Issue 1153

Australia

A noisy group of protesters gathered outside the Australian Infrastructure Investors Forum on September 12 to “welcome” its keynote speaker, the CEO of the Northern Australia Infrastructure Fund (NAIF) Laurie Walker. NAIF Board members are the focus of a campaign by the movement to prevent the massive Adani coalmine in Queensland’s Galilee basin.

Moreland City Council took a big step forward on September 13 when it voted to drop all references to January 26 as Australia Day out of respect for Aboriginal people. But it stopped short of cancelling its official Australia Day citizenship ceremony.

Calling for an end to the demonisation of jobseekers, the Australian Unemployed Workers Union (AUWU) held a rally on September 8 outside Channel Seven's Sunrise studio in Martin Place. They opposed the vilification of Australia's economically disadvantaged in Sunrise programs such as "Australia's worst dole bludging areas named and shamed", in which commentators called for punitive welfare penalties.

Staff at James Cook University in northern Queensland — at least half of whom are employed casually, and often infrequently — have rejected a management proposal for an enterprise agreement at the university. Of the 54% of staff who voted, 58% voted against the proposal in the non-union ballot held over September 13–15.

National Tertiary Education Union members mobilised in the brief one-week consultation and balloting period to secure a vote nearly three times their own numbers.

Say Yes Geelong held a local Equality Walk on September 9 to promote the Yes campaign for marriage equality. The crowd of almost 1000 people, who gathered in the centre of Geelong, was very diverse and included a number of families with young children, teachers, religious ministers, unionists, students, local council candidates, local MPs and more.

Speakers included Beth McNiven, a member of Geelong Rainbow Inc, who spoke about feelings of isolation living in a smaller town and the support she has found since moving back to Geelong.

About 800 people marched through the streets of Fremantle on September 9 in a colourful demonstration urging a Yes vote in the equal marriage rights national survey. The pavements were left covered with love hearts and messages supporting the Yes campaign.

The march followed a rally in Fremantle’s Pioneer Park, which was welcomed to country by Aunty Corina Abraham. She compared the refusal of marriage rights to LGBTI people to the refusal of marriage rights to Aboriginal people under the control of the 1905 Aborigines Act.

There was a 6% swing against the Liberal Party in the Inner West Council (IWC) election in Sydney on September 9.

This was a common pattern, reflected in other local elections also conducted then for councils that were forcibly amalgamated by the NSW Liberal government last year.

IWC is the product of the forced amalgamation of the former Ashfield, Marrickville and Leichhardt Council.

"Northern Syria’s Feminist Revolution" is the title of a one-day seminar to be held at Victoria University on November 4.

It is being jointly organised by the Kurdish Democratic Community Centre of Victoria, the Kurdish Women’s League of Victoria and the Australians for Kurdistan solidarity group. It is also sponsored by Victoria University’s Community, Identity and Displacement Research Network.

Socialists polled well in the Newcastle council elections on September 9. Steve O’Brien, Samantha Ashby and Gayle Dedman won 891 votes (4.13%) in Ward 1.

Their vote was more than 4% in five of the 13 booths, with the highest being in Newcastle East at 7.5%. O’Brien also won 2.10%, or 1909 votes, for Lord Mayor.

The “Community need not developer greed” platform resonated in a context where Labor boasted it would help developers, ignoring the impact on communities.

Lawless Logging, a new report by Friends of the Earth, Fauna and Flora Research Collective and Goongerah Environment Centre, has documented 27 unlawful native forest logging operations by Victoria's state-owned logging company VicForests in protected threatened species habitat and rainforest in East Gippsland and the Central Highlands.

Western Australian Premier Mark McGowan has announced his state will ban single-use plastic bags from July 1 next year, the same day Queensland begins its ban. South Australia, Tasmania, the Northern Territory and ACT have already implemented a ban.

The Conservation Council of WA welcomed the decision. Director Piers Verstegen said: “Plastic pollution is a worldwide problem because plastics remain in the environment, breaking into smaller and smaller pieces which contaminate soil and water and affect the health of wildlife.

A protest by maintenance workers outside Esso’s Longford gas plant in Victoria has entered its 12th week.

In a major embarrassment for the federal government, the head of the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC) Nigel Hadgkiss was forced to resign on September 13 after admitting he breached workplace laws.

Hadgkiss came under pressure to resign from his $426,000 a year job after he admitted to breaching s.503 of the Fair Work Act by publishing downloadable posters and fact sheets on the ABCC’s website that misrepresented the rights of union officials to enter premises to meet workers.

More than 500 people attended a rally called by the Islamic Council of Victoria (ICV) on September 9 in solidarity with the Rohingya people of Myanmar (Burma).

Rally chair Adel Salman, the vice-president of the ICV, said genocidal policies against the Rohingya have been carried out for decades. The Rohingya were citizens of Burma when it became independent in 1948, but were deprived of citizenship after a military coup in 1962.

Indigenous students protested at the University of New England (UNE) in Armidale on September 12 after UNE management failed to adequately address their concerns and made decisions without consulting them.

Chanting “About us without us — Tell us why do you doubt us”, Indigenous students delivered their demands to UNE’s senior management at the Oorala Aboriginal Centre.

The National Union of Workers (NUW) joined with Melbourne’s Rohingya community on September 7 to protest the genocide against Rohingya in Myanmar. The NUW has formed a strong bond with the Rohingya community through its work organising Rohingya and other heavily exploited migrant farm workers to win better wages and working conditions.

Many members of the Rohingya community in Melbourne have family members who have been killed in the current genocidal attacks on Rohingya in Myanmar.

On September 13, National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) members took strike action against Sydney University management’s refusal to negotiate a pay rise, shift casual staff to full-time or guarantee jobs in an amalgamation ‘Strategic Plan’ push, which has seen the destruction of Sydney College of the Arts.

Photos from the #StopAdani week of frontline action. Visit the Green Left blog for full story.

World

Britain’s main trade union confederation, the Trade Union Congress (TUC), held its 149th annual conference in Brighton on September 10-13. The gathering brought together hundreds of leaders, organisers, delegates and activists from more than 50 TUC-affiliated trade unions.

The conference discussed and adopted motions of support and campaign plans to oppose the austerity measures of the Conservative-Democratic Unionist Party government of Prime Minister Theresa May.

Tamils and Muslims in Manaar, a town in the north of Sri Lanka, rallied on September 5 in solidarity with the Rohingya people of Myanmar. Hundreds of thousands of Rohingya have been forced to flee Myanmar in recent weeks due to military attacks.

Many Tamils and Muslims see similarities between the situations in Sri Lanka and Myanmar. In both countries, Buddhism is the dominant religion and Buddhist monks have helped incite hatred against religious and ethnic minorities.

The devastating hurricanes that hit the southern US and the Caribbean, and the catastrophic flooding in South Asia, have highlighted the worsening reality of global warming-related extreme weather.

The worsening reality of  weather-related disasters was explicitly recorded in a little-noticed United Nations Office for Disaster risk reduction report The Human Cost of Weather-Related Disasters: 1995-2015. The report noted that both the number of extreme-weather events, and the number of people affected, has risen dramatically over the past two decades.

France’s militant unions held the first major day of protest on September 12 against the ordinances introduced by the government to undermine the country’s labour laws.

Their protests were seen as the start of the campaign to defend workers’ rights. It served as a major test for the capacity of the movement to mobilise working people while France’s unions are divided as to how to respond to the attacks.

Mass protests and strikes have erupted across Rojhilat (Iranian Kurdistan) since September 3, following the killing of two kolbers (cross-border porters who transport merchandise) by Iranian border guards the previous day. The Iranian regime has responded by militarising the area, attacking protests with security forces and pro-government thugs and making mass arrests.

Several Iranian Kurdish organisations and political parties have supported the uprising. They have called for unity between political forces in Rojhilat and with other progressive movements in Iran.

In 1713-14, it took the troops of Spain’s Borbon monarchy 14 months to take Barcelona and end Catalan self-rule. Three centuries later, Catalonia is again under siege, this time from the central Spanish People’s Party (PP) government.

Under Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, the Spanish state is concentrating all its firepower on stopping the Catalan government’s October 1 independence referendum, where Catalan citizens will be asked to vote on whether “Catalonia should become an independent state in the form of a republic”.

With the Venezuelan right-wing opposition in disarray after failing to overthrow President Nicolas Maduro through violent protest, and divided in the face of the upcoming October 15 regional elections, the frontline of the battle for Venezuela’s future has shifted outside its borders.

Travelling past El Calvario Park, just a few blocks from the Miraflores presidential palace in Caracas, we see a familiar image: an outline of late former president Hugo Chavez’s eyes, painted across several stairs.

This image can be seen all over Caracas. The government of President Nicholas Maduro has converted it into a recognisable trademark, much like the iconic image of Che Guevara that is splashed across T-shirts, flags and walls the world over.

Cuban brigades and volunteers are continuing the arduous task of rebuilding after the damaging and deadly effects of Hurricane Irma, one of the most powerful storms to hit the region that left dozens dead and caused widespread damage.

Described by meteorologists as one of the most powerful hurricanes to hit the Caribbean in a century, Irma left a path of widespread destruction in Cuba and several north-eastern Caribbean Islands, especially Barbuda.

Residents of the Caribbean islands of Saint Martin, Saint Barthelemy and the British Virgin Islands have been left with little support to face the humanitarian crisis caused by Hurricane Irma.

According to the latest count, nine people died on the French administered side of Saint Martin and hundreds more were injured after Irma hit on September 5. About 1 million people have had no water or electricity since the hurricane hit with winds of 250 kilometres an hour, destroying around 95% of the French side of Saint Martin.

Hurricane Irma has just passed through the Caribbean, in a procession of tragedies that have destroyed lives and left material damage behind.

In response to this natural disaster, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro sent humanitarian aid to Cuba, Antigua and Barbuda (with 95% of buildings in Barbuda destroyed), and the French colony of Saint Martin on September 10.

As Barbuda, part of the Caribbean island nation of Antigua and Barbuda, reels from having almost the entirety of its infrastructure and 95% of its homes destroyed due to Hurricane Irma, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has rejected a moratorium proposal to discuss the island's US$3 million dollar debt.

US singer-songwriter and activist David Rovics wrote the following post on his blog while the US was hit with a range of extreme weather events at the same time.

Despite the clear signals that President Donald Trump would drop the axe on a program that protects unauthorised immigrant young adults from deportation, the announcement by Attorney-General Jeff Sessions provoked an immediate and passionate backlash from the 800,000 young immigrants who benefited from the program, as well as their supporters.

Analysis

1. Legislating marriage equality will impact on rights to freedom of religion, freedom of speech and freedom to practice or implement one’s personal values.

FALSE: Marriage equality and freedom of religion/speech/values are governed by two distinct pieces of legislation. The equality campaign only wants a change in the definition of marriage as determined by the Marriage Act 1961. Religious exemptions are already contained in the Sex Discrimination Act 1984. Changing the definition of marriage in one act does not remove religious exemptions in different act.

Steve Bannon, the editor of the far-right Breitbart and Donald Trump’s ex-chief strategist, recently compared China to Germany in the 1930s, telling the New York Times: “China right now is Germany in 1930. It’s on the cusp ... The younger generation is so patriotic, almost ultranationalistic.”

Former Prime Minister Paul Keating loved this quote of his long-time mentor former NSW Premier Jack Lang. I was reminded of its currency and utility recently, when I read that the Association of Superannuation Funds of Australia (ASFA) had made an (overdue) entrance to the public debate about the costs and benefits of the emerging “gig” economy — let’s be honest, it’s mainly costs.

Indigenous feminist and trade unionist Celeste Liddle addressed the topic of “Women fight back against misogyny & rape culture” at the Radical Ideas conference hosted by Resistance: Socialist Youth Alliance in August.

The following text is based on an abridged version of her talk.

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An increasing number of employers are asking themselves why they should have to abide by the terms of an Enterprise Agreement with their workers and unions, when it would cost less money if they didn't. Many have come to the conclusion that they should simply escape the obligations of their agreements.

Since the High Court challenge to the federal government’s marriage equality survey was dismissed and the survey received the green light, streets have been painted all the colours of the rainbow as historically large protests and displays of solidarity sweep the country.

The campaign for marriage equality has been fighting the delaying tactics and homophobic policies of Labor and Liberal governments for the past 13 years.

The former NSW roads minister Duncan Gay has joined the list of recently resigned NSW MPs who have taken lucrative jobs with corporations associated with their former portfolio.

Gay, a former National Party leader, left parliament at the end of July. A parliamentary ethics committee has only just become aware that he is working as an advisor with MU Group — a company bidding for, and winning, NSW government transport contracts.

For a long time, Australian governments have believed that the private sector should run the electricity sector. Successive governments have used market instruments to incentivise reducing emissions, by supporting renewables, discouraging coal use, or both.

The electricity industry crisis has reached new heights, with the federal government pressuring giant energy company AGL to keep the ageing Liddell coal-fired power station open for a further five years after 2022, its due date for closure.

Liddell, in the Hunter Valley region of NSW, is a coal-burning dinosaur. The reality is neither the government’s policy of defending Big Coal, nor its reliance on the so-called “energy market”, will solve the problem of skyrocketing electricity prices for consumers or the looming environmental crisis.

Culture

Miss Muriel Matters
Robert Wainwright
ABC Books, 2017
376 pages

In 1909, Muriel Matters planned to rain on the parade of King Edward VII to the ceremonial opening of parliament. She aimed to drop a shower of “Votes for Women” leaflets on his head from a chartered air balloon trailing streamers in the white, gold and green of the Women’s Freedom League (WFL).

Women footballers in Australia, playing in the W-League, will receive a sizeable pay rise and improved employment conditions after a landmark collective bargaining agreement announced on September 11 between Football Federation Australia, W-League clubs and the players’ union, the Professional Footballers Australia (PFA).

Regular readers of Green Left Weekly will sometimes admit their favourite part of the paper is Carlo’s Corner, the semi-regular satirical column by comic writer and performer Carlo Sands.

In a paper filled with heavy and even gloomy topics, people appreciate the chance to laugh — especially at the seemingly all-powerful forces who presume to be our betters yet cause so much pain.

“No joke can change the world, or really anything at all,” Sands says, ahead of his stand up show Inspired? at the Sydney Fringe Comedy Festival.

There were innumerable horrors committed by El Salvador’s right-wing death-squad government during the civil war that raged from 1980 to 1992. Alongside the peasants and workers killed or disappeared and the nuns raped, were the priests who were executed. The most sensational execution of all was the murder of Archbishop of San Salvador Oscar Romero, gunned down while celebrating mass.