Issue 1125

Australia

Refugee activists have been holding LetThemStay actions and protesting against refugee policies outside the office of Federal Labor MP Sharon Claydon every Thursday afternoon since February last year.

The group, which includes members of The Greens, Socialist Alliance, Socialist Alternative, Quakers, Uniting Church, Catholics and Grandmother's Against Children in Detention, raise a chorus of supportive horns from passing traffic.

They say they will not stop until all refugees are free.

A man who was previously tried and acquitted of the murders of two Aboriginal children at Bowraville, on the NSW mid-north coast in the early 1990s, has again been charged with their murders.

The man, whose name has not been released, appeared at Newcastle local court on February 9 and was granted bail until his next court appearance in August.

Trump’s unstable executive orders loomed large at 2017’s first Left Q&A on “The rise of the populist right and the anti-globalisation backlash”. Common talking points at the February 4 forum held in Melbourne’s Trades Hall were Trump’s xenophobia, the demise of the Labor Party, the breakdown of consensus across the West and the new rejection of neoliberalism.

Panellists from the left lauded the worldwide anti-populist protests, legal battles and upsurge in left-wing action, while advocating an Australian left unity project.

Protesters gathered outside Melbourne’s Town Hall on February 7 ahead of a volatile council meeting to discuss proposed changes to council laws that would effectively make homelessness illegal in the community.

Camping is currently banned in Melbourne if a person uses a tent, car, caravan or other structure. Councillors voted 5–4 to broaden the definition of camping, a move legal experts say could lead to rough sleepers being forced to the outskirts of Melbourne or fined for sleeping with nothing more than "a cardboard box and blanket".

The CFMEU told a Senate inquiry building materials containing asbestos, formaldehyde and cheap glass that explodes are being imported and used in Australian building sites.

Assistant national secretary of the CFMEU Construction Division Brad Parker said the Australian Border Force was seriously under resourced to intercept the arrival of dangerous building products.

Eaten Fish (Ali Durrani), a 25-year-old Iranian cartoonist began a hunger strike on January 31 in Manus Island detention centre. He has now been on hunger strike for more than two weeks.

The Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA) published an open letter on February 5 calling on the federal government to free and resettle Eaten Fish and two other media colleagues, journalist Behrouz Boochani and actor Mehdi Savari.

Parliament has resumed sitting and immigration bills are on the agenda.

Immigration minister Peter Dutton is proposing a new bill which would give him executive powers to cancel anyone’s visa under any circumstance or for any reason — such as someone’s country of origin or religion.

It has drawn comparisons to Trump’s Muslim ban.

The other bill is the refugee visa ban which was held over from last year. It is unknown when debate on the bill will resume in the Senate.

The visa ban came under increasing pressure last year after it passed the lower house.

Australia–US deal

Is it back on? No one knows. Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull told the media that after that phone call with US President Donald Trump his strong approach had led many politicians in the US to call him to say the deal for the US to take up to 1250 refugees from Manus Island and Nauru will go ahead.

The situation is causing a lot of stress to refugees on Manus Island and Nauru. In response, the PNG government is requesting that additional police officers be deployed to Manus Island.

 

Corina Abraham is a Bilboolmirn Yorga, and recognised custodian of the Beeliar Wetlands in the lands of the Whadjuk people in the south-west of Western Australia. She is running as a Socialist Alliance WA candidate in the upcoming state election for the lower house seat of Willagee.

She spoke to Chris Jenkins about why she is standing in the election.

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Aunty Corina, what inspired you to run as a candidate?

The six “peace pilgrims” who were arrested last September on the Pine Gap US military intelligence base, near Alice Springs, have now received court summons.

Jim Dowling, Andy Paine, Tim Webb and Franz Dowling of Brisbane and Margaret Pestorius and Paul Christie of Cairns are each charged with trespass under the Defence (Special Undertakings) Act and face maximum penalties of between seven and 14 years in prison.

A map sent to the group No WestConnex: Public transport, not motorways by an insider has revealed plans for Stage 4 of WestConnex. Beginning with the Western Harbour Tunnels, this $11 billion, 22 km tunnel system is being readied before the planning has finished on Stage 2 and without any connection to Sydney Airport.

Sydney University has said it will not shut down the Sydney College of the Arts at Callan Park for at least two years and students will continue to study at the historic Kirkbride campus until the end of 2018.

The university has planned to close the art school since 2015.

Its latest proposal is to move the art school to the Old Teacher's College, on the Camperdown campus, by early 2019.

No students were accepted for the bachelor of visual arts this year.

Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) members in the federal Department of Human Services (DHS) have launched six days of rolling industrial action over the stalled enterprise bargaining process and the Centrelink robo-debt crisis.

Centrelink, Medicare and Child Support workers will strike and take other forms of industrial action over February 13 to 24.

"Save Our Councils Coalition (SOCC) was formed two years ago in opposition to the state government's forced mergers of local councils. We believe in local democracy," Carolyn Corrigan from SOCC told a rally outside the office of resigned Liberal MP Julia Skinner on February 5.

"Forced council amalgamations are a stitch-up. Big business and big developers are behind it. We want the stitch-up to be ripped up," she added, to rousing applause.

SOCC spokesperson Phil Jenkyn added, "Forced amalgamation is a deeply flawed process. Let's end this quickly.

Environment groups have raised concerns about the Victorian and federal governments’ decision to extend the East Gippsland Regional Forest Agreement (RFA). 

The RFA is a 20-year agreement between state and federal governments that exempts logging from compliance with federal environment law if the state implements measures to protect federally-listed threatened species. 

Goongerah Environment Centre spokesperson Ed Hill said: “Since the RFA was signed 20 years ago, federally-listed threatened species have dramatically declined.

The Victorian government has announced it will amend the National Parks Act in May to include the Anglesea Heathlands in the Great Otway National Park.

“Protection of Victoria’s richest and most diverse vegetation community, the Anglesea Heathlands, was long overdue,” Victorian National Parks Association executive director Matt Ruchel said on February 2.

“For decades we have campaigned with the Geelong Environment Council and local group ANGAIR to have the Anglesea Heathlands protected.

World

March against DAPL in San Francisco.

A Lakota prophecy tells of a mythic Black Snake that will move underground and bring destruction to the Earth. The “seventh sign” in Hopi prophecy involves the ocean turning black and bringing death to many sea-dwelling creatures.

It does not take an over-active imagination to make a connection between these images and oil pipelines and spills.

A union leader, M Sujeewa Mangala, was found blindfolded and dumped by the roadside on February 1, three days after being abducted by unknown armed men.

Mangala, the vice-president of the All-Ceylon Telecommunication Employees Union, has been playing a leading role in the struggle of temporary workers at Sri Lanka Telecom (SLT) for permanency. The workers are classified as “temporary” even though some have been working at SLT for more than a decade.

Jose Almudéver.

February 6 marked the 80th anniversary of the start of the “Battle of Jarama” during the Spanish Civil War, as left-wing and democratic forces fought to stop the fascist forces of General Franco taking power.

Alongside the Battle of Madrid, the Battle of Jarama is commonly associated with the participation of the International Brigades — volunteers, often organised by communist parties, who travelled from around the world to Spain to join the anti-fascist fight.

Veteran Communist Party of India-Marxist-Leninist (CPI-ML) leader Comrade Srilata Swaminathan passed away in Udaipur (Rajasthan) in the early morning of February 5. She was 74.

Comrade Srilata suffered a stroke on January 28 and was rushed to a hospital in Udaipur where she breathed her last following a cardiac arrest.

Left-wing British Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s relaunch of his campaign since the start of the year has seen him take a more combative and pro-active approach in putting forward his anti-austerity, anti-war agenda. In doing so, he has engaged more with the media.

Days of angry protests have hit Paris and other French cities after police raped and bashed a 22-year-old Black man on February 2.

Windows were smashed and fires were started in Paris's Menilmontant district on the night of February 8, TeleSUR English said the next day. Activists took to the streets to call for justice for “Theo” after French police were charged over his rape and abuse during a raid on a housing estate in the working-class department of Seine-Saint-Denis. One of the police officers has been charged with rape, while three others were charged with assault.

Sitting in Gwanghwamun square on December 31, the screen rapidly dialled up to 10 million as it added up the number of participants in the past 10 candlelight protests against the corrupt influence over President Park Geun-hye by powerful corporate interests.

Every Saturday evening for the last two months of 2016, people had come out in the streets calling for Park’s impeachment. On December 9, an impeachment motion had been passed in the National Assembly by an overwhelming vote.

Protests have hit the predominantly Tamil Northern Province of Sri Lanka in recent days.

On February 4, Tamilnet said 200 relatives of disappeared people gathered near the Jaffna District Secretariat building. Sivapatham Ilankothai told how her daughter and son-in-law and their three children disappeared after being taken away by the Sri Lankan Army on May 18, 2009. Many thousands of other Tamils have also disappeared in a similar way.

Donald Trump came roaring out of the starting gate after his inauguration, doubling down on the main themes of his election campaign. He moved quickly to initiate a slew of executive orders, tweets and rulings.

One major aspect of this is his drive to progressively concentrate ever more power in his own hands. Since the start of his campaign for president, Trump has maintained that the establishments of both the Democratic and Republican parties have failed to deal with the problems facing US people at home, and the decline in US power globally.

This call for a “militant international strike” on International Women’s Day on March 8 was written by US activists and academics Linda Martin Alcoff, Cinzia Arruzza, Tithi Bhattacharya, Nancy Fraser, Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, Rasmea Yousef Odeh, Angela Davis and Barbara Ransby. It first appeared in Viewpoint Magazine.

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The left-wing anti-austerity party Podemos is planning to hold its second country-wide citizens’ assembly (Vistalegre II) on February 11th-12th to decide the political direction, organisational structure and its electoral strategy for the next regional and general elections.

First Nations-led water protectors have called for mass protests after the US Army Corps of Engineers granted the final approval on February 7 for Energy Transfer Partners (ETP) to resume building the widely opposed Dakota Access pipeline (DAPL).

The approval came after President Donald Trump overturned an Obama administration order to halt construction under Lake Oahe, a large reservoir connected to the Missouri River that provides water to the Standing Rock Indian Reservation in North Dakota and South Dakota.

Analysis

President of the University of Sydney branch of the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) Kurt Iveson spoke to Green Left Weekly’s Rachel Evans about the university’s “spill and fill” tactic.

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What is happening to science administration staff? Have 110 staff been sacked?

The seeds of the current crisis of confidence in the capitalist parties in Australia go back to the 1980s when the Bob Hawke Labor government implemented its version of Margaret Thatcher’s neoliberal economic policies. The Hawke government also managed to achieve what previous Coalition governments had failed to do — seriously weaken the union movement.

While these reforms did not immediately create right-wing populism, once the reforms started to really bite by the late 1990s, it began to develop around Pauline Hanson.

Last year was by far the hottest year in the observation record, with the global average surface temperature 1.24° Celcuis warmer than the late nineteenth century, according to NASA data. This broke the record set the previous year of 1.12°C, which in turn broke the previous mark set in 2014 of 1.01°C.

Although the El Nino conditions of 2015–16 had some influence — perhaps 0.2°C — it is clear that the warming trend is 1°C or more.

Global warming has already increased the risk of major disruptions to Pacific rainfall, according to our research published in Nature Communications. The risk will continue to rise over coming decades, even if global warming during the 21st century is restricted to 2℃elcius.

The Occupy movement, which started as a protest against Wall Street, but ballooned across the US and internationally in 2011, adopted the slogan “We are the 99%” to symbolise the struggle for a better world against the greed of “the 1%”. Some people at the time thought it was an exaggeration to talk about the 1% versus the 99%, but according to Oxfam, since 2015, that richest 1% has owned more wealth than the rest of the planet combined.

The dual trial of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) in Western Australia has ended with a bilateral agreement signed on February 1 by the WA state and federal governments.

The WA model got the guernsey and will be locally run and administered. Starting in July, it will be rolled out to an estimated 39,000 people over the next three years. WA will pay all the administration and operating costs but governance responsibilities will be shared nationally.

After a 16-month battle to survive and then recover from a major brain hemorrhage in August 2015, long-time Green Left Weekly journalist and seller Terry Townsend is at last able to move out of the nursing home to live in his own home again.

Now he needs your help to ensure he is not confined there for the rest of his life, can reconnect with comrades and friends, and participate in political activities again.

The family of TJ Hickey is still being denied justice, 13 years since the 17-year-old died after being impaled on a fence in Waterloo during a police chase.

The refusal by successive NSW governments to bring the police officers responsible to court — and allow the family some closure — is testimony to the endemic racism First Nations people have to endure.

NSW police refuse to concede their officers were responsible for Thomas James Hickey’s death. They claim it was an accident. 

As economists debate whether this year will be economically better or worse for Australia, one thing is certain: we will all get screwed even more this year.

Last week, BusinessDay Scope economic survey for 2017 issued its survey of 27 leading economists from financial institutions, academia and consultancies.

Grassroots voices express support the the Abortion Rights rally on Thurs 16 February (5pm, Thurs 16 Feb, Speakers Corner - near Parliament House).

Culture

The New England Patriots won the NFL Super Bowl 34–28, in the most gobsmacking, unfathomable comeback in Super Bowl history. Down 28–3 against the Atlanta Falcons, they came all the back to win in overtime in Houston, Texas on February 5.

That will mean joy in the White House — as Donald Trump’s favourite American Football team is victorious. It is also joy for Patriots player Martellus Bennett, who won’t be joining the team upon their inevitable White House visit, in protest against the man inhabiting that space.

Oro
Written & directed by Alvin Yapan
Feliz Film Productions, 2016

Oro, the Filipino film written and directed by Alvin Yapan released in December, is based on the 2014 murder of four small-scale miners in Sitio, Lahuy.

For 20 years, Elmer (Joem Bascon) and his men have freely mined in the tiny but gold-rich island of Lahuy Island in the town of Caramoan in Bicol.

Time to Draw the Line
Directed by Amanda King & Fabio Cavadini
2016, 58 minutes
Demand.Film

A new documentary examines the largely overlooked story of the dispute between Australia and its near neighbour – the new state of East Timor.

In an article for The Conversation, Daryl Adair, a professor of Sport Management at the University of Technology, Sydney, makes a pertinent observation regarding the interaction between sport and politics: “It is sometimes said that sport ought to be separate from politics, or that politics should be removed from sport. These sentiments are well meaning – if idealistic.”

English singer Lily Allen unveiled a haunting cover of Rufus Wainwright's 2007 song “Going to a Town” along with a stark video of her performance of the track at the Women's March against Donald Trump in London on January 21,