TeleSUR English said on March 30. Recent polls show the self-proclaimed socialist has gained significant ground on Democrat establishment favourite Hillary Clinton, who pundits expected to have the nomination all but sewn up by now.

The government of Argentina is seeking to take pan-American TV station TeleSUR off the air, in a move the broadcaster said on March 28 amounts to censorship. Latin American social movements have already condemned the move by the South American nation's new right-wing President Mauricio Macri.

A series of suicide bombings in Brussels on March 22 killed 35 people, including 3 suicide bombers. Less than a week later, on March 27, a similar attack in Lahore, Pakistan, killed more than twice as many people — at least 75.

The response from media and politicians amply illustrated the truism that Western lives matter more to them than those of people in Third World countries. The amount of reporting and expressions of condolences was, as is the norm, in inverse proportion to the numbers killed.

Ian Angus is a Canadian ecosocialist activist and author. The editor of Climateandcapitalism.com, Angus is also the co-author of Too Many People? Population, Immigration, and the Environmental Crisis with former Green Left Weekly editor Simon Butler (Haymarket, 2011).

Grassroots groups across Europe are warning against succumbing to misguided and bigoted speech in the wake of the latest terrorist atrocity in Belgium.

Reacting to the terror attacks in Brussels on March 22, an Israeli state official echoed the typical narrative conflating Islam and terrorism, and the idea of a clash of a civilisation.


Sanders at a campaign rally in San Diego, March 22.

Democrat voters in Utah, Idaho, and Arizona have turned out in unprecedented numbers or March 22 caucuses, with self-proclaimed socialist Bernie Sanders winning big in Utah and Idaho, TeleSUR English said that day.

I have been filming in the Marshall Islands, which lie north of Australia, in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Whenever I tell people where I have been, they ask, "Where is that?" If I offer a clue by referring to "Bikini", they say, "You mean the swimsuit."

Few seem aware that the bikini swimsuit was named to celebrate the nuclear explosions that destroyed Bikini island. Sixty-six nuclear devices were exploded by the United States in the Marshall Islands between 1946 and 1958 -- the equivalent of 1.6 Hiroshima bombs every day for twelve years.

Self-proclaimed socialist Senator Bernie Sanders has lit up the US presidential race by drawing on enthusiastic support of largely young people in a campaign calling for a “political revolution” against Wall Street.

Defying talking heads who long ago gave the Democratic nomination to the corporate-backed Hillary Clinton, Sanders’ social justice platform of pro-poor reforms has provided a hopeful counter-point to the hate pushed by Republican candidate Donald Trump.

India has been hit by a wave of student unrest, centred on Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), which has been spurred by government attacks. These attacks include demonising protesters and arresting activists simply for criticising the actions of the Indian state. JNU student union president Kanhaiya Kumar is among several activists charged with sedition.


Flag of PKK with image of Abdullah Ocalan.

Millions of Kurds view Abdullah Öcalan as their political representative. His freedom is directly linked to a democratic and peaceful solution to the war in Turkey.

Amid growing incidents of violence at rallies for Donald Trump and protests confronting the Republican presidential frontrunner, the Republican Party’s establishment has opened a campaign to try to deny Trump the party’s presidential nomination.

In a broadside attack on Trump, the Republican candidate in 2012 Mitt Romney launched a drive under the slogan “anyone but Trump.” He said a Trump presidency would be a disaster for “America” — strongly implying that voters should not support Trump in the general election if he wins the nomination.

Republican fears

Analysis

Opponents of Shenhua-Watermark's mega coalmine in the Liverpool Plains in north-western NSW have been given a boost by the Chinese government-owned company's annual report released on March 24, which hinted it may not proceed.

In all the media hype about Malcolm Turnbull's recalling of parliament in April and talk of a double dissolution election, it is easy to lose sight of the “trigger” — the Australian Building and Construction Commission bill (ABCC bill).

I recently heard an ABC Radio National commentator talking about the use of the ABCC bill as the trigger. She said words to the effect that most people would be in favour of cleaning up construction unions as only 11% of workers are in unions now. So it was considered to be a winner for Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.

On March 23 Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced a new Clean Energy Innovation Fund (CEIF) with $1 billion in funding over ten years. The Prime Minister's media release explicitly mentioned that it could be used to fund projects such as a “large scale solar facility with storage in Port Augusta”.

On March 18, a day that was supposed to be the National Day of Action Against Bullying, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced devastating attacks on a crucial anti-bullying program.

The Safe Schools Coalition is an alliance of 535 primary and secondary schools across the country, which aims to ensure the safety of LGBTI students. The program began in 2014 under the Abbott government. It has already engaged more than 13,000 education professionals.

The NSW BLF, the most radical and innovative union the world has ever seen

Fifty years ago, a group of dedicated left-wing activists wrested control of the NSW Builders Labourers' Federation (BLF) from the corrupt gangster types who had used it to feather their own nests. The militants, who included Jack Mundey, Joe Owens and Bob Pringle, rebuilt the union into a radically democratic, socially progressive and environmentally-aware organisation the likes of which Australia and the world had never seen.

That the Australian government can find $6 million to fund a film aimed at convincing asylum seekers to not come to Australia and yet cut more than $50 million from Screen Australia speaks volumes about its priorities.

The Daily Telegraph exposed the latest example of political correctness gone mad by revealing in a March 30 front page exclusive that the University of New South Wales is teaching students that Australia was “invaded” by Britain and was not actually “discovered” by Captain James Cook.

In 2008, the then-Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and Reconciliation Jay Weatherill announced a review of the South Australian Aboriginal Heritage Act 1988.

After initial intensive activity there was a long period of inactivity. Then, suddenly last month, with little notice or consultation, draft legislation to amend the Aboriginal Heritage Act was introduced into state parliament. On March 22, having passed through the Legislative Council, the House of Assembly agreed to the bill without any amendment.

In the lead-up to the federal election, talk of balancing the budget, jobs and growth are centre.
Amid rising unemployment and job insecurity, single parents continue to face both a job market unforgiving of parenting responsibilities and parenting payments that have been consistently attacked and eroded — framed by the false narrative of providing incentives to return to work and finding necessary budget savings.

Across the US young people are pouring into the polling booths. The contest is not the Presidential election — that is still some months away. Instead they are lining up to vote in the primaries for the Democratic Party. In particular they are turning up to vote for an old Jewish radical from New York.

The Socialist Alliance released this statement on March 31.

* * *

The Senate reform pushed through by the Turnbull Liberal-National government with the support of the Greens does not make federal Parliament more democratic.

While it will end the “gaming” of the Group Voting Ticket for people voting above the line on the Senate ballot paper, it also weakens the preferential system and could give the Coalition an advantage in the next federal election.

Culture

PostCapitalism: A Guide To Our Future
By Paul Mason
Allen Lane, 2015, 340 pp., $49.99 (hb)

Paul Mason is a well-known British economics journalist, who made a name for himself with commentary on the BBC and more lately on Channel 4. PostCapitalism has created a big splash in Britain, where it has been widely reviewed and debated.

Where To Invade Next
Written & directed by Michael Moore

Michael Moore has made another poignant, funny and politically sharp movie.

In spite of the title, it has little to do with US foreign policy. In Where to Invade Next, the documentary filmmaker behind Fahrenheit 9/11 and Bowling for Columbine goes after social problems that continue to plague the US, like homelessness and lack of health care — and shows that the US could learn a lot from the rest of the world.

Good news (for a change)

Greek Islanders who have been on the frontline of the refugee crisis have been nominated for the Nobel peace prize.

Some 230 academics from the universities of Oxford, Princeton, Harvard, Cornell and Copenhagen nominated the people of Lesbos, Kos, Chíos, Samos, Rhodes and Leros for the prize.

Only individuals or organisations are eligible to win the prize so 16 volunteer networks on the islands who organised to help the refugees are the official nominees.