Issue 1148

Australia

Queensland Premier Anastacia Palaszczuk’s 2015 election commitments to transparent decision making, no “secret deals” and that the Adani project must “stand alone on its feet ... on the economics of the project itself” have been challenged by documents released under a Right to Information request.

The Court of Justice of the European Union issued a ruling on July 26 that confirmed an earlier General Court decision removing the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) from the EU's list of "terrorist organisations".

The LTTE was an armed organisation fighting for an independent Tamil homeland in the north and east of the island of Sri Lanka. It was formed in response to decades of discrimination and repression against the Tamil minority by the Sri Lankan government.

A telephone poll of 700 residents of Gloucester and the Manning Valley conducted by ReachTEL on July 27 showed 73% do not want the NSW government to not approve the Rocky Hill coalmine that GRL wants to build within a kilometre of the town.

More than one-third of Centrelink debt recovery cases have been overturned by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal.

It has set aside 960 Centrelink debt decisions out of 2699 appeals lodged from March last year and a further 132 were “varied”.

The data shows a steady rise in decisions from January when the government’s controversial “robo debt” measures were introduced.

A Centrelink decision can be “set aside” because the debt was incorrectly calculated or if it would cause the Centrelink recipient serious financial hardship.

Activists rallied outside the Sydney Town Hall on July 29 in solidarity with the people of Venezuela who were voting in their Constituent Assembly elections amid a wave of right-wing terror attacks.

The rally was called by the Australia-Venezuela Solidarity Network (AVSN), the Latin America Social Forum (LASF) and the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) Sydney branch. It had the support of the Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) construction branch and formed part of the nationwide actions supporting the assembly elections in Venezuela.

The Refugee Council of Australia has released a report into refugees’ experiences with the government's Jobactive program that found a number of agency staff members were "hostile" and provided little or no support.

The report called for an independent review of the $1.4 billion Jobactive program, saying it is largely failing refugees.

Refugees said they felt disrespected and were routinely being pulled out of English classes to attend compulsory Jobactive meetings that did not result in employment.

Stop Adani activists organised simultaneous protests at two branches of the Commonwealth Bank in Perth’s central business district on July 28, to highlight growing opposition to the CBA’s involvement with the Adani coalmine.

Activists rallied outside the bank’s main branch in the Murray Street mall and also occupied the Hay Street branch a block away.

The rally featured a human coal train chugging through the gathering, pulling carriages emblazoned with “STOP funding dirty coal STOP ADANI”. The bank reacted by locking its doors.

Gamilaraay elder Auntie Bowie Hickey and daughter Vanessa Hickey expressed their deep gratitude to those protesting outside a gas industry forum on August 3.

The Wilderness Society called the protest to highlight the widespread opposition to Santos’ Narrabri gas project in the Pilliga Forest.

There have been numerous instances of human rights abuses since the Nauru detention centre was reopened in 2013 and then-Prime Minister Kevin Rudd announced that no refugee who arrived by boat would ever be given safety in Australia. The Guardian’s Nauru Files give detailed accounts of children being assaulted, women sexually abused by guards and suicide attempts laughed at.

In March last year people in the Nauru detention centre began a daily protest that lasted for 240 days.

World

Appearing before a backdrop of smiling uniformed police officers on July 28, US President Donald Trump encouraged the brutalisers in blue to be more abusive and violent toward people they arrest in a speech given at Suffolk County Community College on New York’s Long Island.

Popular mobilisation in the Rif region in Morocco’s north have continued and spread to several of the North African country’s towns, despite repression by security forces and the regime's attempts to discredit the movement.

Meanwhile, several thousand police officers have been sent to Al Hoceima to stop the demonstrations.

The Turkish government has proposed a new law which will ban the use of the words and terms “Kurdistan”, “Kurdish city/cities” and “Armenian Genocide” in parliament.

Parliamentarians who use these words or terms will be fined 12,000 Turkish liras (about $4500) and be banned from participating in three sessions in the Grand Assembly.

Carrying placards, which opposition parties often do to criticise the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) government, will also be banned.

As the 19th round of trade negotiations for the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) took place in Hyderabad, India from 17-28 July, trade unions and civil society groups in the country have joined forces to voice concerns over the trade deal, and called for more transparency. 

RCEP is a proposed mega regional free trade agreement (FTA) being negotiated by 16 countries, including ASEAN members and its six FTA partners — namely India, China, Australia, Japan, South Korea and New Zealand.

Nuclear weapons are in the news again, for all the wrong reasons. But the adoption of a new United Nations treaty could kickstart a re-energised effort to abolish these expensive, dangerous and immoral weapons.

On July 7, the UN General Assembly adopted the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, commonly known as the nuclear ban treaty. It was voted in by 122 countries, with only one country voting against.

However, all nine nuclear weapon states, and most nuclear umbrella states, failed to attend the treaty negotiations and boycotted the vote.

After weeks of imperialist threats and opposition violence, the elections for Venezuela's National Constituent Assembly (ANC) took place on July 30. The result was a huge turnout of more than 8 million voters, around 41% of the electorate, which gave Chavismo a much-needed shot in the arm.

The head of the campaign for Venezuela's National Constituent Assembly (ANC), Jorge Rodriguez, said on August 2 that the National Electoral Council (CNE) had been asked to complete the audit of the electoral process following the July 30 vote.

Rodriguez insisted that the only valid results of the ANC election are those provided by the CNE, which originally counted 8,089,320 votes.

Paraguay's lawmakers voted on August 2 in favour of the Financial Rehabilitation bill to support small farmers overwhelmed by debts.

The farmers, who have been holding protests for three weeks in the capital Asuncion, brought the city to a standstill once more prior to the vote.

The legislation, introduced by the progressive Guasu Front, will fund and restructure the debts of small farmers who own less than 30 hectares of land with subsidies of up to US$10,000 a person.

Long-time South African climate justice activist and author Patrick Bond is professor of political economy at the Wits School of Governance, University of the Witwatersrand.

Ethemcan Turhan and Cem Iskender Aydin spoke with Bond on the need for an international climate justice movement to target the Donald Trump administration.

Relatives of Berta Caceres, the iconic Indigenous environmentalist from Honduras who was killed in March last year, denounced on July 26 a "hate campaign" against them.

The environmental activist's family expressed concern about the "most aggressively executed hate campaign" against them after the Dutch Development Bank, FMO and the Finnish Fund for Industrial Cooperation, Finnfund, decided to pull out from the Agua Zarca dam project on the Gualcarque River that flows through the Indigenous territory of the Lenca people.

One hundred years ago in the aftermath of defeat of the July 16-20 [3-7 in New Style] protest movement by workers and soldiers, the Bolsheviks responded to the “July Days” setback by calling on the people to ignore provocations and expose rightist slander.

The wave of protests was repelled by military and police attacks, with hundreds of casualties, on the orders of the Provisional Government — the capitalist government that came to power after the February Revolution overthrew the Tsar and which was supported by the moderate socialists.

It was a key phase in the storm that swept Russia during 1917. This storm culminated in the October Revolution when, led by the Bolsheviks, the soviets (councils) of workers, soldiers and peasants took power, overthrowing the Provisional Government.

Donald Trump announced a ban on transgender people serving in the US armed forces via Twitter on July 26. The ban reverses a series of orders made by the Barack Obama administration to explore the integration of transgender service personnel into the military — and for any costs associated with gender affirmation medical technology to be covered.

The ban has re-raised questions about what attitude left-wing forces should take to questions of discrimination in the armed forces of imperialist countries. Should such discrimination be opposed and on what basis should you do so?

Analysis

Opposition groups in Venezuela are currently engaged in a campaign to overthrow the democratically-elected government of President Nicolas Maduro.

Portrayed by the media as a peaceful, democratic movement, it is clear that what Venezuela is experiencing is a right-wing destabilisation campaign that not only seeks to remove Maduro but to roll back the important gains of the country’s Bolivarian Revolution.

In Australia, the National Electricity Market is rapidly becoming dysfunctional, with power shortages, blackouts and soaring prices making headlines.

Private companies are refusing to invest in new fossil fuel generators to replace those that have closed. This “investment strike” is due partly to uncertainty about carbon pricing and partly to increasingly volatile spot prices received by generators.

On July 19, 2013, former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd stood beside Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Peter O’Neill and said in a classical Rudd pretentious drone: “You won’t be settled in Australia. You’ll be sent to Nauru or Papua New Guinea for reprocessing and resettlement.”

Effective immediately, everyone who came by boat seeking asylum would never be given protection in Australia.

There have been numerous instances of human rights abuses since the Nauru detention centre was reopened in 2013 and then-Prime Minister Kevin Rudd announced that no refugee who arrived by boat would ever be settled in Australia.

The Guardian’s Nauru Files gave detailed accounts of children being assaulted, women sexually abused by guards and suicide attempts being laughed at.

Federal Treasurer Scott Morrison says inequality in Australia is falling, and accuses Labor of pursuing a dishonest campaign based on the "politics of envy". Morrison claims Opposition Leader Bill Shorten's statement that inequality has reached a 75-year high is a "lie".

Shakespeare reckoned that a rose by any other name would smell as sweet. Old Will is right of course, because whether you call it rhubarb, a rhododendron or a rocking horse, a rose is a rose.

Sometimes though, if enough people use the new name of an old thing often enough, they can convince themselves and others that it is in fact a different thing. Then, having transformed the thing semantically, we can consider it a new thing, and treat it as a new thing. This is nothing new. It is marketing and corporate branding 101 and it does not matter most of the time.

Resistance!

The Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) released its long-awaited national report on sexual assault and sexual harassment at Australian universities on August 1. While much of the corporate media coverage deemed the results “shocking”, they are not really surprising.

Culture

In Joshua: Teenager vs. Superpower, which premiered at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival, director Joe Piscatella depicts Hong Kong pro-democracy activist Joshua Wong and his comrades struggles from 2011-16 against Chinese government attempts to impose control on the former British Colony.

“The general idea of this little book is to understand and explain why Marx will still be read in the twenty-first century, not only as a monument of the past, but as a contemporary author — contemporary both because of the questions he poses for philosophy and because of the concepts he offers it,” French philosopher Etienne Balibar writes in The Philosophy of Marx.

With some reservations, I feel he achieves this goal. It is a thought-provoking book, but it may disappoint readers who seek either an introduction to Marx’s philosophy or a straightforward account of how Marx’s ideas can inspire focused political action in the 21st century.

There are few subjects more reliably depressing than the problem of impending climate chaos.

In some ways, the daily dumpster fire that is the Donald Trump administration is a welcome distraction from the increasingly dire predictions of the Hell on Earth awaiting us if we do not drastically and immediately alter our trajectory.

It is worth going to see An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power, however, for the same reason that it was valuable to see it’s prequel, An Inconvenient Truth, over a decade ago: Through these films we can come to understand how the liberal establishment proposes to tackle this, the mother of all capitalism’s crises.