Issue 1126

News

I teach at Victoria University, in the heart of Footscray. Footscray is an extremely vibrant and bustling suburb with an incredible population diversity, which is also reflected in VU’s student and staff population. This diversity is a real asset to our university and I feel privileged to be able to teach in such a unique environment.

The federal government announced changes to Centrelink’s controversial automated debt recovery system on February 14.

The changes include no longer demanding immediate payment from people who dispute a debt; allowing people to use bank statements, instead of hard-to-obtain payslips, to prove their income; making it easier to contact Centrelink; and allowing people to by-pass the MyGov portal to review their debt.

But unions, community groups, Labor, the Greens and GetUp! have all warned the changes do not address fundamental flaws with the system.

First Nations activist Lex Wotton has announced he will contest the state seat of Townsville as an independent in the yet-to-be-announced Queensland election.

Wotton was jailed for two years for his role in the Palm Island riots of 2004.

More recently the Federal Court found that police breached the Racial Discrimination Act after the death of Cameron Doomadgee, but the Queensland Government has appealed the ruling.

It was this appeal that spurred him into action.

The Save Our Councils Coalition (SOCC) has announced a "Put the Liberals Last" campaign in the coming state byelections in NSW, with SOCC spokesperson Phil Jenkyn saying: "They [the Liberals] will be massacred in the North Shore byelection."

The group was responding on February 14 to the decision by Premier Gladys Berejiklian to push ahead with the forced amalgamations of 20 urban councils and continue to pursue the mergers of the five Sydney councils that are currently taking legal action against the plan.

In Melton, an outer-western suburb of Melbourne, Shane Gillard, a man with links to the far-right group Soldiers of Odin, used Facebook to blame “Sudanese thugs” for a carjacking on February 9.

However, as police reports of the incident surfaced, the truth emerged: no Sudanese immigrants were involved, but two men had a violent altercation in a carpark before the offender, “of Caucasian appearance”, stole the other's car.

Firefighters save flying foxes

Temperatures above 40°C on February 10 and 11 were perilous for Canberra’s flying fox colony in Commonwealth Park.

Extreme heat can cause them to become distressed and sometimes die, as happened in Singleton, where temperatures over 45°C killed hundreds of grey-headed flying foxes.

Knowing the risk to the animals, volunteers from ACT wildlife, the National Capital Authority, Jerrabomberra Rural Fire Service Brigade and ACT Fire and Rescue combined to spray water on the animals.

Legislation was passed in Queensland parliament on February 14 that will mean operators who refuse to remove “offensive” slogans from vehicles within 14 days will have their vehicles deregistered.

Deputy Premier Jackie Trad said the legislation was targeted at the van rental company Wicked Campers, whose vehicles often displayed “sexist, demeaning slogans”.

The Advertising Standards Board will be responsible for determining if a slogan is inappropriate.

About 200 people marched from Hyde Park to the NSW State Parliament on February 13 to demand an end to the forced removal of Aboriginal children from their families and for Aboriginal control of Aboriginal child welfare. They chanted, "What does Sorry mean? You don't do it again!"

The march, organised by the Sydney branch of Grandmothers Against Removals (GMAR), was held on the ninth anniversary of former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's apology to the Stolen Generations.

“Stop WestConnex! No WestConnex!” rang out across Macquarie Street from a snap action of up to 100 people outside NSW Parliament on February 14. A number of anti-WestConnex groups gathered at short notice after the Australian National Audit Office released its damning report into WestConnex.

My friend and comrade Marc Newhouse died peacefully at home on February 12 at the age of 58, surrounded by his family and close friend, Nyoongar Elder Uncle Ben Taylor Cuiermara.

Marc was a well-known and respected activist in the WA progressive community. He played a leading role in the First Nations Deaths in Custody Watch Committee for more than 15 years.

“How can Shadow Minister for Renewables David Southwick continue to hold his title while opposing investment in wind and solar?” asked Friends of the Earth renewables campaigner Pat Simons after the Victorian Liberals declared they would abolish the state renewable energy target if elected.

Protesters gathered outside his Caulfield offices on February 14 with a banner reading “Shadow Minister against renewables” and also outside state Opposition leader Matthew Guy's office in Bulleen. 

Derryn Hinch and the three Nick Xenophon Team Senators voted with the government on February 15 to pass a bill fast-tracking the new federal building code that outlaws union-friendly agreements on Commonwealth-funded building sites, such as schools, hospitals and roads.

The clauses include union consultation provisions, restrictions on the use of labour hire staff, and requirements for non-working site delegates.

Up to 3000 construction companies will now have to replace their union-friendly agreements before they can become eligible to win lucrative federal contracts.

Members of the Australian Young Greens (AYG) met in Canberra over January 27 to 29 for their annual conference which included Senator Lee Rhiannon addressing the climate emergency and the need for a just transition.

AYG members also elected a national leadership, headed by co-conveners Axeris Sondyre and Robyn Lewis.

The conference took place as rumblings about the direction of the Australian Greens increased following the emergence of an anti-capitalist tendency called “Left Renewal” which was condemned by the party's leader, Richard Di Natale.

Attorney-General George Brandis has moved fast to neutralise a recent Federal Court finding that all, not just some, native title claimants must agree for an Indigenous Land Use Agreement (ILUA) to be valid. The February 2 ruling overturned a ruling in 2010 that had decided the opposite.

The Community of Upset General Householders (COUGH) organised a rally outside the Western Australian Department of Health on February 10 to protest the clearing of bushland for the Roe 8 freeway despite clear evidence of large quantities of dumped asbestos littering the site.

Local residents and activists have documented asbestos remaining on site after Main Roads-commissioned clean ups. They are concerned that the movement of machinery and mulching of cleared vegetation with pieces of asbestos has exposed residents to an unacceptable risk. 

The preference deal announced on February 11 between the Liberals and One Nation, leaving the Nationals furious, is adding to what is expected to be a highly contested state election on March 1 in Western Australia.

The deal has the potential to give One Nation the balance of power in state parliament. It represents further inroads by the far-right party into electoral politics. It also demonstrates the vulnerability of the Liberal Party, which has been in power for the past eight years, and the growing schism between it and its traditional running mates — the National Party.

Western Australia goes to the polls on March 11. Green Left Weekly spoke to Chris Jenkins, left, who is standing for the Socialist Alliance in the seat of Fremantle.

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What are some of the key issues you want to raise this state election?

In contesting the state election, the Socialist Alliance hopes to start a public discussion about who is genuinely entitled to use the resources we have as a society and the processes by which they are allocated.

Analysis

Vegetation creates rain. That is one of the conclusions of a review of more than 150 scientific papers on land-clearing’s impact on rainfall, conducted by Dailan Pugh for the North East Forest Alliance (NEFA). The review, Clearing Our Rainfall Away, reveals how land-clearing affects rainfall and its impact on the climate.

Federal Treasurer Scott Morrison pulled out a lump of coal in parliament on February 9 and launched a rant in which he accused the opposition of “coal-o-phobia” and regurgitated PM Malcolm Turnbull's outrageous National Press Club speech urging more coal-fired power stations be built.

Morrison went wild while behind him other Liberals and Nationals joined in a pantomime by passing the lump of coal to each other.

Somewhere along the way, many vulnerable children in state care turn to crime. How this happens and what can be done about it are two of the most important crime-prevention questions facing society.

Evidence indicates that, if the care-to-crime pathway is not acknowledged and addressed, today’s vulnerable kids will become tomorrow’s criminals.

Right-wing politicians have blown hard on the anti-renewables dog-whistle since February 8, when extreme temperatures in South Australia were followed by rolling electricity blackouts.

Late that afternoon, power demand in the state spiked to near-record levels. From about 6pm, 100 megawatts — roughly 3% of the state’s total demand — was shed for about half an hour.

Here are some surprising facts about humans’ effect on planet Earth. We have made enough concrete to create an exact replica of Earth 2mm thick. We have produced enough plastic to wrap Earth in clingfilm. We are creating "technofossils”, a new term for congealed human-made materials — plastics and concretes — that will be around for tens of millions of years.

Western Australia goes to the polls on March 11. Green Left Weekly spoke to Chris Jenkins, who is standing for the Socialist Alliance in the seat of Fremantle about what is at stake.

* * *

What are some of the key issues you want to raise this state election?

In contesting the state election, the Socialist Alliance hopes to start a public discussion about who is genuinely entitled to use the resources we have as a society and the processes by which they are allocated.

1. People choose to be homeless

By “banning” homelessness, Melbourne City Council is implying it is a “choice”. Homelessness is usually the cause of a range of interconnected factors, some of which include poverty, unemployment and family violence. There is also a shortage of affordable housing and jobs that pay a living wage.

World

Members of the Argentine Metal Workers’ Union (UOM) marched to the Ministry of Labour in Buenos Aires on February 14 in protest of thousands of jobs cut from electronics manufacturing companies.

The cuts came after a government decision to eliminate a 35% tax on computer imports.

Protesters gathered in front of the National Congress of Argentina before marching to the offices of the Ministry of Labour, Employment and Social Security, with many banging drums and waving flags.

Other unions also took part in the demonstration.

A strike at Chile's Escondida copper mine, the world’s largest, entered its fifth day on February 13 with few signs of speedy resolution as workers threaten to stop production for up to two months.

Workers began a strike at the Australian-run BHP Billiton mine on February 9 to put pressure on the company after failing to reach an agreement in wage negotiations.

The union said its 2500 members are committed to action and threatened a two-month work stoppage, leading BHP to admit that it will not be able to meet its contractual obligations.

Palestinian journalist Muhammad al-Qiq has begun a new hunger strike in protest of how Israel has once again detained him without charge or trial.

An immigrant rights march in Los Angeles.

Thousands in the streets across US for Weekend of Action

The resistance is taking many forms in the United States, Common Dreams said, with some constituents showing up to lawmakers' town hall events to demand accountability and others taking to the streets to protest the Trump administration and its draconian policies. 

As anti-choice protestors revved-up to demonstrate at Planned Parenthood clinics throughout the United States on February 11, pro-choice activists beat them at their own game: the organisation's supporters outnumbered those calling for it to be defunded.

Throughout the country, the counter-demonstrations featured larger crowds than the anti-Planned Parenthood ones.

Despite global financial crises that have rocked the small South American nation in recent years, Ecuador has managed to achieve landmark social and economic progress in the past decade under the left-wing government of President Rafael Correa, according to a new report from the Centre for Economic and Policy Research.

Venezuela’s Foreign Ministry issued a statement on February 14 denouncing a move by the Trump administration to sanction Venezuelan Vice-President Tarek El Aissami over drug trafficking allegations.

On February 13, the Treasury Department froze all of El Aissami’s alleged assets in the US under the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act. This makes Venezuela’s vice-president the top-ranking official of any country to be sanctioned in this way.

"McDonald's workers clearly aren't lovin' Trump's immigration policies," Mashable.com said. "On Thursday, McDonald's restaurants across the United States, along with a variety of other businesses, closed their doors as part of a nationwide '

“Trump’s America,” wrote a leading African American journalist, Charles Blow in the New York Times, January 30, “is not America: not today’s or tomorrow’s, but yesterday’s.

“Trump’s America is brutal, perverse, regressive, insular and afraid. There is no hope in it; there is no light in it. It is a vast expanse of darkness and desolation.”

There is a lot of disgust toward Trump and his white nationalist strategist Steve Bannon, former executive chairman of Breitbart News, a leading promoter of conspiracy theories and white supremacists.

Thwe two statements below were released by the socialist Awami Workers Party (AWP) in response to the February 16 terrorist attack on the Lal Shehbaz Qalandar shrine in Sehwan, Sindh and the February 13 terrorist attack in Lahore. They are reposted from Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal.

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The July 15 coup attempt was a nightmare. Kurds remember the terrible army coups in Turkey’s past. After the coups, Kurdish people were jailed, killed and tortured.

Kurds are against military coups. By nightfall on July 15, the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) had immediately condemned the coup attempt.

Kurds thought that after the coup attempt, there may be a return to the peace process.

The reasons behind this were:

In the first ever visit by a serving Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu is scheduled to arrive in Australia this month as part of an international tour aimed at shoring up Israel’s reputation abroad.

The visit has actually attracted attention — but not the kind Netanyahu would like.

Since the huge Women’s Marches protesting Trump’s policies on January 21, there have been almost daily demonstrations against his policies.

These include rallies against his stepped-up raids and deportations of undocumented immigrants, in particular the Day Without Immigrant national protests on February 16 during which thousands of migrants went on strike and demonstrated across the country. 

In one week leading up to February 10, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents arrested nearly 700 people in raids in at least 11 states.

Tens of thousands of Mexicans protested in more than 20 cities on February 12 against US President Donald Trump. Marchers hit back at Trump’s anti-Mexican rhetoric and his depictions of them as “rapists” and “criminals”, demanding “the respecting of Mexico”.

“Mexico must be respected, Mr Trump,” said a giant banner carried by protesters in Mexico City, who waved a sea of red, white and green Mexican flags as they marched down the capital’s main avenue.

Jock Palfreeman is a 30-year-old Australian man wrongly jailed for the murder of a neo-Nazi in Bulgaria in 2007. Palfreeman came to the assistance of a Roma man being assaulted by a gang of fascist football hooligans. During the ensuing fight, one of the attackers was fatally stabbed.

The dead youth came from a family with powerful political connections. Despite serious weaknesses in the case against him, Palfreeman was sentenced to 20 years in jail.

Culture

“The United States has almost 1000 military bases around the world, covering every continent, every ocean,” filmmaker John Pilger says. “China has one!” 

He points out: “The US Pacific Command in Hawaii claims responsibility for 52% of the Earth’s surface.”

The Coming War On China
Written & directed by John Pilger
http://thecomingwarmovie.com
Screening now, visit site for details

The Coming War on China is possibly John Pilger’s best film in years.

In classic Pilger style, the Australian-born filmmaker — responsible for dozens of films critical of great power — depicts the threat the US war machine poses in the Asian region in the context of the rise of China.

Resistance!

My generation has never experienced a below average temperature. The last time the global temperature was below average was in February 1985.

Meanwhile our political leaders — privileged white men in suits — brought coal into parliament and made jokes while they and their corporate mates continue to burn our collective future.