Issue 1149

News

The Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) has launched the First Nations Workers' Alliance to represent the 30,000 participants in the federal government’s Community Development Program (CDP), most of whom are Aboriginal people.

The move followed a resolution adopted by the ACTU executive authorising all means at its disposal to be mobilised towards dismantling the program. The resolution will kick-start the exploration of legal and legislative challenges to the program, as well as the mobilisation of campaign resources.

Opponents of the controversial $18 billion WestConnex tollway have continued protesting around the Inner West, as public opinion is turning against the state government's growing network of tollways, road tunnels, exit ramps and polluting smokestacks.

The anti-WestConnex movement is now spreading into opposition to the government's proposed Northern Beaches Link and the planned F6 expansion threatening a section of the Royal National Park to the south.

More than 150 unionists and two giant inflatable mascots rallied outside Esso's Australian headquarters in Southbank, Melbourne, on August 3. The rally was organised by the Australian Manufacturing Workers' Union (AMWU), the Australian Workers' Union (AWU) and the Electrical Trades Union (ETU).

The rally was in support of maintenance workers who have been picketing Esso's Longford gas site since June in protest over the plan by UGL, which holds Esso’s maintenance contract, to retrench them and have a subsidiary rehire them on 30% less pay and a two-week fly-in, fly-out roster.

About 190 Oaky North miners were locked out of their workplace in the Bowen Basin west of Rockhampton on August 4 for a third consecutive eight-day period. It was the fourth time the workers had been locked out since June by Anglo-Swiss mining giant Glencore, which the Construction Forestry Mining Energy Union (CFMEU) suspects of trying to replace the permanent workforce with contractors.

Activists have called for an independent inquiry into the Maules Creek coalmine in north-west NSW and its impact on the surrounding farming community after documents obtained by Environmental Justice Australia (EJA) revealed a litany of environmental licence breaches over the past six years.

EJA applied to access documents known as annual returns, which detail breaches or "non-compliance with [environmental] licence", through the Government Information (Public Access) Act. But Whitehaven Coal, which owns the Maules Creek mine, fought them all the way.

ABC’s Four Corners recent report “Trashed: The dirty truth about your rubbish” highlighted a crisis in Australia’s recycling and waste disposal. The report implicated local councils, the Environmental Protection Agency and state and federal governments in the dodgy but highly profitable illegal dumping industry.

Companies built around the core business of illegal dumping are making millions of dollars in profits while local councils are losing thousands of dollars in waste levies.

After more than six months camped outside the Reserve Bank building in Martin Place, and following months of negotiations between the state government and the City of Sydney Council, the homeless occupants of Sydney’s tent city began packing up their belongings on August 11.

The man often called the “Mayor of Martin Place”, Lanz Priestley, said some camp dwellers were moving to “friend’s places” or “friend’s backyards”, but some “don’t have anywhere to go”.

More than 100 people attended public forums discussing the crisis in Venezuela and the need for solidarity with the Bolivarian Revolution against the threat of violent right-wing opposition in Geelong and Melbourne on July 28 and 29.

The Melbourne meeting was initiated by Socialist Alliance and supported by the Latin American Solidarity Network (LASNET) and the El Salvadoran leftist party, the Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front.

The Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) has raised strong objections to moves by the Australian Public Service Commission (APSC) to impose severe restrictions on public sector workers' personal use of social media. "It is completely unreasonable for a worker to face disciplinary action over a private email or something as benign as 'liking' a social media post," CPSU national secretary Nadine Flood said on August 7.

Locals took to the streets of Penrith on August 5 to rally against a controversial plan by Dial A Dump and its director Ian Malouf to build a waste-to-energy incinerator at Eastern Creek, in Sydney’s west.

The rally marched to the electorate office of Minister for Western Sydney Stuart Ayres. It was timed to coincide with an Upper House inquiry into energy-from-waste technology due to begin on August 7. 

More than 300 unionists and local residents protested outside the electorate office of Liberal MP for Drummoyne John Sidoti on August 4.

Chanting “John Sidoti’s got to go!” and waving placards opposing the NSW government’s planned privatisation of public buses in the Inner West, the protest elicited much support from passing motorists and pedestrians. There was no response, however, from Sidoti’s office.

Flags from the Rail, Tram and Bus Union (RTBU), Australian Manufacturing Workers Union (AMWU) and the Australian Services Union (ASU) were prominent.

More than 70 workers at Visy’s Dandenong plant voted on August 7 to maintain a peaceful picket and not return to work after an Australian Manufacturing Workers Union (AMWU) delegate was sacked on August 4 for organising “illegal industrial action”.

The workers, all members of the AMWU, had become increasingly angered by a series of provocative actions taken by Visy management in the weeks before the delegate was sacked.

Analysis

So the government is planning a plebiscite on equal marriage by means of post, presumably because it didn’t want to confuse elderly opponents of marriage equality with new-fangled technological developments like the telegram.

The whole project will cost $122 million for a vote that is not even binding, when all polls for years have shown a large majority in favour of marriage equality and the thing could be resolved in a matter of hours by a simple vote in parliament.

A new campaign, #HelpNotHarm: Stand against mandatory drug testing, spearheaded by Dr Alex Wodak and GetUp!, has been launched in response to the federal government’s decision to deny income support payments to those who test positive to certain drugs.

In the past fortnight, many of us thought we were right on the edge of FINALLY winning marriage equality in Australia as dissent within the ranks of Malcolm Turnbull’s Coalition government came to a head.

Liberal MP Dean Smith and others put up the Marriage Amendment (Definition and Religious Freedoms) Bill and called for a free vote. Even Turnbull, a self-declared supporter of marriage equality even as he called for a plebiscite, said he supported the right of Liberal MPs to cross the floor to vote for the bill.

Despite widespread community opposition and the Senate's repeated rejection of a plebiscite the Malcolm Turnbull government is persisting with a non-binding postal survey on the question of removing the current definition of marriage from the Marriage Act and replacing it with an unspecified definition that will provide for marriage equality in some unspecified form.

US President Donald Trump's August 8 statement that any threats from North Korea would be “met with fire and fury like the world has never seen” should have made us all very worried. But it has grown worse since then.

The case for re-nationalising the Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA) is becoming stronger every day. The latest in a string of scandals to hit "Australia's leading bank" is the revelation the CBA is facing allegations that its Intelligent Deposit Machines (IDMs) were used by money launderers and criminal gangs to process millions of dollars in cash.

A recent expose by the ABC’s Four Corners has alleged significant illegal extraction of water from the Barwon-Darling river system, one of the major tributaries of the Murray River.

Hamed Shamshiripour, a 31 year old Iranian refugee, died on August 7 as a direct result of Australia’s detention system. He is the sixth man to die on Manus Island since the detention centre was opened in 2012, according to Monash University’s Australian Border Deaths database.

Last week was Homelessness Week. It was also the week when the 76 homeless people sleeping in Martin Place were removed by the NSW Coalition government.

Sydney City Council has, at least, defended the “tent city” and taken a more pro-active role in trying to find solutions, compared with the NSW government which simply wants to wash its hands of this enormous problem.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian’s surprise decision on July 27 to abandon plans for more local council mergers is a win for communities who strongly protested this undemocratic decision, said the Socialist Alliance candidates standing for the Inner West Council in the September 9 election.

World

There has been a lot of media focus on Venezuela’s recently inaugurated National Constituent Assembly (ANC). However, little attention has been paid to the response it has generated among grassroots organisations or the variety of proposals being discussed in communities in terms of potential constitutional changes.

US President Donald Trump told the media on August 10 that he would not “rule out “military options” for dealing with Venezuela. His comments were followed by the imposition of economic sanctions against Venezuela on August 25.

Labeling Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro as a "dictator", the White House said in a statement that the new sanctions seek to block "a critical source of funding" for the Venezuelan government, which is having to deal with a deep economic crisis.

More than 200,000 protesters marched through Mumbai, disrupting traffic and straining the railway network, to press their demands for quotas in government jobs and education.

Rising unemployment and falling incomes are driving farming communities across India to redouble calls for reserving jobs and education, especially for the underprivileged Maratha community in western India.

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Environmentalists from Uruguay, Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay marched on August 5 in the department of Paysandu, Uruguay, to protest against oil and gas exploration being carried out by Australian company Petrel Energy. The company’s exploratory works, and potential exploitation, threaten the integrity of the Guarani Aquifer, one of the world’s largest deposits of groundwater.

Since 2013, Petrel Energy has been the majority shareholder in the US company, Shues

Haiti’s Senate has passed a bill that makes same sex marriage a crime and bans public displays of support for LGBTI rights. The bill — which would affect Haitian nationals and foreigners — will now go to the Chamber of Deputies, although a date for a vote has not been set.

Haitian law already defines marriage as being between a man and woman. But this bill seeks to expressly criminalise same sex marriage, with “parties, co-parties, and accomplices” to a same-sex marriage  — meaning even those who simply attend — facing potential jail terms of up to three years and an $8000 fine.

The Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) held their national conference in Chicago on August 5 and 6, at a gathering that confirmed its emergence as stronger, younger and more radical group than it has ever been.

Before last year’s US presidential election, the DSA boasted between 7000-8000 members. Since then, it has ballooned to 25,000 members — mostly young and hungry for a fight.

The threat by US President Donald Trump to unleash nuclear war against North Korea is not a Trumpian “excess”.

That has been made clear by his Secretary of Defense, retired Marine General James Mattis, who backed Trump. The administration is demanding that North Korea freeze its nuclear program, including the testing of missiles.

Many commentators in the US and elsewhere have poured cold water on the idea there could be a short term war between the US and North Korea.

The Guardian said on August 9: “But despite two unpredictable nuclear-armed leaders trading barbs, most observers believe the possibility of conflict remains remote, with the North Korean leadership using its nuclear program as a bargaining chip rather than an offensive weapon.”

Flanked by military commanders, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi was in the nation’s second-largest city, Mosul, on July 10 to announce the city’s liberation from ISIS.

An end to the three-year-long rule by the extremely violent and authoritarian terrorist group is obviously good news for the city's residents. But it seems unlikely the group’s defeat will mean an end to their suffering, which began long before ISIS captured the city in June 2014.

I know exactly where I was on August 9, 2007. It was a hot summer’s day — “debtonation day”.

Bankers all over the world had lost their collective nerve and refused to lend to each other. The globally synchronised financial system froze, and began its descent into sustained failure. It then took more than a year, and Lehman Brothers’ collapse, before the world understood the gravity of the crisis.

Ten years on, that slow-motion crisis, a prolonged period of disinflation, noflation and deflation, is still playing out.

Quim Arrufat is a joint national spokesperson for the People’s Unity List (CUP), an organisation that he has likened to “urban Zapatistas” – in reference to the insurgent indigenous movement based in Chiapas, Mexico – that is committed to Catalan independence and socialism.  

The United States submarine captain says: “We’ve all got to die one day, some sooner and some later. The trouble always has been that you’re never ready, because you don’t know when it’s coming.

“Well, now we do know and there’s nothing to be done about it.”

He says he will be dead by September. It will take about a week to die, though no one can be sure. Animals live the longest.

The war was over in a month

Britain Labour opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn, has said he is saddened by the violence and loss of life in Venezuela, “either of those on the streets or of the security forces who have been attacked by those on the streets”.

“Violence is not going to solve the issues,” Corbyn told the media, at the end of a local party meeting in the southern English town of Crawley. He said there has to be dialogue and a process that respects Venezuela's institutions, including the independence of the judiciary.

In January last year, Henry Ramos Allup, president of the then newly-installed Venezuelan parliament, hastened to make a demonstration of institutional power. The opposition bloc had obtained a strong victory in the 2015 legislative elections and the veteran political leader of Democratic Action (AD) was probably thinking that Venezuela would soon follow Argentina’s suit and do away with its leftist government.

Stalin Perez Borges is an activist with LUCHAS (United League of Chavista Socialists) and a member of the Consultative Council of the Bolivarian Socialist Workers’ Central (CBST).

He spoke to Green Left Weekly’s Federico Fuentes about the July 30 elections for the National Constituent Assembly (ANC) and its subsequent inauguration, as well as the August 6 armed assault on a military base by right-wing opponents of Venezuela’s socialist government.

Culture

Shashi Tharoor’s brilliant speech in 2015 to the Oxford Union on the motion “This house believes Britain owes reparations to her former colonies” went viral, receiving coverage across the world.

Tharoor, an MP for the Indian National Congress, former senior United Nations official, novelist and scholar, has now expanded the argument he made at Oxford into Inglorious Empire.

In June 1940, Winston Churchill described the German rout of the French, Belgian and British armies and the seaborne evacuation of 338,000 troops from Dunkirk in northern France as a “colossal military disaster”.

For a nation whose national identity is intimately bound up with victory and conquest, it is paradoxical that the retreat from Dunkirk has become such an important part of British mythology.

Two very different exhibitions communicate critical evidence about the Aboriginal experience of the 1967 referendum, through which the Australian constitution was amended to remove the racist provisions of sections 51 and 127.

That victory certainly did not end racism in Australia, but opened up the possibility of a broader, unfinished struggle.

Walking into any souvenir shop in Australia, tourists see the walls lined with Aboriginal designs and artwork. What is less obvious is the fact that most of these items are mass produced in parts of Asia.

Banduk Marika, a Youngu artist, said: “We’re not making those. Indigenous people, even Australians, we’re not making those. Who is making this?”

Aboriginal communities say the answer is corporations.

Resistance!

In Trauma and recovery: The aftermath of violence — from domestic abuse to political terror, psychiatrist and trauma specialist Judith Herman wrote: “The ordinary response to atrocities is to banish them from consciousness. Certain violations of the social compact are too terrible to utter aloud: this is the meaning of the word unspeakable.”