Issue 1117

News

Hazelwood Power Station, Australia’s dirtiest power generator and many decades past its “use by” date, will finally close on March 31.

Hazelwood’s closure is symbolic because of its size, its history and because it provides 20% of Victoria’s power. But technological advances and environmental concerns have finally caught up with it.

In May, majority owner ENGIE’s CEO Isabelle Kocher said the company was reviewing its remaining coal plants one by one and would close those with the most outdated technology.

Staff of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) have overwhelmingly rejected a proposed enterprise bargaining agreement that would cut workplace rights and conditions, for a pay rise well below inflation. A ballot announced on November 1 revealed that 70% of eligible staff voted against CSIRO management's proposed EBA, dealing a further setback to the Turnbull government's faltering public sector bargaining policy.

Members of Melbourne’s Kurdish community rallied outside the city’s Turkish consulate on October 28 to protest the arrests of the co-mayors of the city of Diyarbakir in south-east Turkey.

The two mayors, Gültan Kişanek and Firat Ali, were arrested on October 25 and accused of links to the banned Kurdish Workers’ Party (PKK). Kişanek is also an elected member of the Turkish Parliament for the pro-Kurdish Democratic Regions Party. She is also the city’s first female mayor.

The NSW Coalition government is under fire again after property owners in Sydney's south-west were hit by a "monumental stuff-up" in which at least 140 new buyers were not told they would be in the path of a future motorway before they bought their properties.

The blunder affects properties purchased between June 27 and October 24 this year that are in or near the planned F6 extension corridor in Sydney's south and the Werrington Arterial project. The Labor opposition has linked the error with the privatisation of the agency responsible, Land and Property Information.

The Narcotic Drugs Amendment Act 2016 came into effect on October 30, allowing people to apply for a licence to cultivate cannabis for their own medical needs, to manufacture cannabis products for sale for medicinal purposes, or to conduct related research.

The Act now gives patients access to a safe, reliable and legal source of cannabis for medicinal use. Previously patients had to import medicinal cannabis products.

On October 28, the 100th anniversary of the first conscription referendum, historian Michael Hamel-Green gave a talk at the Brunswick Library entitled "When Australians said no to war".

Hamel-Green said that in official commemorations of World War I there is "amnesia" about the divisions among the Australian people over the war.

When the initial high level of voluntary recruitment to the army declined, Labor Prime Minister Billy Hughes decided to introduce conscription for overseas service — conscription for service within Australia was already legal.

Victorian Planning Minister Richard Wynne said changes to planning laws about to be introduced mean they could force the developers behind the demolition of Melbourne's Corkman Irish Pub to "replicate the site immediately prior to demolition".

The heritage listed 159-year-old Corkman Irish Pub, previously known as the Carlton Inn, was illegally demolished on October 15.

Its owners had no building or planning permits.

Before the demolition, the developers commissioned an architect to draw plans for a 12-storey tower on the site.

Residents of Yarraville in Melbourne’s inner western suburbs have campaigned for years to ban heavy truck traffic through the suburb.

Despite some victories such as truck curfews at night and during school hours, and the promise of eventual diversion of traffic through a planned bypass, residents now face the prospect of B Double trucks being diverted through the suburb.

Family First Senator Bob Day finally resigned from the Senate on November 1 “effective immediately”, in a major setback for the federal government's plan to revive the controversial, anti-union Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC).

Day first announced his intention to resign on October 17, after his housing businesses were placed into liquidation. He then suggested he might stay on until November so he could vote on the ABCC bill and other legislation.

Melbourne’s Herald Sun newspaper has once again vilified the unemployed by publishing an article linking methamphetamine use with being on welfare. Only individuals who had been arrested by police were surveyed in the study mentioned in this piece.

The October 18 front page article read: “70% of ice users arrested by police admit being on welfare, nationwide survey finds”. However, this does not mean 70% of those receiving welfare payments are ice users.

Three activists scaled the roof of immigration minister Peter Dutton’s Brisbane electorate office on November 2 to protest the government’s proposed new immigration law.

Activists Scarlett Squire, Kelly Purnell and Ellen Sargent climbed the roof and unfurled an Australian flag covered in blood.

Under the proposed law, any asylum seeker attempting to enter Australia by boat will be banned from ever entering the country.

Results in the October 22 Victorian local council elections were mixed.

The Greens won big increases in representation in Melbourne’s inner city councils, the two socialist councillors retained their positions, but racists retained their positions on a couple of councils.

The Greens stood more candidates than in previous council elections. They retained 13 of their 16 council seats and won an extra 16 council seats.

A police action on October 28 evicted occupants of Bendigo Street houses, which had been compulsorily acquired by the former coalition government for the East West Link project that was later scrapped by Labor.

Joel from the Homeless Persons Union of Victoria told Green Left Weekly the eviction was in violation of an agreement with the state government that the houses would be vacated and the keys handed over to assigned occupants of public housing.

The house which was seized was waiting to be occupied by First Nations occupants, he said.

Crowd at a forum

Hundreds of people attended the first leg of the 100% Renewables Roadshow in Adelaide on October 31, demonstrating strong community support for renewable energy in South Australia.

Solar Citizens National Director Claire O’Rourke spoke about their Homegrown Power Plan, which maps out a proposal for how Australia can get to 100% renewable energy by 2030.

The Illawarra Knitting Nannas Against Gas (IKNAG) quizzed candidates in the November 12 Wollongong by-election in a Meet the Candidates knit-in on October 29.

“Right now the Stop CSG fight is neither won nor lost,” said Nanna Annie Marlow. “After passing legislation a year ago on its Strategic Release Framework the Baird government has stalled. One year on there is not a murmur from Parliament House of where they intend to allow coal seam gas mining in NSW and the Nannas are nervous because there is no area in the state that is protected.”

Geelong Trades Hall announced on November 2 that Tim Gooden has formally resigned as secretary and treasurer after 11 years at the council’s helm.

Colin Vernon, formerly an Industrial Health and Safety Organiser in Geelong with the Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union, Forestry and Furniture Products Division, was endorsed as secretary.

Gooden notified Trades Hall of his decision to vacate the positions in a letter to president Jacqueline Kriz.

Analysis

Guardian journalist and self-proclaimed “socialist feminist” Van Badham’s latest article is entitled “Time to hail Hilary — and face down the testosterone left”.

 

In August, Pamela Curr from Asylum Seeker Resource Centre (ASRC), and Sister Brigid Arthur, from the Brigidine Asylum Seekers Project, travelled to Christmas Island to visit the men seeking asylum, who are currently held in the detention centre, more than 2600 kilometres from the nearest capital city, Perth. On their return they presented this report.

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Since Prime Minister Malcom Turnbull replaced Tony “coal is good for humanity” Abbott, the Adani Carmichael mine, the Galilee Basin and environmental “lawfare” has been out of the news. But an increase in the coal price and Turnbull’s apparent change of view means the Coal Wars are back. This is a review of some of the key claims at the heart of the Australian coal debate.

CLAIM: The Adani mine will create 10,000 jobs.

The socialisation of essential services is fast becoming a formidable policy in the “contestable marketplace of ideas”. Nowhere is this more so than with railways and bus services; an everyday service all social demographics touch daily.

British Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn believes nationalisation and socialisation will save millions of pounds a year, get community members back to work, augment sustainable transport and retool British industries.

The Mining and Energy Division of the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) released a statement on October 28 calling for tougher laws to hold employers accountable for workers’ deaths on site.

This follows reports that mining company Anglo American has pleaded guilty to failing to meet their safety obligations, causing the death of Paul McGuire.

The maximum penalty is a fine of $550,000, but Anglo had been offered a deal of a fine of $100,000 and $15,000 in investigation costs.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull is seeking to make changes to Australia’s national environment act to stop conservation groups from challenging ministerial decisions on major resource developments and other matters of environmental importance.

Stop the war on refugees banner at rally

After ripping up Australia's commitment to the 1951 Refugee Convention on several occasions in the past, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced on October 30 that the Australian government intends to do so again.

In the latest iteration, the government is threatening to formally prevent any refugee who arrives by boat from ever getting an Australian visa. This would include short-term tourist and business visas, let alone the permanent protection envisioned by the Refugee Convention.

World

About 300 million children live with outdoor air so polluted it can cause serious physical damage, including harming their developing brains, the United Nations said in a study released on October 31.

Nearly one child in seven around the globe breathes outdoor air that is at least six times dirtier than international guidelines, according to the study by the UN Children's Fund. The study called air pollution a leading factor in child mortality.

Eritrea marked 25 years of independence from Ethiopia this year, but its citizens remain victimised by one of the world’s most repressive governments.

They suffer arbitrary and indefinite detention; torture; inhumane conditions of confinement; restrictions on freedom of speech, movement, and belief; and indefinite conscription and forced labour in national service.

This interview by John Pilger with Jullian Assange was filmed in the Embassy of Ecuador in London – where Assange is a political refugee –  and broadcast on November 5.

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John Pilger:

What’s the significance of the FBI's intervention in these last days of the U.S. election campaign, in the case against Hillary Clinton?

Julian Assange:

In July 1915, three brothers presented themselves at Glencorse Barracks on the outskirts of Edinburgh to enlist in the Royal Scots. The First World War was almost a year old, but despite the mounting casualty lists and a growing realisation that it would not be over anytime soon, my grandfather and his two brothers joined up.

FIFA, the world’s ruling body of football (soccer), has banned wearing poppies to mark the death of British soldiers in war, which has provoked a confected outrage by British media and politicians.

The football associations of England and Scotland intend to defy the ban in the two national teams’ match on Armistice Day on November 11. In the editorial below, British left-wing daily The Morning Star responds to the hypocrisy of those opposing FIFA’s ruling.

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On November 4, Turkish authorities issued arrest warrants for all 59 MPs of the Kurdish-based left-wing opposition Peoples Democratic Party (HDP). The party’s leaders, Selahattin Demirtaş and Figen Yüksekdağ, and several other MPs were taken into detention.

Demonstrators gathered on November 2 in the Colombian capital of Bogata and the US capital, Washington DC, to simultaneously protest outside the International Finance Corporation, the private lending arm of the World Bank, against the shares it holds in Canadian mining company Eco Oro Minerals Corp.

The company’s sole asset is a mining concession in one of Colombia’s high altitude wetlands, known as the paramos, which provides fresh water for millions of Colombians, the Center for International Environmental Law said in a statement.

In the end, on October 29, it all worked out rather well for Mariano Rajoy. After patiently implementing his motto that “all things come to he who waits”, the leader of the conservative People’s Party (PP) was that day confirmed as Spain’s prime minister for a second four-year term.

Normal operations were apparently resumed in the institutions of the Spanish state after 10 months of turmoil arising from the inconclusive general election results of December 20 and June 26.

The pictures of thousands of Thais crying and wearing black after the death of King Pumipon might lead a sane person to conclude that most Thais were political half-wits with a slave-like mentality. That would be a wrong conclusion.

We have to factor in the royalist military repression. Anyone criticising the king can be jailed under the draconian lese-majeste (insulting the monarch) law. Added to this is the green light given by the junta for mobs of fanatical royalists to “deal” with dissidents.

French authorities announced their operation to demolish “the Jungle”, the makeshift refugee settlement in the northern French port of Calais, was completed on October 26, with refugees bussed to government-controlled centres dispersed throughout France.

But this claim was contradicted by chaotic scenes of the camp in flames and more than 1600 unaccompanied minors being excluded from the transfer to other camps. All the while, British and French politicians bickered over whose responsibility they were.

The regime of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan took a further leap towards undisguised dictatorship, intensifying its crackdown against the democratic and left-wing opposition, independent media and the Kurdish population.

On October 25, Co-Mayors of the Diyarbakır (Amed) Metropolitan Municipality, Gültan Kışanak and Fırat Anlı, members of the Kurdish Democratic Regions Party (DBP), were arrested.

A bill in Ireland to ban hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, passed the first stage of approval on October 27 as lawmakers voted it through the country’s House of Representatives (Dáil Eireann).

BREAKING NEWS November 5 — The regime of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan took a further leap towards undisguised dictatorship with the issue of arrest warrants for all 59 Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) MPs by the Diyarbakir Chief Prosecutor's Office, Kurdish Question reported.

Thirteen HDP deputies including party leaders Selahattin Demirtaş and Figen Yüksekdağ have already been detained.

Police began descending on water protectors protesting against the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) at Standing Rock in North Dakota on November 2. Common Dreams said images on social media showed the dramatic standoff along a creek that borders a construction site for the long-opposed DAPL.

The crackdown by the Turkish regime of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan against the democratic and left-wing opposition, independent media and the Kurdish population has intensified. On October 25, co-mayors of the the Diyarbakır (Amed) Metropolitan Municipality, Gültan Kışanak and Fırat Anlı, members of the Kurdish Democratic Regions Party (DBP), were arrested.

Free Women’s Congress (KJA) spokesperson Ayla Akat Ata was detained at a protest calling for Kışanak and Anlı's release and is now facing terrorism charges alongside them.

An air raid by the Saudi-led coalition killed at least 60 people in Yemen, most of them inmates of a prison near the city of Hodeidah on October 30, TeleSUR English said that day.

The prison was struck three times on October 30 by coalition fighter jets in the latest attack on civilian facilities, including hospitals, by Saudi Arabia and its allies over the past year-and-a-half.

A Reuters witness at the security complex said the building was destroyed and medics pulled about 17 bodies away, many of them missing limbs. Others remained trapped under the rubble.

Tamils in the northern province of Sri Lanka carried out a one-day strike on October 25 in protest against police repression, Tamilnet said. The strike was called by Tamil political parties after the October 20 murder of two Jaffna University students by Sinhalese police officers.

Demonstrators express anger on October 30 at the death of Mouhcine Fikri.

In Morocco, thousands of people have been protesting across the country after a fish seller was crushed to death in a garbage truck on October 28 while trying to retrieve fish confiscated by police.

Video circulating online appears to show Mouhcine Fikri jumping into the back of the truck to rescue his swordfish, before being crushed to death by its compactor. According to local reports, Moroccan authorities prohibit the sale of swordfish at this time of year.

Culture

Australian soldiers during the Boer war.

Unnecessary Wars
Henry Reynolds
Newsouth, 2016
266 pages

Australia’s first war — the Boer War in South Africa, 1899-1902 — notes historian Henry Reynolds in Unnecessary Wars, was closely bound up with the uniting of the six Australian colonies into a single nation within the British empire.

This conjunction of militarism, nationalism and imperialism was ominous. Australia has never broken the habit of being at the military beck and call of its imperial managers.

Veteran socialist filmmaker Ken Loach’s new film I, Daniel Blake, tells the story of two people trying to survive under Britain’s increasingly cruel welfare system.

Many conservatives have claimed the film presents a “romanticised” view of the poor and that the harsh realities it depict are exaggerated — despite a large number of real-life examples similar to those features in Loach’s film. Below, comedian Mark Steel responds to Daily Mail columnist Toby Young, who said the film “didn’t ring true”. It first appeared at The Independent.

Resistance!

There are 105,000 homeless people in Australia. In NSW and Victoria there has been a 20% increase in the rate of homelessness in the past decade. This shows that homelessness is a structural issue, one that charity is not capable of fixing.

The current homelessness services are incredibly scarce and designed to fail anyone in need of accommodation.