Issue 1135

News

Two asylum seekers who had been detained in Australia's offshore detention camps spoke at a forum organised by Refugee Action Collective Victoria on April 22.

Ravi, a Tamil asylum seeker from Sri Lanka now living in Australia, told the forum how he spent two years on Nauru after surviving a 22-day boat journey. He said he had left one "hell", as a former political prisoner in Sri Lanka, only to be sent to another "hell" on Nauru.

In a victory for the people-powered campaign against the Adani Carmichael coalmine, Westpac ruled out lending its funds to the corporation on April 28.

In a face-saving letter to Westpac employees, CEO Brian Hartzer talked up the company’s commitment to a net zero emissions economy and said its Third Climate Change Action Plan would help do this.

About 5000 people in Sydney, 2000 in Melbourne and 1000 in Brisbane gathered on April 22, heeding an international call by scientists in the US, who were protesting the massive cuts to the 2018 science budget proposed by President Donald Trump.

The cuts would apply to the US National Institute of Health, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the National Science Foundation, the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Twenty-two Canberra school cleaners won a claim for underpayment in the Federal Court on April 21, in a case launched on their behalf by United Voice.

Nineteen of the workers are S’gaw Karen refugees from Myanmar, who spent two decades in refugee camps in Thailand before being resettled in Australia. 

The part-time school cleaners had been pressured into signing contracts they did not understand, paid by different business entities without explanation either to the workers or the ACT government and routinely exposed to unsafe working conditions.

Koalas on the NSW North Coast are threatened with extinction by proposed increases in logging intensity and imminent extensions of timber contracts, according to the North East Forest Alliance.

NEFA spokesperson Dailan Pugh said: “In order to meet current wood supply contracts, the NSW Government plans to zone most of the coastal state forests for intensive logging and clearfelling, and to remove the already inadequate protection for core koala habitat.

Hunter Valley farmer wins environmental prize

Hunter Valley dairy farmer Wendy Bowman, 83, who has battled for community rights against coal mining since the 1980s, has won the Goldman Environmental Prize. The prize is the world's pre-eminent environmental award for grassroots conservation, supporting individuals taking extraordinary actions to win victories against the odds.

The federal government has agreed to pay an undisclosed sum in compensation to a nine-year-old girl who was detained on Christmas Island for almost a year, after arriving in Australia with her parents by boat in 2013.

She was part of a class action launched in 2014 that initially aimed to secure compensation for thousands of asylum seekers.

Her lawyers argued she had developed post-traumatic stress disorder, a dental infection, a stammer and separation anxiety in detention and still needs ongoing medical treatment.

A group of West Papuans living in Australia and their supporters are walking 73 kilometres from Geelong to Melbourne over April 26 to 30 to highlight the ongoing human rights abuses experienced by indigenous West Papuans who have lived under Indonesian occupation since 1963 and to raise awareness of the campaign for a free West Papua.

The distance of 73 kilometres was chosen to signify the distance between Australian territory (Deliverance Island) and West Papua.

Dozens of residents and supporters protested on April 26 and 27 in Euston Road, Alexandria, against the destruction of more than 70 trees as part of road widening works for the controversial WestConnex St Peters Interchange.

The destruction is part of work to widen Euston Road from four lanes to seven. The plan would bring about 70,000 cars and trucks a day to within 180cm of more than 90 apartments and townhouses.

Residents from across NSW’s Southern Highlands packed the Exeter Hall on April 26, concerned about a proposed new coal mine — the first new mine in Sydney water catchment in more than 30 years. The meeting was organised by the NSW Department of Planning and Environment to discuss the environmental impact statement (EIS).

The Erskine Park community hall was packed on April 13 as hundreds of local residents expressed their opposition to The Next Generation’s controversial plan to build a waste-to-energy incinerator.

The incinerator would be located only 800 metres from homes and 1.8 kilometres from three local schools. Prospect Reservoir forms part of Sydney's drinking water and is only 5 kilometres from the proposed site: this would put the drinking water of 4.5 million people under threat of contamination from toxic particulates.

MUA Warns Historic Peace on the Docks Under Threat within Patrick’s Terminal

The Maritime Union of Australia warns Qube Logistics is threatening the newly-struck national peace on the docks by opening a small, effectively non-unionised container yard within Patrick’s Port Botany Terminal.

1000 people marched through Brisbane to hear speakers talk about the importance of funding science research organisations and basing public policy on evidence.

"Our research organisations, both our universities and industry driven organisations like the CSIRO are critical for our future as a society," spokesperson Joel Gilmore told Green Left Weekly.

"We are going to have to move on from fossil fues as being one of our key economic drivers," he said echoing a strong sentiment in the crowd for recognising climate science and rejecting "alternative facts".

Analysis

Green Left Weekly interviewed Ted McAlear, former Secretary of the Waterside Workers Federation (Illawarra), on April 26.

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May 1 is a significant day for Ted McAlear. Ted, now 88 years of age, was a former member of the Mine Workers Union and later secretary of the Waterside Workers Federation in Port Kembla. (The WWF merged with the Seaman’s Union of Australia in 1993 to become the Maritime Union of Australia.)

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s announcement that the government would scrap 457 visas left no one happy. The 457 will be replaced with two new Temporary Skilled Shortage Visas (TSSV) — one that lasts for two years and offers no pathway to permanent residency and another which may be issued for up to four years. 216 roles have been removed from the list of occupations for which a visa can be issued.

Community campaigners rallied in Port Augusta on April 30 to make a final call for the South Australian government to build a new solar thermal power plant in the town.

BP’s recent decision to pull out of a plan to drill for oil in the Great Australian Bight has been dubbed “strategic” by the company’s exploration managing director, Claire Fitzpatrick.

Burrowing under the metropolis, winding through neighbourhoods and consuming green spaces, kilometres of bleak bitumen motorways provide the superstructure for the outdated combustion engine to travel further.

According to University of Technology Sydney, vehicles are traveling 25% further, which equates to 25% more pollutants and 25% more impact on communities and the environment. “Induced traffic” is the phenomenon that when roads are built people switch from public transport to roads and, in the age of climate change, roads congest, choke and gridlock Australian cities.

Australia is the most urbanised country on earth. Almost 90% of Australians live in urban areas, while rural Australia, as of 2010–11, had only 134,000 farm businesses employing 307,000 people to manage 52% of Australia — 417.3 million hectares of land, including the 46.3% of Australia that is marginal land.

Recently, I received an email invitation from the University of NSW Young Alumni to attend “networking drinks” with the co-founders of Airtasker.

It is often said that truth is the first casualty of war. It is also one of the first casualties of maintaining a detention system that seeks to demonise people fleeing persecution and cover up human rights abuses.

Immigration minister Peter Dutton’s comments that refugees leading a five-year-old Papua New Guinean boy into the detention centre caused distress to locals and led to them firing into the air near the centre, is one of these lies.

US multinational energy corporation Chevron faces an increased tax bill of $340 million after losing an appeal against the Australian Taxation Office (ATO), over a landmark profit-shifting case.

The full Federal Court on April 21 unanimously upheld a previous decision that Chevron engaged in illegitimate transfer pricing by paying a higher rate of interest on a loan from its subsidiary to shift profits from Australia to the US.

World

A young Palestinian man became the first victim of the open-ended hunger strike launched 1600 Palestinian political prisoners in the occupied West Bank on May 1. The 30-year-old, identified as Mazan al-Maghrebi, passed away at his home in the city of Ramallah, where he was on hunger strike in solidarity with the prisoners. 

Speaking to tens of thousands of supporters gathered to commemorate International Workers Day on May 1, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro announced he would call a constituent assembly, effectively remaking the country's constitution.

"Today, on May 1, I announce that I will use my presidential privileges as constitutional head of state in accordance with article 347, to convene the original constituent power so that the working class and the people can call a national constituent assembly," President Maduro said.

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Venezuelan trade union leader Esmin Ramirez was killed on April 23 in Guayana City in the south-eastern state of Bolivar after being kidnapped in an act that people close to him say was politically motivated.

Ramirez was a member of the Movement 21 union in the state-run iron ore producer Ferrominera and a member of the governing United Socialist party of Venezuela (PSUV). The union leader was killed by several gunshots to the head. He had been kidnapped the night before.

For more than two months, displaced Tamils have been camped outside a military base at Keappa-Pulavu in northern Sri Lanka. They are demanding the return of their land, which was taken over by the Sri Lankan armed forces.

On April 24, Tamilnet said the Sri Lankan military has offered to return 30 acres of the 482 acres originally taken, while also giving the displaced people 90 acres of jungle.

Protestor Arumugam Velauthapillai responded: “We are not prepared to give up the protest until all our lands are released.” 

Women took to the streeks of Caracas on April 27, demanding an end to violent opposition protests, Venezuelanalysis.com said that day. The rally was supported by dozens of women’s groups from across the country, after being called by the Minister of Women and Gender Equality, Blanca Eekhout.

“Sisters, let's go together to fill the streets with love in the defence of life,” Eekhout said ahead of the march. She added, “We will overcome!”

Venezuelan Foreign Minister Delcy Rodriguez announced that the country will begin the process of exiting the Organization of American States (OAS).

The announcement came after the organisation's Permanent Council agreed on April 26 to convene a meeting of foreign ministers to discuss the situation in Venezuela, with 19 votes in favour, 10 against, one abstention and one absence.

“Labour is solidly ahead of the Conservatives with voters under 40 years old, despite being more than 20 points behind in the polls overall, according to a significant new poll,” The Independent said on April 26.

A survey found a mass uprising against the Irish government would be joined by more than half of young people in the country, an April 26 Independent article said.

Fifty four per cent of 18-34-year-olds said they would take part in a “large scale uprising against the generation in power if it happened in the next days or months”.

The survey polled nearly 20,000 people in Ireland as part of the European Broadcasting Union’s Generation What? research.

It showed that about 76% viewed politicians as corrupt or partly corrupt.

Venezuela is in flames. Or at least parts of it are.

Since April 4, right-wing opposition militants have carried targeted acts of violence, vandalism and arson. They are deliberately clashing with security forces in a bid to plunge the country into chaos and forcefully remove the elected socialist government.

It is the continuation of an 18 year effort to topple the Bolivarian revolution by any means necessary — although you may have seen it miraculously recast in the mainstream media as “promoting a return to democracy.

For the first time since France’s fifth republic was established in 1958, the presidential run-off to be held on May 7 won’t involve a candidate from either the traditional centre-left or centre-right parties.

Former investment banker and ex-government minister Emmanuel Macron (24%) and far right National Front (FN) leader Marine Le Pen (21.3%) topped the results in the first round of France’s presidential elections on April 23.

Less than three months into President Donald Trump’s reign we can already say that there is a non-trivial chance that the United States will soon be engaged in a nuclear war.

The threat is still remote, but the pieces are in place. An aircraft carrier group is en route to the Korean peninsula and anonymous sources have threatened a pre-emptive strike against North Korea.

Support for the more than 1500 Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike, which began on April 16, continues to grow across the Occupied Palestinian Territories, despite the more than 1500 prisoners on hunger strike getting almost no reaction from mainstream media.

Turkish war planes launched air strikes against Syria and Iraq on April 24.

For months local and foreign forces have been closing in on the main ISIS strongholds: the cities of Raqqa in Syria and Mosul in Iraq. Turkey is a NATO member and recognised as an ally against ISIS by the US-led coalition of Western powers in Iraq and Syria, that includes Australia.

But the Turkish air strikes did not target ISIS. Instead, they were aimed at the terror group’s most consistent opponents — left-wing Kurdish-led revolutionary forces.

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.”

Culture

No Way But This: In Search of Paul Robeson
By Jeff Sparrow
Scribe Publications, 2017
Paperback, 292 pp

Melbourne writer Jeff Sparrow’s new book, No Way But This is a thoughtful, sensitive and respectful examination of the life and work of Paul Robeson, the great African-American baritone, Shakespearian actor, and left-wing political activist.

In a petition to English rock band Radiohead, Jewish voices for Peace ask the rockers to respect the boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign targeting Israel, and cancel a Tel Aviv gig scheduled for July.

Launched by dozens of Palestinian civil society groups in 2005, the BDS campaign aims to isolate Israel in protest against its apartheid policies towards Palestinians.

Get Out
Written & directed by Jordan Peele
Starring Daniel Kaluuya, Allison Williams & Lil Rel Howery
In cinemas now

Why don’t more horror movies deal with racism?

Race, of course, always lurks underneath the surface, especially from a white protagonist’s perspective. In many horror films, the monster is some unconscious manifestation of racial anxiety or white guilt, like the prosperous, Reagan-voting family in 1982’s Poltergeist, haunted by the vengeful spirits of Native victims of genocide.

Resistance!

Pepsico appears to have emerged relatively unscathed from their recent Kendall Jenner advertising debacle, despite receiving strong criticism online.

The YouTube ad featuring the popular model and reality television star was posted on April 5 and was taken down within 24 hours due to a significant backlash.

Although Pepsico has removed the original video, a repost of the ad by YouTuber, Kendall and Kylie, currently has more than 9.5 million views with a dislike rate of 83%.