Issue 1096

Australia

Thousands of people from a diversity of local campaigns came out to protest Premier Mike Baird and corporate control over democracy in NSW.

Some of the issues raised included included stop westconnex, stop the council amalgamations, anti-CSG, save tafe and other services and opposing the the new police powers like the anti-protest laws among others.

The rally was organized by March Australia - Sydney.

Here are some photos of the rally:

A new Climate Council report card on the renewable energy progress of Australia's states and territories finds South Australia and the ACT are topping the class.

NSW received the worst grade due to its low and falling percentage of renewable energy, no renewable energy target and low levels of rooftop solar.

In Coburg on May 28 about 400-500 people rallied peacefully in opposition to the federal government policies that promote racism towards Aborigines, refugees and Muslims. This was despite the rain.

Rally participants included the young and the old, people with children, church groups, interfaith groups, refugees, Muslims and First Nations people.

Sydney's Kurdish community and their supporters took to Martin Place on May 23 in a snap protest against Turkey's increasingly repressive Recep Tayyip Erdogan government after it cancelled the parliamentary immunity of progressive opposition Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) MPs.

This is part of a bloody war the regime has been waging against the Kurdish people since June last year.

Socialist Alliance candidate for the federal seat of Sydney Peter Boyle addressed the rally.

About 100 members of Fair Go for Pensioners (FGFP) rallied in Melbourne on May 25 to call on political parties to reverse severe funding cuts to welfare, health and education in the federal budget which will condemn more pensioners and low-income families to living below the poverty line.

FGFP president Roger Wilson said the budget focus on giving the business sector generous tax cuts came at the expense of slashing services for the most vulnerable — pensioners, low-income families, the unemployed and those fearing homelessness.

Tasmanian Police have discontinued their prosecution of former Greens leader Bob Brown, who was arrested earlier this year under controversial anti-protest laws which he went on to challenge in the High Court.

Brown was arrested in January for standing in the way of bulldozers primed to clear forest at Lapoinya, in north west Tasmania.

He was one of the first to be charged under the Workplaces (Protection from Protestors) Act 2014.

The law is part of a controversial series of legislation, which aims at deterring protests that interrupt businesses' activities.

The Socialist Alliance has selected a Victorian Senate team of Lalitha Chelliah and Tim Gooden, and candidates Zane Alcorn for the seat of Wills and Sue Bull for the seat of Corio.

Hundreds of people lined the shores in “Hands Across the Sand” events across southern Australia on May 21 to protest BP's plans to drill for oil in the pristine waters of the Great Australian Bight. Hands are used to symbolise a barrier to oil hitting our shores. Similar events were held around the world to raise awareness of the risks posed by the offshore oil and gas industry.

First Nations Socialist Alliance Senate candidate for NSW Ken Canning visited the Bankstown campus of Western Sydney University on May 9 to inform students about why we need a people's movement. The meeting was organised by the Resistance Club.

He raised several key issues including the fact that despite former Labor PM Kevin Rudd's “Sorry” speech Indigenous children are still being forcefully removed at a higher rate than ever before.

La Trobe University has become the first university in Australia to commit to full divestment from fossil fuel companies.

Vice-chancellor John Dewar said that over the next five years, La Trobe will “divest from the top 200 publicly-traded fossil fuel companies ranked by the carbon content of their fossil fuel reserves.”

He said the University was also committed to transparency and “Accordingly, we will also disclose the carbon exposure of our investments and provide annual reports of our divestment progress over the next five years”.

The Victorian branch of the Country Women's Association (CWA) has voted in support of marriage equality at their latest conference.

The CWA's decision contrasts with its conservative image and defies stereotypes of rural communities as being less accepting of LGBTIQ people.

The motion was titled "That the CWA of Victoria Inc advocates for equality for all Australians under the Commonwealth Marriage Act".

About 200 residents of inner western Sydney suburbs crowded into the Marrickville Council Chambers on May 24 to protest the undemocratic sacking of three local councils — Leichhardt, Ashfield and Marrickville — by the state government and the appointment of an administrator to run the new, forcibly amalgamated "Inner West Council".

Angry residents drowned out Premier Mike Baird's appointed administrator of the new council Richard Pearson forcing him to abandon the first meeting of the new one-person body.

The land between the Clarence and Nambucca Rivers on New South Wales’ mid-north coast is Gumbaynggirr country. The Blood Rock massacre took place there in the 1880s, when police surrounded local Aboriginal people and shot them in the waters around Red Rock. A plaque reads: “Gumbaynggirr descendants, especially women, still avoid this headland. The significance of this place, and the rebirthing of our culture, will never been forgotten”.

Around 100 Aboriginal grandmothers and supporters gathered at the Redfern Block on May 26, and marched to the Families and Community Services (FACS) office, as part of a National Day of Action on the anniversary of the Bringing Them Home report.

The action was organised by the Grandmothers Against Removals (GMAR), a national network initiated by families who are directly affected by the child removal crisis. It is fighting to bring an end to continuing stolen generations.

There is a growing tide running against the major parties in this federal election, helped by five Labor and Liberal candidates who have resigned or been forced out, including now former Labor Senator Nova Peris in the Northern Territory.

In the seat of Whitlam (formerly Throsby) in the Illawarra, this tide has become painfully clear. Carolyn Currie, the Liberal candidate for the safe Labor seat, quit during an interview on ABC Local Radio Illawarra.

World


Ian Angus at global launch of ‘Facing the Anthropocene: Fossil Capitalism and the Crisis of the Earth System’. Sydney, May 13.

Socialist governments in Latin America must relaunch “democratic revolutions” in order to combat the strategies pushed by the United States to regain control of the region, Bolivian President Evo Morales said in an interview on May 23.

“In some countries it should be like a wake-up call where [governments] must start permanent conferences to relaunch democratic and cultural revolutions for Latin America and the Caribbean [region],” Morales said in an interview with Cubavision.

The three remaining presidential candidates — Republican candidate Donald Trump, and Democratic contenders Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders — have all come out against the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement in varying degrees.

The TPP, a “free trade agreement” involving 16 Pacific Rim nations (including Australia), is an undisguised corporate power grab. However, all candidates in the US presidential election stress a reactionary argument against it.

More than half a million soldiers and civilian militia members took to the streets of Venezuela over May 20 and 21 to defend their national sovereignty amid rumours of international intervention and a potential coup, Venezuela Analysis said on May 23.

The drills featured troops, military boats and planes deployed to seven coastal states in Venezuela. They came after President Nicolas Maduro called on the military to rally around the defence of the country’s constitution in the face of foreign aggression.


Benny Wenda addressing public forum in Sydney. May 24.

West Papuan independence leader Benny Wenda has been touring Australia, spreading awareness of the West Papuan struggle for freedom from Indonesian rule.


Ating Guro vigil outside Comelec office. Manila, May 27. Photo: Partido Lakas ng Masa.

Supporters of the Ating Guro (Teachers Dignity) partylist held a three-night vigil outside the offices of the Philippines Commission on Election (Comelec) on May 24, to protest apparent irregularities in counting votes after the May 9 general election.


A community assembly as part of a communal council in Caracas. Photo by Rachael Boothroyd Rojas/Venezuela Analysis.

Leading Marxist author Michael Lebowitz spent six years (2004-2010) in Venezuela working as a director of the program for Transformative Practice and Human Development at the Miranda International Centre (CIM) in Caracas. There, he had the chance to take part in the building of socialism for the 21st century.


United Left's Alberto Garzon and Podemos' Pablo Iglesias.

Five months after the December 20 election in Spain failed to produce a government, the country is returning to the polls in the most polarised contest since the end of the Franco dictatorship in 1977.

Portuguese politics is in limbo. It has been since elections last October failed to give any party an outright majority.

The Socialist Party (PS) was eventually able to form a minority government after forming an agreement with forces to its left: the Left Bloc, the Portuguese Communist Party and the Greens.

The good news is that this limbo, the thin ice on which this agreement is skating, also presents an opportunity for the left to engage in clear and clean politics with room for actual negotiation.


Anti-coup protesters on the streets of Rio de Janeiro in April.

In what has been widely condemned as a US-backed right-wing power grab to impose harsh neoliberal measures, Brazil’s Workers’ Party (PT) President Dilma Rousseff was forced to stand aside by Brazil’s Senate on May 12 while she faces impeachment procedures.


Striking French workers demonstrating in in Marseille on May 26.

Mass strikes and protests continued to rock France on May 26 as trade unionists ramped up their campaign against hated new labour laws.

Austria elected its president on May 22 in the second round of voting, with the neoliberal green candidate Alexander Van der Bellen narrowly beating far-right Freedom Party (FPÖ) candidate Norbert Hofer with 50.3% of the vote.

The FPÖ, a right-wing populist and authoritarian German nationalist party of former leader Jörg Haider, was founded in the 1950s. It was a political party for ex-Nazis who never broke with their Nazi tradition.

Analysis

A report released by the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis on May 19 has said that the $800 million gas pipeline planned for the Northern Territory is economically unviable, to the extent that it is described as the “whitest of white elephants”.

The pipeline, known as the North East Gas Interconnector (NEGI), has been the crown of the NT Country Liberal Party’s economic strategy in the lead-up to the August election. The pipeline is designed to transport the vast shale gas reserves in the NT from Tennant Creek to Mt Isa for sale to the rest of the world.

Two weeks into a protracted election campaign, it is looking ever-more likely that climate change is to be placed way down the order of business – at least for the major parties.

The contest over climate change that characterised the previous three federal elections seems to have disappeared off the political radar despite the issue being more urgent than ever.

Feminists and their supporters have campaigned for decades to remove abortion from the NSW Crimes Act and treat the procedure as a health issue. For decades, they have been told “now is not the right time”.

Finally, NSW MLC Mehreen Faruqi has moved a repeal Bill.

The Malcolm Turnbull Coalition government's economic spin is that they are managing a “transition” from “strong resource investment-led growth to broader-based drivers of economic activity”.

This, it claims in the 2016 budget papers, is a transition to more “labour-intensive sectors, such as services”. Hence the Coalition's mantra: “Growth and jobs”. Sounds nice, but what does this mean for the different classes in Australia?

As South Asia swelters through a record-breaking heatwave — with reports of hundreds of lives lost in India on top of the hundreds of farmer suicides this year owing to crop failures due to drought — a May 20 Reuters report that Pakistanis were digging mass graves in preparation for heatwave-related deaths brings the grim situation we are in into sharp focus.

Eight short months ago, much of the population celebrated Malcolm Turnbull's ascension to power. Small-l liberals were drunk with joy and rumour has it that even some self-styled socialists joined the love-in. Turnbull was the Great White Knight who had slain the Abbott Dragon. He would turn the political rudder to the left, so we were told, and we would all live happily ever after.

Many writers, no doubt, were also sucked in by this master of spin and his chorus of sycophants. Eight months on, the illusions of those spring days pile up like dead leaves.

At the start of the election campaign federal environment minister Greg Hunt came here to announce $50 million in new projects to boost water quality, including efforts to keep sediment, fertilisers and pesticides off the Great Barrier Reef. This announcement was partly to allay concerns over research showing 93% of the Reef had been bleached and dire predictions that the Reef will be dead in 25 years.

Australian farming is in crisis.

Family farmers are being taken over by corporate agribusinesses, their land is being polluted by mining companies and they are powerless to stop and the supermarket duopoly of Coles and Woolworths which keeps prices low for consumers by paying producers prices so low they barely cover costs.

At the same time there is increasing speculation in buying water rights. Farming cannot survive without clean water. The most reliable source of water is artesian, which the mining industry can draw from unregulated and pollute at will.

Students gathered outside the Wesley College gate at the University of Sydney on May 16, with their mouths taped shut, demanding the names of the editors of the 2014 Wesley Journal, which included a page called the “Rackweb”.

The “Rackweb” featured in the journal as a spider diagram of intercollegiate campus “hookups”, complete with the full names of students who had reportedly had sex with other students, and referred to women named in it as “Biggest Pornstar” or “Best Ass”.

Culture

“When one farmer kills themselves you can call it suicide. But when a quarter of a million farmers kill themselves, how can the government call it suicide? It is genocide. These farmers are being killed by design.”

So opens Cotton For My Shroud, a documentary about embattled Indian farmers and the assault on traditional rural agricultural life waged by Monsanto and the political class in its pockets.

Chasing Asylum
Directed by Eva Orner
Selected cinemas

Chasing Asylum is a new documentary that shows the Nauru and Manus Island detention centres for the “Hell on Earth” and “human dumping grounds” they are.

The overthrow of Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff in an institutional coup by right-wing forces has been justified by allegations of corruption — even though issue Dilma is being impeached on is use of a relatively normal government spending mechanism.

Good news (for a change)

Veteran British director Ken Loach has won his second Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival for I, Daniel Blake.

The film is a warm and realistic drama about a middle-aged widower who, after a heart attack, can neither work nor get benefits.

It follows his frustrations as he winds his way through an archaic system that seems designed to bring him down.

Accepting the festival's top prize, Loach said: "We must give a message of hope, we must say another world is possible.