Issue 1132

News

First night parrot sighting in WA for 100 years

In the first verified sighting since 1912, a night parrot has been photographed in Western Australia.

It follows a history of disbelieved reports, futile ecological surveys and unverified sightings of the species that was presumed extinct until it was rediscovered in Queensland four years ago.

Some 50 people rallied outside the Northern Territory Labor Party conference on March 25 to demand NT Chief Minister Michael Gunner keep his promise to ban fracking in the territory.

The Labor government came into power in the NT in a landslide on August 27. Among the many promises Labor made was a commitment to a moratorium on hydraulic fracking until the process is proven to be safe.

The crew of the emergency towage vessel Coral Knight initiated a community assembly at the wharves in Cairns on March 30 after they were sacked from their jobs on the ship. These Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) members were joined by dozens of unionists, environmental activists and other local community members.

The 10 sacked seafarers fear public and environmental safety has been put at risk for the sake of replacing them with a cheaper alternative.

Members of the Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) working in the Department of Human Services (DHS) resumed rolling strike action on March 24 in support of their longstanding struggle for a new enterprise agreement.

The workers in DHS, which includes Centrelink, Medicare and Child Support, had already begun work bans as part of their campaign.

The Supreme Court of Victoria handed down its judgement on March 21, quashing the appeal of an anti-abortion protester who had been convicted for displaying images of aborted foetuses.

Michelle Fraser, an anti-abortion protester, had displayed placards of aborted foetuses with anti-abortion slogans, outside the Melbourne Fertility Clinic, in February 2013. In 2014, she was convicted of displaying obscene images.

The NSW Gladys Berejiklian government’s forced council amalgamation policy is in crisis, after the NSW Court of Appeal on March 27 blocked the merger of Ku-ring-gai and Hornsby Councils.

The court accepted Ku-ring-gai Council’s appeal against the merger, in part because the state government kept the KPMG consultants’ report on the amalgamations secret from the public and from the delegate appointed to investigate the merger.

Supporters of abortion rights gathered outside St Mary’s Cathedral on March 26 to declare their support for choice.

The action was organised to counter the annual anti-choice “Day of the Unborn Child” event, described as “a peaceful march to protect preborn babies”. In reality, it is designed to perpetrate myths and shame anyone thinking of, or who has had, an abortion.

Just weeks after a report highlighted plummeting koala populations, the federal government has given approved for coal seam gas (CSG) company QGC to bulldoze 54 hectares of koala habitat on Queensland's Western Downs.

About 50 Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) members and supporters occupied the foyer of the Brisbane offices of Rio Tinto on March 28.

Rio Tinto has reneged on its agreement with the MUA to have 70–80% Australian crew on its coastal fleet. Instead it is using exploited foreign workers who are paid $3–4 per hour. This is despite posting a $6 billion profit last year.

In her first address to the National Press Club as ACTU secretary on March 29, Sally McManus repeated her earlier statement that it was right to break unjust laws.

She said Australia’s workplace laws were broken and that “wage theft” had become the new business model for too many employers. McManus also set out the ACTU’s case for a $45 a week increase in the minimum wage.

Environmentalists are outraged that Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce has called for a review of the protection status of Victoria’s faunal emblem, the critically endangered Leadbeater’s possum, so new logging zones in Victoria’s central highlands can be opened.

Joyce wrote to Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews on March 26, criticising the decision to reduce the logging quota offered to Gippsland’s Heyfield mill operators Australian Sustainable Hardwood (ASH) from 155,000 cubic metres a year to 80,000 cubic metres in 2017–18 and 60,000 cubic metres in the next two years.

The #StopAdani Roadshow attracted thousands of supporters across the country, who oppose the federal and Queensland government’s support for Adani’s $22 billion Carmichael coal mine in central Queensland.

About 1200 people in Brisbane on March 28 and 1000 in Sydney the next day heard from Indian environment campaigner Dr Vaishali Patil, Californian Clean Energy Fund director Danny Kennedy, SEED co-director Millie Telford and 350.org CEO Blair Palese.

About 50 Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) members and supporters occupied the foyer of the Brisbane offices of Rio Tinto on March 28.

Rio Tinto has reneged on its agreement with the MUA to have 70–80% Australian crew on its coastal fleet. Instead it is using exploited foreign workers who are paid $3–4 per hour. This is despite posting a $6 billion profit last year.

Queensland branch secretary of the MUA Bob Carnegie said: “No Australian should be locked out of Australian jobs so foreign workers can be exploited and paid below a minimum wage.”

Over 80 protesters promised they would stop the Carmichael coal mine outside a March 31 appearance at the Hilton Hotel by Adani boss Jeyakumar Janakaraj. Protesters said they would #StopAdani in solidarity with traditional owners who are opposed to the development. Saving the reef and tackling climate change were other reasons given to stop the mine.

The #StopAdani protest was organised by 350 Brisbane which has pledged to build a people's movement against the mine, including targeting banks such as Westpak who have refused to reject funding the mine.

Analysis

Readers may have noticed that Australia is in the midst of an energy war. On one side are right-wing commentators attacking renewable energy at every turn. On the other side are renewables advocates, quick to retaliate, sometimes without considering the whole story.

Between 40% and 50% of graduate teachers leave teaching within the first five years. Surveys reveal that they feel burnt out, unsupported, frustrated and disillusioned. Research shows that long-serving teachers are retiring early — if they can afford to — and most are feeling utterly spent.

Many people suffering in Manus Island and Nauru detention centres are struggling to find hope that their situation will change. One such person is Behrouz Boochani, a Kurdish journalist who fled Iran and has become well known for his writings about life in the Manus Island detention centre.

I wandered down to the Roe 8 freeway construction site after the March 11 state election that swept the Colin Barnett Liberal government from power. I'd heard Labor Premier-elect Mark McGowan on the radio calling on Main Roads to wind down construction immediately.

It was deserted. The hundreds of police were gone. The place where 200 of us had been arrested as we slowed the progress of the bulldozers was eerily silent.

All around Australia, racially oppressed minority communities are celebrating the late night defeat of the federal government’s attempt to weaken section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act.

The bill, which sought to remove the words “offend”, “insult” and “humiliate” from the section against racial vilification and replace it with “harass and intimidate” was defeated 31-28 with the support of Labor, the Greens and other small party and independent Senators.

Chairperson of the Australian Prudential Regulatory Authority (APRA) Wayne Byres recently said that he would not use the “B-word” to describe the housing market, preferring instead to use “heightened risk” rather than housing bubble.

Greens leader Richard Di Natale has backed calls for a new “people’s bank” to challenge the power of the Big Four mega-banks. He told the National Press Club on March 15: “The time has come for a people's bank, one that injects real competition into the banking sector.”

Senator Di Natale drew on the example of the state-owned KiwiBank in New Zealand, run by the NZ Post Office. A similar operation in Australia would boost competition, push down fees, help young buyers enter the property market and deter “unscrupulous behaviour”, he said.

Refugee activists have maintained watch at Villawood Detention Centre to stop the deportation of Saeed (not his real name), a 60-year-old Iraqi man, since March 22.

Through the hot days and cooler nights activists have been at each of Villawood’s three entrances, checked every leaving vehicle to see if Saeed is being deported and issued regular calls to action and updates on Facebook livestream in support of Saeed.

Students and staff are celebrating the defeat of Sydney University’s attempt to cut semesters from 13 weeks to 12. After almost no consultation with students or staff, the university attempted to push through the move at the Academic Board meeting on March 28.

Sydney University Postgraduate Representative Association (SUPRA) protested against the proposal and called on the board to vote "No". Overwhelmingly academic staff took this advice, with only management voting for the change.

World

Newly elected President Lenin Moreno and his Vice-President Jorge Glass.

Progressive candidate and renowned disability activist from the ruling Alianza Pais of outgoing President Rafael Correa, Lenin Moreno has won the Ecuadorian presidential election Sunday.

Bolivia’s government and social movements have announced they will host a global people’s summit on migrants and refugee rights. The "People’s Conference for a World without Walls and Universal Citizenship", set for June 20 and 21, is expected to draw together immigration experts and pro-migrant and refugee rights organisations and activists from around the world.

Veteran Canadian-based socialist and activist Ernie Tate has been writing to English group Left Unity on the struggles in Canada provoked by the rise of Donald Trump south of the border.

A lifelong revolutionary who migrated to Canada from Northern Ireland as a young man, Tate was one of the most important activists of the Vietnam Solidarity Campaign in the 1960s and has recently produced a two volume memoir, Revolutionary Activism of the 1950s and 1960s.

In the Andean Parliament as a member of PAIS Alliance, President Rafael Correa’s left-wing party, Rosa Mireya Cardenas, a member of Alfaro Vive Carajo, a former Marxist guerrilla group, will be working to promote gender equality, fair trade and the work of social organisations, among other initiatives.

But with Ecuador’s second round of presidential elections slated to take place on April 2, the country stands at a critical crossroads.

El Salvador's Congress approved a law on March 29 that prohibits all metal mining projects, in a bid to protect the Central American nation's environment and natural resources.

The new law, which enjoyed cross-party support, blocks all exploration, extraction and processing of metals, whether in open pits or underground. It also prohibits the use of toxic chemicals like cyanide and mercury.

US President Donald Trump is seeking to eliminate more than US$18 billion worth of health and education social programs to fund his anti-immigrant wall along the border with Mexico, documents submitted to the US Congress on March 28 showed.

One year after European Union leaders signed a deal with the Turkish government to cut off the wave of desperate refugees seeking to reach Europe’s shores, the policy has caused even more death and suffering.

Riots swelled in Paris for a third night on March 29, with hundreds of people protesting against police brutality and the recent killing of a Chinese man, Shaoyo Liu, on March 23 by police.

Riot police hurled tear gas at the crowd as demonstrations continued, with a police car firebombed, three officers injured and 35 people arrested.

One hundred years ago, on March 27, 1917 the Petrograd Soviet issued the following appeal, “To the Peoples of the World,” calling for a restoration of workers’ unity in the cause of peace: "....We call upon you to throw off the yoke of your semi-autocratic order just as the Russian people shook off tsarist despotism. You should refuse to serve as a weapon of invasion and violence in the hands of kings, gentry landowners, and bankers.

"Together in friendship we will put a stop to the terrible slaughter, which disgraces humankind and casts a shadow over the great days of the birth of Russian freedom...."

US President Donald Trump promised to cut through the disarray in the two parties of capitalism in the US by forcing on them a new strongman – himself – who knows how to get things done and make deals.

But the Republican health insurance debacle, with Trump’s replacement to Obamacare being withdrawn due to lack of support in Congress, not only cut him down to size, but represented the triumph of that very disarray over the new president. The strongman proved to be not so strong and the dealmaker could not close the deal.

When you think of Western capitalism and imperialism, what usually comes to mind are aggressive superpowers such as the US, Britain, France or Germany. Northern European nations such as Norway, Denmark, Finland and Sweden, on the other hand, are seen as good-natured and insular, often used as examples of the way governments around the world should treat their citizens.

Mexico’s Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN) has announced it will begin selling organic coffee from Chiapas to help migrants persecuted by US President Donald Trump.

Working alongside allied international distributors, the EZLN will use coffee sale funds to provide financial assistance to US deportees in Mexico. They will also use funds to support pro-immigrant resistance groups around the world protesting anti-immigrant governments.

After months of fierce opposition from Native Americans and environmentalists, the controversial Dakota Access pipeline (DAPL) is finally carrying oil under Lake Oahe in North and South Dakota, as preparations are made to bring the project into full service.

Owned by Energy Transfer Partners, the 1886 kilometre-long pipeline threatens water supplies and sacred sites on the Standing Rock Indian Reservation, and violates multiple treaties signed with First Nations tribes.

After hours of debate, the Organization of American States (OAS) extraordinary session on March 28 came to a close with member-states failing to reach a consensus over Venezuela’s suspension.

Despite OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro’s insistent attempts to push for Venezuela’s expulsion, the 35 member-states expressed mixed opinions regarding the application of the regional body’s Democratic Charter against the South American country. Needing a two-thirds majority to invoke the charter, the session ended without a vote. 

Snam Rete Gas, a leading Italian company in the transporting and dispatching of natural gases, announced in 2004 a planned pipeline extending from Massafra (Puglia) to Minerbio (Emilia-Romagna).

Named “The Adriatic Line” (in Italian: “Rete Adriatica”), it aims to export natural gases (methane, in this case) to Northern Europe.

Culture

A Turkish court has handed down a two-year, nine-month and 22-day jail sentence to a Kurdish artist because of her painting of a Kurdish village being razed by Turkish security forces.

Zehra Dogan, an ethnic Kurd from Diyarbakir in south-eastern Turkey, was given the sentence by the Second High Criminal Court of Mardin province after having been arrested last July. The painting in question shows the destroyed cityscape of Nusaybin, with Turkish flags draped across blown-out buildings.

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The ongoing genocide of Rohingya people in western Myanmar (also known as Burma) remains almost ignored by world media. Displaced from their homes, attacked by the military, interned in refugee camps and driven across the border into neighbouring Bangladesh, the Rohingya have become known as one of the world's most persecuted people.

Last year, photographer Ali MC visited Rohingya refugee and internally displaced peoples’ camps in Myanmar and Bangladesh. His aim was to photograph Rohingya people, document their living conditions and better understand the events that forced them into this situation

Self-described “extreme folk” Scottish band Mouse Eat Mouse are one of the more obscure acts around, which makes it all the more satisfying to hear any new works.

Last year’s Toxic Tails is an album of beauty, anger and passion, traits often missing in today’s sanitised music industry.

I decided, therefore, to get in touch with CD Shade, the bald-headed, smooth-singing wordsmith who is the backbone of the act.

Hundreds of Brazilian artists demonstrated on March 27 outside the Municipal Theatre in Sao Paulo on World Theatre Day to protest against the freezing of funds allocated for culture.

The cultural protest is one of the biggest of its kind in the country in decades, as artists, students, workers and other social movements rail against the austerity agenda under the neoliberal government of unelected President Michel Temer.

Silence is a film of ideas, examining the meaning of mercy and compassion, and the personal cost of betrayal. It is also visually stunning. The cinematography has been nominated for an Academy Award and rightfully so.

It poses fascinating theological questions, their historical bases and the comparison between their Christian and Buddhist understandings. With so much going for it, why does Silence fail?

There have been countless predictions that the election of Donald Trump as US president would bring a renaissance of political music - and it finally seems to be happening. Here are 10 of the best from this month (plus a few extra - count them).

Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal

Fake news about the Rojava Revolution, why Indian Suzuki automobile workers are in jail, ‘Old Bolshevism’ in early 1917 re-examined, an interview with dismissed Turkish academic and Yeniyol editor Uraz Aydin and will BRICS New Development Bank dash green-developmental hopes? Just some of the latest articles to be posted at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal

Resistance!

News Limited’s Geelong Advertiser launched a personal attack on its front page on March 27 against local Geelong Greens secretary and activist Matt Hrkac. The front page read: “Greens red faced. Obscene rant: Party’s Geelong ‘branch secretary’ in shocking foul-mouth tirade after missing out on job”.