Issue 1127

Australia

The Australian government, at the behest of the United States, has decided to boycott major United Nations nuclear disarmament negotiations beginning on March 27. It argues that US nuclear weapons are essential for Australia’s security and therefore should not be prohibited under international law.

Australia ranks equal 15th overall in a new World Bank scorecard on sustainable energy, tied with five other countries in the bottom group of wealthy OECD countries.

The Regulatory Indicators for Sustainable Energy (RISE) provides benchmarks to evaluate clean energy progress.

RISE rates country performance in three areas: renewable energy, energy efficiency, and access to modern energy (excluding advanced countries), using 27 indicators and 80 sub-indicators.

Severe coral bleaching could return to the Great Barrier Reef in the next four weeks scientists warn, after new bleaching and unusually high ocean temperatures have been documented.

Newly bleached corals have been discovered near Townsville.

Vast swathes of the Great Barrier Reef have been placed on Alert Level 1 by the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Coral Reef Watch for the next four weeks — meaning that coral bleaching is likely.

More than 400 people rallied for abortion rights outside the Queensland parliament on February 16 in the lead up to a March 1 debate on decriminalising abortion in the state.

One feature of the rally was the strong support by unionists speaking out in favour of the campaign demands. General secretary of the Queensland Council of Unions Ros McLennan gave a powerful speech criticising the “weak-kneed hand-wringing and flip flopping” of the state's politicians when the “right thing to do is just so clear”.

Victoria passes Climate Change Act

Victoria’s new Climate Change Act, which was passed on February 23, will set Victoria on the path to zero climate pollution.

The act will establish a target of net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050; require five-yearly interim emissions targets from 2020 onwards; improve accountability and transparency on efforts to cut emissions; and ensure all arms of government are factoring climate change impacts and emissions reductions into their decision making and policy setting.

Eaten Fish

Iranian cartoonist Eaten Fish (Ali Duranti) ended his hunger strike after 18 days on February 18. He went on hunger strike to protest being sexually assaulted and guards ignoring his complaints, often bullying him in response.

Australians overwhelmingly believe keeping asylum seekers on Manus Island and Nauru indefinitely is cruel, but are evenly split on whether they should be resettled in Australia. 

This was the result of a survey by Roy Morgan Research over February 18 to 19.

The poll found a majority of voters in Victoria (52%), NSW (51%) and Tasmania (58%) supported bringing those on Manus and Nauru to Australia.

A majority of voters in Queensland (53%), WA (57%) and SA (54%) opposed resettlement in Australia.

The Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) and other construction unions are organising national rallies on Thursday March 9 against the Turnbull government’s war on construction workers.

The resurrected Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC) is an attack on the industry and it will endanger lives.

A protest was held on February 18 in response to the City of Melbourne’s proposed by-law amendments that ban any form of public camping and make it easier for the confiscation of unattended property — essentially criminalising rough sleepers in the streets of Melbourne.

About 65 workers at the Parmalat dairy factory in Echuca, Victoria, have been locked out since January 18 in a dispute over the company's plan to radically slash pay for new employees.

Parmalat is a national dairy company, whose brands include Pauls, Oak and Vaalia. In February last year it was bought by French-based company Lactalis, the largest dairy manufacturing company in the world. Emmanuel Besnier, CEO of Lactalis, has a personal worth of $6.7 billion and in 2015, Parmalat Australia’s sales revenue was $1.65 billion.

"We will do everything we can to make sure Westpac decides they won't fund the destruction of the Great Barrier Reef and the Adani coal mine," Amy Gordon, from the Australian Youth Climate Coalition (AYCC), told a crowd of about 200 outside the head office of Westpac Bank on February 20. The rallies were organised by the AYCC and 350.org.

A push is underway to set up a safe injecting room in the Melbourne suburb of Richmond to reduce the number of fatal overdoses of drug users.

With the state coroner and other medical professionals supporting the push, Sex Party MP Fiona Patten has introduced a private member’s bill to set up a trial safe injecting room, which was debated in state parliament on February 22.

The misnamed Fair Work Commission decided on February 23 to cut Sunday penalty rates. This will slash the take-home pay of about 700,000 workers in the retail, hospitality and fast food sectors by up to $6000 a year.

The commission will also reduce public holiday penalty rates for full-time and part-time workers in these industries.

Victorian Trades Hall Council and We Are Union called a snap action outside the Fair Work Commission in Melbourne just before the decision was announced.

World

Marginalised communities from Native Americans to Black people to Muslims and Latino immigrants, who have suffered under successive US governments for centuries, are now up against a new aggressive and blunt attack by President Donald Trump. Aside from rolling back a slew of rights in just weeks in office, Trump has also stoked the sparks of a new resistance across identity lines with the potential to draw on diverse histories of oppression and struggle.

Amid the horrors of Syria’s multi-sided civil war, a ray of hope has broken out in the north.

Led by left-wing Kurdish forces in Rojava following a 2012 insurrection that liberated the area from the regime’s control, the Rojava Revolution aims to build a new system on the principles of women’s liberation, a multi-ethnic participatory democracy, ecology and solidarity.

In a very lacklustre ceremony, with almost no international presence save a delegation of US diplomats, Jovenel Moïse was appointed president of Haiti this month. But no media outlet reported that, at the same time, Haitian streets were boiling with protests in rejection of Moïse and his administration. 

US meddling in Ecuador's politics is likely to continue, especially if left-wing candidate Lenin Moreno wins the presidential election, set to enter a second round on April 2, Norwegian journalist Eirik Vold, told TeleSUR. 

In Honduras, indigenous leader Jose Santos Sevilla has been assassinated by armed gunmen in his home in Montana de la Flor, north of the capital, Democracy Now! said on February 21.

Santos Sevilla was the leader of the indigenous Tolupan people, who are fighting to protect their ancestral lands from industrial mining and logging projects. In 2015, the United Nations special rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples warned of rampant violence against Tolupan organisers, including assassinations, as well as state impunity for the perpetrators of these crimes.

Protest against Trump's anti-Muslim immigration ban in Los Angeles.

“Where did you get your name from?”

“Are you Muslim?”

These were the questions asked of Muhammad Ali Jr. at Fort Lauderdale–Hollywood International Airport on February 7, before being detained for “several hours” by immigration and customs officials.

Ni Una Menos (“Not One More”) Collective is a feminist collective against male violence based in Argentina. In an article below, translated by Liz Mason-Deese, the group explains how its strike against gender violence last year has evolved into the call for an International Women’s Strike on March 8, International Women’s Day.

Below is the platform of the International Women’s Strike US. It is slightly abridged from International Women Strike USA.

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The International Women’s Strike on March 8 is an international day of action, planned and organised by women in more than 30 different countries.  

Ecuador’s National Electoral Council (CNE) announced on February 22 that the presidential race will head to a second round after left-wing candidate Lenin Moreno came first in the February 19 election, but fell agonisingly short of the 40% needed to win a first-round victory.

Moreno, from the ruling Alianza Pais (AP) of outgoing President Rafael Correa, won 39.35% of the vote. He beat right-wing Guillermo Lasso of the opposition CREO party by more than 10 percentage points, with the ex-banker winning 28.12%.

The widespread jubilation when it was announced that Puerto Rican political prisoner Oscar Lopez Rivera would be released in May shows that liberation struggle still resonates in the Caribbean island that remains a United States colony.

Protesters have been camping outside a Sri Lankan Air Force base since January 31 at Keappaapulavu on the north-eastern coast of the island of Sri Lanka.

Women are playing a leading role in the protest. They are demanding the return of their land, which was taken away to create a military zone. 

The Keappaapulavu base is one of many military bases built throughout the north and east of the island. After the defeat of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, who had been fighting for an independent Tamil homeland, Tamil areas are under what amounts to a military occupation.

March for refugees in Barcelona, February 18.

Hundreds of thousands of people overflowed the streets of central Barcelona on February 20 in the largest ever European demonstration in support of refugee rights. The city police estimated attendance at 160,000 people; the organisers — the “Our House, Your House” campaign — put it at half a million people.

All along the vast march, its thematic sea-blue placards stood out in the light of the bright winter’s day: “Enough excuses! Let’s take them in now!"

The Trump administration is pressing on with its reactionary agenda amid ongoing mass protests.

Wall Street and businesses, big and small, greeted Trump’s election with elation in anticipation of his campaign promises to rapidly eliminate regulations they regard as onerous. As Trump seeks to fulfil these promises, the capitalists are moving to take advantage of the chance to rake in greater profits.

A London protest against Donald Trump.

Nearly 2 million Britons have signed a petition calling on President Trump’s official state visit to be canceled. On February 20, thousands of protesters gathered outside Parliament in London as British lawmakers debated whether to deny Trump a formal state visit. Democracy Now! spoke to Asad Rehman of Friends of the Earth International. He spoke at the protest in London on February 20. The video and transcript are below.

Analysis

The February 23 ruling by the so-called Fair Work Australia Commission to allow the slashing of weekend penalty rates for those working in the food and retail sector is a direct attack on some of the most vulnerable and underpaid workers in Australia.

Green Left Weekly’s Chris Jenkins spoke to Aaron Beardsell, WA state organiser of the newly formed Retail and Fast Food Workers Union (RAFFWU) about the new union and the challenges facing workers in their sector.

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With the decision by the misnamed Fair Work Commission to slash the take home pay of some of the lowest-paid workers, it is worth restating that all wealth in our society is created by workers and not capitalists.

Profits come from the difference between the value of the goods and services created by a worker and what they are paid for their work. Some of this "surplus value" is invested back into production, but the rest is siphoned off as profit.

The appointment of former Queensland Labor premier Anna Bligh as CEO of the Australian Bankers' Association (ABA) is a desperate public relations ploy by the Big Four Australian banks to head off a looming royal commission into their crimes and misdeeds.

It seems unlikely to succeed, given the anger in the community against the Big Four — the Commonwealth, National Australia Bank, Westpac and ANZ — and their systematic gouging of the general public.

The first few weeks of the Donald Trump administration have been extraordinary, and quite frightening — not just because of the incompetence of a president who appears to be little more than a self-obsessed idiot, but also by the actions of the dangerous ideologues at the helm of the world’s biggest economy and military power.

Legislation passed in the Queensland parliament on February 14 could mean that Wicked Campers’ vehicles with misogynist slogans that vilify women and promote rape culture are taken off the road from March 31.

The legislation says operators who refuse to remove “inappropriate” words or pictures within 14 days will have their vehicles deregistered. The Advertising Standards Board (ASB) will be responsible for determining if a slogan is inappropriate on receipt of a citizen’s complaint.

It was a packed night at the Stonewall Inn, a Mafia-controlled gay bar in downtown New York City on June 28, 1969. Stonewall was the only bar in town where gays could dance together, which meant that despite it being dilapidated — there was no running water behind the bar, no fire exits, the toilets overflowed — there was a heavy door charge and the drinks were overpriced.

Visiting Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has urged Sri Lankans held in immigration detention centres on Manus Island and Nauru to come home. “Come back. All is forgiven,” he said in Canberra on February 15 after talks with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.

Even though they had broken the law in trying to flee to Australia he insisted they would not face prosecution if they returned.

Activist, teacher and mother of two, Petrina Harley, grew up in the suburbs of Perth. She is a fierce advocate for human rights, her main passions being rights for the LGBTI community, illegally detained asylum seekers and stopping the Roe 8 freeway.

She is standing for the Socialist Alliance in the WA state election alongside Sam Wainwright in the South Metropolitan Legislative Council. Harley was interviewed by Green Left Weekly by Chris Jenkins, who is standing in the seat of Fremantle.

Gas giant Santos’s Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for its proposal to create a gasfield in the Pilliga Forest was made public on February 21, two weeks after it was lodged with the government for assessment. It will be on public exhibition until just April 24.

The EIS shows that Santos still intends to drill coal seam gas (CSG) production wells despite widespread protests over the trouble-plagued Narrabri Gas Project.

The Donald Trump regime in the United States is stepping up its attacks on clean energy, and emboldening the Australian federal government to do likewise.

Trump has recently appointed Scott Pruitt as Administrator of the US Environmental Protection Agency. In his first interview, Pruitt announced that he would eliminate the Clean Power Plan, introduced by President Barack Obama in 2015. The Clean Power Plan was aimed at reducing the US’s carbon emissions from power generation by 32% by 2030.

Jews Against the Occupation released this statement on February 21, as the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu arrived in Sydney for a four-day visit.

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Jews against the Occupation are strongly opposed to the red carpet welcome being given by the Australian Government and Opposition to the Prime Minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu.

Culture

George Mann is a folk singer from New York. He is also an activist, artist and staunch unionist.

Mann is returning to Australia to perform his inspiring collection of activist folk songs. He is an annual visitor to Victorian Trades Hall and Geelong Trades Hall. He has a dedicated following, especially among the trade unionists who love his rousing rendition of labour movement favourites like, “Union Maid” and “The Internationale”.

I often hear that music and politics should remain separate. I snigger at such a concept; as if they have ever been separate.

Those proponents may as well take the next logical turn and suggest that drugs and pop have never taken the same fork in the road.

Without some form of statement, music would have become as relevant as the novella, or Spanish mime.

Every turn in society has been reflected in the music of the day, from medieval folk to early jazz and blues, to punk and beyond. In some societies, it is one of the few ways of telling how brutal life is.

Palestinian artists, cultural groups and human rights supporters have welcomed the Australian-British singer Natalie Imbruglia’s cancellation of her planned March performance in Tel Aviv and thanked her for deciding to be “on the right side of history, on the side of the oppressed”.

Mapping My Return: A Palestinian Memoir
By Salman Abu Sitta
American University in Cairo Press
2016

Given the centrality of memory and history to the modern Palestinian identity, it is fitting that the number of memoirs and diaries being published by Palestinians seems to be rising.

Immediately after contributing to his team’s Super Bowl victory on February, Martellus Bennett of the New England Patriots was asked what he thought about an upcoming visit to Mexico to represent the National Football League (NFL).

“Tear down the wall! Tear down the wall! That’s what I think about going to Mexico,” he cried.

Bennett then became the first of a number of Patriots players to confirm they would skip a visit with President Donald Trump at the White House.