Issue 1155

Australia

Members of the family of Ms Dhu, the 22-year-old Yamatji woman who died in custody at the South Hedland watch house in 2014, have received an apology and $1.1 million from the Western Australian government.

The WA Attorney-General said the payment does not prevent the family from pursuing further legal action against the government over Ms Dhu's death in custody.

“This has to be the last death”, Nioka Chatfield, the mother of a 22-year-old Aboriginal man who recently died in custody told a rally in Sydney on September 29.

“I nominate myself. I want to be the last Aboriginal mother crying for my child,” she told the protest that was called on the first anniversary of Wayne Fella Morrison's death in custody and the 34th anniversary of the death of John Pat in Western Australia, which sparked the Stop Black Deaths in Custody movement.

About a dozen neo-Nazis stormed the Moreland Council meeting on September 27 following the council's decision at their last meeting not to celebrate Australia Day on January 26.

Councillor Sue Bolton, a member of Socialist Alliance, told Green Left Weekly she "didn't feel threatened" by the protesters, who "looked like buffoons", but that their actions indicate how provocative and confident they have become.

Consistent work by residents of Melbourne's northern suburb of Fawkner has resulted in a unanimous decision by Moreland Council to reject a development application on a site heavily contaminated with dioxin.

Dioxin is a byproduct of Agent Orange and is one of the world’s deadliest chemicals.

Moreland Socialist Alliance councillor Sue Bolton, who has been supporting residents in their campaign, told Green Left Weekly that without the community campaign such a decision would not have been possible.

"The result was a real example of people power,” she said.

About 20 people attended a “Straight Lives Matter” rally organised by the far-right Party for Freedom in a Sydney park on September 23.

By contrast, about 10,000 people took part in Brisbane’s Pride march on the same day and 30,000 attended Sydney’s “Say Yes” rally on September 9.

A stage had been set up for Nick Folkes to address the anticipated throng, but the crowd was sparse, massively outnumbered by the 60 police assigned to keep order.

The ACT government has declared a Reconciliation Day public holiday on the first Monday on or after the 1967 Referendum anniversary date of May 27, which marks the start of Reconciliation Week.

It is the first time in Australia an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander-focused public holiday has been created.

Professor Tom Calma of Reconciliation Australia said he hoped it signalled a shift to celebrating multiculturalism, rather than the proclamation of Australia on January 26.

Hundreds of Streets ice-cream workers have been told they risk disciplinary action if they protest on social media about the company’s threats to cut their pay and conditions.

Streets owner Unilever has applied to the Fair Work Commission to terminate the enterprise agreement at its Minto plant in south-western Sydney, a move that sparked the AMWU social media campaign against the company.

Unions representing hospitality, retail and pharmacy workers have challenged the Fair Work Commission's decision to cut Sunday penalty rates in the Federal Court.

A full court of five judges heard the appeal over three days from September 26 against the Fair Work Commission’s decision that cut Sunday penalty rates for workers in the fast food, hospitality, retail and pharmacy sectors from July 1.

TThe NSW state government is attempting to carry out the privatisation of its controversial $16.8 billion Westconnex tollway project in relative secret under pressure from the growing calls for it to be stopped.

A submission by the Sydney City Council (SCC) claims the government is planning to separate construction of road tunnels for the third stage of WestConnex from the proposed underground spaghetti road junction at Rozelle in an attempt to “de-risk the project” ahead of its sale to private investors.

The Australian Public Service (APS) cut more than 3600 jobs in the past year, the latest report on the sector says. Many of the jobs lost appear to be from the APS contract workforce.

The APS employed some 15,000 temporary staff in June, or 9.8% of employees. A year earlier it had some 18,000 non-ongoing staff, which was about 11.55% of the workforce.

Esso Longford workers have revealed the latest mascot in the fight for jobs at the company’s Gippsland gas plant. With Scabby the Rat banned by a Federal Court order, Greedy the Pig has stepped in to continue the struggle.

The workers have been on strike since June over a new enterprise agreement agreed to by three contractors in Western Australia, which then applied nationally. The workers were told to accept 15-30% wage cuts on two-week fly-in, fly-out rosters or lose their jobs.

During the 2015 Queensland election campaign, the then-Labor opposition promised to prohibit trans-shipping operations within the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, as part of its commitment to protect the Reef.

Thousands of activists will converge on a range of sites around the country on October 7 to send a message to politicians to say No to Adani No to funding Adani from taxpayer’s money.

In local community events from Port Douglas to Hobart, people will gather on beaches and parks to spell out these messages in the form of human signs. 

A 22-year-old Aboriginal man has died in custody after being found unconscious in his cell at the Tamworth Correctional Centre on September 20. He was taken to hospital and died two days later.

Even before an investigation has been undertaken, the police and some media have said his death is not “suspicious” — a deliberate attempt to pass judgement that his death was a suicide.

But his family, who rallied outside Tamworth Correctional Centre on September 24 say he had no reason to self-harm.

World

In its first year in operation, Filipino President Rodrigo Duterte’s ‘war on drugs’ has taken more than 13,000 lives and left the country mired in a human rights crisis.

One of the organisations at the forefront of opposing Duterte’s war is In Defence of Human Rights and Dignity Movement, iDefend, a coalition of more than 50 human rights and grassroots organisations.

More than 2000 people demonstrated on September 26 in Chile's capital Santiago to support four Mapuche Indigenous community members who have been on hunger strike in prison for 113 days.

The four were charged under a controversial anti-terrorism bill passed during the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet.

The war without guns between the Spanish state and the 80% majority of Catalan people who support their parliament’s October 1 independence referendum is reaching a climax at the time of writing on September 29.

On October 1, it will become clear whether the Catalans have humiliated the central Spanish People’s Party (PP) government by succeeding to vote; suffered a setback because the 10,000 Spanish National Police and paramilitary Civil Guards in Catalonia succeed in closing polling stations; or achieved a mixed result due to only some voters getting into polling stations.

Since September 15, Guatemalans have taken to the streets of the capital, Guatemala City, to demand President Jimmy Morales' resignation.

Morales is being heavily scrutinised for seemingly interfering with a United Nations investigation after he expelled one of the agency's commissioners.

Over the past three months, the world has watched the escalating tensions between North Korea and the United States with growing alarm. North Korea has continued to develop its nuclear weapons program since first testing an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) on July 4.

It is unlikely either side is planning to start a nuclear war, but the situation could escalate out of control and lead to a conflict involving nuclear weapons. This would have unthinkable humanitarian and environmental consequences.

Yet the arms companies that make such a conflict possible are benefitting from the increased threat of nuclear war, along with their investors.

Singaporeans were officially informed of who their next president would be on September 11. Halimah Yacob, elected unopposed, will be the republic’s first female president in its 52-year history as a sovereign nation.

While the milestone of having a country’s first female president is often a lauded, the same cannot be said for Singapore. Underlying this landmark moment are a questionable series of events that left many Singaporeans feeling cheated and disillusioned about the state of Singapore’s democratic process.

October 9 marks the 50th anniversary of the CIA-ordered assassination of Che Guevara.

In light of a recent upsurge in denunciations of Che and the Cuban Revolution, it is important to separate fact from fiction.

Venezuela’s right-wing opposition announced on September 26 that its representatives would not attend the upcoming round of exploratory talks that were set to be held in the Dominican Republic the following day. 

The boycott came one day after a small group of masked opposition militants took to the streets of the wealthy eastern Caracas municipality of Chacao in renewed anti-government roadblocks. 

The picture that emerges from the German elections, held on September 24, is cause for concern on multiple fronts — especially in the surge to the neo-Nazi Alternative for Germany (AfD).

Alongside Chancellor Angela Merkel winning a fourth term and the clear defeat of the Social Democratic Party (SPD), the shadow of a resurgent neo-Nazism casts a serious threat not only for Germany itself, but all of Europe.

Having spent our first few days in Caracas, we travelled to Higurote, the capital of Brion municipality, in Miranda state, which is part of the coastal region known as Barlovento – a centre of African culture in Venezuela. 

One year ago, Colin Kaepernick, then-quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers National Football League team, refused to stand for the US national anthem, famously kneeling instead. He was alone in his protest.

Over the weekend of September 23-24, tens of millions of football fans watched on TV as 200 mostly Black players knelt or raised their fists while the national anthem was sung. The rest of their teams stood in solidarity with their right to protest, arm-in-arm. In some cases, entire teams stayed in the locker room while the anthem played.

Analysis

It is amazing how innovative companies can be when it comes to finding more ways to exploit people.

Take for example the adoption of “agile” methods and processes in the workplace. Large corporations, in particular, have been the champions of agile practices as the basis for their corporate transformations.

On August 25, for the first time in my life, I helped to organise a marriage equality rally.

It was a fantastic day: we had more than 400 people for the speeches and many more who joined the march through Fremantle and the rainbow chalk art session along the way. Walking through streets filled with supportive messages was so special. It was wonderful to be a part of and hugely encouraging to me and to everyone who supports the Yes campaign.

Two things gave me the drive to overcome my lack of confidence and make this rally happen.

Across South Australia, local governments are sticking up for residents who are out of work and living in poverty. This is part of a grassroots campaign being led by the Anti-Poverty Network SA with support from SA Council of Social Service and Uniting Communities.

The Big Four banks have abolished fees on “foreign” automatic teller machines (ATM) withdrawals as part of a public relations ploy to head off a royal commission into their financial scandals.

The Commonwealth Bank announced on September 24 it was scrapping ATM fees on withdrawals by customers of other banks. This was immediately followed by ANZ, the National Australia Bank and Westpac.

GetUp! has just published an updated version of The Adani Files, which it released in February. The Adani Files: New Dirt reveals the fraudulent activity of the mining giant, currently under investigation in India, where it is accused of a complex $298 million scam that cheated shareholders, tax authorities and Indian energy consumers.

The men in Manus Island detention began their 59th day of protest on September 29, days after a handful of their friends left for the US. They held their tired arms above their heads in a cross, a gesture that has become symbolic of refugee protests in detention.

About 25 of the several hundred men on Manus Island have being offered settlement in the US.

I had the privilege of spending five days with more than 100 activists from around the country taking front-line action to stop Adani’s Carmichael coalmine in the Galilee Basin from being built. 

We camped just outside Bowen, about 1000 kilometres north of Brisbane, on the Whitsunday coast. A large proportion of the activists were women. There were also babies, kids, campus activists, experienced veterans of campaigns against coal and unconventional gas mining, forest blockaders and Knitting Nannas. 

As if it were wrapped in flammable polyethelene (PE) cladding, Uber’s seemingly unstoppable plan for world domination caught fire in London last month; and the blaze might be as hard to extinguish as the inferno that engulfed the 24-storey Grenfell Tower in the same city in June.

The deadly fire at Grenfell, and Uber’s repeated failings — in terms of vehicle safety, sexual assault, regulatory avoidance and driver exploitation — are both the direct result of under-regulation and multi-layered regulatory and policy failure.

Phil Bradley, the first Greens councillor elected to Parramatta Council, knows the next period will be a testing time.

Resistance!

You can never be sure what will follow when a baby boomer begins to ask the (always rhetorical) question: “Do you know what the problem with your generation is?”

OK, Uncle John. I’ll bite. What is it this time? IPhones? Video games? Avo on toast?

Millennials (also known as Gen Y) have been broadly stereotyped as the “cripplingly lazy” and “irresponsible” generation. But are the crises of unemployment and housing really about Millennials or is the problem with the end of the millennium itself?

Culture

Ian Angus takes a look at five new books of interest to ecosocialists, looking at urban climate change, past mass extinctions, tropical rainforests, religious anti-science, and the end of Arctic ice. Angus is the editor of Climate and Capitalism, where this list first appeared, and author of the new book A Redder Shade of Green.

At Tsarskoe Selo, the Romanov monarchy’s palatial rural retreat where the former “Tsar of all Russia”, Nicholas II, was detained after being forced to abdicate by the February 1917 revolution, the once all-powerful autocrat found much to get annoyed about.

In particular, Nicholas disliked the military bands that serenaded him with rousing renditions of the anthem of liberation, The Marseillaise, and, with black humour, Chopin’s Funeral March.