Issue 1151

News

Federal immigration minister Peter Dutton has come up with a new act of cruelty against asylum seekers: he is trying to force people now in Australia back to danger in Nauru and Manus Island.

Dutton has invented a new class of visa — the final departure bridging E-visa — which cuts income support from asylum seekers already living in the community. They have been given six months to arrange to either go back to their home countries or be sent back to offshore detention.

The descendants of Gurindji workers who participated in the historic walk-off at Wave Hill Station in the Northern Territory have used its 51st anniversary celebration to endorse the Uluru Statement from the Heart and call for a constitutionally enshrined Indigenous voice in parliament.

In a move reminiscent of Australia’s infamous military ties to Indonesia’s murderous Suharto dictatorship, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop announced on September 1 that Australia would send special forces to the Philippines.

The National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) said the Fair Work Commission’s decision on August 29 to agree to terminate Murdoch University’s enterprise agreement (EA), which covers more than 3000 staff, is extremely disappointing but not unexpected.

The test for terminating an agreement is very low. The agreement must be past its expiry date, negotiations for a replacement agreement must have been unsuccessful, termination must not be against the public interest and it must be considered “appropriate” to do so.

The belated decision by the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA) to set up a public inquiry into the Commonwealth Bank (CBA) is aimed at heading off the growing calls for a royal commission into the entire scandal-ridden banking sector.

The August 27 announcement by APRA of an “independent” probe into the country's biggest bank followed a series of scandals that have rocked the financial world.

Mining company Rio Tinto has been fined only $50,000 over the collapse of a dam wall at its Mount Thorley Warkworth mine last year.

It is estimated that up to 4 megalitres of sediment-laden rainwater flowed into the Wallaby Scrub Road reserve from the dam. The company blamed the collapse on several days of continuous rain, which softened the dam’s earth wall. However the court found the event was not a major storm but "merely what is regarded as a one-in-two-year rain event". 

Sixty residents of Fawkner, a northern suburb of Melbourne, attended a meeting on August 27 to hear an update on the campaign against the proposed redevelopment of the site of the former Nufarm chemical factory.

One of the chemicals made in the factory was Agent Orange, which was used by the United States during the Vietnam War. Local resident Sally Beattie told the meeting Agent Orange is still causing birth defects in Vietnam today.

Rape & Domestic Violence Services Australia (RDVSA) announced on August 30, it would withdraw as a service provider from the 1800RESPECT Trauma Counselling Service, the federal government-funded hotline.

The announcement punctuates a struggle waged by RDVSA workers to maintain the hotline as a non-profit specialist counselling service in the face of a push by the managing company Medibank Health Solutions (MHS) towards privatisation. After MHS’s subcontract with RDVSA expired in June, MHS put the contract out to tender with new contract provisions.

Community outrage over the NSW Coalition government's decision to shift the iconic Powerhouse Museum from its central city location in Ultimo to a flood-prone site on the Parramatta River is growing, fuelled by the excessive secrecy surrounding the cost of the move.

At a NSW Legislative Council inquiry into the plan, museum experts claimed the transfer could cost at least $1.5 billion, and risked destroying irreplaceable artefacts crucial to the collection.

“Don’t let our community be destroyed” was the message of the Gronn Place community meeting organised by Friends of Public Housing and Socialist Alliance on August 30.

About 50 public housing tenants and supporters of public housing gathered to discuss their rights. This was the second meeting on the estate. The first meeting was held on July 15.

Federal government departments have been ordered to keep their "average staffing levels" in line with those from 2006–07, the final year of the Howard government.

The Senate was told on August 28 that labour hire firms are reaping big profits from this by supplying temporary workers who cost the government more than if they were directly employed but who earn about 3% less money.

Community and Public Sector Union deputy secretary Melissa Donnelly said it was "an utterly ludicrous situation engineered entirely by the short-sighted policies of the Turnbull government”.

Newcastle’s bus drivers have been repeatedly underpaid since the city’s public transport system was privatised on July 1.

About 70 workers have been underpaid between $200 and $600 since then.

The NSW government awarded Keolis Downer a 10-year contract to operate Newcastle’s public transport system of buses, ferries and the new light rail last year.

It was the first time in Australia that one company was awarded a contract to operate a city’s entire transport system.

An open letter from eight former agronomists and soil scientists, including five who worked for the Department of Primary Industries, has urged NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian to halt Shenhua’s Watermark coalmine and protect the Liverpool Plains from mining.

The letter said the agreement the government reached last month with Shenhua to renew its coal exploration licence, paving the way for the mine to proceed, puts at risk “the future of one of the major contributors to food and fibre security”.

More than 250 people gathered on August 26 for the Frack Free People's Rally organised by Lock the Gate Alliance and Frack Free WA outside the Western Australia State Labor Conference.

Over 65 people took part in a Brisbane protest for refugee rights on September 1. The protest took up the government's draconian moves to cut the small support payment that refugees on bridging visas receive. At the same time, they have been given three weeks to find alternative accommodation and employment (even though many of them are still too sick to work).

Analysis

Thanks to a passing reference in this column only a week ago about statues and other monuments featuring colonial "founding fathers" that participated in massacres of Aboriginal people and other wrongs, I got lumped into Andrew Bolt's collection of "statue haters".

Others in the corporate media suggested that even having the discussion was like Nazi book burning. Right. And we're the ones disrespecting history!

A diverse and inspiring grassroots movement has completely shifted public opinion on this question, so let's push on to win this vote and more

Sam Wainwright, Councillor at the City of Fremantle, a local government that supports marriage equality

Equality is a very simple and important right. That's why a majority of people support equal marriage rights. The equal marriage campaign has opened the door to many more people supporting the LGBTIQ community on other issues as well

Sue Bolton, Councillor at Moreland City Council

1. Get onto the streets

The most important thing you can do for marriage equality right now is hit the streets. Add your voice to the thousands of others across the country by marching in one of the upcoming marriage equality rallies. Get a group of your friends together and make homemade signs to bring along.

The August 14 publication of a NSW local court ruling earlier in the year has again shone light on the state’s anti-abortion laws.

A 30-year-old woman was found guilty of attempting abortion and sentenced to a 3-year good behaviour bond. The court record describes the circumstances, but leaves important questions unanswered.

It is important to put socialists on council because we have a very different perspective from other political parties. Our “people and planet before profit” philosophy guides our approach and, increasingly, councils are being relied on to lead key political debates — such as recognising Australia’s colonial past.

Ever since it was announced, the federal government’s postal survey on marriage equality has been met with responses questioning both the legitimacy of the survey and demonstrating support for marriage equality — responses that have been vital for the confidence and morale of members of the LGBTIQ community.

Despite this, the right, particularly the Christian right, has demonstrated its determination to defeat the push for marriage equality through the mobilisation of homophobic and transphobic hatred and disinformation.

Can you imagine being a bank CEO today? Wouldn’t you be wishing you were leading the bank 10 years ago before the global financial crisis when you could do whatever you wanted without too much fuss?

Fast forward to 2017. Bank CEOs are under intense scrutiny, but still pushing the banks’ profit-driven agenda in the face of scandal after scandal and community anger.

1. We are community activists

We won’t just represent, we will help empower communities by working alongside others against WestConnex, for marriage equality, for sustainability and public housing and by fighting for a local council that is more democratic, transparent and accountable to the community. Socialist councillors in Victoria and West Australia were critical to defeating the East-West Link and Roe 8 motorway projects.

2. Organise to take on corporate greed

World

Half-a-million people marched in the Catalan capital of Barcelona on August 26 to express the profound desire in Catalan society to stay tolerant, open and un-militarised in the face of the August 17-18 terror attacks on Barcelona’s Rambla and in the seaside town of Cambrils.

This was partly because the attacks — claimed by Islamic State and causing 15 deaths and up to 130 wounded — coincided with the tensest moments to date in the fight between the Catalan and Spanish governments over the planned October 1 referendum on Catalan independence.

A few days after arriving in Venezuela, we drive past La Carlota military base in the east of Caracas, which was a regular site for the violent street protests commonly known here as guarimbas.

The highway we were travelling on was often blockaded by protesters — guarimberos — who made up the backbone of the self-dubbed “La Resistencia”. They received glowing praise in the international media during the wave of protests that rocked the country from April to July.

Australian surf life savers once used the beach in Gaza to put on an impressive display of their skills for soldiers serving in Palestine. Surviving British footage from about 75 years ago shows a pristine and spectacular setting which could be any beach, anywhere in the world.

But now Gaza, subjected to a near-total blockade by Israel since 2007, is best described as the world’s largest, open air prison.

The decade-old Israeli blockade on Gaza has dramatically undermined the coastal strip’s agriculture sector.

The electricity crisis has exacerbated this problem. With electricity available for only three to four hours a day, most productive sectors in Gaza are debilitated to the point of paralysis.

Flooding in the wake of Hurricane Harvey, which smashed into the Gulf Coast on August 25, had left at least 23 people dead by August 31, thousands in need of rescue on rooftops or in boats, hundreds of thousands more without power and tens of thousands in need of shelter.

Yet characterisations of the carnage by the National Weather Service as “historic”, “unprecedented” or “beyond anything experienced” should not be conflated with the spurious claim that the devastation wrought by Harvey was “unpreventable” or “unexpected”.

Football players, past and present, have spoken out on the case of Santiago Maldonado, an indigenous rights activist who has not been seen since Border Force officers violently broke up a protest by a Mapuche community in Argentina’s Patagonia region on August 1.

September 1 marks one month since the last time he was seen. Santiago Maldonado, a 28-year-old artisan, was protesting on August 1 in solidarity with the struggle of the Mapuche people from the Lof Cushamen community in Chubut province, in Argentina’s Patagonia region.

More than 800 Somali and Eritrean refugees were violently evicted on August 24 from a building they were occupying in the centre of Rome. The occupation, which began in 2013, had come to symbolised the inefficient and broken nature of refugee reception policies in Italy.

A new investigation conducted by the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) Research Associate Jake Johnston reveals key details involving US officials and their support for the 2009 coup in Honduras that ousted former President

The Donald Trump administration announced new, unprecedented sanctions against Venezuela on August 25 that are designed to cut off financing to Venezuela. The Trump team pretends that the sanctions are only directed at the government. But as any economist knows, this is clearly false.

By starving the economy of foreign exchange, this action will harm the private sector, most Venezuelans, the poor and the vulnerable.

As Hurricane Harvey continues to batter Texas and Louisiana in the United States, where nearly 30 people are reported dead, the flooding and landslides that have swept Bangladesh, India and Nepal for weeks have killed more than 1,200 people and displaced millions so far.

Western media, for the most part, has paid little attention to the catastrophic flooding that has swept these South Asian regions.

Now is exactly the time to talk about climate change and all the other systemic injustices — from racial profiling to economic austerity — that turn disasters like Harvey into human catastrophes.

Two articles and a video presentation looking at Russia's two revolutions in 1917, Marx and Engels on ecology and Lukacs' views on alienation and class consciousness

In his response to my August 1 (GLW #1148) piece on the strategy of US Senator Bernie Sanders, Danny Fairfax writes in GLW #1150 on why he thinks the Democratic Party can be reformed.

One error the comrade makes is his view of the primary system in the United States. He thinks it gives roughly the same chances for “grassroots movements to defeat entrenched [Democratic] party elites” as the structure of the Labour Party in Britain allowed Jeremy Corbyn’s rise to the leadership. It doesn’t.

Culture

In the early 1970s, an unlikely alliance of builders labourers, environmentalists, residents and LGBTIQ activists united to support the Green (and Pink) bans which helped save huge swathes of Sydney, and other parts of New South Wales, from the wrecking ball.

Four new books on climate change, neoliberalism and movement strategy for ecosocialists compiled by Ian Angus, the author of A Redder Shade of Green and editor of Climate and Capitalism.

Resistance!

Bronte Scott is an activist with Resistance and Socialist Alliance. She gave this speech to the Marriage Equality Now! rally held in Wollongong on August 27.

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Thank you to Bree Parkes for inviting me to speak at this rally. My name's Bronte and I joined Socialist Alliance because it is committed to making marriage equality a reality. We have been active in the marriage equality campaign in Sydney since John Howard changed the Marriage Act in 2004 to exclude same sex couples. We believe marriage equality is a civil right.