Issue 1106

News

Labor's deputy leader Tanya Plibersek's office fence on Broadway in Ultimo was adorned with cardboard cut-outs of children trapped behind bars on August 15, with some holding messages urging that the refugees be bought to Australia. The Sydney-based action was part of more than 40 nation-wide that were initiated by Love Makes A Way and organised by local groups, including the Uniting Church.
Phillip Galea, linked to far right groups Reclaim Australia and United Patriots Front, was arrested on August 7 as part of raids on four properties in and around Melbourne and charged with making documents likely to facilitate a terrorist act and planning or preparing for a terrorist act. He was jailed last November for possession of several stun guns and bomb precursor chemicals.
Despite the rain, about 100 people rallied in Hyde Park on August 6 to declare, "Hiroshima Never Again," on the 71st anniversary of the US atomic bombing of the Japanese city of Hiroshima in 1945. The themes of the rally were: "Ban nuclear weapons," and "No nuclear waste dumps in Australia". A dramatic round of traditional drumming by a local Japanese cultural group and a set by the band Urban Guerrillas kicked off the rally.
Worksafe Victoria has released a draft of new regulations, which, if adopted, will mean that buildings constructed after 2003 will no longer have to undergo mandatory asbestos checks. The controversial changes come just after a string of health scares on Australian building sites, where potentially deadly asbestos fibres have been discovered in materials imported from China.
Plans to build a major 375MW hybrid wind and solar plant near Port Augusta in South Australia have won approval from the state government. Project developer DP Energy said in a statement released on August 5 that the green light meant it could now deliver one of the “largest and most significant” hybrid renewables projects in the Southern Hemisphere, including 59 wind turbines and almost 400 hectares of solar PV arrays. The area is renowned for its rich solar and wind resources.
Protesters gathered in Melbourne on August 8 to urge the replacement Hazelwood Power Station with renewable energy. Australia's dirtiest power station, Hazelwood is owned by Engie France and Mitsui Japan. According to the OECD it is one of the world's most polluting power stations, both in terms of the toxic cocktail of chemicals it daily emits and its carbon emissions. Hazelwood is also Australia's least efficient power station and a major consumer of water: 1.31 megalitres of water is consumed per gigawatt hour of power generated.
Two peace activists, Greg Rolles and Shane Anderson, locked themselves to Lockheed Martin's main gates on August 11, blocking the entrance to the Dandenong research facility in an attempt to disrupt the making of missiles for military drones.
More than 200 people gathered in Sydney's Domain on August 7 to mark the symbolic founding of "New Bulga" behind the NSW State Parliament building. The pop-up village of New Bulga was set up to continue the fight by the residents of the village of Bulga in the Upper Hunter Valley against ongoing moves by Rio Tinto to expand its Warkworth coalmine closer to the town.
The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) Staff Association says the Turnbull government's backflip on climate science research does not go far enough to repair the damage done by the deep and ongoing cuts to Australia's leading public research body. CSIRO management is continuing with plans to slash 296 jobs across the organisation, including more than 60 experienced climate and marine scientists. About 40% of the jobs are expected to be cut through forced redundancies.
A boy is grabbed around the throat, his head is smashed against the ground twice and then a chair is thrown onto him by a security guard. Many people witnessed and reported the incident.
Korean state-owned miner KEPCO and its contractor Worley Parsons were prosecuted by the NSW Department of Industry's Division of Resources and Energy (DRE) in March, after it was revealed the companies had used fake photographs purporting to be of a Bylong property at which they were seeking permission to drill for coal. The photographs were not of the property, and showed an environment completely unlike the area they were seeking permission to drill in. When DRE was alerted to this by the affected landholder, charges were laid against the companies.
In Treasurer Scott Morrison's budget speech he promised to "ensure the government lives within its means" and warned "this is not a time to be splashing money around". Shortly afterwards, he hosted an invitation-only party, which cost taxpayers $11,625 for food and drinks. This is more than even Joe Hockey spent on post-budget parties. In all, the Treasurer spent $4620 on a selection of hot and cold canapes, $5445 on alcohol, and $560 for eight wait staff to cater the 90-minute function for 100 people.
The United Firefighters Union (UFU) has commissioned a survey of bullying, harassment and discrimination within Victoria's Metropolitan Fire Brigade (MFB) and Country Fire Authority (CFA). The survey is being conducted by researchers from the University of Newcastle. Meanwhile, the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission (VEOHRC) is carrying out a survey commissioned by MFB and CFA management. The UFU has advised its members not to participate in the VEOHRC survey.
On August 4 the family of Ms Dhu and their supporters marked the second anniversary of her death in police custody in South Headland with a rally outside Perth's Central Law Courts. Ms Dhu's family is calling for an independent investigation into her death, as well as demanding the release of CCTV footage that shows her last hours alive in custody. Ms Dhu, who was 22 years old at the time, had been detained for the non-payment of fines amounting to $3622, but died within two days of being taken into custody.
A sea of blue Allied Health Professionals burst onto the streets in the latest job walkout in a year-long industry dispute. As part of the Code Blue action, 600 physiotherapists and radiographers, occupational therapists, speech pathologists and social planners walked off the job, holding up inflatable dinosaurs that parodied the Jurassic career structures last updated, bizarrely, in 1966.
As AGL announced a $400 million loss on August 10, anti-gas protesters assembled outside its headquarters to demand it close its Camden coal seam gas (CSG) project in south-west Sydney. AGL, which largely invests in coal, has been producing gas in the Macarthur region since 2009, taking over from Sydney Gas Limited, which started in Camden in 2001 and expanded south east in 2004.
Liverpool Plains' farmers are celebrating the New South Wales state government's decision, on August 11, to buy back BHP Billiton's Caroona coalmine licence for $220 million. This comes after a struggle that began in 2008, when farmer Tim Duddy and the local community began a blockade that put a spanner in BHP Billiton's efforts to start drilling operations on his family's Rossmar Park property.

Analysis

Deaths in Custody Watch Committee WA and Refugee Rights Action Network WA released this joint statement on August 10. * * * Every afternoon at 4pm on Nauru, asylum seeking adults and children stage a peaceful protest at the gate of the OPC3 family camp, which they have done since March 20 (Palm Sunday). Four weeks into their protest, refugees in the RPC3 camp opposite joined them.
When the Census website crashed and was taken offline on August 9, the ABS was quick to blame overseas hackers. And in its defence, blaming foreigners has worked pretty well for authorities in this country on pretty much every other issue up till now.
In the recent controversy over the proposed sale of key NSW state-owned electricity company Ausgrid to Chinese bidders, the primary issue seems to have been lost: a vital public asset such as Ausgrid should not be privatised in the first place, whoever the potential buyers might be. A storm broke out over the planned sale of Ausgrid by the state government to either of two Chinese corporations: the government-owned State Grid Corporation of China; or the privately-owned Hong Kong-listed Cheung Kong Infrastructure Group (CKI), controlled by billionaire Li Ka-shing.
Australia's largest cities are urban planning disaster zones. Two facts in particular bear this out. First is the ongoing housing affordability crisis, which shows no sign of abating. Second is the relentless march of car-dependent urban sprawl, which continues to devour remnant native vegetation and good farming land. You get an eyeful of this latter problem as you approach Perth by plane, by some accounts the second-biggest metropolis in the world by surface area.
Brian Jessup is a medical imaging technologist, working in the Victorian public sector, and a proud member of the Victorian Allied Health Professionals Association. This is his story.
While hundreds of thousands of people with disabilities will now get services they have never had under the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS), we must closely examine how the scheme is being implemented. The public should demand nothing less in return for the $22 billion of public expenditure and the vulnerability of the recipients. But that is not happening. The NDIS is brilliant for people with physical disabilities, but the scheme risks further marginalising thousands of people with profound intellectual disability.

When I first came out as a lesbian in high school, I was scared. Hanging over my envisioned future were a lot of question marks, a familiar feeling for a lot of LGBTI youth. Heightened rates of mental illness, suicide, homelessness and assault frame the vision of our adulthood with very real uncertainty. This uncertainty is mirrored by the media. The distinct lack of representation in media robs same-sex attracted youth of healthy role models.

“It was just a group of boys having fun”. This comment might evoke thoughts of boys splashing around in a swimming pool, skateboarding on the road or tagging a brick wall. But this comment was made in defence of a vile Instagram account called “ys [young slut]_academy_puspus” which sexually objectified underage girls as young as 11 years' old. Worse still, the comment was made by a man who identified himself as an “old boys' club” father of one of the Brighton Grammar boys who ran the Instagram account, in a threatening anonymous phone call to a victim's mother.
They had one job: Count 24 million people in the National Census. But now the Turnbull government looks like a deer caught in the headlights. One of the most stunning things about the spectacular implosion of the National Census is that it was billed by the government as “the largest online event in Australian history”.
A new climate report released on August 3 by the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) confirms the world is hot and getting hotter. The State of the Climate report said that last year was the second consecutive hottest year on record, surpassing 2014 as the previous warmest year.
Without anywhere that is home, Aboriginal people have been without a physical space to reinvent themselves and their culture in modern Australia. Since colonisation, Aboriginal people have been internally displaced from their country. The doctrine of terra nullius — a land without people — was established under British colonial government and persisted in Australian law until 1992.

World

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro warned his country’s right-wing opposition leaders on August 9 not to stir up violent unrest as the threat of a recall vote against him waned, the Morning Star said on August 11.
Fans at Rio Olympics hold “Fora Temer” (“Temer out”) signs. August 10. As Brazil’s media focuses its attention on the Rio Olympics, new revelations continue to shine a light on the glaring contradictions in the unelected government's efforts to impeach suspended President Dilma Rousseff for allegations of fraud.
Local communities organise against Tahoe Resources’ Escobal mine. Canadian mining giant Tahoe Resources came under fire on August 11 for bulldozing human rights in Guatemala. Two groups have filed a complaint in the United States calling for a probe into whether Tahoe executives lied to investors.
“While police tactics and accountability measures are being examined, many black people are also questioning their safety and place in society,” the San Francisco Chronicle wrote on July 31. “They worry about the next time they interact with police, and about the difficult conversations they must have with their children.” Black people make up 6% of San Francisco's population — and suffer 40% of the city's shootings by cops. The city's statistics on police stops of Blacks and violence mirror other cities, especially in the Midwest and South.
Since the mid 1930s, self-styled progressives and many socialists have often justified supporting one of the United States' two major capitalist parties by claiming that it is the “lesser evil” compared to the other one. The “lesser evil” is frequently the Democratic Party. In this year's election, the “lesser evil” is the war hawk and neoliberal Hillary Clinton as opposed to right-wing populist Donald Trump.
Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa: “Anybody can come here to the Ecuadorean Amazon and dip their own hands in the lagoons of oil left by Texaco more than 20 years ago and their hands will come out full of oil.”
Fidel Castro, the historic leader of the Cuban Revolution, turned 90 on August 13. Progressive, anti-war and social justice forces across the world join in the celebration of the life of one of the world's most influential and significant leaders. It is especially worthwhile and necessary to mark and valorise the life and times of a man whose heart, without missing a beat, has withstood more than 600 assassination attempts by US imperialism.
Israel is intensifying its efforts to crack down on activists working for freedom, justice and equality for Palestinians. On August 7, interior minister Aryeh Deri and public security minister Gilad Erdan formed a new inter-ministerial task force that will, as the The Times of Israel reported, “target supporters of the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement”. The task force aims to prevent the entry of foreign activists allegedly affiliated with groups that support BDS. It also aims to expel those who have already entered territories under Israeli control.
Sırrı Süreyya Önder and Selahattin Demirtaş. Photo: Kurdishinfo.com. Left-wing opposition Peoples Democratic Party (HDP) co-chair Selahattin Demirtaş and HDP Ankara MP and Imralı Delegation Spokesperson Sırrı Süreyya Önder have both been indicted and threatened with five years imprisonment after the removal of their parliamentary immunity.
Venezuelan labour minister Oswaldo Vera announced on August 10 that the government had taken over another shut-down manufacturing firm, the Morning Star said on August 12. Vera said the Guardian de Venezuela laminated glass plant in Monagas state would be occupied and re-opened by its workers.
Pakistani lawyers take to the streets to condemn the Quetta bombing. The left-wing Awami Workers Party (AWP) has condemned the deadly bombing of the Civil Hospital in Quetta on August 8, in which more than 97 people lost their lives. Most victims were lawyers gathered for the funeral of recently-assassinated Balochistan Bar Association President Anwar Kasi.
Kurdish fighter in Aleppo's Sheikh Maqsoud neighbourhood. Kurdish forces of the People's Protection Units (YPG) responded in an official statement to the Syrian rebels' Aleppo Operations Chamber that said they will attack the Kurds after breaking a regime siege on Aleppo city.
Venezuela's newly nationalised Kimberly-Clark factory has produced 2,068,800 sanitary towels its the first month since reopening following a worker takeover in July, Venezuelanalysis.com said on August 10. Last month, the Texas-based consumer products giant shut down its operations in the country without warning, firing nearly 1000 workers.
Ottawa, Canada. July 2014. Members of the Green Party of Canada made history at their August 5–7 convention in Ottawa, passing a resolution to support the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign targeting economic activities in the Palestinian territories occupied by Israel. The BDS campaign was first launched in 2005 with a call from more than 170 Palestinian non-government organisations. It has generated growing support across the world.
As socialist Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn addresses enthusiastic mass meetings across the country it appears clear — despite attempts by Labour right to sabotage the vote and deny as many Corbyn backers the right to vote as possible — the anti-austerity leader will easily be returned as leader.

Culture

Five new books for green lefts and left greens — as compiled by ecosocialist site Climate & Capitalism, which is edited by Facing the Anthropocene author Ian Angus. It features Cuban science fiction, the birth of the Anthropocene, agribusiness and disease, surviving catastrophe, rising seas and the private plunder of public assets. ***
Author Ian Angus at the launch of 'Facing the Anthropocene'. Sydney, May 13. Facing the Anthropocene: Fossil Capitalism & the Crisis of the Earth System By Ian Angus Monthly Review Press New York, 2016 We are living in a time of unparalleled ecological breakdowns and the crisis is much worse than most people realise. There are other books that tell this harrowing story, but Ian Angus's Facing the Anthropocene is different.
Ibtihaj Muhammad. An American Muslim fencer, who is the country’s first Olympian to wear a hijab, says she does not feel safe in the US due to the country’s increased anti-Muslim rhetoric, The Independent said on August 5.
Fans at Olympic women's soccer hold “Fora Temer” (“Temer out”) signs. August 6. Jorge Knijnik is a researcher at the Institute for Culture and Society at the University of Western Sydney, and specialist in sport and social justice issues.