Issue 1150

Australia

The federal government’s vulnerable workers legislation, which it says is to crack down on franchisee underpayments, would give the Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO) coercive powers to investigate unions and compulsorily obtain information from workers over suspected unlawful industrial action.

Employment Minister Senator Michaelia Cash said on August 16 the new law would mean the FWO could obtain evidence of "discrimination, coercion, conduct relating to false records, unprotected industrial action, accessorial liability, unfair dismissal [and] bullying claims".

Cancer Council Australia, unions and public health advocates have expressed alarm over proposed federal government changes to industrial chemical regulations.

The changes mean more than 99% of new industrial chemicals will not be officially assessed for threats to public health and the environment before being introduced to the public.

The federal government’s war on militant unions has escalated with the introduction of a bill that would give it the power to deregister unions, disqualify officials and block unions from merging.

The bill, which was introduced on August 16, goes further than the recommendations of the Royal Commission into Trade Union Governance and Corruption. It could scuttle mergers that have been approved by an overwhelming majority of union members, based on opposition from business.

Townsville pizza delivery driver Casey Salt and the Retail and Fast Food Workers Union (RAFFWU) are taking Domino's to the Fair Work Commission (FWC) in the latest challenge to unfair agreements struck between big retail and fast food employers and the conservative Shop, Distributive & Allied Employees Association (SDA).

Salt will ask the FWC to terminate an exploitative agreement her employer made with the SDA that has left workers underpaid tens of millions of dollars

Workers employed in the Corporate and Technical Division of the Metropolitan Fire Brigade (MFB) will vote on a new enterprise agreement during the two weeks beginning on August 31. The Corporate and Technical Division includes non-firefighting employees of the MFB, such as payroll and finance staff and computer technicians.

Activists opposing the proposed megamine that Indian miner Adani wants to build in central Queensland have suffered two legal setbacks in their quest to block the mine.

On August 25, the Federal Court dismissed the appeal by the Australian Conservation Foundation against the federal government’s approval of Adani's Carmichael coalmine.

The Andrews Labor government’s euphemistically titled Public Housing Renewal Program aims to sell a range of public housing estates across inner Melbourne in a series of public private partnerships.

These deals will hand over large swathes of land currently owned by the Department of Housing to developers and allow the construction of high rise apartment buildings. The state government wants to remove planning controls over these developments from local councils by creating a special planning committee to oversee the developments within the department.

Multinational giant Unilever, which owns Streets ice cream, has applied to the Fair Work Commission to terminate an enterprise agreement at its Minto plant in western Sydney. If the workers are forced back on to the award, they would suffer a significant loss in pay and conditions. 

The Minto workers, members of the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union (AMWU), rejected a proposed agreement that would have seen new employees paid less and with worse conditions compared to existing workers.

In the lead up to the September 9 election for the forcibly amalgamated Inner West Council, Labor candidates are feeling the pressure of strong community opposition to the multi-billion-dollar WestConnex motorway tunnel.

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In recent months a small section of Venezuelans living in Australia have decided to embrace some of the aggressive tactics used by fellow right-wingers living in other parts of the globe.

With a campaign established to deport Lucia Rodriguez, the daughter of Caracas mayor and United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) leader Jorge Rodriguez – she was accosted in Bondi a few months ago – and two Venezuelans removed by police from the Latin America Down Under mining expo held in Perth, it is becoming apparent some Venezuelans view these types of actions as acceptable.

The City of Port Adelaide Enfield, in Adelaide's northern suburbs, made history on August 8 when it became the first local government in Australia to publicly advocate for the Newstart Allowance to be raised.

The motion, calling on Port Adelaide Enfield Council to lobby the federal government to raise Newstart, as well as produce a report into how council can assist local unemployed residents who are struggling, was sponsored by Councillor Michelle Hogan, and seconded by Councillor Peter Jamieson. It was passed by 11 votes to 2.

Local comedian Pauline Fartson (aka Helchild) summed up the sentiment of the Busk for Free Speech rally on August 6 when she held up a giant permit, which said “Permit to breathe in public places in Moreland”.

Busk for Free Speech was held to highlight some of the anti-democratic and discriminatory local laws being proposed by Moreland City Council as part of its review of local laws. Most of the proposed laws already exist under the current local laws but they are also being included in the draft general local law.

World

After a long battle, women will have the right to abortion for therapeutic reasons. Chile’s Constitutional Court announced a bill allowing abortion in such circumstances had been approved on August 21, despite pressure from conservative right-wing forces.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has slammed the major damage caused to Venezuela over recent months of opposition violence, comparing the right-wing protesters to the white supremacists in the United States who organised violent and deadly protests  in Charlottesville, Virginia, on August 12.

Speaking at a media conference on August 22, Maduro deplored how “fascist groups” attacked people based on their observable ethnic characteristics — in the United States and Venezuela.

Tens of thousands of people mobilized in Boston on August 19 in a magnificent display of solidarity against a rally that far-right and neo-Nazi forces had been organising for weeks.

Defying sweltering summer heat and humidity, thousands marched and chanted their way through the streets of Boston.

About 15,000 took part in a two-mile march from Roxbury Crossing to Boston Common, where the white supremacists were gathering. But by the time the march arrived, the two-dozen or so fascists had already packed up and left, with the help of a heavy police escort.

Rescue personnel had discovered 499 dead bodies as of August 20, since a devastating landslide hit near the Sierra Leone capital Freetown on August 14, the city's chief coroner said. Humanitarian groups say that more than 600 people remain missing.

The worst flood-related tragedy Africa has seen in years occurred when the side of Mount Sugar Loaf collapsed after heavy rain. It buried parts of the mountainous suburbs of Regent town, overwhelming relief efforts in one of the world’s poorest countries.

Peasants across Africa are intensifying their struggles against land grabs and other harmful policies that promote industrial agriculture. At a recent international conference organised by the world’s largest peasant movement, Via Campesina, African peasants had opportunities to share their experiences of struggle and to learn.

“It is amazing to see how linked our struggles are,” said Nicolette Cupido from the Agrarian Reform for Food Sovereignty Campaign (FSC) in South Africa.

Leafing through my August 1 copy of Green Left Weekly, I thought I spotted an egregious typo. Surely, Barry Sheppard’s dispatch from San Francisco, “Bernie Sanders’ Democratic Party strategy fatally flawed” in issue 1148 had had an apostrophe inserted in the headline where there should have been a colon.

An air strike by the US-backed Saudi-led coalition on a hotel near the Yemeni capital Sanaa killed dozens of people on August 23, multiple news agencies have reported. It came as a humanitarian crisis extended its grip on the impoverished nation.

Thousands of protesters flooded the streets of Phoenix, Arizona when US President Donald Trump held a campaign rally on August 22, the first since his administration was engulfed by mass outrage following his remarks about the white supremacist riot in Charlottesville, Virginia, that included a far-right terrorist attack that left one peaceful protester dead.

United States President Donald Trump announced that the US would continue the ongoing war in Afghanistan, which is already the longest war in US history, Democracy Now! reported on August 22.

The Pentagon is likely to deploy about 4000 more US troops to Afghanistan in the coming months. In recent months, the US has intensified its air war in Afghanistan. During June, the US carried out 389 airstrikes in Afghanistan — the highest monthly total in five years.

Catalonia’s regional government has declared it will hold a referendum on October 1 over whether it should become independent from Spain. In response, Spain’s conservative People’s Party (PP) Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has vowed that the “unconstitutional” referendum will not take place, setting the scene for the biggest crisis in the Spanish state since the 1978 transition from the Franco dictatorship.

Thousands of Muslims voiced their rejection of jihadi extremism on August 21, marching through central Barcelona with banners reading “Terrorism has no religion”, Morning Star Online said.

It came in the wake of the August 17 terrorist attacks in Catalonia, which killed 13 and was claimed by Islamic State.

AFTER Charlottesville, we know the truth: The supposedly respectable "alt-right" isn't so "alternative." They're a new generation of the same violent, racist reactionaries of yesteryear.

And from the days after Charlottesville, we know another truth: They are being aided and abetted by none other than the current occupant of the White House.

Democracy Now!'s show on August 14 takes an in-depth look at the "Unite the Right" white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, on August 12 that erupted into violence, resulting in three deaths.

Analysis

According to an Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) tweet, between August 8 and 22 the electoral roll increased by 54,545.

There were 577,879 total enrolment transactions processed in that time, including checking and updating enrolment details. This data does not include the last two days of the enrolment period, which closed at midnight on August 24, so these numbers are likely to increase.

Sentient lobsters boil at 200°C, screaming in pain, just so billionaires can slurp them up. Consider this the lobsters’ revenge on the Victorian Opposition Leader. Matthew "tough on crime” Guy was boiled and cooked red after having a sit-down lobster and donations dinner with mobsters.

In an August 9 speech to parliament, Greens Senator Peter Whish-Wilson once again backed the right-wing campaign against Venezuela’s democracy and national sovereignty.

His statements follow a June 21 speech to the Senate, where he spoke out against what he claimed was an “increasingly anti-democratic and corrupted government under President Nicolas Maduro”, while praising the “democratic and peaceful” protests led by Venezuela’s right-wing opposition.

Amir Taghinia is the founder of Manus Alert, an online news agency coming directly from within Australia's immigration prison camp.

Taghinia is fluent in many languages and often finds himself as a negotiator between people who have been incarcerated in the Manus Island camp, local authorities and communities.

He holds a passion for the beautiful lands we live on and in and has read widely on environmental issues.

He acknowledges some editorial assistance from Melody Kemp and Janet Galbraith.

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What local councils do or don’t do on January 26 has burst into the national political debate, and what a good thing that is. No matter the frantic condemnation from the corporate media or the pompous and arse-about assertion by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull that councils were “using a day that should unite Australians to divide Australians”.

These opponents of an honest examination of Australia’s history may want to shut down the conversation but the opposite has happened.

Coalition finance minister Mathias Cormann told an admiring audience at the conservative Sydney Institute on August 23 that Labor leader Bill Shorten was “channelling” Jeremy Corbyn and Bernie Sanders.

If only...

After a local community campaign lasting almost a decade, the South Australian government has finally committed to build solar thermal with storage in Port Augusta. It will bring 24-hour solar power to SA, creating hundreds of regional jobs, cutting pollution and putting downward pressure on electricity prices.

One hundred years ago this month, the Great Strike of 1917, the biggest strike in Australian history began. It was to last more than two months, from August 2 until the last workers drifted back to work on October 15, but the impact of the strike lasted a lot longer.

Resistance!

The Radical Ideas Conference organised by Resistance: Young Socialist Alliance over August 18 to 20 attracted young and older radicals committed to “sparking the resistance”.

Celeste Liddle, an Arrente woman, union activist and writer joined abortion rights and Socialist Alliance activist Kamala Emanuel and Mia Sanders from Resistance in a fascinating panel “Women fight back against misogyny and rape culture”.

Culture

Donald Trump’s immigration policies — and the marching orders he has given to Immigration Customs and Enforcement (ICE) — are destroying lives. When this hits home, it gets very real, very quickly.

It is a reality that recently smacked the members of the elite Bethesda Soccer Club right between the eyes: Their teammate and friend Lizandro Claros Saravia was detained by ICE, along with his older brother Diego. Both were then deported.

A rally gathered in front of the NFL’s Park Avenue Headquarters in New York on August 23. A host of civil-rights organisations protested the exile-status of free-agent quarterback Colin Kaepernick — the star quarterback formerly of the San Francisco 49ers who caused waves by taking to his knee during the US national anthem as an anti-racist protest.

There was no indication that Kaepernick is connected to the rally, but his endorsement is irrelevant: The issue has become something far bigger than the makeup of an NFL roster.

The Sydney Latin American Film Festival (SLAFF) is on again for the 12th year running. Featuring a specially curated program of captivating contemporary Latin American cinema, the festival has several films that progressive filmgoers won’t want to miss.

An important feature of this year’s program is that 50% of the films feature female directors, festival programmer Lidia Luna said.

While Adriana’s Pact director Lissette Orozco reflects on the role her aunt, Adriana Rivas, played during the Augusto Pinochet dictatorship, Roberto Calzadilla's El Amparo focuses on one of a number of state-sponsored massacres of civilians that occurred during the 1980s in Venezuela as a prelude to the bloodbath that would occur in the February 1989 Caracazo uprising.

Heritier Lumumba, the retired Brazilian-Congolese AFL star, has described Collingwood as a “boys’ club for racist and sexist jokes” in comments reported by the media ahead of the August 27 screening  of the SBS documentary Fair Game. Lumumba played 199 games for Collingwood between 2005-14.

The Seasons in Quincy: Four Portraits of John Berger portrays British Marxist cultural commentator John Berger over a period of five years.

Berger was a well-known figure on 1960s British TV, explaining and democratising art theory. He rocketed to international fame with his early 1970s book Ways of Seeing. Combining it with an accompanying TV series, he articulated a dialectical and demystifying approach to art.