Issue 1137

Australia

Residents, unionists and supporters protested outside the NSW Department of Housing office in Redfern on May 10, following the first forcible eviction of a resident of Millers Point public housing.

Peter Muller, a 57-year-old electrician, was out working, when police broke into his home and removed a number of supporters who were defending the house.

The latest Essential poll released on May 9 shows voters disapprove of cuts to universities and higher student fees and fear the impact on young people.

It also showed Labor comfortably ahead of the Coalition on the two-party preferred vote by 54% to 46%.

The poll showed 56% disapprove of the government’s reduction in funding for higher education by $2.8bn and 60% disapprove of increasing student fees.

Assistant secretary of the Newcastle East Residents Group (NERG) Karen Read addressed Newcastle Trades Hall (Hunter Workers) recently about the supercars race scheduled to run through Newcastle’s historic East end in November.

Read fielded questions about residents needing to be credentialled to enter their own homes, the needs of the elderly, contacts with other groups such as Save Albert Park and the lengthy period of construction and dismantling of race infrastructure.

More than 600 local residents and traders rallied at the Preston Market in Melbourne’s north east on May 6 to tell Minister for Planning Richard Wynne to “call in” a development application for multi-storey apartments and a generic shopping centre that risks destroying their much-loved community hub.

The unexpectedly large turnout spilled out onto the road, prompting police to tell organiser Lori-anne Sharp, of the Save Preston Market group, to “pick a bigger site next time you call a protest”.

"Disability — not for sale!" was one of the slogans shouted by Health and Community Services Union (HACSU) members as they marched on Parliament House on May 10 to protest against the Victorian Labor government's plan to privatise state-run disability services.

HACSU state secretary Lloyd Williams told the rally that Premier Daniel Andrews had broken a promise not to privatise public disability services in Victoria.

Complaints by conservative commentators that Treasurer Scott Morrison and Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull have delivered a “Labor budget” show how low expectations are that any federal government in Australia will deliver a budget aiming to advance genuine social justice in this country.

When the Nationals visited Narrabri on May 12 for dinner and talks, many in the community lined the entrance to voice their opposition to coal seam gas (CSG). NSW Nationals leader John Barilaro did not receive the welcome he expected.

"Hopefully he takes the message into the event that the electorate does not want this industry to take hold," said Narrabri farmer Stuart Murray.

Unionists and their supporters defied a police ban on this year’s traditional May Day march with a militant march and rally of some 500 unionists and their supporters through the city’s streets on May 6.

An obstructive Wollongong City Council had blocked police approval and demanded a hefty fee for private security services.

South Coast working class icon and veteran class fighter, 95-year-old Fred Moore, proudly marched at the front. He has never missed a May Day march since his first in 1932.

More than 7000 submissions were presented to the NSW Department of Planning after a lively march through Sydney’s CBD to protest against Santos coal seam gas mining that threatens the Pilliga Forest and goes against the wishes of the Gamilaraay traditional custodians of the land.

Narrabri gasfield threatens two precious water resources: the Great Artesian Basin and the Murray-Darling Basin.

The area of the Great Artesian Basin with the highest recharge rates is almost entirely contained within the Pilliga Forest.

Student groups nation-wide registered their opposition to the government’s proposals to raise student fees and lower the HECS threshold at an action in Canberra on budget day on May 9.

The $2.8 billion in cuts would see fees increase by a maximum of $3600 for a four-year course with students paying for 46% of the cost of their degree on average — up from 42%. The cuts propose a lowering of the HECS threshold — down from $55,874 to $42,000.

Residents and supporters held a protest in Sydney Park on May 6, when contractors for the controversial $17 billion WestConnex tollway moved in to destroy more trees for the St Peters interchange.

The works are part of the project's push to remove more than 800 trees in Sydney Park, St Peters and Alexandria to allow widening of roads around the planned interchange.

Labor has backed away from supporting Adani’s proposed Carmichael coalmine. Previously, Labor leader Bill Shorten said he supported the project “so long as it stacks up”.

But on May 1, Labor’s energy and environment spokesperson Mark Butler warned it could hurt other coalmining areas. “It will simply displace existing coal operations elsewhere in Australia,” he told ABC News. “There will be jobs lost elsewhere in Queensland or there will be jobs lost in the Hunter Valley.

The National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority (NOPSEMA) has criticised ExxonMobil for its failure to respond to an oil spill on February 1 near its West Tuna oil platform, about 45 kilometres off the Victorian coast in Bass Strait.

A report obtained by the ABC says coal prices will fall significantly and exports from Australia's biggest coal port will decline if Adani's Carmichael coalmine goes ahead.

If the coalmine went ahead, it would add 40 million tonnes a year to the market and global coal prices would fall by $3.80 to $65 a tonne.

Competition from the mine would reduce exports from the port of Newcastle by 11 to 12 million tonnes a year, which would lower the coal royalties NSW receives.

Victoria’s Labor government voted down the “#MetreMatters” bill on May 10 which would have required motorists to give cyclists at least 1 metre of space when passing. Earlier in the day, Greens MPs had moved the bill in the upper house, where it passed with the support of Coalition MPs.

WA councils support marriage equality

The Western Australian city councils of Bayswater and Fremantle passed motions of support for marriage equality on April 26. Both motions instruct the councils to write to the Prime Minister and all federal MPs, calling on them to make marriage equality a reality.

The motion passed in Bayswater "calls on the council to acknowledge … that many residents are disadvantaged by the current laws and that marriage equality laws have been passed in 22 countries around the world".

Women have again been let down by the majority of MPs in the NSW Legislative Council who voted down a Greens’ bill to decriminalise abortion on May 11.

The vote was 25 against and 14 in favour of Dr Mehreen Faruqi’s private members’ bill and it was greeted with cries of "shame" from the packed public gallery.

The  Anti-Poverty Network South Australia released the statement below on its Facebook page on May 10 in response to the federal budget, which included  a series of attacks on welfare recipients.

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World

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro announced at an International Workers’ Day rally on May 1 that he would convene a National Constituent Assembly in an attempt to resolve the country’s current political crisis.

The constituent assembly, which will be made up of delegates elected on a territorial basis and from among the country’s different social sectors, seeks to prove an electoral route out of the current impasse premised on national dialogue.

Opposition groups in Venezuela have been waging an economic war similar to that perpetrated against former Chilean president Salvador Allende. Hoarding, smuggling and currency speculation have caused shortages of food and basic necessities and hardship, particularly for poorer people.

An ISIS attack on May 2 near the Rajim Salibi border crossing between Iraq and Syria left 37 refugees dead and at least 20 injured. Victims were as young as three months. “The attack was repelled [by] the intervention by Syrian Democratic Forces [SDF] fighters,” Firat News Agency reported.

Most of the refugees were fleeing the Iraqi city of Mosul, which for months has been the scene of heavy fighting as Western, Russian, Iranian, Iraqi government forces and allied militias try to retake the city from ISIS.

Throughout the battle against the Dakota Access pipeline (DAPL), the  US$3.78 billion pipeline that will carry about 500,000 barrels of oil a day, indigenous campaigners and supporters repeatedly warned it was not a question of if, but when a breach would occur.

Now, before the pipeline is even fully operational, those warnings have come to fruition.

The predominantly Tamil north and east of the island of Sri Lanka were brought to a “complete standstill” on April 27, Tamilnet reported, as a result of a strike called by unions, civil groups and Tamil political parties.

It was supported by the Northern Provincial Council, which suspended its sitting. In some towns Muslims joined Tamils in the strike.

It is official: solidarity and activism are, according to the Ukrainian government, criminal acts. It seems paradoxical, but it is true.

Ukrainian Prime Minister Petro Poroshenko has demanded the Italian government extradite members of the so-called Anti-Fascist Caravan (AFC), a group of activists who recently visited the separatist region of Donbass in eastern Ukraine.

Venezuela has been rocked in recent weeks by almost daily protests and counter-protests, as right-wing opponents of socialist President Nicolas Maduro seek to bring down his government.

While the media portrays these events as a popular rebellion against an authoritarian government, supporters of the pro-poor Bolivarian revolution initiated by former president Hugo Chavez say the country is witnessing an escalation in what is an ongoing counter-revolutionary campaign seeking to restore Venezuela’s traditional elites in power and reverse the gains made by the poor majority under Chavez and Maduro.

Emmanuel Macron won the second round of the French presidential elections on May 7, receiving 58.21% of the vote compared to the 30.01% share for far-right National Front (FN) candidate Marine Le Pen.

Despite the apparently decisive victory, the vote signals continued political uncertainty in France fuelled by widespread disillusionment with France’s democracy. It raises questions as to whether Macron’s supporters, organised in a new centrist movement called En Marche!, will be able to form a working government out of legislative elections scheduled for late June.

Moon Jae-in, of the liberal Democratic Party, won South Korea’s May 9 presidential election with 41% of the vote, easily defeating his arch-conservative opponent Hong Jun-pyo, who won about 24%.

The elections took place after the impeachment of conservative president Park Geun-hye for her involvement in a huge corruption scandal. Park, from Hong’s right-wing Saenuri Party (renamed Liberty Korea Party in a bid to rebrand), was forced out by the huge “Candlelight Revolution”. Millions of Koreans mobilised in an ongoing series of candlelight protests to demand her impeachment.

The elections also took place in a context of the threat of war in the Korean Peninsula with US President Donald Trump’s administration ratcheting up tensions with North Korea.

The huge Labour losses in the May 4 local council elections are just what the Labour Right was hoping for.

The left has to be crystal clear about what is happening here. There are many subsidiary factors, but the root of the Conservative Party's substantial gains – 500 seats won against about 400 losses for Labour – is the xenophobic nationalism of Brexit which the Tories have used ruthlessly.

Today, it is Timor-Leste that is giving the tutorial in politics. After years of trickery and bullying by Canberra, the people of Timor-Leste have demanded and won the right to negotiate before the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) a legal maritime boundary and a proper share of the oil and gas.

Australia owes Timor Leste a huge debt — some would say, billions of dollars in reparations. Australia should hand over, unconditionally, all royalties collected since Evans toasted Suharto’s dictatorship while flying over the graves of its victims.

Media coverage encouraged and inflamed Britain’s referendum campaign on whether to leave the European Union last year to make it the “most divisive, hostile, negative and fear-provoking” in British history, according to a new report.

King’s College London’s Centre for the Study of Media, Communication and Power (CMCP) analysed more than 15,000 articles published online by 20 national news outlets. It found the media coverage “acrimonious and divisive” and dominated by “overwhelmingly negative” reports about the consequences of migration to Britain.

Venezuelan Foreign Minister Delcy Rodriguez and other ministers from the region kicked off a special session of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), on May 2 in San Salvador to discuss recent violence in the South American country.

Analysis

The Victorian Labor government delivered a May 2 budget in which a multi-billion dollar war chest was set aside for “law and order” and new prisons. This is despite Victoria having the lowest crime rate in Australia.

It also continued with its neoliberal privatisation program, including the sell-off of the Land Titles Registry.

Victoria aims to employ one in every 400 people as a police officer or a protective services officer and, with thousands more prison cells available, presumably the state government calculates these people will have jobs.

State vice president of the CFMEU’s Victorian Construction and General Division Robert Graauwmans gave this speech at Socialist Alliance’s May Day Dinner in Geelong on May 6. Below is an edited version of his speech.

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I’ve been asked to speak on the topic of “Why we should break bad laws” and while I welcome the invitation and the topic, tonight I will not talk about the whether we need to break bad laws, but rather, why we must defy injustice.

It is just as well we are so alert these days to “fake news”, otherwise some might actually believe media claims the federal government has delivered a “left-leaning” budget.

Fifty years ago most people, including politicians, championed the idea of equal educational opportunities for all. The politicians may have only done so for their own political advantage, but even this indicates the strength of the notion.

The Tax Justice Network (TJN) has criticised the failure of the federal government's review of the Petroleum Resource Rent Tax (PRRT) to recommend a new royalties regime to force the major gas corporations to pay their fair share of tax.

The review by former treasury official Mike Callaghan, instigated by federal Treasurer Scott Morrison last November, recognised problems with the existing PRRT system and recommended some changes for new liquified natural gas (LNG) projects.

The Big Four banks, ANZ, Commonwealth, National Australia Bank and Westpac, plus Macquarie Bank were hit by a surprise proposal for a $6.2 billion levy over four years in the federal budget on May 9.

Under the new measures, banks with liabilities of more than $100 billion will be taxed 0.06% on those “liabilities”.

Speculation about a new levy on the big banks sparked a run on banking shares, wiping $14 billion from their market value. Shares in the Big Four banks fell by between 2.1% and 3.6%.

Australia’s largest milk processor Murray Goulburn has announced it will close manufacturing plants in three small rural towns: Kiewa and Rochester in northern Victoria and Edith Creek in Tasmania.

Murray Goulburn expects 360 people will lose their jobs. The closures are in areas where there are no other industries.

This will have a huge impact on these three local communities. The 700 residents of Kiewa-Tangambalanga will lose 135 jobs from Murray Goulburn's factory closure.

Culture

Hit and Run: The New Zealand SAS in Afghanistan & the Meaning of Honour
By Nicky Hager & Jon Stephenson
Potton & Burton, 2017 
159 pages

In this well-written and powerful book, Nicky Hager and Jon Stephenson present a barrage of evidence that “New Zealanders and their United States allies were involved in war crimes” in Afghanistan in 2010.

Argentine hockey player Jessica Millaman, who had been prevented from playing field hockey by her provincial federation governing the sport, told EFE in an interview that she was happy about the recent decision by the Argentine Field Hockey Confederation (CAH) to allow transgender women to participate in women’s tourneys.

Denial
Directed by Mick Jackson
Starring Rachel Weisz, Tom Wilkinson & Timothy Spall
In Cinemas now

In 1996 the vile “historian” David Irving sued US historian Deborah Lipstadt for libel. She had labelled Irving anti-Semitic because of his persistent claims that the Nazi Holocaust had not occurred.

Irving sued Lipstadt in London because under Britain’s libel laws, the burden of proof would be on her. In other words, Lipstadt would have to prove the Holocaust actually did occur.

FIFA, the governing body of world football (soccer), has capitulated once more to intense pressure from the Israeli government. It has removed from the agenda of its upcoming congress the issue of teams from Israel’s illegal settlements on occupied Palestinian land playing in Israel’s national league.

Fans of Glasgow’s Celtic football club showed their support for more than 1500 Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike in Israeli jails, with large banners and Palestinian flags at Celtic’s May 6 football (soccer) match against fellow Scottish side St Johnstone FC.

Members of Celtic’s “ultras” fan group, the Green Brigade, along with Celtic Fans for Palestine, lifted a huge Palestinian flag, as well as large banners with the slogans “Freedom and Dignity” and “Hungering for Justice”.

Italian soccer authorities were branded as “gutless” amid calls for strikes from the league’s Black players after a Ghanaian player was banned for protesting racist crowd abuse.

During a May 1 match between Cagliari and Pescara in Italy’s top league, the Serie A, Pescara’s Ghanaian midfielder Sulley Muntari was given a yellow card for dissent after he protested opposition fans’ racist taunting.

Muntari was seen complaining to the referee to stop the game after coping with abuse throughout the game. He shouted at the fans that “this is my colour”.

Calls are mounting on FIFA to require Israel’s national league to exclude teams from West Bank settlements or face suspension from the governing body of world football (soccer).

But there are warning signs FIFA may be succumbing to intense pressure to once again give Israel a pass to continue violating Palestinian rights with impunity.