Issue 1154

Australia

The week of frontline action against the Adani coalmine in Queensland’s Galilee basin, which took place from September 16 to 23, is just the beginning.

More than 100 people, many new to campaigning, came to say: “We will stop Adani”.

Adriana Rivas is a former National Intelligence Directorate (DINA) agent living in Sydney. DINA was Chile’s intelligence bureau during General Augusto Pinochet’s dictatorship and is known as Pinochet’s Gestapo due to its cruelty and mass assassinations.

The CSIRO Staff Association has slammed the latest proposed cuts to jobs in vital research areas of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, Australia’s premier public scientific body.

The union warned of job redundancies in minerals research and the Sydney laboratory that helped invent wifi internet technology.

Members of Armidale Rural Australians for Refugees and the Socialist Alliance New England branch held their third weekly picket in solidarity with refugees and asylum seekers at a busy intersection in Armidale, New South Wales, on September 22. It followed a successful action on September 15.

Protest organiser Bea Bleile said: “Manus Island and Nauru are not safe for refugees and asylum seekers. We call on the Australian government to bring all refugees and asylum seekers from Manus Island and Nauru to Australia immediately.

Activists from all over Australia travelled to be part of the week of frontline action against Adani coalmine. Green Left Weekly spoke to some of them to get their thoughts on the protest.

Local residents rallied with activists from around Sydney as part of the "No M4 toll, Stop WestConnex" campaign on September 18 in Penrith. Protesters marched on the local electoral office of New South Wales Minister for WestConnex Stuart Ayres.

The protesters delivered more than 2000 letters of opposition to the re-imposed tolls on the widened M4 motorway, which is part of the controversial $18 billion WestConnex tollway project.

More than 450 University of Sydney staff members belonging to the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) attended a mass meeting on September 21 that voted to accept an agreement offer from management, rather than to continue strike action.

The negotiations have taken place in the context of university Vice-Chancellor Michael Spence – renowned for his high pay, which is now at $1.4 million – moving forward with his “Strategic Plan” amalgamation program.

Deakin University researcher Ronan Lee believes Australia’s links with the Burmese military must stop in light of its recent campaign of violence against the Rohingya.

Lee, whose research focus is Burma, made these comments at a Darebin Ethnic Communities Council forum on Burma the Rohingya refugee crisis held on September 16.

Lee gave some historical background, noting there is evidence that the Rohingya have lived in what is now Burma’s Rakhine state for hundreds of years.

The Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) welcomed the resignation on September 13 of the head of the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC) Nigel Hadgkiss.

The union had called for his resignation after it succeeded in having Hadgkiss confess in the Federal Court to a reckless breach of the industrial laws he oversees.

Hadgkiss admitted to a contravention of s503 of the Fair Work Act in relation to the ABCC's publication of incorrect information about union right of entry rules.

The Australian Council of Trade Unions launched its national “Change the Rules” campaign in Perth on September 21. The campaign seeks to push for pro-worker changes to the Fair Work Act.

ACTU secretary Sally McManus said: “We need to change the rules at work so working people can’t be held to ransom by bad employers who will use loopholes to cancel agreements, cut pay and slash conditions.”

In front of a packed public gallery, Labor sided with the Liberals to award the Inner West Council mayorship and deputy mayorship to themselves on September 21.

Labor’s Darcy Byrne received the support of two Liberals and conservative independent Victor Macri for mayor, with Liberal councillor Julie Passas elected as deputy.

Byrne and Passas narrowly defeated anti-WestConnex independent Pauline Lockie and the Greens’ Colin Hesse, who stood for mayor and deputy, respectively, in an 8—7 vote.

Staff at the Berkeley Living retirement village in Patterson Lakes, Victoria, walked off the job on September 15 after months of not being paid. Some staff returned the next day to look after residents on a voluntary basis.

Consumer Affairs Victoria is also investigating reports that the village operators owe money to former residents.

The daughter of a former resident backed up claims that staff had not been paid properly, but said they were providing the best care they were able to. “They are feeding the patients out of their own pockets,” she told ABC News.

A new research report from the Queensland Environmental Defenders Office (EDO) has revealed that any move by the Queensland state government to approve the Acland coalmine expansion would represent an unprecedented and radical departure from recent tradition.

Up to 800 people rallied in Martin Place against the genocide of the Rohingya ethnic minority in Burma on September 17. The protest was organised by the Sydney Press and Media Council.

Hundreds and thousands of Rohingya, including women and children, have been displaced from their homeland in Rakhine, Burma and forced to flee to neighbouring Bangladesh.

The protest highlighted the mass killings of Rohingya community, including women and children, under the leadership of Nobel Peace Prize winner Ang Sang Suu Kyi and the military regime in Burma.

[This blog is no longer being updated. Here is an initial report that appears with photos in the latest issue of Green Left Weekly.]

Saturday 23 September, 8am

Local activists posted a pledge on the Front Line Action on Coal facebook page:

World

Using the Metro Cable car system built under former president Hugo Chavez, our solidarity delegation to the South American nation, organised by Venezuelanalysis.com, travelled high up into the mountain to the neighbourhood of San Agustin.

The Metro Cable system, the first of its kind in Venezuela, was inspired by a visit by Chavez to Austria where he saw dozens of chairlifts going up and down the mountains.

Since the start of the year, 76 women have died while giving birth in Lara state — the highest rate of any state in Venezuela and three times the rate for the rest of the country.

Speaking about the situation to Green Left Weekly, Katrina Kozarek from the Women’s Movement for Life in Barquisimeto, the capital of Lara, explained: “Both the doctors and nurses treat poor, black women really badly. They slap their bottoms, call them filthy names and say ‘stop screaming because you didn’t scream like that when you were having sex’.”

Mudslides in Freetown, Sierra Leone killed about 1000 people on August 14, mostly inhabitants of the urban slums in the hills above the capital.

Laban ng Masa, a new coalition of trade unionists, community activists, urban poor organisations, feminists and socialists, marked its formation by organising a mass protest in Manila on September 21.

The protest marked the 45th anniversary of the declaration of martial law by former dictator Ferdinand Marcos and to oppose moves towards martial law by President Rodrigo Duterte, who openly admires Marcos. Duterte’s government has already declared martial law in Mindanao and overseen 13,000 extrajudicial killings of poor people in a “war on drugs”.

Forty-one Spanish Civil Guard raids on Catalan government-related buildings and private homes on September 20 led to the arrest of 13 high-level Catalan government officials and harvested a lot of “suspect material” for the prosecutors charged with stopping Catalonia’s October 1 independence referendum. However, the raid have provoked a mass revolt in response.

The haul included 10 million ballot papers stored in a printery warehouse in the central Catalan town of Bigues i Riells.

The earthquake that hit on September 19 made my whole apartment move from side to side, like a tiny old ship caught on reckless waves. I live in the old part of central Puebla, just 51 kilometres from the epicentre.

After the quake, I watched as crowds gathered in the middle of the street — normally a busy fish and vegetable market. Children were crying, people were a bit shaken, but they seemed okay. The next morning, I walked around the city, observing the large cracks and broken corners on some of the most historic and beautiful buildings.

Bolivia’s President Evo Morales used his September 19 speech to the United Nations General Assembly to condemn terrorism, abusive market practices and wars in countries such as Syria, Iraq, Libya as well as the humanitarian crisis in Yemen.

In his address to the 72nd UN General Assembly in New York, Morales also sent his solidarity to the people of Mexico after the 7.1 earthquake and Caribbean nations devastated by hurricanes Irma and Maria.

The flags of the Women’s Protection Units (YPJ) and Shengal Women's Units (YJS) were planted in the city centre of Raqqa, which had been the capital city of ISIS, on September 14.

ISIS still controls about 20% of the city, but the symbolic importance of this event reflects a very real change in the situation in Syria.

Analysis

The decision by the City of Fremantle to drop its annual Australia Day fireworks has inevitably shaped the contours of the looming council elections, even though no candidate has made it the centrepiece of their campaign.

The election is largely pitting a generally socially progressive group of incumbents of different political stripes (Labor, Greens, socialist and independents) against an alliance of conservative challengers headed by mayoral candidate Caroline “Ra” Stewart.

Geelong Council was sacked in April last year by the Victorian state government. It was accused of being dysfunctional, having no long-term strategic plan and failing to respond to a highly-publicised report on bullying in the council.

As serious as some of these allegations were – particularly those regarding bullying – neither of us as Geelong residents felt they warranted the undemocratic sacking of a duly-elected council. Surely the people of Geelong should be the ones that make any such decision?

In the lead up to and following the announcement of the plebiscite, now survey, on changing the Marriage Act, unions have played a prominent role in promoting and resourcing the Yes campaign.

Senior union officials have been speakers at rallies, there have been large union contingents at protest marches and unions — especially peak bodies such as Victorian Trades Hall Council and the Australian Council of Trade Unions — have been providing infrastructure to help build the capacity for the campaign to ensure maximum participation and support for the Yes side.

The nationwide debate over equal marriage rights has brought a lot more people into contact with Green Left Weekly.

Circulation of this “little paper with a big heart”, as a supporter once described us, is growing as more people look to alternative media sources for their information.

GLW is now in its 26th year of production — no mean feat for a not-for-profit newspaper in the most media monopolised country in the world.

The time has come to scrap the misnamed Fair Work Act (FWA) and introduce genuine pro-worker and pro-union industrial relations legislation in this country.

Rising pressure on federal employment minister Michaelia Cash to resign over her cover-up of the illegal actions by former Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC) head Nigel Hadgkiss merely underlines the fact that Australia’s industrial relations system is badly broken.

The following statement from the Australia Burma Rohingya Organisation was read by Habib to a solidarity protest in Melbourne on September 7.

* * *

Today we raise our voices on behalf of the oppressed Rohingya and Kaman people, who are facing ongoing genocide in the Rakhine [Arakan] state of western Myanmar [Burma].

We are also protesting the continuous wars being waged against minorities in the Shan and Kachin states.

Andrew Bolt takes me to task for being “irresponsible” for “propagandising” about the colonial invasion and subsequent massacres of First Nations people.

He also takes issue with my support for the growing number of councils across Australia that are leading the debate on the so-called history wars and deciding against celebrating on January 26 in favour of something more inclusive.

Resistance!

Western Sydney University (WSU) staff went on strike on September 20 over stalled negotiations on their pay and working conditions. The half-day strike and rally, called by the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU), took place at WSU’s Parramatta City Campus.

University management has delayed the bargaining process by unilaterally removing core entitlements from the NTEU’s enterprise agreements, while resisting members’ key demands. Staff at WSU say they are concerned about looming job cuts, the downgrading of classifications, increased workloads and job insecurity.

Culture

Sound System: The Political Power of Music
Dave Randall
Pluto Press Left Book Club, 2017
210 pp, $38.99

As a teenager, British writer and musician Dave Randall unwittingly attended a music festival in his home town where he heard the Special AKA sing “Free Nelson Mandela”. He experienced an epiphany.

“I had no idea who Nelson Mandela was,” he writes, “but I knew by the end of the first chorus I wanted him to be free.”

Creating Freedom: Power, Control & the Fight for our Future
By Raoul Martinez
Cannongate Publishing, Edinburgh
2016, 496 pages

“Free markets, free trade, free elections, free media, free thought, free speech, free will. The language of freedom pervades our lives, framing the most urgent issues of our time and the deepest questions about who we are and wish to be.”

One Song One Union
Phil Monsour
www.philmonsour.com

In August 2015, 97 wharfies employed by Hutchison Ports in Brisbane and Sydney awoke to emails and text messages informing them they were sacked. Not enough work to go around, the company said.

Within 24 hours, trade unionists had established community picket lines at both ports and the Maritime Union of Australia was in court seeking reinstatement orders. As news spread, supporters began making their way to the picket camps.