Issue 1144

Australia

Solidarity with the Kurdish freedom struggle was stepped up at an inspiring conference held in Melbourne over the June 30–July 1 weekend.

The conference, held at Victoria University (VU), discussed the bold experiment in radical democracy, feminism and ecology that is taking place in the Democratic Federation of Northern Syria (DFNS). Most importantly, the conference resolved: “It is a duty of supporters of the liberation struggle in northern Syria to make determined efforts to publicise its inspiring achievements and build practical solidarity with it”.

Speakers at Newcastle’s refugee week rally on June 24, including Rafi, a detainee on Manus Island who spoke via telephone, called for activists to keep up the pressure on the government’s inhumane refuge policies.

Gleny Rae, Go back to where you came from; Fr Rod Bower, Gosford Anglicans; Dr Kate Murton, Doctors for Refugees; Keira Dott, Students Against Detention; Ian Rintoul, Refugee Action Coalition; Rafi, from Manus Island via telephone; Councillor Therese Dole, Newcastle City Council and others spoke about maintaining the rage. 

About 40 protesters gathered on July 1 at Bundeena Reserve in the Royal National Park to tell the NSW government they will not let the “Royal National Park be attacked for a freeway”.

They were there to protest against a so-far vague proposal to cut off about 60 hectares of the park to extend the F6 motorway and make the drive between Wollongong and Sydney a bit quicker.

For a fraction of the cost of the motorway, improvements to the South Coast rail line would reduce the travel time from Wollongong and remove the need for a freeway.

Activists from Whistleblowers, Activists and Citizens Alliance (WACA) blockaded the entrance to the office of Israeli arms manufacturer Elbit Systems in Port Melbourne on July 7 as part of international week of action.

For a second time the Fair Work Commission has rejected the ACTU’s bid to make 10 day’s paid family and domestic violence leave a minimum standard in all modern awards.

However, in what the ACTU said was a move in the right direction, the full bench of the FWC said it had “formed the preliminary view that all employees should have access to unpaid family and domestic violence leave and … should be able to access personal/carer’s leave for the purpose of taking family and domestic violence leave”.

More than 20 workers who were paid nothing to work in customer service roles at the Melbourne Grand Prix will receive back-pay.

Before the race, labour hire firm Adecco offered casual workers a “volunteer opportunity” that involved pre-race training and three full days’ work in customer service, all unpaid.

About 100 residents and supporters marched from Penrith Station to the electoral office of the Liberal Minister for Western Sydney Stuart Ayres on July 1, to protest plans to construct "the world's largest waste incinerator" at Eastern Creek. They chanted, "No waste dump for Western Sydney," and gathered signatures on a petition calling on the NSW Parliament to cancel the waste incinerator proposal.

Children carried placards that said "Please don't poison me", "Don't make us wheeze” and “We need clean air to breathe".

A Commuter Action Day was held across the Inner West of Sydney on July 5 to oppose the state government’s proposed privatisation of Region 6 of the metropolitan bus network.

Volunteers gathered at bus stops across the inner west to speak to commuters, get signatures on petitions and hand out information about why privatising Sydney buses will result in worse services, cancelled routes and closed bus stops.

About 200 people rallied at Town Hall Square to protest the federal government's proposed new citizenship laws. The new laws extend the residential waiting period for citizenship and raise the standard of the English-language test.

The existing law requires a minimum of four years of continuous residence, with at least one further year as a permanent resident, to qualify for citizenship. The new law would require people to wait four years after becoming permanent residents.

The immigration department has confirmed it wrongly sent two Australian citizens to immigration detention after cancelling their visas.

The two, who were born in New Zealand and hold dual citizenship, were taken to immigration detention after their visas were cancelled following their release from prison.

One was taken to Christmas Island, while the other was detained onshore.

Under section 501 of the Migration Act, a non-citizen's visa must be cancelled if they serve a jail term of more than 12 months.

The Victorian government announced on July 3 it had made an in-principle deal to buy the Australian Sustainable Hardwoods (ASH) timber mill. The deal to save Australia's largest hardwood mill could cost taxpayers up to $50 million.

The Socialist Alliance has announced three candidates for the Inner West Council elections to be held on September 9.

Pip Hinman will run in Stanmore, Susan Price will run in Ashfield and Blair Vidakovich in Leichhardt.

World

In Northern Ireland — the partitioned statelet made up of the six Irish counties still claimed by Britain — the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) is the largest unionist party (supporters of an ongoing “union” with Britain).

Nearly one in five frontline firefighter jobs have been cut since 2010, the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) said, the Morning Star Online reported on July 6.

The union has warned that continued “savage” cuts seriously threaten public safety. It said a post-war record of 11,000 jobs had gone in the past seven years. The cuts include almost 8000 full-time firefighters and nearly 3000 “retained” (on-call) workers.

In February, a video filmed in the village of Mwanza Lomba in the Democratic Republic of Congo in Central Africa, went viral.

It showed unarmed civilians — including children — being massacred by soldiers of the state army. The clip quickly moved from the social networks onto television news channels around the world. But then it vanished again without any further debate about what it meant and what it revealed.

The cycle of belligerency and threat making on both sides is intensifying. And it is always possible that a miscalculation could trigger a new war, with devastating consequences. 

But even if a new war is averted, the ongoing embargo against North Korea and continual threats of war are themselves costly: they promote and legitimise greater military spending and militarisation more generally, at the expense of needed social programs, in Japan, China, the US, and the two Koreas.

As the European Union called on member countries to contribute more to the effort to resettle refugees, Amnesty International released a blistering report on July 5 that said EU policies have made the Mediterranean route from Africa to Europe more deadly than ever for the tens of thousands of refugees who attempt the crossing.

After burying former dictator Ferdinand Marcos’ remains at the national heroes’ cemetery and helping Ferdinand’s son Bongbong Marcos in his bid to become vice president, Duterte has now placed all of Mindanao — and threatened to place the entire country — under martial law. 

Today, we may now be just one “security crisis” away from outright military rule.

The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe recently won a major legal victory in federal court which may have the power to force the shutdown of the $3.8 billion Dakota Access pipeline.

South Africa is at crossroads, facing its biggest upheavals since independence in 1994. Globally, since the 2008 Great Recession there are growing explosive class and social conflicts due to the deepening crisis of capitalism.

With the focus on dramatic images of German riot police using tear gas and high-powered water cannons to disperse G20 protesters in Hamburg on July 6, the message from those demonstrating in the streets was clear for those willing to listen: a better world is possible.

Police brutally repressed thousands of Brazilians who took the streets on June 30 to oppose austerity measures and the Michel Temer government. The actions were part of the second general strike in three months.

The “general strike” included work stoppages by teachers and workers in the banking, metals, health care and oil refinery sector, among others.

Workers at a PepsiCo factory in Argentina have occupied the plant following its closure on June 20, which left 600 workers without a job.

The company claims the closure is due to an “economic crisis”, despite making millions of dollar in profits last year. However workers at the factory, which is located in Vicente Lopez, in Greater Buenos Aires Province, see the move as part of a broader anti-worker offensive by bosses and the pro-corporate government of President Mauricio Macri.

Revolutionary activist and sociologist Reinaldo Iturriza has spent many years working with popular movements in Venezuela and writing on the rise of Chavismo as a political movement of the poor. He also served as Minister for the Communes and Social Movements, and then Minister for Culture in President Nicolas Maduro’s cabinet between 2013 and 2016.

Together with activists from a range of grassroots revolutionary organisations and social movements, he is standing as a candidate for the Popular Constituent Platform in the July 30 elections for a Constituent Assembly that will seek to find a political way out of the current turmoil gripping Venezuela through the drafting of a new constitution.

Analysis

NSW GREENS SENATOR told the ABC’s Insiders program on July 2 that, globally, mass movements are on the rise and that she could see a change in how politics works. She also said that parliament was “important to me, but it is not the main game”.

Green Left Weekly’s SUSAN PRICE caught up with Senator Rhiannon at the Students of Sustainability conference in Newcastle on July 4 and asked her about politics today. 

As the federal government continues to shirk its responsibility to legislate for marriage equality, councils are increasingly being called on to take a lead.

On April 26, former mayor Councillor Rose Hodge moved a motion that the Surf Coast Shire Council fly the Pride flag continuously from May 17 (International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia, Intersexphobia and Transphobia) until the federal government passed a law in support of marriage equality.

Much has been made of the fact that on June 23, the same day the Fair Work Commission slashed penalty rates for retail and hospitality workers, federal politicians were granted yet another pay rise.

The historical and current injustices following the establishment of industry superannuation and the subsequent undermining of this important social policy initiative needs to be scrutinised.

This year, progressive people in Australia have had more cause than usual to pay attention to international politics.

US President Donald Trump on the right shows the depths to which capitalist politics can plunge while British Labour leaderJeremy Corbyn on the left has given many cause for new hope and inspiration.

Former Prime Minister Tony Abbott has re-launched his verbal war against his successor Malcolm Turnbull, with obvious relish.

In recent speeches, Abbott criticised leaked internal Liberal Party moves to bring forward a bill for marriage equality; called for an end to all new spending except for national security and infrastructure; and advocated freezing the country's — already inadequate — renewable energy target.

Members and supporters of the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) rallied on July 4 outside the WA Fair Work Commission (FWC) in protest against Murdoch University’s application to terminate the union’s enterprise bargaining agreement (EBA).

This move by university management is unprecedented for a large public institution and has been described by the NTEU as “the nuclear option”.

Over the past decade, the Australian Education Union-led (AEU) schools funding campaign has put the issue at the front of the national political debate. It has convinced governments at federal and state and territory levels to sign on to funding agreements.

This talk by Australia-Venezuela Solidarity Network (AVSN) convenor Federico Fuentes was presented in Brisbane on July 2. The forum was organised by the Brisbane AVSN. This talk followed a presentation via videolink by Katrina Kozarek from Venezuela Analysis about the current situation on the ground in Venezuela.

Resistance!

Students of Sustainability (SoS) is an annual student conference organised by the Australian Student Environment Network (ASEN).

This year’s SoS conference was held in Newcastle on Awabakal and Worimi land at the Hunter TAFE campus from June 30 to July 5. Conference attendees camped on the campus oval for four days of workshops and plenary sessions, stunts and actions, film screenings, field trips, guerrilla gardening, an anti-fashion show, an open mic night and a dance party.

Culture

“Supporters of around 70 English football clubs have vowed to boycott The Sun over its coverage of the Hillsborough disaster,” The Independent said on July 3.

The decision by the fan groups comes after six people — including the senior police officer in charge on the day — were arrested over the infamous disaster in which 96 Liverpool fans were killed. Coverage by The Sun infamously blamed Liverpool fans and included insulting lies about their alleged behaviour since proven to be entirely false.

Last year, a group of studying music at the LGBTI Centre in Bogota decided to organize a rock band unlike any other in Colombia. Members say the band, 250 Milligrams, is the first transgender male rock group in South America. 

The Vatican Treasurer, George Pell, could turn out to be the Lance Armstrong of the Australian Catholic Church.

Like Armstrong, the world’s former top cyclist who furiously denied being a drug cheat until he was eventually rumbled by dogged investigative journalists. Pell, Australia’s top Catholic, has maintained his innocence in the face of mounting allegations that he covered up an epidemic of sexual abuse of children by Australian Catholic priests.

He has now been charged with such crimes himself.