Issue 1100

News

The morning after the July 2 federal elections, Australians awoke to a still undecided election. Whether the incumbent Liberal Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull holds on by a slim majority, or is able to form a minority government, or whether Labor under Bill Shorten can form a minority government, or whether there is a hung parliament requiring new elections, remained unclear. Some things, however, were immediately apparent.
On June 26, Hundreds of people rallied against racism in Melbourne on June 26. Far-right groups True Blue Crew and United Patriot Front organised an Australian National Flag Solidarity Walk at Parliament House in Melbourne that attracted about 50 people. In response Campaign Against Racism and Fascism organised a counter-rally also at Parliament House, which was attended by 200 to 300 protesters, easily outnumbering the far right. The counter-rally occupied the space between police lines and prevented the United Patriots and True Blue Crew from rallying outside Parliament.
Members of the Bendigo Street housing protest rallied in Melbourne on June 26 to demand affordable public housing and condemn the privatisation of public housing. Victoria is facing a housing crisis, with more than 25,000 people homeless and 32,000 people on the waiting list for public housing. There are an estimated 80,000 empty homes, including many compulsorily acquired by the government to build the East West Link that now remain empty.
Public housing tenants, led by the Waterloo Public Housing Action Group (WPHAG) and with the support of the Redfern-Waterloo Aboriginal community, have set up a tent embassy at Waterloo Green to resist the destruction of their homes and their community. The Embassy is supported by Aboriginal elder Jenny Munro who led the successful embassy at the Block in Redfern.
A poll of more than 1400 people commissioned by The Australia Institute and published the week before the election found that 63% oppose the bipartisan policy that refugees who arrive in Australia by boat are sent to off-shore detention centres and will never be settled in Australia.
Former NSW MP and right-wing powerbroker Eddie Obeid may lose his parliamentary pension of about $120,000 a year after he was found guilty of wilful misconduct in public office. Obeid faces up to five years' jail for corruption after he was found to have lobbied the then Maritime Authority's deputy chief executive, Steve Dunn, in 2007 about a long-running dispute over the renewal of leases at Circular Quay. Former parliamentarians convicted of crimes or serious offences warranting at least five years' imprisonment can have their pensions invalidated.
About 200 people rallied on June 26 demanding people charged under section 501 of the Migration Act 1958 be freed and allowed to stay in Australia. More than 190 people, mostly New Zealanders, have been ripped away from their families and put in prison on Christmas Island, 380 kilometres south of Java and 2650 kilometres north-west of Perth, pending deportation. The numbers are set to increase.
The Deaths in Custody Watch Committee (DICWC) has called on all parties contesting the federal election to commit to the establishment of a Custody Notification Service in each state and territory. The NSW Custody Notification Service (CNS) — the only CNS operating in Australia — is a 24-hour legal advice and RU OK phone line for Aboriginal people taken into police custody. Significantly, there have been no Aboriginal deaths in police custody in NSW since the CNS was introduced in 2000.
Police victim TJ Hickey could be closer to receiving a much sought after memorial. Brad Hazzard, NSW Minister for Family and Community Services and Social Housing, has told TJ's mother, Aunty Gail Hickey, he is sympathetic to the family's need for healing and would like to see the issue of a permanent memorial resolved.
"How do you exaggerate the greatest bleaching event on the planet? How do you exaggerate that one quarter of the world's largest reef is dead? You don't," Tony Fontes, a prominent Great Barrier Reef diver and tourism operator, told a crowd of up to 2000 at Steyne Park, Double Bay, in the heart of Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull's electorate of Wentworth on June 26. The rally was organised by a coalition of groups, including GetUp, Greenpeace, the Wilderness Society and the Nature Conservation Council.
About 500 people attended a Stop WestCONnex community rally in the inner city suburb of Rozelle on June 26 to call a halt to the project and for an end to federal funding of the controversial tollway. The rally was organised by the WestCONnex Action Group; No WestConnex: Public Transport; Save Newtown from WestCONnex; Save Ashfield Park; and Rozelle Against WestConnex.
Grandmothers Against Removals (GMAR) called on June 23 for Aboriginal control of a review recently announced by NSW Family and Community Services (FACS) Minister Brad Hazzard into all Aboriginal children removed from their families in NSW since 2014. The announcement comes in the wake of protests on National Sorry Day and a forum called by Hazzard to consult with Aboriginal organisations and communities about the growing crisis in the removal of Aboriginal Children into out-of-home care (OOHC). In NSW, one in 10 Aboriginal children are currently in OOCH.
Protestors blockaded Wilson Security car parks in Sydney and Melbourne on June 27 to mark 100 days of protests by asylum seekers held at Australia's immigration detention centre on Nauru. Wilson has the security contract for detention centres on Nauru and Manus Island. Activists targeted car parks at Circular Quay and Melbourne Central from 7am, insisting Wilson Security is a major detention centre industry player, which profits from people seeking asylum.
The United Firefighters Union (UFU) has produced a TV advertisement responding to a scare campaign against a new enterprise agreement for firefighters employed by Victoria's Country Fire Authority (CFA). Anti-union forces claim the agreement will damage the CFA and undermine its ability to fight fires.
A crowd of about 200 attended the Wollongong welcomes refugees rally on June 25. Held during Refugee Week, the rally and march aimed to show support for people seeking asylum in Australia, to call for the closing of all the detention centres, and to let the government know that Wollongong welcomes refugees.
Action for Public Housing (APH) was launched at the Redfern Community Centre on June 24. The launch was addressed by Green Bans movement activists Jack and Judy Mundey, Aboriginal elder Jenny Munro and Associate Professor Michael Darcy. The meeting also watched short videos highlighting the history of community resistance to the destruction of public housing in the city.
About 150 opponents of the proposed site of a radioactive waste dump in South Australia's Flinders Ranges gathered on June 24 in Port Augusta to voice their opposition. The federal government has recently shortlisted Barndioota station near Hawker as the site of a national nuclear storage facility. The area, where a number of songlines cross and which hosts a sacred women's site, is of immense cultural significance for the Adnyamathanha people and has been proven to be immensely rich in Aboriginal heritage.
A farewell gathering for Venezuelan Ambassador to Australia Nelson Davila was held at the Resistance Centre on June 25. About 40 people attended the event, which was hosted by the Latin America Social Forum (LASF) and the Australia-Venezuela Solidarity Network (AVSN). Chairperson Fred Fuentes explained that Davila is being recalled to Caracas after 11 years as Ambassador to Australia in Canberra. He praised Davila's role as a campaigner for the Bolivarian Revolution in addition to his diplomatic post.
On June 25 a vigil was held outside the State Library of Victoria in Melbourne to pay tribute to the Mexican teachers who were murdered by police during protests organised by the CNTE teachers' union in Oaxaca last week. The teachers have been rallying against the privatisation of education by the government of Enrique Peña Nieto and for democratic reform in the education system.

Analysis

Refugee rights activist Stephen Langford was at Waverley Court on June 29 facing charges for writing "Omid" on the electorate office of Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull. Omid Masoumali was a young asylum seeker detained in Nauru who died after he set himself on fire. After an initial hearing, the case was adjourned to July 27. Langford made this speech outside the court. * * *
The Victorian Labor government has announced an “ambitious and achievable” Victorian Renewable Energy Target (VRET). This target will commit the state to generating 25% of its electricity from renewable energy by 2020, and 40% by 2025.
A growing number of local councils and universities are divesting from financial institutions that invest in fossil fuel extraction. This is a great credit to climate change campaigners around the country. It points the way forward towards the even greater shift in investment priorities that we will need to make if we are to stop catastrophic runaway global warming.
Recently Facebook reminded me of a “memory” of an article I posted three years ago. I had said that I was doing the happy dance because we were making progress and were finally being heard.
Tacloban, Leyte, Philippines, after Typhoon Haiyan in 2013. Photo: Tony Iltis. Millions of people fleeing storms that flood major cities within hours, or intense fires that burn towns to the ground — welcome to a climate change apocalypse. It is not a scene from science fiction film, but a fast approaching reality.
More than 20 prominent Australians have called for emergency-scale action on climate change in an open letter to the new parliament, published in The Age on June 23. Signatories include business leaders, scientists, a former Australian of the Year and a Nobel Laureate. The open letter and associated website and petition are part of a growing campaign by a coalition of more than 20 grassroots climate action groups to pressure political leaders to step up and do what is needed to address the climate crisis.
Regardless of which major party, or coalition of parties, forms government after the July 2 election one thing we can be certain of is that the struggle for a people's movement will still be as necessary as ever. The attacks on our class will not stop; of that we can be sure. We have one common enemy. For decades and decades governments have been trying to annihilate unions and this has got to stop.
"The Coalition government's plan is not only to privatise Medicare, but to destroy it as a universal, national healthcare system," Peter Boyle, the Socialist Alliance candidate for the seat of Sydney, said on July 1. "The plan is based on a form of 'creeping privatisation,' together with undermining its coverage of the majority of community health services around the country."
The third annual March to Close all Slaughterhouses was held in Sydney on June 4. The march is part of an international event that began in Paris about 10 years ago. This event is both a solemn reflection on the abuse and exploitation suffered by millions of animals every day and a celebration of the increasing number of people choosing a cruelty-free lifestyle around the world. Former Triple J presenter and member of punk band Frenzal Rhomb Lindsay McDougall gave this speech at the march. * * * I want to start by taking you inside the life of a living being in a slaughterhouse.

World

The Congressional, executive and judicial wings of the United State government recently clarified for all — despite Washington's claims to the contrary — that Puerto Rico is a US colony. A law known as PROMESA was passed by Congress with bipartisan support and signed by President Barack Obama on June 30. It creates an unelected seven-person control board that has sweeping powers to take over Puerto Rico's economy.
Representatives from the CNTE attend talks in Mexico City, June 22, 2016. A second hours-long meeting between striking teachers and the government in Mexico City wrapped up in the early hours of June 28 as authorities called on unions to end the blockades in the southern state of Oaxaca, the Mexican news agency Notimex said.
Ten years after the Oaxaca Commune of 2006 — when for nearly six months workers, students, peasants, women, youth, indigenous peoples and urban poor brought the government of the southern Mexican state to a virtual standstill — teachers in the Mexican state are back on the barricades. Once again, the state has responded with brute force.
The vast majority of British Labour MPs — 81% — and their accomplices in the country's liberal media are attempting a coup against Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn. The veteran socialist MP was elected by Labour's members only nine months ago with the largest mandate ever won. He won because he had set himself apart from other Labour politicians throughout his decades in office by his commitment to working class interests — and especially by voting against the Tory's attack on the poor last year while 184 Labour MPs (88%) abstained.
Since Britain voted by a narrow margin on June 23 to leave the European Union, England has been hit by a significant rise in incidents of racist and xenophobic harassment and violence in the country. John O'Connell, from anti-racism group Far Right Watch, told Al Jazeera on June 29 that his group had documented more than 90 incidents in the past three days, ranging from “verbal abuse up to physical violence”.
Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams addresses the June 29 rally for Irish unity. Hundreds of people packed into the Liberty Hall Theatre in Dublin on June 29 as calls for a referendum on a united Ireland continue to grow following Britain's June 23 vote in favour of leaving the European Union. It came after the six counties in Ireland's north still claimed by Britain voted to stay in the EU.
The following statement by the left-wing, Kurdish-led Peoples Democratic Party (HDP) Co-Chairs was released on June 29: We condemn the attack in Istanbul, Atatürk International Airport. Unfortunately 36 civilians lost their lives and 147 people were injured as a result of this inhumane attack. We wish that God rests the souls of all departed, we extend our condolences to their families and friends, and wish the wounded quick recovery. We share the great sorrow with the whole society and harshly condemn the terror attacks that target civilians and the humankind.
Rally supporting Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn in Parliament Square on June 27. Ten thousand people rallied in support of Labour's left-wing leader Jeremy Corbyn — elected leader last year in a landslide vote that marked a rejection of pro-austerity politics — outside of Westminster on June 27, as right-wing Labour Party MPs took advantage of the fallout from the Brexit vote to move against the party leader.
The majority vote by Britons to leave the European Union was an act of raw democracy. Millions of ordinary people refused to be bullied, intimidated and dismissed with open contempt by their presumed betters in the major parties, the leaders of the business and banking oligarchy and the media.

Culture

The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye Presented by Sonny Liew. Pantheon Books, New York. 322 pages, 2015. The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye is the account of the life of a Singaporean comic book artist who started drawing at the age of 16. From that point, his work depicts his life story in parallel to that of the history of Singapore. In reality, Chan Hock Chye is a fictional creation of Malaysian born comic artist Sonny Liew who has worked on comics such as the New York Times bestseller The Shadow Hero.
Diet of Austerity: Class, Food & Climate Change By Elaine Graham-Leigh Zero Books, 2015 Like the author of this interesting book on food and climate change, I have been struck by the way that the question of diet, and in particular meat eating, has become central to debates on tackling climate change.
In this never-ending election campaign, with uninspiring candidates bashing refugees and the most exciting point of note is an ad that indicates the Liberals think tradies where gold watches, there seems little to smile about. So the satirical show Australia Votes 2016, which premiered at the Harold Park Hotel in Glebe, Sydney on June 24, provides some badly needed relief.
Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right Jane Mayer Doubleday, 2016 449 pages Like “dark matter” — the vast amount of invisible mass that holds the cosmos together — “dark money” is the astronomical quantity of hidden corporate money that holds the conservative US political universe together.