Issue 1116

Australia

The Queensland government has charged five former executives of Linc Energy with breaching environmental law over the operation of its underground coal gasification (UCG) site in Chinchilla from 2007 to 2013. They face up to five years in prison if found guilty.

Volunteer Fire Brigades Victoria (VFBV) has dropped its legal challenge to the Victorian Country Fire Authority (CFA) enterprise agreement in Victoria's Supreme Court. This enables the agreement to be put to CFA employees for a vote.

However, this is unlikely to be the end of the dispute. VFBV is likely to try other means of blocking the agreement.

Members of the National Union of Workers (NUW) at Caltex’s site in Lytton, Queensland voted to start indefinite industrial action on October 25.

NUW members decided to take indefinite action following attempts by the company to effectively cut workers’ wages by 15%. They had been pursuing a modest annual increase in line with the Consumer Price Index, to protect their current conditions.

Rallies against the systemic violence against Aboriginal people were held in Adelaide, Sydney, Perth and Brisbane on October 22.

The call to action was specifically protesting the murders in custody of Wayne “Fella” Morrison and Miss Dhu, the shooting of Dennis Doolan and the abuse and torture of Dylan Voller in Don Dale prison.

The Rank and File Team has re-won the leadership of the NSW Public Service Association.

Stewart Little, an advocate for the Police Association and part-time disability support worker defeated Anne Gardiner who had been elected general secretary in 2012 on the Progressive PSA ticket.

Gardiner abandoned the Progressives caucus shortly after her election and during her tenure focused on internal union reforms and favoured small target and multimedia campaigns around jobs and defending public services.

The Federal Court has overturned the federal government’s decision to allow a $180 million deep sea port on Melville Island near Darwin without an environmental assessment.

Approval of the Port Melville oil and gas marine supply base on the banks of the near pristine Apsley Strait was reversed on October 21 after legal action by the Environmental Defenders Office (EDO) on behalf of Environment Centre NT (ECNT).

The decision means the operation of the base at Port Melville now has no Commonwealth approval and all operations must cease.  

Anti-WestConnex tollway protesters picketed along the street in Salisbury Road, Newtown, on October 28, in opposition to attempts to carry out a test drill at the site. The drilling is part of the geological survey work required for possible future tunnelling under the nearby Royal Prince Alfred Hospital (RPAH).

As part of this year's Anti-Poverty Week, a conference in South Australia A looked at how a lack of jobs is changing the nature of unemployment into an increasingly long-term phenomenon.

Economist and author of Capital in the 21st Century Thomas Piketty gave a lecture entitled “Is Increasing Inequality Inevitable?” to a full house at the Sydney Opera House Concert Hall on October 23.

Piketty presented detailed research on growing income inequality compiled by a number of scholars and sourced directly from national taxation and income statistics from primarily advanced capitalist countries, as well as some statistics from a number of the BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa).

The Victorian Sentencing Manual, which acts as a guide to sentencing in all Victorian jurisdictions, now says a sex worker’s profession should have no impact on the sentencing of sex offenders who target them. The manual previously suggested that sex workers were less vulnerable in cases of sexual assault than other victims due to the nature of their work.

For the first time in ACT history, the majority of politicians elected to the Legislative Assembly are women. The final results revealed 52% of the ACT's politicians, or 13 out of 25, were women.

The final result of the election for the expanded 25-seat Assembly, held on October 15, was announced by Electoral Commissioner Phil Green on October 26. The make-up of the parliament will be Labor 12 members, the Liberals 11 and the Greens two.

The Huttonham Estate in Preston was one of Victoria’s first public housing estates when it was built in the 1940s.

Once home to 60 families, the houses were demolished five years ago and the land has been untouched and vacant ever since.

Now the Victorian government has revealed plans to build 68 public housing units and an unknown number of privately-owned dwellings on the land.

Housing groups say the land should be used for its intended purpose of housing low-income residents amid skyrocketing property prices in Melbourne.

In a coordinated effort on United Nations Day on October 24, the Knitting Nannas Against Gas (KNAG) made long-overdue citizens’ arrests of some of the biggest climate criminals in the land.

“The Great NannArrest” involved citizen’s arrests of MPs, including Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull at his eastern Sydney electorate office.

When they found the PM missing in action at his Edgecliff office, they arrested another Malcolm — a man wearing a mask.

A defiant action was organised on October 22 to protest the recent murder in custody of Wayne “Fella” Morrison.

Morrison died at Royal Adelaide Hospital on September 26, three days after a beating by prison guards at Adelaide’s Yatala Labour Prison left him brain dead.

The NSW Coalition has sold 50.4% of the publicly-owned power distribution network Ausgrid to a consortium of AustralianSuper and IFM Investors. It is spinning it as a "win" for the mums and dads. The reality is otherwise. Without public ownership of energy, we have very little chance of moving swiftly to more sustainable options, as the climate science demands.

Charges of offensive language against three protesters at a Community Action Against Homophobia protest against NSW Christian Democrat politician Fred Nile in September last year have been dismissed after a year-long court battle.

On October 25, all charges and fines against Cat Rose, Patrick Wright and April Holcombe were dismissed after a judge ruled that chanting “fuck Fred Nile” and “fuck off bigots” through a loudspeaker does not constitute offensive behaviour.

Those who believe empowered communities are the best defence to politics-as-usual are celebrating the re-election of two hard-working socialist councillors — Sue Bolton and Stephen Jolly — in Victoria’s local council elections held on October 22.

The University of Sydney has acknowledged many times that students have the right to peacefully protest. For 65 days that is exactly what students and supporters of the university’s Sydney College of the Arts (SCA) did — until dawn on October 25 when 15 police and 20 guards forcibly ended their protest.

The students had been protesting since the university informed students and staff on June 21 of its plan to merge SCA with the University of NSW’s Art & Design Student Centre and the National Art School in Darlinghurst.

Caltex workers on picketline

Members of the National Union of Workers (NUW) at Caltex’s site in Lytton, Queensland commenced indefinite industrial action on October 25.

The site manufactures lubricants and motor oils. Its key clients are mining companies. It is the only Caltex lubricant manufacturing plant in the country.

After a successful morning's picket that saw trucks backed up to the motorway, NUW members at Caltex lubricants in Brisbane have voted to repeat the blockade tomorrow morning from 5am.

World

Close to 100 students and youth were arrested on Parliament Hill on October 24 for their participation in what organisers described as “the largest act of youth-led climate civil disobedience in Canadian history.”

Protesters targeted the Kinder Morgan pipeline, which Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will rule to accept or reject this year.

Filipino President Rodrigo Duterte’s statement declaring his intentions to “separate” from the United States in both military and economic relations should be welcomed, but it’s easier said than done. Hence the president’s constant “backtracking” on his statements.

Given the president’s inconsistency, the question is posed: What does it mean to be an anti-imperialist government today? And is lining up with China (and to a lesser-extent Russia) an anti-imperialist positioning?

Marking a grim milestone, the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) has reported that 2016 is the deadliest year ever for migrants trying to reach Europe.

The agency said on October 26 that at least 3800 migrants — many of them fleeing war in their home countries — have died or gone missing in the Mediterranean Sea this year. This is despite a significant drop in attempted crossings compared to last year.

The Republican candidate in the November 8 presidential race is lining up his excuses for why he’s going to lose: the media is against him, Democrats are faking ballots from undocumented immigrants and dead people and on and on.

After a year of political turmoil, Venezuela turned a corner recently, at least according to an eye-catching October 21 op-ed in The Washington Post. Titled “It’s official: Venezuela is a full-blown dictatorship”, the piece claimed the country has become an “all-out, no-more-elections dictatorship”.

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced the start of an assault to recapture Mosul, the most important Iraqi city held by ISIS, on October 16.

The assault is spearheaded by the Iraqi army and the peshmerga, the armed forces of the Kurdistan Regional Government in northern Iraq. It also includes the Popular Mobilisation Units (PMU), an umbrella group of militia groups loyal to the Iraqi government and based in Iraq’s Shi’a Arab communities, and some other Iraqi militias.

Police arrested 141 people at Cannonball in North Dakota on October 27, moving in with pepper spray and armoured tanks on Native American water protectors and other activists who for months have waged resistance against the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL), Common Dreams said t

Venezuela is again grabbing headlines in the media, amid allegations of lack of democracy and exaggerated accounts of nonetheless very real economic problems.

Much commentary puts the problems facing the country down to the alleged “failed populism” of Venezuela’s pro-poor Bolivarian Revolution. Last month, the New York Times even compared Donald Trump to Venezuela’s late socialist president Hugo Chavez in an article titled “What Hugo Chavez can teach us about Donald Trump”.

The tribulations of major European banks, starting with “venerable institutions” like the Monte dei Paschi di Siena (the world’s oldest bank) and Deutsche Bank (Germany’s largest), have raised the spectre of a repeat of the crash of 2008 — a “Lehman Brothers times five” in the words of one market analyst.

Deutsche Bank has been found to be seriously under-capitalised, both according to the standards set under the Basel III international bank regulation standards and according to its own targets. The same goes for British giant Barclays.

The statement below was released by Pakistani socialist group, the Awami Workers Party (AWP) in response to an October 24 terrorist attack that killed dozens of people in Quetta, the capital of the Balochistan province. Balochistan has long been the victim of violent attacks from both state and terrorist forces.

In a historic step toward lifting the blockade on Cuba, the United States abstained Wednesday in the United Nations General Assembly vote, unanimously calling for the end of the Cold War measure for the 25th consecutive year.

"The United States has always voted against this resolution," said US representative to the UN Samantha Power. "Today, the United States will abstain."

The announcement from Venezuela's electoral authority on October 20 that it would head a court ruling and not proceed with a recall referendum has unleashed yet another wave of critical articles and opinion pieces throughout the English-speaking media, labeling Venezuela government as “authoritarian” or even a “dictatorship.”

Analysis

Celebrations of multiculturalism happened in 26 cities and rural locations across Australia on October 22 as part of Welcome to Australia events organised under the theme of “Walking together to welcome refugees”.

In Sydney, helium balloons, musical performances, bright red shirts and smiles gave it a carnival like atmosphere. For some it would have been their first refugee rights event.

Canadian author, journalist and activist Naomi Klein has been selected as the recipient of the 2016 Sydney Peace Prize for, as the Sydney Peace Prize Jury put it, “exposing the structural causes and responsibility for the climate crisis, for inspiring us to stand up locally, nationally and internationally to promote a new agenda for sharing the planet that respects human rights and equality, and for reminding us of the power of authentic democracy to achieve transformative change and justice.”

A new report has found that methane leakage and fugitive emissions from unconventional gas fields are likely to be much higher than industry estimates, largely because it is neither accounting for nor reporting on them.

Green Left Weekly is launching a subscriptions drive for the final months of the year as part of expanding our base of readers who regularly receive Australia's premiere weekly socialist publication.

Campaigning for Sue Bolton brought the issue of elder care into stark relief for Susan Price.

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Out door-knocking for Sue Bolton in Moreland during the local council elections, we came across a dilapidated block of flats in an otherwise gentrified part of Brunswick.

One of the last doors in the block was answered by an elderly man still in his pyjamas, breathless and clearly in distress. All he could manage to say was, “Can you please call someone?” I took one look at him and said, “Are you ill? Would you like us to call an ambulance?” He nodded.

Long-term US activist Angela Davis addressed an overflowing lecture theatre at Melbourne University on October 24.

In a wide-ranging lecture and discussion, Davis looked at the criminalisation and incarceration of communities most affected by poverty and racial discrimination.

Davis drew upon her own experiences in the 1970s, when she spent 18 months on trial after being placed on the FBI’s “Ten Most Wanted List”.

Ultimately, the only way to ensure a secure future for jobs is to replace the whole capitalist system with one in which human need is prioritised above corporate profits.

The NSW government wants to privatise hospitals in Maitland, Wyong, Goulburn, Shellharbour and Bowral. But people are fighting back. Brett Holmes, general secretary of NSW Nurses and Midwives’ Association, lays out the arguments.

Culture

Ink In Her Veins: The Troubled Life of Aileen Palmer
Sylvia Martin
University of Western Australia Publishing, 2016
328 pages

In 1939, a young Australian woman grabbed the international headlines when she threw red paint onto the doorsteps of 10 Downing Street, whilst distributing leaflets hidden in copies of the Ladies Home Journal.

The action by Aileen Palmer was to protest the blood that then-British prime minister Neville Chamberlain had on his hands for selling out Spain and Czechoslovakia to European fascism.

Building the Commune
By George Ciccariello-Maher
Verso Books, 2016

Every commune is different, George Ciccariello-Maher says in Building the Commune, but “the coffee is always too sweet, and the process is always difficult, endlessly messy and unpredictable in its inescapable creativity”.