Issue 1108

News

Thousands of people across Australia have been coming out to refugee rights rallies in the wake of the Guardian's Nauru files documenting the systemic abuse of refugees in the Nauru detention centre and the PNG Supreme Court Refugee activists demanded the government immediately close all the detention centre's, end boat turnbacks and resettle all refugees and asylum seekers on Nauru and Manus Island in Australia. Melbourne Photos by Chelsea Dennison
Asking the peak oil and gas industry body to prepare a report on Australia's future energy needs for federal and state energy ministers was always going to have a predictable outcome. The Australian Petroleum Production & Exploration Association (APPEA) was tasked to report to the Council of Australian Government (COAG) energy ministers meeting on August 18 and 19. Unsurprisingly, it recommended urgently producing and supplying more gas — and fast — before Australia runs out.
AGL was in court on August 25 after pleading guilty to 11 counts of breaking political donation disclosure laws in relation to coal seam gas approvals. The breaches were first uncovered by the Gloucester community when it was fighting AGL's attempts to set up 110 coal seam gas wells on rich farming land near the town on the mid-north coast of New South Wales. They relate to donations AGL gave to the NSW Labor Party and the Liberals from 2008 to 2014.
Production and distribution workers at Carlton & United Breweries' (CUB) Abbotsford plant in Melbourne brought the site to a standstill for three hours on August 25, threatening further action if 55 sacked workers were not reinstated. Two hundred members of United Voice and the Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) at the brewery held a stop-work meeting to condemn CUB's sacking of its maintenance staff and raised concerns about the impact this has had on safety standards.
"We can't afford your units and we can't afford the bus; if you keep ignoring us, we're gonna make a fuss!" rang through the streets of West End as 150 people marched against the proposed development of the old Absoe site on August 21. Greens councillor on the Brisbane City Council and one of the organisers of the rally, Jonathan Sri, told the crowd that the original proposal for the site involved seven tall buildings with no connection to the street or the surrounding community.
An Australian version of an open letter from Asian Americans in solidarity with Black Lives Matter has been circulating on social media. “Letters for Black Lives” is a project that began in the United States to initiate cross-generational conversations between young Asian Americans and their families about anti-Blackness and police violence. The original letter has since gained 200 contributors, 30 translations, and dozens of audio and video recordings.

After months of protests, mass meetings and failed talks with the University of Sydney administration, about a dozen Sydney College of the Arts (SCA) students started an occupation of the Dean's office at its Callan Park campus in Rozelle on August 22.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has announced plans to reduce welfare payments for the poorest and most economically disadvantaged people in Australia. The cuts are part of a proposed package of $6.5 billion savings in the federal budget that parliament is still to vote on. Turnbull has proposed axing the energy supplement fund that all welfare recipients receive. This fund is worth between $4.40 and $7.05 a week, which might not sound like much, but is a lot for people who are already living below the poverty line.
Workers at InTech Credit Union, who for the first time will be covered by an enterprise agreement, have won a 10.5% guaranteed pay rise across the board over three years, according to a statement published by the Finance Sector Union on August 19. Under the new agreement, InTech Credit Union will also join a growing number of employers in the industry to include Domestic Violence Leave provisions in their agreement with workers.
Sydney's Oxford Street was shut down on August 24 by hundreds of people protesting moves to absorb the National Art School into the University of New South Wales. The push to merge the nation's oldest art school is being promoted by the state government and is part of a broader plan involving three different Sydney art schools, including Sydney College of the Arts. For many, the plan to shift these art schools off prime real estate is motivated by the NSW government's desire to sell the sites to developers.

Analysis

The Australian Automobile Association (AAA) commissioned a study into transport affordability and found that an average family spends up to $420 a week just to get around. Hobart was the cheapest city, at $14,000 a year, and Sydney the most expensive, at $22,000. The national average of about $330 a week is a significant figure in anyone's budget. It means an average household spends 13% of their income (17% in Sydney) on transport, compared with 1–3% on power, water and telecommunications.
The Victorian government announced new legislation on August 18 aimed at simplifying the process for trans and gender diverse (TGD) people’s to change the sex marker on their birth certificates and records. This has rightfully been welcomed as an important step forward for TGD people rights. The new legislation, which follows similar legislation in the ACT and 2013 changes to policies regarding sex markers on Commonwealth documents, is a start towards eliminating medical gatekeeping on the lives of TGD people.
“More tax is not the answer.” This was an actual statement made by Treasurer Scott Morrison on August 24 in response to a proposal from the Western Australian Nationals for a mining tax on Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton.
French philosopher Guy Debord's The society of the spectacle plays out on newer, modern terms at a Moreland Says No To Racism rally in May. Protesters march from trains with banners, flags and masks straight into a containment web of fences, barriers, police lines and the steam of horses breathing out wet air. The tactical police wave us into lines.
This is the Australian version of the open letter created by Letters for Black Lives, an ongoing project for people to create and translate resources on anti-Blackness for their communities in solidarity with #BlackLivesMatter. * * * Mum, Dad, Uncle, Auntie, Grandfather, Grandmother: We need to talk. You may not have grown up around people who are Black, Aboriginal or African but I have. Black people are a fundamental part of my life: they are my friends, my classmates and teammates, my roommates, my family. Today, I'm scared for them.
Treasurer Scott Morrison's speech to a Bloomberg business breakfast in Sydney on August 25 echoed previous warnings by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull that Australians were heading for economic trouble if the new parliament fails to pass the government's "omnibus" budget package.
With calls for a royal commission into the banking sector growing, the argument for a new "people's bank" to challenge the domination of the big banks is gaining strength. A number of recent events have propelled community anger at the "Big Four" — Commonwealth Bank (CBA), NAB, Westpac and ANZ — to the point that a royal commission seems increasingly likely.
“I look at the body I have, which is a male body, and I want a female body”, Alexis Greenwood, a young woman transitioning from male to female, told Green Left Weekly. Greenwood is speaking up about the barriers she faces because she wants more people to ask questions. She wants more people to be less ignorant about being transgender. Greenwood said she “always knew something was wrong”. At 16 years old, while performing a monologue in her drama class about a transitioned person, she thought: “This feels right, this is me”.
One of the less prominent aspects of Malcolm Turnbull's federal budget is the plan to shift another 30,000 Disability Support Pension (DSP) recipients onto Newstart umemployment benefits. This move has been defended as a cost-saving measure to help fund the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS). It follows the tightened of the eligibility criteria for DSP that occurred in 2011 under a federal Labor government. Since then, the number of DSP recipients has flatlined at around 800,000.
If we needed any more proof that Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull's plebiscite on equal marriage is a spurious delaying tactic we got it on August 21 when the media reported that the vote will now be pushed back to February 2017, some 18 months after it was first proposed.

World

Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz has reiterated his opposition to the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), saying on August 23 that United States President Barack Obama’s push to get the trade deal passed during the upcoming lame-duck session of Congress is “outrageous” and “absolutely wrong”. The TPP is a huge proposed trade deal involving 12 Pacific Rim nations, including Australia. It encompasses 40% of the world’s GDP. It was negotiated in secret, but draft chapters published by WikiLeaks confirmed anti-TPP campaigners’ worst fears of a huge power grab by corporations.
The CEO of a former Fortune 500 company, who is also the daughter of a U.S. senator, is under fire for jacking up the rates of life-saving anti-allergy device known as the EpiPen. Heather Bresch, whose father is U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., became president of Mylan Pharmaceutical in 2009 and CEO in 2012. She is no stranger to controversy: She moved Mylan's headquarters to the Netherlands last year after a corporate “inversion” merger with Abbott Laboratories.
Sylville Smith (left) and protests against his killing in Milwaukee. With the media awash 24/7 with the charges and counter-charges between the two candidates for president from the major capitalist parties, police murders of African Americans and protests against them continue apace — receiving only cursory media attention.
Sacred Stone Camp. Growing in number and spirit, the Standing Rock Sioux protest against the Dakota Access Pipeline is swiftly gaining strength, as a federal hearing delayed a decision on the controversial project on August 24.
There are correlations between hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, and a range of health issues for Pennsylvania residents, according to a study released on August 25 by the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. The problems include nasal and sinus problems, migraines and fatigue The report, Environmental Health Perspectives, is the school’s third study over the span of the past year focusing on the adverse health effects of the controversial method for extracting gas from solid rock deposits, increasingly used in Pennsylvania.
Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos and FARC leader Ivan Marquez shake hands while Cuban President Raul Castro looks on. After the historic announcement on August 24 that negotiations have concluded in the Colombian peace process between the Colombian government and the left-wing Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), here are the five key points that have been agreed on. *** 1. End of violence
On the surface, it seems the war against ISIS in Syria is going well. On August 12, the town of Manbij was taken by forces of the Manbij Military Council (MMC) and the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). Then on August 24, the nearby border town of Jarablus was occupied by Turkish tanks and troops. Turkish forces were joined by Syrian fighters claiming allegiance to Islamist and other groups affiliated with the Free Syrian Army (FSA). In both instances, the US provided air cover. However, there the similarities end.
Basque independence activist Arnaldo Otegi has been banned from running as a candidate in an upcoming regional election in the Spanish-controlled Basque Country. An electoral authority ruled on August 24 that Otegi, who was released from jail in March, could not run as a candidate for left-wing Basque party EH Bildu due to a conviction of alleged links to terrorism.
Coca-Cola, McDonald's, Visa and the rest of the corporate sponsors of the August 5–21 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro won't be paying any taxes on the money they earn due to a tax exemption law that is set to cost Brazil hundreds of millions of dollars.
Since the announcement of an ordinance banning the wearing of burkinis on the beaches of the French Mediterranean city of Cannes in late July, France has been swept up in a new wave of Islamophobia. A further 17 municipalities have announced their own ordinances banning the burkini — the full-body swimsuit worn by some Islamic women. These bans have been endorsed not only by France’s far right, but by the Socialist Party Prime Minister Manuel Valls.
Colombians in Bogota watch the announcement of the final peace deal in Havana, Cuba, August 24. A groundbreaking peace deal has been signed between the government and left-wing Revolutionary Armed forces of Colombia (FARC) rebels. But while the more than 50-year-long war is finally over, difficult times still lay ahead to fully realise the promise of peace in the South American nation.
Residents of the favela of Horto protest against the imminent demolition of their community. “I am absolutely convinced that history will talk of the Rio de Janeiro before the Games and the much better Rio de Janeiro after the Olympic Games,” said Thomas Bach, president of the International Olympic Committee.
Forests in Cuba now make up 30.6% of the country’s land area, thanks to a reforestation initiative carried out by the socialist government, a new report has found. Titled Environmental Outlook: Cuba 2015, the National Office of Statistics and Information report details recent improvements in Cuba’s forest coverage, up from 27.6% in 2010. Cuba started the reforestation program in 1998. It is part of a select group of developing countries that have been able to maintain sustained forest growth.
In largely Kurdish Rojava in Syria's north, a profoundly democratic and revolutionary experiment is underway. A multi-ethnic, feminist and socialist-oriented society is being built from the ground up, organised around communes and other bodies of participatory democracy.
Aftermath of ISIS attack on HDP members' wedding. Gaziantep, August 20. The bombing of the wedding of two members of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (HDP) in the southern city of Gaziantep on August 20 killed 54 people, including 29 children. ISIS appears to be responsible, although like other attacks by ISIS in Turkey over the past year and a half, the targets have been opponents of the Turkish government of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
United States President Barack Obama has carried out classically colonial, imperialistic policies towards Africa during his time in office. John Feffer, from the Washington-based Institute for Policy Studies, said in a Common Dreams article: “Strip away all the modern PR and prettified palaver and it’s an ugly scramble for oil, minerals, and markets for U.S. goods.”
Economic Freedom Fighters' members. After the August 3 local government elections, it is not just the ruling ANC that is licking its wounds. The left also has very little to celebrate, outside of the consolidation of the anti-neoliberal Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) as the third biggest party in the country.
In 2000, renewable energy made up just 6.3% of Germany's electricity. By last year, it had risen to 31%. Cloudy Germany became a leading innovator in solar energy. It did so not by subsidising large power utility companies, but by mobilising hundreds of thousands into energy cooperatives. The two legs of this democratic energy transition are Germany's commitment to phase out nuclear power and its feed-in tariffs, which allowed small renewable energy producers to sell their electricity.
Hawzhin Azeez is member of Kobane Reconstruction Board in the largely Kurdish area of northern Syria and a former politics lecturer at Newcastle university. In Rojava, a profoundly democratic and revolutionary experiment is underway. A multi-ethnic, feminist and socialist-oriented society is being built from the ground up, organised around communes and other bodies of participatory democracy.
Striking Deliveroo drivers. Striking couriers for online food delivery company Deliveroo won a “major victory” in getting bosses to promise that they will not be forced to work under a piece-rate system, their union announced on August 17. Workers of the restaurant food delivery firm will not be made to sign a new contract that would downgrade wages from £7 per hour plus £1 for each delivery, to just £3.75 per drop-off.
Jeremy Corbyn addresses supporters. Despite a range of undemocratic measures by the Labour Party establishment in the face of hundreds of thousands of new members enthused by Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn's left-wing politics, Corby n looks set to win Labour leadership elections that finish on September 21.
Colombia has just emerged from 50 years of civil war, but its future is still uncertain. Amid the optimism prompted by the peace deal between the leftist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the government of President Juan Manuel Santos, it is easy to assume the slaughter of trade unionists and other activists is a thing of the past. However, 534 people were murdered from 2011 to last year — 134 of those trade unionists — according to Justice for Colombia, the British trade union-based campaign against paramilitary violence against the Colombian labour movement.
HDP MPs hold copies of Özgür Gündem in parliament, August 17. [This statement was released on behalf of the Peoples Democratic Party (HDP) on August 17.]

Culture

South African runner Caster Semenya won the women's 800m at the Rio Olympics in the fifth fastest time in Olympic history. Her win, and the petulant responses from the runners she beat, has drawn renewed attention to the problems facing international sports bodies as they struggle to maintain strict segregation by biological sex.
Radical Radio: Celebrating 40 years of 3CR 3CR.org.au, $49.50 I love this book. It is a showcase of four decades of Melbourne community radio station 3CR — one of Australia’s oldest and most progressive broadcasters, intertwined with the local and national landscape of political struggle from the mid 1970s until today. Page after page of informative, entertaining stories make for great reading.
Chanting “I love Celtics”, Palestinians have released a video praising the fans of Scottish football team Celtic FC for “one of the biggest solidarity actions in European football history”. It came as Celtic fans raised more than £100,000 by August 23 for Medical Aid Palestine — who deliver health and medical care to those “worse affected by conflict, occupation and displacement” — as well as to the Lajee Center for equipment to start a youth league, TeleSUR English said that day.