Issue 1134

News

The South Australian Racing Minister Leon Bignell has called on the state’s horseracing authority to ban jumps racing after five-year-old Wheeler Fortune was euthanised on April 15 after falling during the Somerled Hurdle race in Oakbank.

Bignell called on Thoroughbred Racing SA to act, labelling jumps racing “cruel and “barbaric”. But the controlling body said jumps racing was an “integral part” of the sport and would continue.

On April 19, the first anniversary of the tragic death of Josh Park-Fing at his Work for the Dole site in Toowoomba, the Australian Unemployed Workers' Union held rallies in Sydney and Melbourne to demand Justice For Josh and that the dangerous, discriminatory and exploitative Work for the Dole and Community Development Program be shut down. 

About 150 people joined an emergency protest in Melbourne on April 17 telling the government to bring the refugees on Manus Island and Nauru to Australia.

The protest came after sailors from the Papua New Guinea navy fired shots into the detention centre and locals attacked refugees.

Palestinian cook and writer Laila El-Haddad recently completed a successful Australian tour. Weaving stories of Palestinian life through her demonstrations of a cuisine that is unfamiliar to many Australians, Laila showed curious foodies how food, culture, resistance and occupation intersect and what it is like to live through such a heady mix.

Workers at Fletcher Insulation in Melbourne's south-eastern suburbs have been on indefinite strike since February 17 after being offered an Enterprise Agreement (EA) that would slash conditions, raise serious safety concerns and offer no pay rise.

Fletcher Insulation produces heat, fire and sound insulation for residential and business properties. New Zealand-owned Fletcher took over the Dandenong factory from ACI Glass several years ago.

Trawling to be banned in Tasmanian waters

Legislation was introduced into Tasmanian Parliament on April 6 to permanently ban trawling in the state’s waters. The amendment to the Living Marine Resource Management Act 1995 will ban trawlers of any size, including supertrawlers, and will also ban practices such as double trawl netting in Tasmanian waters.

The NSW Coalition government’s decision to lease the 150-year-old Land Titles Registry to a private consortium of Hastings Funds Management and First State Super is "a recipe for disaster" for millions of property owners across the state, the NSW Public Service Association (PSA) said on April 12.

First State is a $59 billion superannuation fund, which developed from a NSW public sector fund. Hastings is owned by Westpac Bank.

Staff at stationery chain Kikki.K will be the first employees covered by an enterprise agreement to directly face cuts as a result of the Fair Work Commission’s decision to cut weekend penalty rates.

The 550 Kikki.K workers are covered by a new enterprise agreement approved last month.

It has a clause that allows it to cut public holiday and Sunday penalty rates without any opportunity to renegotiate when the FWC's cuts to the retail award come into effect.

The deal was struck without the involvement of any union or employee bargaining representatives.

Multinational timber industry giant Carter Holt Harvey has indefinitely locked out about 150 workers who are members of the Electrical Trades Union; Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union; and the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union at the company's Myrtleford plyboard manufacturing site.

The lock out began at 2.30am on April 19.

It follows a breakdown in enterprise agreement negotiations between the company and unions.

An emergency protest organised by Sydney Stop the War Coalition, held as the US Vice President Mike Pence arrived in Sydney on April 21, drew a range of networks concerned about old and new — possibly — nuclear wars.

The total cost of building the controversial WestConnex tollway, plus necessary connecting roads, could reach $45 billion, according to an analysis by the Sydney City Council. The council's analysis adds the estimated $29 billion cost of building and widening new and existing roads to support traffic flows from the 33-kilometre project, to the $17 billion cost of WestConnex itself.

The federal government announced on April 13 the Emissions Reduction Fund had spent another $133 million on carbon emissions abatement.

This included about $100 million on planting trees to save the equivalent of 8.5 million tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions.

At the same time the states permit land clearing and deforestation that emits millions of tonnes of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere and is responsible for 8% of Australia’s emissions.

For years, women have had to endure attempts by a small numbers of religious extremists trying to humiliate and shame them outside abortion clinics.

Two states and both territories have passed laws banning this harassment. Now, New South Wales could be doing the same, as two bills are about to be bought before the state parliament.

Green Left Weekly speaks to Joel Gilmore about the March for Science in Brisbane.

Analysis

Today — ANZAC Day — is the climax of the orgy of nationalism and militarism we've been subjected to in recent times, ostensibly to remember the ordinary people who responded to the lies of the government by fighting and dying in an unjust war.

Of course progressive people have sympathy for the soldiers who died as well as the soldiers who didn't die but nevertheless witnessed or experienced terrible things.

US President Donald Trump’s threat to unleash a new nuclear war should not be dismissed as the ravings of an unhinged individual. He may be that, but he has also shown that he is prepared to start a new war and ratchet up old ones.

The US’s missile attack on a Syrian government air base on April 7 and its decision to drop an 11-ton GBU-43/B (or MOAB, Mother Of All Bombs), the world’s biggest non-nuclear bomb, on Afghanistan on April 13 is proof of that.

Since US President Donald Trump’s inauguration, there has been a spike in commentary about the increasing risk of a war in our region — a war that could involve the US and China. As things stand, it would be impossible for Australia to avoid involvement in such a war. That is a reality we must urgently confront.

Friends of Victoria University released this statement on April 19.

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Victoria University is planning to fundamentally change the structure of its workforce and radically alter the type of education that students receive.

Up to 115 academic staff will be sacked and replaced by 65 entry-level academic staff (Academic Teaching Scholars). These staff will have increased teaching hours and inferior retrenchment provisions so that they can be easily sacked should there be future cuts at VU.

In a live video on Twitter a man is speaking rapidly. He gives his name as “Maoud, my ID is GRL11”. Then he says: “The local guys attacked the camp and they just used the guns, they just shoot the gun. I don’t know what to do…” A gunshot is heard and he appears to duck, before looking up and saying “they just shoot”. Then the video cuts out.

Over the Easter weekend, the Safe Schools program was gutted in NSW. Education minister Rob Stokes announced that the program would not be funded when federal government support ends later this year. The rights of LGBTQI youth were eroded not with a bang, but with a murmur — and a Miranda Devine article.

US President Donald Trump sent his vice-president Mike Pence on a beat-the-drums-of-war Asia-Pacific tour and even before Pence got to Australia, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull started talking Trumplish.

He regurgitated Trump's jingoistic riffs with near word-for-word precision: “Australia and Australians first”, “Australian values”.

We're all familiar with the old maxim: “the rich get richer while the poor get poorer”. It is said as often with resignation as it is as a call to action.

Left unquantified it remains abstract but it is much easier to get worked up when the sheer scale of material inequality is in front of your face. Hence the growing outcry surrounding Oxfam's recent annual reports on global inequality that clearly demonstrate the concentration of world resources in the hands of the 0.1%.

Tasmania’s Black War (1824-31) was the most intense frontier conflict in Australia’s history. It was a clash between the most culturally and technologically dissimilar humans to have ever come into contact. At stake was nothing less than control of the country, and the survival of a people.

A groundbreaking report was released last month on the future of drug policy in Australia. The report, Can Australia respond to drugs more effectively and safely? openly acknowledged the failure of Australia’s punitive drug policies and called for a steady path towards decriminalisation.

World

Four years ago this month, a former bus driver with humble working-class origins became the president of Venezuela. 

Promising to continue the revolutionary legacy of deceased former president Hugo Chavez, Nicolas Maduro pledged to advance the living standards of Venezuela’s poor and oppressed. 

But since taking office in 2013, Maduro and the Bolivarian Revolution his government leads have faced non-stop attacks from Venezuela’s US-backed right-wing opposition, making advancements difficult.

One hundred years ago, on May 7, 1917, the following declaration appeared on the front page of the Bolshevik newspaper Pravda under the title, “Draft of a mandate for use in electing delegates to the Soviet of Worker and Soldier Deputies”. 

This “mandate” marked the first appearance of the slogan “All power to the Soviets” in an official party statement.

The Soviets emerged out of the February Revolution that year, which succeeded in overthrowing the Tsar. The Soviets were based on elected delegates of workers, soldiers and peasants.

On April 25, 1945, the National Liberation Committee of Northern Italy (CLNAI), called for an insurrection against the Nazi-Fascist occupation of Italy.

Based in Milan, the Committee was led by (among others) Sandro Pertini, a key figure of the Italian Socialist Party (PSI) who later became Italian president in 1978.

Pertini made the announcement to the “Italian citizens and workers”, declaring: “Nazi-Fascist occupation must be ended and Italy has to be liberated, so the invaders have to surrender or perish.”

Prime Minister Theresa May has called a general election for June 8. The Tory leader is hoping that Labour has been sufficiently weakened by the attacks of the right on Labour’s left-wing leadership around Jeremy Corbyn that she will be rewarded with a further five years in office.

It is, of course, a complete coincidence that rumours had started to emerge that the Crown Prosecution Service were about to move against 30 individuals for electoral fraud in the last general election, threatening the Conservative government.

The US is looking to increase support for the Saudi Arabia-led war on Yemen, officials said on April 19 — a move some see as another signal that President Donald Trump is itching to take the US to a new war.

Hundreds of cities took part in a worldwide “March for Science” to coincide with Earth Day on Saturday. Grouping together local and international environmental issues, the demonstrations championed science, research and evidence in the face of political inaction toward the environment and climate change and increasing steps by taken by Donald Trump’s attacks on science and planet.

“War aids capitalism, those who support capitalism support war, that is, the philosophy of death and destruction,” Boliva’s left-wing President Evo Morales said on April 18.

Morales warned that humanity was “at risk of disappearing in a nuclear holocaust,” as tensions mount worldwide after US military attacks in Syria and Afghanistan.

“Nuclear power in the United States and Western countries are getting us dangerously closer to a nuclear conflagration.”

Tens of thousands of Venezuelans took to the streets of the capital on April 19 in huge pro-government rallies marking the country’s independence day. 

Thousands of right-wing opposition also took to the streets in often violent protests. The day after the large pro- and anti-government marches, more right-wing violence broke out. The government accused opposition protesters of attacking public institutions, including a maternity hospital, on April 20. Ten people were also confirmed dead after a riot in Caracas.

French Guiana, in South America, and the French West Indies, in the Caribbean, could join the anti-imperialist Bolivarian Alliance for the People’s of Our America (ALBA), if left-wing candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon were to win France’s presidential election.

ALBA was founded by Venezuela and Cuba in 2004 as an alternative to neoliberal free trade agreements, and now includes 11 Latin American and Caribbean nations.

During last year’s presidential election campaign, both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump favoured a more militarised foreign policy. They differed on the main target: Clinton aimed at Russia, while Trump singled out China.

Clinton wanted to continue the policy of both Republican and Democratic administrations since the collapse of the Soviet Union of steadily expanding NATO up to Russia’s borders in Europe. She also proposed challenging Russia in Syria.

KFC, Pizza Hut, Carls Jr and Starbucks workers wenton strike across new Zealand on April 22 after negotiations broke down over a new collective agreement.

“Yesterday Restaurant Brands announced  profits of $26 million and they have paid their CEO a million dollar bonus. Tomorrow the workers who actually make and sell their products have to go on strike to get a few cents above the minimum wage” said Unite National Secretary Gerard Hehir said on April 21. 

A record number of Palestinian prisoners began a hunger strike to coincide with Palestinian Prisoners’ Day on April 16.

More than 1500 prisoners are taking part in the largest mass hunger strike in recent years. Marwan Barghouti, sentenced by Israel to five life sentences, is leading a renewed campaign to draw attention to the conditions Palestinian prisoners face.

It also aims to highlight the oppressive nature of Israel’s colonial occupation that makes arrests of Palestinian people all but inevitable.

Jean-Luc Melenchon.

Shock followed by surprise followed by upset. The French presidential election, whose first round is April 23, is yet another expression of the political volatility produced by the aftershocks of the biggest economic recession since the 1930s and the incapacity of both neo-liberalism and social democracy to maintain support for their pro-austerity governments.

Trump doubles US air strikes on Yemen

The United States administration of Donald Trump has so far carried out at least 70 air strikes in Yemen, TeleSUR English said on April 4, more than twice as many as those carried out last year under the Barck Obama administration, according to data provided by the Pentagon.

The movement behind weeks of social unrest in French Guiana, a French colony in South America of about a quarter of a million people, said on April 17 it would extend protest actins until the government signs a draft accord on an emergency financial package and reopens talks on further funds.

The Collective to Get Guiana Moving summed up its demands in a seven-page draft sent to the government on April 16. If accepted the movement said it would “suspend the movement in its present form”.

Participants at the Party of the European Left's Third Mediterranean conference in Malaga.

The Party of the European Left (PEL), which is made up of left groups across Europe, held its Third Mediterranean conference in Malaga, on the southern coast of Spain, from March 31 to April 2.

The three-day gathering brought together left-wing, socialist, anti-imperialist and anti-austerity parties from across Europe, North Africa and the Middle East.

In January last year, many thousands of academics around the world signed the statement “We will not be a party to this crime”, which called for peace in Turkey.

The statement was issued in solidarity with courageous academics in Turkey who had formed the Academics for Peace group and were working for an end to state terror in Turkish Kurdistan. The group pushed for the resumption of peace talks between the Turkish government and the Kurdish liberation movement, the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

Balochistan, in Pakistan’s south-west, is the site of an intense struggle for self-determination that has been met with violent repression from the Pakistani state. Baloch Students Organisation-Azad (BSO-A), which organises for Baloch self-determination, released the statement below calling for justice for Baloch activist Zahid Baloch, who was abducted in 2014.

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Culture

Good news (for a change)

Protests disrupt Westpac’s 200th birthday dinner

Guests attending Westpac’s black tie 200th birthday gala dinner on April 8 were greeted by hundreds of protesters outside the event at Carriageworks in Redfern, who angrily denounced Westpac for not distancing itself from Adani’s proposed Carmichael coalmine in Queensland's Galilee basin.

Shaun Murray climbed some scaffolding and chained himself to the building, interrupting the dinner for 90 minutes.

Resistance!

As the embers cooled in the debris of US President Donald Trump’s 59 Tomahawk missiles fired at Syria, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull ordered an immigration crackdown that includes a new US-style patriot test for those seeking Australian citizenship and the scrapping of 457 foreign worker visas.