Issue 1131

News

Hundreds of trade unionists braved the rain at Solidarity Park, outside the WA State Parliament, on March 21 to protest against what the organisers describe as a “war on workers”.

Students and academics at the University of New South Wales have mounted a major exhibition outlining a proposal for a radical redirection of the WestConnex tollway project from road to rail.

The exhibition, Civilise WestConnex, imagines what could be done if Stage 3 of WestConnex was cancelled and the other tunnels already under construction were converted from roads to train lines.

Residents, unionists and supporters marched and rallied on March 19 in Millers Point, to protest the continuing eviction of remaining public housing tenants of the Point, Dawes Point and the iconic Sirius Building. The event, which attracted about 200 people, was sponsored by the Millers Point Community Working Party and the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA).

“The fight to remain in our community goes on. The fighting spirit of the elderly, the frail and the vulnerable continues the struggle,” publicity for the action stated.

A public forum on March 17 discussed the implications of Melbourne City Council's proposed amendments to Activities Local Law 2009.

The changes would broaden the definition of “camping” to mean people currently sleeping rough could be forcibly moved on by police and face fines for possessing a piece of cardboard or bedding. The city of Melbourne would be effectively criminalising homelessness.

The Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC) was dealt another embarrassing blow on March 21.

The Federal Court dismissed all claims against the Construction Forestry Mining Energy Union (CFMEU) after finding prosecutors had made a deal with a confessed blackmailer to give evidence for the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC) in return for staying out of jail.

Parmalat workers victory

More than two months after 60 workers were locked out of a Victorian yoghurt factory, AMWU and ETU members voted on March 20 to accept an agreement that includes wage rises and improved redundancy provisions.

The agreement also included provisions making all production workers direct employees of Parmalat and for mandatory consultation with the union if contractors are engaged.

ACTU secretary Sally McManus congratulated the workers on wining "an epic battle with a multi-national".

Conan Zamolo, a former youth justice officer at Don Dale youth detention centre, has admitted he filmed himself bursting into a cell and repeatedly asking the boys in their beds to give him oral sex.

He was giving evidence to the Royal Commission into the Protection and Detention of Children in the Northern Territory.

Zomolo said he was "goofing around" in the videos and had a "good relationship with the kids".

Zamolo also admitted to the hearing he had filmed children being forced to eat bird faeces and posted the footage on social media site Snapchat.

A Sydney man has been awarded $3000 for being stopped by police for four minutes at Liverpool Station, after a court ruled this amounted to false imprisonment.

Sam Le was approached by two police officers in January last year and asked to produce his Opal card and pensioner concession card, along with photo identification to prove the cards belonged to him.

In a video captured on Le’s phone, he was told he was not under arrest but was “not leaving” until the officers had verified his identity.

The Victorian government announced on March 14 a $20 million tender, to install up to 80MW of grid-scale energy storage by 2018.

It invited proposals from batteries, pumped hydro, compressed air, flywheel, and solar thermal technologies.

But its deadlines, of 30MW expected to be installed by next summer and 50MW by the following summer, are impossible for two of those technologies to meet.

Pumped hydro facilities take several years to build, because dams, tunnels and pipelines would need to be built.

Manus Island protests

A year after the Papua New Guinea Supreme Court ordered that the Manus Island detention centre be closed, people are still living in the same compounds and sleeping in the same beds.

In the latest protest, as tensions simmer inside the detention centre, guards hastily withdrew from Mike Compound on March 18 after a protest erupted in the mess area following Border Force renovations that made the serving area more like a prison.

New laws to legalise abortions were passed by the Northern Territory parliament on March 21. The bill passed by 20 votes to four after a lengthy and emotional debate.

The new laws mean the NT joins the ACT, Victoria and Tasmania in decriminalising abortion and stands in stark contrast to NSW and Queensland, which have Australia’s most restrictive abortion legislation.

The University of Melbourne has renamed the prominent Richard Berry building for maths and statistics after a long anti-racism campaign by a group of staff and students.

Until his retirement in the 1940s, Berry was Australia’s leading voice in the pseudoscience of eugenics, which aimed to produce a superior human race by having suitable people breed, while at the same time sterilising those with “rotten heredity”.

A bill to remove the controversial "gay panic" defence from Queensland law was passed on March 21. It had been used by people accused of murder to claim they were provoked due to an unwanted homosexual advance.

Those who pleaded under section 304 of the Criminal Code (killing on provocation) reduced their criminal responsibility to manslaughter and avoided life in jail.

Attorney-General Yvette D'Ath said the bill delivered on an important promise to the LGBTI community of Queensland.

More than 1000 submissions were received about plans to build a $500 million waste-to-energy plant proposed for Western Sydney. Community members and health authorities have shown strong opposition to the incinerator and its associated health risks.

The incinerator, to be built at Eastern Creek, would use thermal technology to create electricity from waste that would otherwise go to landfill. While the proposal is designed to reduce greenhouse gases, there are concerns it could have a detrimental impact on air quality.

Nineteen doctors who are current or recent providers of abortion services in Queensland have signed a letter to the state premier calling for abortion decriminalisation to be resolved in the current term of parliament. This follows another delay in achieving legal reform after private member's bills were withdrawn earlier this year.

The signatories include an overwhelming majority of doctors performing abortion in Queensland.

Alomst 200 people marched through Brisbane on March 25 as part of the March in March mobilisation.

Analysis

According to the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO), electricity supply will be threatened as early as next year by “shortfalls in gas”, or failing that, households may face cuts to their gas supply

The childcare workers’ strike on International Women’s Day caused me to reflect on the long journey towards equal pay and my personal experience over 50 years of my working life.

My first job as a student was as a conductor on Sydney buses from 1964 to 1966. Bus conductors and teachers were the only jobs that paid women the same rates as men, because there were “manpower” shortages in these industries. However, it was not until late 1966 that women conductors could be promoted to drivers.

The federal Labor Party decided on March 21 to tip the scales dramatically in favour of Adani’s $22 billion coalmine in Queensland when it agreed to support the Coalition’s bid to weaken native title in favour of the corporations.

Here we go again. The second version of the Omnibus bill that the Turnbull government is trying to drive through parliament — the Social Services Legislation Amendment (Omnibus Savings and Child Care Reform) Bill 2017 — promises yet more savage attacks on welfare recipients and the working poor, and we haven't even seen the 2017–18 budget yet.

Foreign Correspondent’s “Venezuela: A nation on the brink”, screened on the ABC on March 21 was a straight out piece of US State Department propaganda.

It was also more evidence of the ABC’s rightward trajectory under ex-Murdoch executive and CEO Michelle Guthrie.

“Venezuela is a disaster,” reporter Eric Campbell and producer Matt Davis begin. “It has the biggest oil reserves on the planet. But instead of living like Middle Eastern sheiks, many Venezuelans are on the brink of famine.

When Julian Assange appeared in front of the Melbourne Town Hall pipe organ, the pipes shimmered, nearly whistled; leaky, ready to burst. Pastel white as he was beamed in live from London, Assange looked surprisingly well.

The pipe setting became more allegoric as he spoke of his latest alarming leak: The Pied Piper theory. The reference is not to Assange leading his followers into the unknown. But more on that madcap theory later.

Lecture and Q&A specialist company ThinkInc, toured Assange across Australia under the banner of “No more secrets: No more lies”.

Queensland premier Annastacia Palaszczuk should hang her head in shame. She has proven once again that the word “Labor” in “Australian Labor Party” has no connection with the interests of working people in Australia — or anywhere else.

Palaszczuk headed a delegation to India on March 17 to underscore her government’s support for the Adani company’s proposed Carmichael thermal coalmine. If it is given the go ahead, it will be the largest coal mine in Australia and one of the largest in the world. It would be the first for the Galilee Basin, and it would open the door to more.

On March 22, the day after the NT parliament legislated to decriminalise abortion (see page 4), doctors in Queensland called on the state government to follow suit.

World

On the tail of its damning CIA hacking bombshell, WikiLeaks published another trove of documents on March 23 outlining how the spy agency has been uploading secret software to Apple devices as far back as 2008.

One hundred years ago, on March 14, 1917, the Social Democratic Interdistrict Committee (Mezhrayonka), supported by the Petersburg Committee of Socialist Revolutionaries, issued the following appeal to soldiers to elect representative committees all along the chain of command, for officers to treat soldiers respectfully and asserted the Soviet's primary influence over soldiers by stating that they should obey only Duma commands that did not contradict Soviet resolutions.

You know how it is when you go to the movies. Sometimes the sequel has a bigger impact than the original.

The announcement by Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon that she would bring forward proposals for a second referendum on Scottish independence may prove another example of this phenomenon.

There is a real feeling across Scotland, in Westminster and the media, that this time the Yes side could win and Scotland could break from the “United Kingdom”.

“Water is Life” was the slogan behind one of the most important mobilisations involving water last year where Native American tribes, calling themselves “water protectors”, fought against the construction of the Dakota Access pipeline for fear of it contaminating their main water source, as well as it destroying their sacred lands.

This month marks two years since the start of the Saudi-led, US-supported war on Yemen. Involving a blockade of Yemen and the consequent collapse of the nation’s economy, the war has made the prospect of famine very real.

A new report released on March 22 found President Donald Trump has broken his campaign promise to “drain the swamp” at every turn. Instead, he has turned the government over to corporate interests and enriched his bottom line.

Venezuela’s ambassador to the Organisation of American States (OAS), Carmen Velazquez, interrupted a media conference held by Secretary General Luis Almagro with Venezuelan opposition leaders on March 20, which she slammed as a violation of the organisation’s internal norms. 

“The world’s poorest countries, those with the lowest greenhouse gas emissions, will be the most severely affected by extreme temperatures brought on by global warming.”

Statements such as that appear in virtually every report and article on climate change. A feature of most such statements is use of the future tense: the poorest countries will be worse-hit than the rich ones.

About 230 people were reported killed in what was thought to be a US-led coalition air strike on an ISIS-held neighbourhood in Mosul, The Independent said on March 22.  

A strike and massive street protest on March 22 by Argentine school teachers defended public schools while calling for higher wages.

The demand comes after the Macri government legislated a ceiling of 20% salary rises, despite an inflation rate of 40%, which has pushed 1.4 million people, including many education workers, into poverty.

"Grief turned to pride for Sinn Fein this week as tens of thousands paid their respects to a leader who came to symbolise peace in Ireland and the process through which the Provisional IRA gave birth to a political powerhouse," Irish Republican News said of the March 23 funeral of Irish republican leader Martin McGuinness, who died on March 20 aged 66, in his beloved Bigside neighbourhood in Derry in the six counties of Northern Ireland still claimed by Britain.

National sovereignty is an undervalued asset in today’s world, especially in the international media, where the views of Washington and its allies largely prevail. This is true with regard to economic as well as political issues, and its consequences can be quite heavy in a region like Latin America, long regarded by US officials as their “back yard.”

The election in Ecuador is being watched as well as contested by forces that have opposing views on this question. 

Reflecting on recent experiences of dealing with the right’s return to power in their own countries, close to 100 social movements and activists from Brazil and Argentina have signed a statement calling on the people of Ecuador to vote against right-wing neoliberal banker Gulliermo Lasso in the second round presidential run-off scheduled for April 2. 

Among them are activists from Via Campesina, the Rural Landless Workers Movement (MST), the Popular Brazil Front (FBP) the United Workers Central (CUT), the Argentine Workers Central union confederation (CTA) and the Association of State Employees (ATE Capital).

Massive mobilisations involving 1 million people across Brazil and a mood for general strike unlike anything seen in some time marked March 15, as various organised sectors came onto the streets to protest a packet of pension and labour reforms proposed by the government of President Michel Temer.

Stop the War UK, the largest anti-war group in Britain, release the statement below after the attacks by a lone man in London killed four people on March 22, before being shot dead.

Irish republican leader Martin McGuinness, who was Sinn Fein leader in Northern Ireland until stepping down due to ill health earlier this year, passed away on March 20 aged 66.

Born in 1950 in Derry in the six counties occupied by Britain, he came face to face with the discrimination and sectarian bigotry against Irish nationalists and Catholics that marked the partitioned statelet.

Culture

On an August evening in Glasgow last year, supporters of Celtic Football Club waved dozens of Palestinian flags during a Champions League playoff match against Israeli team Hapoel Be’er Sheva, garnering global attention.

Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal

On Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal readers can find an interview with leading ecosocialist voice Daniel Tanuro as well as articles looking at the ongoing fallout of the Brexit vote and the origins of arguably the most famous slogan in revolutionary history: "All power to the Soviets!"

Resistance!

The Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC) was originally set up by former Prime Minister John Howard in 2005. Another former Prime Minister Tony Abbott tried but failed to reintroduce it in 2014.

It was the reason Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull called a double dissolution election last year. The result was a Senate willing to pass ABCC legislation, thanks to the likes of Pauline Hanson and Derryn Hinch who voted with the Coalition.