Issue 1109

News

The South Australian government has finally admitted that oil drilling in the Great Australian Bight is a risk, with two government reports highlighting the risks of spills and shipping and threats to marine life. The Department for Planning, Transport and Infrastructure’s South Australian Marine Spill Contingency Action Plan admits: “The intended drilling activities increases both the South Australian and West Australian risk profile with respect to possible spills from the rig itself as well as an increase in shipping movements to and from the rig.”
The federal government has published a proposed law to restrict the rights of firefighters and other emergency service workers. The new law will amend the Fair Work Act to ban enterprise agreements covering workers employed by a “designated emergency management body” from containing “objectionable” terms — including requirements for management to consult with the relevant union.
As we go to print, the students occupying the Sydney College of the Arts (SCA) administration building at Rozelle can proudly say that theirs is the longest occupation in the history of the University of Sydney. It has now surpassed the 10-day occupation, in 1983, of the Department of Political Economy. The occupiers want the university to guarantee it will let SCA stay at Callan Park, drop its proposal for a 60% staff cut and reinstate the Bachelor of Visual Arts (BVA).
The Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) and the Australian Maritime Officer's Union (AMOU) have hailed a High Court victory that will protect local jobs on offshore oil and gas projects and curb the exploitation of foreign workers. The High Court unanimously ruled on August 31 against the federal government's decision to exempt workers on vessels in the offshore oil and gas industry from visa requirements. The unions argued that the exemptions provided an incentive for companies to hire foreigners on lower wages and undercut safety standards and conditions.
More than 60 people took part in a vigil outside the Broadmeadows Magistrates’ Court on September 2 to support Jasmine Pilbrow who was found guilty of “interference with a crew member of an aircraft”. In February last year, Pilbrow refused to take her seat on a Qantas aircraft in which a Tamil asylum seeker was being taken to Darwin before being deported to Sri Lanka. Melanie Brown told the gathering her friend had peacefully explained to others on the plane her reasons for taking the action. Two other people then also stood up.
Australia’s first health clinic catering solely for the needs of the transgender and gender diverse community has opened. The Equinox Gender Diverse Clinic, a peer-led trans-focused clinic, is run by the Victorian AIDS Council. The clinic bulk bills, making the service accessible to the entire transgender community. Starting with a GP service, Equinox plans to expand into a counselling service later this year, and beyond that into addressing trans homelessness.
Refugee rights activists are pleased with the September 1 announcement that Wilson Security will not tender for another contract for Australia's offshore detention centres, but say the camps must be closed immediately. Wilson's contract ends in October next year. It follows an announcement in May by Ferrovial, a Spanish infrastructure company which took over Broadspectrum (formerly Transfield), that it would not be renewing its contract on Manus Island and Nauru when it ends in February.
New research suggests that Tasmanian devils are evolving resistance to Devil Facial Tumour Disease (DFTD), which has seen devil populations decline by between 80% and 90%. Following the extinction of the thylacine in the 1930s, devils have become the top marsupial predator, keeping numbers of feral cats at bay. With the decline of the devils, feral cats have grown in numbers and small mammals on which cats prey have declined. Scientists have identified significant changes in DNA samples of devils from regions with DFTD.
Workers in retail and fast-food outlets, including Woolworths, Hungry Jack's and KFC, are being underpaid more than $300 million a year, in a national wages scandal centred on deals struck with the socially conservative Shop, Distributive & Allied Employees Association (SDA). Fairfax Media has uncovered evidence that some of Australia's biggest employers are paying their employees less than the award in a longstanding and cosy partnership between big retail and fast-food employers and the union.

Independent MP for Cairns Rob Pyne was once again the lone voice in the Queensland parliament against the Adani coalmine on August 30. While 300 people protested in the city centre at 24 hours’ notice, the Queensland Parliament was considering a motion to "support the development of Adani's Carmichael mine". The motion was moved by notorious mining industry apologist Andrew Cripps from the Liberal National Party in the wake of a Federal Court decision in favour of the mine. The vote was 87 to 1, with Pyne the lone voice of dissent.

Just 10 days after dismissing a challenge from a Queensland traditional owner to the granting of mining leases for Adani's Carmichael coalmine, on August 29 the Federal Court dismissed the application by the Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) for judicial review of environment minister Hunt’s decision to grant mining licences to Adani.
Communities across Victoria have won a permanent ban on unconventional gas mining and fracking. It is the first state to do so and sets a precedent for other states and territories to follow. The Labor state government announced on August 30 it was banning unconventional gas and extending the moratorium on conventional gas until 2020. More than 1.4 million hectares of the state had been under threat from some form of gas mining — coal seam gas, tight gas, shale gas and underground coal gasification.
Chants of “No cuts, no fees, no corporate universities” rang out loudly from hundreds of university students in Melbourne's CBD on August 24. They came from RMIT, Swinburne, Monash, Melbourne University, Deakin University and other tertiary institutions. The protest was part of a national day of action organised by the National Union of Students against the Coalition government's cut to subsidies for undergraduate places, by 20%, as well as its plans to deregulate fees for particular courses.
Over the past six years, a strong grassroots campaign has been waged to build a solar thermal power plant in Port Augusta, South Australia. The campaign has brought together diverse stakeholders including local community members, workers, environment groups, unions and the local council. Together they have pushed for coal, the town's traditional energy source, to be replaced with solar thermal technology, which would provide baseload power for the state.
Narrabri community group People for the Plains lodged an appeal on August 29 against a decision of the New South Wales Land and Environment Court to uphold the approval of Santos's coal seam gas (CSG) wastewater treatment plant near the Pilliga Forest in north-west NSW. The approval was given for the Leewoood CSG wastewater plant without an Environmental Impact Statement or public consultation. That approval was upheld by the court on August 1.
A Tamil man in Villawood detention centre is facing imminent deportation to Sri Lanka today, Thursday 1 September. At short notice, several refugee rights activists and members of the Tamil community gathered outside Villawood Detention Centre to protest the deportation this morning. Lawyers have filed for an injunction in the courts, and are waiting for the verdict. Raj Kumar (not his real name) is 46 year's old and has spent four years in detention. Two of his brothers have been killed in Sri Lanka.
Communities across Victoria have won a permanent ban on unconventional gas mining and fracking. It is the first state to do so and sets a precedent for other states and territories to follow. On August 30, the Labor state government announced it was banning unconventional gas and extending the moratorium on mining conventional gas until 2020.
Geelong locals, with the support of the Geelong Trades Hall Council, plan to hold a rally at 12noon on September 2 at the office of Federal MP for Corrangamite, Sarah Henderson, to ask her to cross the floor for marriage equality. Acting Secretary of Geelong Trades Hall Council Colin Vernon said: “This is such an important issue for so many people and it would be nice if the Conservative Liberal government could stop playing party political games with people's lives for once and just get on with it.” The rally organisers released this statement on August 31. * * *
Independent MP for Cairns Rob Pyne was once again the lone voice in the Queensland parliament against the Adani coal mine on August 30. While 300 people protested in the city centre at 24 hours notice, the Queensland parliament was considering a motion to "support the development of Adani's Carmichael mine". The motion was moved by notorious mining industry apologist Andrew Cripps from the LNP in the wake of a federal court decision in favour of the mine.

Analysis

Well-respected socialist activist Sue Bolton is recontesting her position as councillor for the North East Ward in Melbourne's City of Moreland Council election. Bolton, a member of Socialist Alliance, was elected in 2012 on a platform of “Community need, not developer greed”. An experienced working-class activist, Bolton was born in western Queensland, and worked (among other things) as a bus driver and public servant, and has been an active trade unionist over many years.
Racism is responsible for the murder of a young boy near Kalgoorlie on August 29. It is one of several recent examples that demonstrate that the sentiment behind the US #BlackLivesMatter movement is just as relevant in this country. National attention has focused on the case in large part because hundreds of people protested outside the Kalgoorlie courthouse on August 30. Windows were broken and police cars were damaged — small biscuits compared to the loss of a young boy's life.
Last month I read an article that first appeared in the Huffington Post titled "X Marks the Spot Where Inequality Took Root: Dig Here". It explains how real wages in the US shadowed growth in productivity in the years after World War II. But in the mid-1970s wages growth completely stalled. If wages had continued to shadow productivity growth they would now be double what they are today. This explains a lot about contemporary US society: all the gains of increased productivity have been absorbed by the rich.
Photos by Chelsea Dennison The good turnout to national rallies on August 27 and 28 shows the refugee rights' movement is starting to gain political ground. A number of pro-asylum seeker groups are forming to force an end to the cruel policy of locking up refugees in offshore detention.
In a big development in industrial dispute involving Carlton and United Breweries (CUB) and the 55 maintenance workers it has sacked in Melbourne, the contractor at the centre of the dispute, Programmed Skilled, has broken its contract with the brewery. The 55 workers were sacked in June — then offered their jobs back with a 65% pay cut. The company brought in unskilled scab labour, with the sacked workers, backed by the Electrical Trades Union (ETU) and the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union (AMWU), picketing the Abbotsford factory.
The Fremantle Council voted 10-1 to drop its annual Australia Day fireworks on August 24 in recognition of how sensitive this date is for many First Nations peoples. It is worth restating the obvious: modern Australia, like Canada, the US, New Zealand and South Africa, began as a colonial-settler state founded on the violent dispossession of its Indigenous peoples. But Australia is the only one to hold its national day on the very date that marks the beginning of that dispossession.
Pro-choice protest outside Queensland parliament, May 10. Pro-choice activists in Queensland have expressed disappointment at the release of a parliamentary report on August 26 that failed to support the bill before Queensland parliament to decriminalise abortion.
Northern Territory voters kicked out the ruling Country Liberal Party (CLP) government on August 27 in what has been described as an “election bloodbath”. Voters rejected the CLP for many reasons, which opens up the possibility of a more progressive politics in the NT.
6000-strong march against Baird in Sydney on May 29.. “Beyond the amiable, good-bloke persona, [NSW Premier] Mike Baird is an aggressively neoliberal politician, who has quietly privatised dozens of state entities.

World

The Bolivian mining cooperative protests and the August 25 killing of the Bolivian Vice-Minister of the Interior Rodolfo Illanes by cooperative miners requires us to question our assumptions about the cooperatives. Most of Bolivia’s mining cooperatives began during the Great Depression as miners banded together to work a mine in common. However, like many cooperatives in the US that arose out of the 1960s, they have turned into small businesses. Regardless of their initial intentions, cooperatives existing in a capitalist environment must compete in business practices or go under.
Jeremy Corbyn speaks at a rally supporting besieged Kobanê. London, October 19, 2014. Britain’s socialist Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn is campaigning for re-election as party leader in the face of sustained hostility from the right wing of Labour and the corporate media.
More than 2 million Bolivians have been lifted out of extreme poverty in the past decade since President Evo Morales's government came to power. Bolivia's economy is on course to grow by 5% this year, placing it among the top performers in Latin America. It is one sign of Bolivia's rapid economic transformation. Another indicator is falling poverty rates. When Morales took office in 2006, the rate of extreme poverty was 38.2%. This year, the figure is 16.8%.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) says 4475 people were killed in the nation's horrific civil war during July. Of these, 1289 were civilians, including 263 children. Almost three quarters of these civilian casualties were killed in airstrikes by the government or its ally, Russia, and other attacks by the pro-government side, SOHR said. Since the Syrian Civil War began in 2011, more than 400,000 people have been killed, between 4-to-5 million people have left Syria as refugees and about 8 million have been internally displaced.
Tens of millions of public sector workers in India went on strike to protest Prime Minister Narendra Modi's push for privatisation and other right-wing economic policies. “This strike is against the central government, this strike is for the cause of the working people,” Ramen Pandey of the Indian National Trade Union Congress told Al Jazeera.
Since the extra-judicial killing of Burhan Wani, a Kashmiri independence fighter, by Indian security forces in a village in south Kashmir on July 8, hundreds of thousands of Kashmiris have once again taken to the streets in protest. Kashmir is occupied by India and the territory is also claimed by Pakistan. Many Kashmiris, however, are struggling for independence.
Refugees rescued from the Mediterranean. Lampedusa, August 30. Despite the public outcry over the death of three-year-old asylum seeker from Syria, Alan Kurdi, in the Mediterranean last year, Oxfam said refugee deaths have risen since then. World refugee deaths over the past year have risen by more than one-fifth, according to international charity Oxfam.
Protest against coup regime. October 31, 2015. It can be said that any “international bad press” about Thailand’s military junta generated by the comments from Western governments is welcome — especially when they demand the release of political prisoners. But none of these governments can be relied upon or trusted to maintain a principled stand against the military dictatorship.
Violent opposition protest. Caracas, September 1. Thousands of Venezuela's right-wing opposition took to the streets in Caracas on September 1 in a menacing march labelled “the taking of Caracas”. The demonstration aimed to prod election officials to speed up the legal process for a recall referendum to remove President Nicolas Maduro from office before the end of this year.
Pro-revolution march on August 30. Photo via TeleSUR. The statement below was released by the Philippines-Venezuela Solidarity Network (PhilVenSol) on August 31. It comes after calls from Venezuela for international solidarity against new US-backed destabilisation against the elected government and revolutionary movement. ***
Thousands of students took to the streets on August 27. Photo by Dinesh Selvarajoo. Students took to the streets of Malaysia's capital Kuala Lumpur on August 27 to call for the immediate arrest of Malaysia's Prime Minister Najib Razak for corruption.
Brazil has been hit by protests demanding 'Fora Temer' (Temer out) since the right-wing political was first temporarily installed in May. Brazil's de facto president Michel Temer was sworn in on August 31, after the country's Senate voted to impeach suspended President Dilma Rousseff.
United States State Department spokesperson John Kirby said on August 31 that Brazil's democratic institutions had acted within the country's constitutional framework when the Senate voted to oust elected president Dilma Rousseff and install Michel Temer as the new leader. The US defence of the process that removed Brazil's elected president stands in contrast to many critics, including several Latin American governments, who have labelled it an institutional coup.

Culture

Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal has launched the first of two important collaborative projects that will be of much interest to left activists and scholars internationally.
BoJack Horseman Created by Raphael Bob-Waksberg Designed by Lisa Hanawalt Starring Will Arnett, Amy Sedaris Created by Raphael Bob-Wakesburg in collaboration with Lisa Hanawalt, who had previously worked with him on the web comic Tip Me Over, Pour Me Out, the critically acclaimed for BoJack Horseman is a black comedy satirising Hollywood and celebrity culture. The 2016 Critics Choice Award winning show follows the exploits of BoJack (Will Arnett), a washed up former star as he struggles to regain relevance in Hollywood.
Explaining why he refused to stand for the “Star Spangled Banner” before a preseason game on August 26, San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick said: “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of colour. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”
Behind Enemy Lines Provocalz Ft Ancestress Released August 7, 2016 Free download https://provocalz.bandcamp.com/track/behind-enemy-lines On Monday July 25, Australia's ABC Four Corners program broadcast footage of Aboriginal children being abused in detention, bringing to international attention a story that had been largely ignored for years. "Behind Enemy Lines" is the measured, heartfelt response from Aboriginal rapper Provocalz and Ancestress, a strong Dawson River Murri mother, singer, rapper, writer, poet, actor and visual artist.

Resistance!

New research into youth employment by the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU), released on August 30, has found that young people are struggling to find work and urgently need support. The survey, conducted by QDOS Research, polled 500 young Australians aged between 18 and 24 in the first half of the year.