Issue 1105

Australia

WWF Australia bought and retired a $100,000 shark fishing licence on the Great Barrier Reef last month. They called for donations to cover the cost and so much was donated — from more than 30 countries — that they are now looking to purchase a second licence.

WWF-Australia conservation director Gilly Llewellyn said: “People see our idea as a practical way to save sharks and prevent dugongs, turtles and dolphins being killed as bycatch.”

Architects, artists and community activists have condemned the NSW state government's plan to demolish the iconic Sirius apartment building in the historic Rocks area of inner Sydney, with one artist, Del Kathryn Barton, calling the move a "cultural tragedy".

Justice for Palestine Brisbane activists branded former Queensland premier Peter Beattie a hypocrite on July 27 as they crashed a lunch at the Hilton Hotel at which he was the keynote speaker.

On Tuesday August 16, the University of Sydney will experience the most exquisite celebration of love as the Rainbow Campus campaign unites rainbow couples to show Australia what it is missing.

Veteran gay rights campaigner Rodney Croome has quit as national director of Australian Marriage Equality (AME), which he founded in 2004, to lobby MPs to block the equal marriage plebiscite.

Croome said those who believe a plebiscite is inevitable are “lacking political imagination” and declared blocking it could force a free vote in parliament on the issue. He said there was “no split in the movement” but rather “a spectrum of different approaches to a very difficult situation”.

The Australian government has once again showed it is a law unto itself. The Papua New Guinea Supreme Court asked it to provide information by August 4 on how it planned to relocate the people in Manus Island detention centre. No one showed up to court.

PNG lawyer Ben Lomani, who has represented the refugees and asylum seekers in the Manus Island detention centre throughout the case, sent documents relating to compensation for the men on Manus Island to the Australian High Commission last year. He has still not received a reply.

In the wake of the national scandal about the abuse and torture of mainly Aboriginal juveniles in detention in the Northern Territory, the Grandmothers Against Removals (GMAR) organised a march and rally to protest the forced removal of Aboriginal children from their families and communities.

Apex Energy, in a joint venture with Ormil Energy (later Magnum Gas and Power), obtained a licence in 2011 to explore for coal seam gas (CSG) in the Illawarra, south of Sydney.

Almost immediately a group of concerned locals came together to stop the project — and Stop CSG Illawarra was formed.

Five years later, as Apex Energy exits the scene, rather anti-climactically, it is apparent the community has won and the environment and greater Sydney's drinking water are safe from this threat.

About 250 people attended a rally on August 4 in solidarity with 55 sacked maintenance workers who had been employed at the Carlton & United Breweries (CUB) plant in Abbotsford.

The workers, members of the Electrical Trades Union (ETU) and Australian Manufacturing Workers Union, were sacked on June 10. They were told they could re-apply for their jobs with a new contracting company, but that their pay would be cut by 65%.

The rally, held outside the CUB brewery, was attended by members and officials from a wide range of unions.

About 400 people attended a public open-day at the iconic Tarwyn Park property in the beautiful Bylong Valley in the Upper Hunter on July 31. It was the day that Peter Andrews, the 76- year-old founder and expert in Natural Sequence Farming (NSF), relinquished ownership of the property.

Korean state-owned mining company KEPCO assumed ownership of the property at midnight on August 1. But Andrews has vowed to stay on to fight for the land's protection.

As industrial action by Carlton & United Breweries (CUB) maintenance workers in Abbotsford enters its ninth week support continues to grow.

The company is refusing to back down from its decision to sack workers and then offer to rehire them with a 65% pay cut.

The dispute started on June 10 when 55 fitters, electricians and maintenance workers were told they would be sacked, only to then be “invited” to re-apply for their jobs through a third-party contractor, Catalyst Recruitment.

Vital nesting trees for Australia's critically endangered Swift parrot in a forest at Buckland in southern Tasmania, have been illegally logged.

They were caught in the act by researcher Dejan Stojanovic from the Australian National University, who said: “There was two cars worth of blokes standing around the base of one of my nest trees ... This site is one of the most important locations for Swift parrots on mainland Tasmania.

“Since 2010, of the 18 nest trees that I've been monitoring with motion-activated cameras, 10 have been cut down.

World

In a tableau becoming horrifyingly common, a transgender woman of color was found dead in Ohio on July 30, the victim of an apparent homicide.

Skye Mockabee was found unresponsive in a parking lot around 8 a.m. on July 30 in Cleveland, Ohio, reports Cleveland.com. Mockabee had an apparent head-wound, and the individuals who found her called EMS. She was declared dead at the scene. She was 26 years old.

Police are providing few details about Mockabee's death; no suspects have been arrested, and no possible motive for her murder has been given.

Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte, elected in May on a platform that combined pledging to defend ordinary citizens against a corrupt elite with carrying out extreme repression against drug users and other “criminals”, gave his inaugural state of the nation address on July 25. The statement below was released by the socialist Party of the Labouring Masses in response.

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Venezuelans taking part in a voluntary program to boost a slowly developing agricultural sector, described by the US media as "slavery".

The United States media’s latest offensive against Venezuela’s socialist President Nicolas Maduro targets a new sustainability program that transplants urban workers to farmland. Some quarters of the mainstream media have equated it with slave labour.

In a newly released interview conducted last year with Chelsea Manning, the jailed US whistleblower said she was “always afraid” of her government, which sentenced her to decades behind bars in a military prison.

“I am always afraid, I am still afraid of the power of government,” said Manning, who leaked thousands of classified documents to Wikileaks in 2010, in an interview with Amnesty International published by The Guardian on August 3.


Members of Brazil's Landless Workers' Movement (MST), which fights for land reform and the rights of poor farmers.

Industrial agriculture and financial sectors are hand-in-hand worsening climate change and then profiting from it, with an unprecedented number of land grabs over the last eight years, according to a report released in June.


Farmers till soil in Uganda, which has borrowed over $2 billion from the World Bank to date.

Lending further support to the United Nations' characterisation of the World Bank as a “human rights-free zone”, the notorious lender approved new policies on August 4 that have been widely condemned by rights advocates for endangering human rights and the environment.


Rally in Liverpool on July 2 in support of Jeremy Corbyn remaining Labour leader.

British Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has pledged to “rebuild Britain” on August 4 by creating 1 million jobs and homes. The socialist politician put full employment and house building at the heart of his bid for re-election as Labour's leader in a 10-point plan for the country.

Mexico is leading a campaign to demand the World Health Organization declassify transgender identity as a mental disorder in its global list of medical conditions.

The petition is based on a study published on July 28 in The Lancet Psychiatry Journal. After more than two years of research, it concludes that transgender people are not “mentally ill”.

Former National Assembly member Vestalia Sampedro has officially filed the right-wing Movement for Sowing Right's opposition to same sex civil marriage in Venezuela. Sampedro cited “pro-family” as among the reasons for the conservative group's filing before the Supreme Court of Justice (TSJ).


Greens presidential candidate Jill Stein.


Thousands turn out to hear Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn in Liverpool on Augist 1.

If you watch footage of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn out and about — whether addressing rallies from fire engines, squeezing through scrums of reporters or posing with large vegetables — you'll probably spot some of the same faces nearby.

Accused without evidence of acts that he could not have committed, since he was at the time about sixty kilometres away, Baba Jan was tortured, convicted and then acquitted on appeal. He came second in the elections in 2015 while imprisoned and was tipped to win a by-election.

Civil society groups from across the globe, including prominent human rights NGOs, have called on United Nations drug control authorities to urge an immediate stop to the extrajudicial killings of suspected drug offenders in the Philippines.

Since May 10, more than 700 people have been killed by police and vigilantes in the Philippines for being suspected of using or dealing drugs. The mass killings are a direct result of recently-elected President Rodrigo Duterte’s campaign to eradicate crime within six months.

Thousands of people from social and political movements in Rio de Janeiro continued to protest against the interim president of Brazil Michel Temer during the second day of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.

An estimated 30,000 protesters gathered around the Maracana Stadium on August 5, where the opening ceremony of the games took place, but were met by security forces who managed to stop them from entering the stadium.

Bolivia has approved a new law that allows transgender people to change their name, sex and gender on birth certificates and other official records. LGBTI rights activists in Bolivia see the law as a groundbreaking sign of growing tolerance in Latin America.

Forty people began the process to change their personal information on identity documents and bank accounts, and alter their professional titles on the day the law passed.

Reacting to what is reportedly the biggest financial scandal in history, US authorities have subpoenaed documents from Goldman Sachs relating to the dealings of the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).

Set up in 2009 by the Malaysian government, 1MDB is supposed to generate growth and establish the country as a financial hub.

However, according to the Wall Street Journal, at least US$1 billion has gone into the pocket of a person referred to in Department of Justice documents as “Malaysian Official 1” — widely reported to be Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak.

WikiLeaks release of nearly 20,000 e-mails and more than 8,000 attachments from seven officials on the Democratic National Committee (DNC) just before the party's convention meant a quick end for Debbie Wasserman Schultz's position as DNC chair, after the e-mails revealed favoritism toward the Clinton campaign and organized hostility to rival Bernie Sanders.

But if the emails--and the convention itself--show anything, it's the undemocratic nature of the whole Democratic Party, and firing one official won't come close to fixing that.

The European Union has struck two important blows against diesel-fuelled transport in decisions announced on succeeding days in July. At the same time, the slow unravelling of the international VW diesel emissions crisis continues to dog the automotive giant.

Also exposed are the extraordinary lengths to which corporations will go to avoid environmentally sustainable production.

The union at the SABMiller Sonepat brewery in the state of Haryana, India has been organising mass protest actions in response to the harassment and intimidation of trade union leaders and members. It comes amid management's refusal to respect collective bargaining rights.

The attack on rights at SABMiller India follows the company's union-busting at SABMiller-owned Carlton United Breweries in Australia ahead of the impending merger between AB InBev and SABMiller, which would create the world's largest transnational brewing company.

High-profile African-American academic, activist and socialist Cornel West, who strongly backed Bernie Sanders in the Democratic primary race, talks to Democracy Now!'s Amy Goodman on why he is backing the Green Party's Jill Stein for president. West, who was appointed by Sanders to serve on the Democratic platform committee, is the author of a number of books, most recently Black Prophetic Fire.

Analysis

Supporters of equal marriage rights will again take to the streets in Sydney and Melbourne on August 13. The date marks 12 years since the John Howard government — with Labor support — passed laws banning equal marriage.

In the past 12 years, thousands have mobilised across the country demanding an end to the ban.

Activists evaded eviction from vacant houses and apartments in Parkville on August 3. The homes had been acquired for the East West Link, a project axed under community pressure by the incoming Labor government in 2014, with a promise to use the properties for public housing.

Sonia Kruger criticised the idea of scholarships for LGBTQI high school students on August 1 and even went so far as to refer to the scholarship program as “reverse discrimination”.

Her comments were in response to the Australian Business and Community Network (ABCN) Scholarship Foundation targeting high school students who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual transsexual, queer and/or intersex (LGBTQI) for financial and mentoring scholarships.

These comments came after other recent controversial comments from the TV host that Australia should stop all Muslim immigration.

Footage aired last week of children being abused in a Northern Territory prison sent shockwaves around the nation. These images forced us to grapple with the problem as if it were breaking news, despite the fact that so many people knew so much about it for so long.

Nevertheless, a royal commission is being established, and although many would like to see a wider scope, accountability for abuses of this nature must be the ultimate result.

When the Olympic Games begin, the news headlines will be swamped with stories of new world records in this or that sporting field. We will be whipped into a frenzy about it. There will be discussions all around the world about how the record was broken, about the ferocious competition to produce record-breaking athletes, about performance-inducing drugs.

Meanwhile, much more significant world records will barely rate a mention in the media.

The shocking abuse suffered by children in Darwin's Don Dale detention centre revealed by the ABC's Four Corners on July 25 has angered wide layers of the community. It has also prompted a nationwide demand to take immediate action against the perpetrators and ensure that nothing like this can ever happen again in the juvenile detention system.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull's decision to call a narrowly focused royal commission into Northern Territory youth detention centres has been met with justifiable scepticism and criticism.

In May, the Northern Territory government granted a major water licence for a cattle station near Pine Creek, west of Kakadu National Park, to use almost 14 million megalitres of water a year to irrigate crops.

To the surprise of many, former Greens leader Bob Brown used the ABC's 7.30 on July 29 to launch a blistering attack on recently re-elected NSW Greens Senator Lee Rhiannon.

Brown told the ABC that Rhiannon had given “great service” but that “the old guard that runs the office in New South Wales” needs changing.

Miranda Devine has written an opinion piece portraying Cardinal George Pell as the victim in an investigation about child abuse.

Grandmothers Against Removals NSW released this statement for Aboriginal Children's Day on August 4.

In Sydney, GAMAR has organised a protest at 12pm at the Family Law Courts, 99 Goulburn Street which will then march to NSW Parliament House.

Grandmothers Against Removals is a network of families and supporters directly affected by forced child removal.

Culture


Hebron’s Ahly al-Khalil plays Gaza-based Shejaiya in the 2015 Palestine Cup. Ahly al-Khalil won the title, which it successfully defended on August 2 after Israel caved in to let players travel for the match.


Brazil has been hit by anti-government protests in the lead-up to the Rio Games.

When the 2016 Olympic Games began on August 5, it was the culmination of a harrowing, exhausting decade-long battle between the people of Brazil and the demands of those utterly unaccountable, scandal-plagued sports bodies, FIFA and the IOC.


Palestinian swimmer Mary al-Atrash.

Palestinian swimmer Mary al-Atrash headed to the Rio 2016 Olympics despite the Israeli occupation making the West Bank-based athlete’s training extremely difficult.

Stingray Sisters
Three-part film series
Directed By Katrina Channells
Released on August 9
Watch at www.stingraysisters.com

Stingray Sisters is a deeply moving three-part documentary highlighting the story of three Aboriginal sisters, Noni, Alice and Grace Eather, and their return to Maningrida in the Northern Territory, from schooling in Brisbane.

Good news (for a change)

The powerful conservative Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees’ Association (SDA) — the biggest right-wing union affiliated to the Labor Party — has passed a resolution declaring it will adopt a neutral stand on equal marriage.

The union’s resolution declared: “The Association shall have no position on the matter of Same Sex Marriage and will support the right of members of the ALP to act according to their conscience on the matter of SSM”.

New South Wales Labor MP Noreen Hay, who has held the seat of Wollongong since 2003, is resigning from state parliament effective from September 1.

Hay was the Labor Party's whip until May when Opposition Leader Luke Foley threatened to resign unless she stood down, after a senior staff member in her Wollongong electorate office was charged with electoral fraud.