Issue 1098

News

A vigil was held for the victims of the massacre in Orlando, US, at the St Therese Catholic Church in Wollongong on June 14. In an emotional ceremony, about 200 people joined together on a cold night to pay their respects to the victims and to lend support to the LGBTI community, who have been left reeling after the atrocity in Florida. The event was organised by Unity Wollongong, a local non profit organisation that provides support to the LGBTI community and their families.
AMWU members at Bitzer have gone back to work in triumph after a nine-week strike at the refrigeration firm ended with them winning a vastly improved deal while killing off harsh company demands. The 54 workers won a deal that extends the 36-hour working week to everyone, provides for two RDOs every month, gives pay rises of 10% over three years, guarantees permanency for casuals after six months service and control over the hours they work.
Animal rights activist Carolyn Drew was charged with trespassing on Territory land during the 2014 kangaroo cull. Almost two years later, the ACT Magistrates Court rejected the prosecution's allegations and threw out the case on June 9. Drew, from Animal Liberation ACT, was charged with “Trespass on Territory Land” under a 1932 Act. Outside the court she said: “All the prosecution had to prove was that there was an authorised 'no trespass' sign on the land. Not only did they fail to prove the sign was authorised, but they couldn't even prove it was there at all.
The Western Downs Alliance has started legal proceedings to challenge federal environment minister Greg Hunt's approval of 6100 coal seam gas wells in Queensland. The Santos GLNG Gas Field Development Expansion covers almost 1 million hectares of land, from Roma east to Taroom and Wandoan, and north towards Rolleston.
Protesters gathered outside the Four Seasons Hotel on June 15 to oppose the controversial WestConnex private tollway, which is being forced through by the Coalition state government at a massive cost to New South Wales taxpayers. The hotel was the site of an Infrastructure Conference, addressed by Premier Mike Baird, federal Labor opposition infrastructure spokesperson Anthony Albanese and other political and urban development leaders.
The latest in a series of legal challenges to the opening of the Galilee Basin to new coal mines began in the Queensland Court of Appeal on June 7. In a one-day session, Queensland's highest court heard arguments on behalf of local environment group Coast and Country Association of Queensland against GVK Hancock's proposed Alpha coalmine in the Galilee Basin.
Kumaravadivel Guruparan, a law lecturer at Jaffna University, told a meeting in Melbourne on June 12 that the pervasive oppression of Tamils in Sri Lanka is leading to the "normalisation of abnormalcy". Guruparan was delivering the annual Eliezer memorial lecture, in honour of Professor C J Eliezer, a noted mathematical physicist and campaigner for Tamil rights.
About 50 people attended an action in solidarity with students in Papua New Guinea outside the PNG Consulate on June 10. On June 8, PNG police shot at protesting students at the University of Port Moresby. Sydney-based Papua New Guineans were joined by students, academics, unionists and NGOs to call for an immediate stop to the repression and for the students' demands to be met.
Nurses at Victoria's Thomas Embling psychiatric hospital walked off the job for two hours on June 14 because of safety concerns. The Health and Community Services Union said there had been 100 incidents at the hospital in the past three months, including one in which four people were injured. Thomas Embling has 116 beds and most patients are transferred from the prison system or ordered by the courts to undergo psychiatric assessment or care. It has housed some of Victoria's most dangerous psychiatric patients, including Masa Vukotic’s killer Sean Price.
The Refugee Action Collective Queensland protested outside the electoral office of immigration minister Peter Dutton in Strapthine on June 9. The collective presented the minister’s office with a copy of the Australian Women in Support of Women on Nauru report Protection Denied, Abuse Condoned: Women on Nauru at Risk, authored by five prominent Australian women.
AGL's Camden Gas Project, in the Macarthur region of south-west Sydney, has 144 coal seam gas (CSG) wells, of which 96 are currently in production. Twenty of the wells are close to the Nepean River and the upper canal, which carries drinking water from Nepean Dam to Prospect Reservoir. One well is just 40 metres from the river. AGL's CSG mining alongside the Nepean River risks contaminating this water with carcinogenic chemicals and volatile organic compounds.
There's a “huge appetite” for abortion law reform, Greens MLC Dr Mehreen Faruqi told a 150-strong meeting at the Glebe Town Hall on June 6. “We've waited far too long already,” she said. The meeting was organised to launch Faruqi's decriminalisation of abortion bill, which is in its draft stage. The panelists included health professionals Philippa Ramsay and Juliet Richters, health laywer Julie Hamblin and Bethany Sheehan, a founder of My Body My Right, a group campaigning for a safe space outside abortion clinics.
Protesters locked themselves in a cage outside the Department of Immigration at 7am on June 6 to protest against the mandatory and indefinite detention of people seeking asylum. Spokesperson for the group, Our Backyard, Melanie Brown said: “We are occupying this department today because of the government's policy to imprison innocent people and deny them basic rights, both offshore and right here in our backyard.”
The racists were well and truly outnumbered in Blacktown on June 4 when the community turned out to counter a protest by a far right, racist grouplet who call themselves "Party for Freedom". Despite torrential rain, about 100 anti-racism protesters confronted the 12 Nazis, who called for the deportation of “violent African and Muslim gangs” and the reinstatement of the White Australia policy.

Analysis

There's a war going on — the class war. Funnily enough, the only time you hear politicians using that term is as an epithet, not as a descriptor for the daily life of the overwhelming majority of society. An example: Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull accused Labor leader Bill Shorten of declaring war on business and waging a “class war” for making the modest suggestion that the rich should pay a fairer share of tax.
I moved to Perth in June last year from a small, rural town in central Pennsylvania. There I witnessed first-hand the impact of the “fracking” boom — the rapid exploitation of the unconventional gas resources in the Marcellus shale play. It hit rural Pennsylvania particularly hard because it is economically depressed, struggling to make ends meet by farming and what's left of manufacturing that has not been outsourced to China, Mexico, and other exploitable labour pools.
The Labor Party announced a series of “savings” measures on June 10, including $1 billion worth of Abbott/Turnbull cuts that had previously been blocked in the Senate. It has tried to make the attacks appear palatable by claiming they are directed at higher income families. However the truth is they reaffirm that a future Labor government's direction will be more about cutting government spending than raising revenue from the big end of town. Further, they will have bigger impacts on ordinary workers than appears evident at first glance.
LGBTI communities everywhere are reeling from the loss of the 49 people gunned down in the Orlando nightclub Pulse. In addition, 53 were injured. Some of them no doubt are deeply missed by their families. Even worse, as is true in many LGBTI communities, some of them would have lost their family ties years ago. The other patrons at the Pulse nightclub may have been the only family they had.
When I heard that Omid Masoumali had set fire to himself on Nauru on April 27, had to wait 26 hours to be airlifted out, during which time he had no pain relief, and then died in Brisbane, it was too much. Suddenly the activism we were engaging in seemed very inadequate.
Where were you in May when the New South Wales state government announced it will scrap the free rides the Opal card currently gives you after having paid for eight trips in one week? I was not gazing out the window of a train daydreaming that I was on a catbus — the magical type of public transport in Hayao Miyazaki's 1988 anime classic, My Neighbour Totoro.
Earlier this month, Department of Employment figures about the government's remote Work for the Dole scheme proved what critics have known for some time: the policy is failing. In Arnhem Land, people are buying less food since tough Work for the Dole penalties were introduced.
It took more than 100 years of struggle to ensure the poorest workers in Australia received reasonable wages and conditions. But today inequality and poverty are growing rapidly. The living standards of the majority continue to drop, while at the same time there is a huge expansion of the wealth of a tiny minority.
Teaching is one of the lowest-paid professions and casual relief teachers (CRTs) are among the most marginalised and exploited workers in Victoria. Our daily pay rate is $293. Think that sounds good? Well, there are about 200 teaching days a year. If we were to work every one of those days, we would still earn less than $60,000 a year — that is the maximum pay we can expect, after a minimum of four years at university. But we are emergency teachers; we can expect to work, at most, about 100 days. That is less than $30,000 a year.
About 20 protesters demonstrated in front of the Melbourne Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP) on June 6 over allegations of asylum seeker mistreatment. Police presence was described by observers as extremely heavy, ranging from two dozen to fifty officers.
I caught a taxi this morning. Muslim taxi driver. We listened to the radio silently, side by side all the way, ABC News. Almost all of it, relentlessly, consisted of quotes about the evils of Islam, from lengthy Trump and Clinton quotes to a rationalised discussion about indefinite imprisonment for those with radical views in our own country. We sat, rigid with embarrassment, with nothing to say. All I could think was that this was 10 minutes out of my day, but it was going to be repeated over and over again for him. And still I had nothing to say.

World

Huge strikes and protests are rocking France, with the threat of greater shocks to come as a hated labour law “counter-reform” is debated in the French Senate. The Socialist Party government is trying to force through the so-called El Khomri law, which would eliminate long-held workers’ protections. But the law has stirred huge resistance, expressed in different forms, from the occupation of public squares called the “Nuit Debout” (Up All Night) to a revival of mass working class action, including general strikes.
More than two-thirds of Brazilians assess the coup government of acting president Michel Temer unfavourably and 32% think he is even worse than expected, a new poll by Vox Populi revealed on June 14. Temer has been acting president since elected President Dilma Rousseff was suspended by Brazil’s Senate through an impeachment process viewed by many as a right-wing coup. Temer was already a widely unpopular politician in Brazil. However, his first month as president and a series of unpopular measures, as well as a few scandals, have pushed his approval ratings even further south.
More than 20 students were injured at the University of Papua New Guinea (UPNG) in Port Moresby when police opened fire on students protesting against corruption on June 8. Several of those injured remain in a critical condition. Students have been protesting and boycotting classes since May 2. The students were demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Peter O'Neill over corruption allegations and authoritarian moves to block investigation of the allegations.
The Spanish and European establishments have just days to stop the advance of the progressive electoral alliance United We Can in the June 26 general elections in the Spanish state. How are they doing? As matters stand, not well. United We Can, formed in early May, brings together new anti-austerity party Podemos and the longer-standing United Left (IU), as well as broader coalitions in Catalonia (Together We Can), Galicia (In Tide) and Valencia (A La Valenciana).
Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump reacted to the June 12 Orlando shootings, in which 50 people were shot dead at the Flordia gay club Pulse, with evidence that they can agree on at least one thing: bombing people. Both presidential candidates called for an escalation of the US-led bombing campaign against ISIS in Syria and Iraq. “We have generals that feel we can win this thing so fast and so strong, but we have to be furious for a short period of time, and we’re not doing it!” Trump complained on Fox & Friends on June 13.
Bernie Sanders joins striking FairPoint workers on the picket line in South Burlington, Vermont, January 18. For a year now, presidential candidate Bernie Sanders has been the hope of millions in the United States. He has been the hope of people disgusted with the role of the banks and corporations in politics, angered by growing inequality, appalled by racial injustice and opposed to a foreign policy based on military intervention.
“Oil didn’t wreck Venezuela’s economy, socialism did.” That’s what Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry, of the Washington-based conservative think tank Ethics and Public Policy Center, wrote earlier this year in his reflection on Venezuela’s deepening economic crisis. Gobry, a prolific writer for Forbes and the Wall Street Journal, criticised Venezuelan analysts who scapegoat oil, even though he recognised that declining oil prices have aggravated the nation’s difficulties. “The culprit is clear and obvious,” Golbry contends. “The problem is Venezuela's authoritarian socialism.”
British Labour MP Jo Cox, who was murdered by an apparent fascist on June 16, was a strong advocate for refugee rights. Several non-profit groups that used to work closely with her and the refugees for whom she advocated immediately expressed their sorrow and praised her commitment to human dignity in Britain and abroad.
Three young African-American women started a blog in 2013 entitled “Black Lives Matter” in the wake of the acquittal of George Zimmerman, a racist vigilante backed by the police, for the murder of unarmed Black youth Trayvon Martin. The blog started a movement that took the same name, as young Blacks launched mass actions that broke through the wall of silence concerning police murders of Black people.
Protest against sentencing of Baba Jan at his native village, Nasirabad, in Hunza on June 12. Photo: Awami Workers Party.

Culture

Zero K By Don DeLillo Simon & Schuster, 2016 Don DeLillo is known as one of America’s great authors, standing out for his effortless wisdom. So, now at 81, it is of no surprise that DeLillo tackles death and immortality in his recent novel Zero K. Having foreshadowed the horror of 9/11 (Underworld), the Great Financial Crisis and Occupy Movement (Cosmopolis) and the anthrax scare (White Noise), Zero K is his literary prophecy of the commodification of the last dignity: death.
Everyone has a story about Muhammad Ali. For me it was as a young Black high school student in Detroit. I had already seen the wrongs of imperialism and its wars — and of course the racism Blacks faced in Detroit. Ali as a Black man and Muslim was a powerful symbol of courage. His willingness to give up his boxing career in the 1960s to stand with the Vietnamese against the US government waging war on them reflected the stirrings of militant Black pride growing in Detroit.
US Women's soccer team after winning last year's World Cup. The United States women's soccer team does not have the right to strike for better conditions and wages this year, a US district court judge ruled on June 3, Reuters reported that day.
It was with great sadness I heard of the death of David Page, one of the greatest entertainers Australia has produced in recent times. He was a famous child singer at the age of 14, an actor, musician, composer, dancer, playwright and story teller. He was also a proud Nunukul and Munaldjali man from south-east Queensland. He was not afraid to admit his homosexuality. He was also the brother of Stephen and Russell Page of the Bangarra Dance Theatre, where he had enjoyed a long and rich artistic career.