Issue 1159

Australia

Progressive students have staged a remarkable come-from-behind victory in Sydney University’s Student Representative Council (SRC) elections, with Imogen Grant elected SRC president.

Grant headed Switch, a ticket of Greens, socialists and independents. She edged out Liberal candidate Brendan Ma, following a string of controversial decisions made during the course of the campaign.

Grant’s victory came on the back of another defeat of the federal coalition government’s attempt to further impoverish students with its changes to higher education.

The Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) has called on federal MPs and senators to reject new legislation tabled by federal Communications Minister Mitch Fifield, which is aimed at further undermining the independence and integrity of the national broadcasters ABC and SBS.

From the time of Adani’s initial application for a mining license for the Carmichael Mine project in October 2010, local farmers and graziers have had concerns about the project’s impact on ground water and the Great Artesian Basin.

This was translated into legal challenges to the Carmichael, Kevin’s Corner and Alpha mines in the Galilee Basin. The controversial Adani project, while still financially dubious, has one legal barrier to overcome. The High Court is set to bring down a decision in March on the appeal by the Traditional Owners, the Wangan and Jagalingou people.

Winners of the 2017 Whitsundays Tourism awards, held last month at Hamilton Island, have rejected the prize and threatened to quit the organisation because it was sponsored by the mining giant Adani.

In November 2015, the NSW government sold the old, coal-fired Vales Point Power Station for $1 million, about the price of an average Sydney home.

Then-NSW treasurer Gladys Berejiklian said it would save the taxpayer from "ongoing losses" and "significant liabilities, such as costs associated with decommissioning, estimated to be in the tens of millions".

Fast forward two years.

More than 200 people attended the first rally organised by the Public Housing Defence Network in Debney Park, Flemington on October 15.

The network was established to fight the Daniel Andrews Labor government’s plan to privatise 11 public housing estates across Melbourne. The government wants to sell the current walk-up blocks of flats to private developers who will replace them with some social housing and high rise private developments.

Bindjareb Traditional Owners have begun a campaign to rename the Peel region in Western Australia, named after Thomas Peel, a settler who was instrumental in the Pinjarra massacre in which dozens of Aboriginal people, including children, were killed on October 28, 1834.

Refugee advocates occupied Melbourne’s Spring St on October 25 in solidarity with the asylum seekers of Manus Island, who have been abandoned by the Australian government.

The action was organised by Whistleblowers, Activists and Citizens Alliance (WACA), Disrupt 2017 and Refugee Action Collective (Victoria).

The Hobart City Council has officially joined the campaign to change the date of Australia Day.

It will also provide support for the annual Invasion Day march, organised by the Indigenous community, and back councillors who take part.

On October 23, the council passed a four-point motion seven votes to two.

It also called on other local governments to lobby the federal government to move Australia Day from January 26.

But it will not stop holding its citizenship ceremonies and celebrations on Australia Day.

The federal government has awarded a lucrative contract running refugee facilities on Nauru to a Queensland-based engineering firm, despite the company having no experience in providing refugee services.

Canstruct International Pty Ltd has won the $8 million contract to run “garrison and welfare services” from November 1.

The move has been slammed by human rights groups.

Amnesty International accused Canstruct of taking up a “toxic contract” that profits from the abuse of asylum seekers.

A voluntary euthanasia law has passed in Victoria’s Legislative Assembly after a marathon four-day sitting. The bill passed 47 votes to 37.

The proposed law will now head to the Legislative Council. If it passes there, the bill will allow terminally ill Victorians with less than 12 months to live and who are suffering unbearable pain to access lethal medication to end their lives.

Hundreds of people gathered for the Don't Mess With the West rally outside the Joan Sutherland Performing Arts Centre in Penrith on October 20, before marching to the electoral office of local member and Minister for Western Sydney Stuart Ayres, chanting "community health, not incinerator wealth" and "don't mess with the West”.

They were protesting against the controversial WestConnex road project and associated tolls on the M4 Motorway and elsewhere; the highly polluting waste disposal incinerator proposed for Eastern Creek; and the planned new airport at Badgerys Creek.

Communities in south-west Western Australia are angry the state government has granted Bunbury Energy a new gas exploration permit, covering the shires of Capel, Dardanup and Donnybrook-Balingup and parts of Bunbury and Busselton.

Co-convenor of the Gasfield Free South West Alliance, Boyanup landholder Kathy Thomson said the permit was a kick in the guts to the people of the south west.

“The government promised us a fracking ban before to the state election. We understood the promise meant we would be protected from encroachment by the invasive onshore gas industry.

While polls are giving the Yes vote for marriage equality a substantial lead, campaigners for equality do not want to leave any vote to chance. 

They have and are organising across the country until November 7 — the final deadline to return postal survey forms to the Australian Electoral Commission.

World

Ahead of the crucial Gujarat elections, the chinks in the propaganda armour of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Gujarat model of development continue to get brutally exposed. Indeed, the popular narrative on development that has emerged from within Gujarat – where Modi was chief minister prior to becoming PM – and that has taken social media by storm is that “vikas gando thayo chhe” – “development has gone crazy”.

Argentina went to the polls on October 22, in what many saw as a crucial mid-term test for President Mauricio Macri and the right-wing coalition behind him, Cambiemos (Let’s Change).

In the end, Cambiemos came out strengthened, while the Left and Workers Front – an alliance of revolutionary parties – continued to build on its previous electoral successes, winning 1.2 million votes.

Just after 3pm on October 27, the Catalan parliament voted to ratify the results of the country’s October 1 referendum on self-determination, proclaiming Catalonia “an independent state in the form of a republic”.

Outside parliament the vote was greeted with cheers from the tens of thousands of people who had gathered for this historic moment.

United States Secretary of State Rex Tillerson met with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to discuss China’s growing influence in Asia on October 25.

Tillerson recently gave a speech regarding the US’s desire to "dramatically deepen" ties with India to combat what he described as a negative Chinese influence in the region.

I was in Honduras last October visiting Azacualpa, a municipality under threat from Canadian corporate mining giant Aura Minerals and its San Andres mine in La Union, Copan.

At the time, residents from the rural municipality were successfully holding off the combined forces of the mine management, its security forces, the regional police, the local mayor, the provincial governor, the regional military commander and the Minister for Homeland Security (who arrived in the community by helicopter with his own entourage of state security bodyguards).

A year on, Aura Minerals, with the collusion of the post-coup Honduran regime, is moving to break the stalemate.

Outraged by government failures to honour a peace deal with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), rural communities across Colombia have initiated a “national strike” demanding widespread solutions to poverty, violence and drug trafficking.

The strike is the most far-reaching since 2013, when farmers took to the streets decrying abject poverty and negative economic effects of a free trade agreement with the United State

The military intervention that the United States political and Pentagon establishment never talked about is suddenly in the news after a joint patrol comprising 12 US troops and 30 Nigerien soldiers was attacked by a small group thought to be an ISIS affiliate known as ISIS in the Greater Sahara (ISIS-GS).

The incident itself was little mentioned until US President Donald Trump – after two weeks of silence on the matter – offended the family of soldier La David Johnson in a characteristically insensitive condolence call to his widow Myeshia Johnson.

One of France's largest union confederations, the General Confederation of Workers (CGT), held a strike on October 19 as part of the campaign against the anti-worker and anti-union ordinances adopted by the Emmanuel Macron government.

The mobilisations were far smaller than the previous three days of protests and have further fuelled discussion within the movement over how to overcome divisions and weaknesses and mobilise the widespread latent public opposition to the government's attacks.

More than 600,000 Rohingya have fled Myanmar (also known as Burma) to Bangladesh since August 25. With about 300,000 Rohingya refugees already in Bangladesh, tens of thousands in hiding in northern parts of Rakhine State and about 100,000 detained in Internal Displacement Camps, the United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres has described this mass exodus as “the world fastest-developing refugee emergency and a humanitarian and human rights nightmare.”

Socialists organised mass protest rallies in Petrograd (as Saint Petersburg was renamed after the outbreak of World War I in 1914) in February 1917. These protests took place on March 8 (February 23 according to the Russian calendar used at the time), International Women’s Day, rallying women workers to demand bread, peace, and liberty. But, as a contemporary police report stated, the women workers “got out of hand.”

They attracted the support of large numbers of male workers as well. The police proved unable to contain the growing and increasingly volatile protests. Soon 385,000 workers were on strike and many engaged in confrontations with the police in the streets.

Colombian indigenous leader Aulio Isamara Forastero was assassinated on October 24, close to the Catru Dubaza Ancoso shelter, shortly after armed assassins reportedly forced him out of his home.

Forastero, from the Pacific province of Choco, is among more than 150 activists killed in Colombia since the beginning of the year.

Analysis

There was a celebratory mood on social media when the High Court ruled on October 27 that Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce was ineligible to sit in parliament.

The government has lost its one seat majority and Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull's over-confident prediction that government politicians would be safe has been shown to be partisan bluster.

Right wing buffoon Malcolm Roberts has been kicked out of the Senate along with Deputy Leader of the National Party Fiona Nash.

This speech was given by Rachel Evans at an action called by the Queer Undergraduate Action Collective (QUAC) calling on the University of Sydney's Vice-Chancellor Michael Spence to support the Yes campaign for marriage equality.

* * *

My name is Rachel Evans and I helped kickstart the marriage equality campaign in 2004. Last year, I was the queer Office Bearer with Sydney University Postgraduate Representative Association (SUPRA).

It seems that every other month we have another parliamentary inquiry into the banks. With so many regular appearances you’d think it would start to get boring.

As we go to press, the federal employment minister Michaelia Cash is being hounded — rightly — for yet another gross breach of her parliamentary office.

While Cash continues to deny she has done anything wrong, one of her staffers has resigned for allegedly tipping off the corporate media on October 24 that the Australian Federal Police (AFP) were about to raid the Melbourne and Sydney offices of the Australian Workers Union (AWU).

The decision by the Australian Football League (AFL) to refuse to allow transgender woman Hannah Mouncey to nominate for the Australian Football League Women (AFLW) draft has drawn widespread criticism as a reflection of the AFL’s lack of real commitment to inclusion.

If the National Broadband Network (NBN) is becoming a “calamitous train wreck”, as Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull claimed on October 23, then the fault lies with him.

He was the minister for communications in the Tony Abbott Coalition government who, in 2013, oversaw the disastrous decision to fundamentally change the NBN from Labor’s fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) model to a technologically obsolete fibre-to-the-node (FTTN) system. At the time, Abbott apparently wanted to “kill the NBN” entirely.

After the defeat in the Federal Court of his bid to ban mobile phones in offshore immigration detention centres, Minister for Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP) Peter Dutton is trying another strategy to subvert the court’s August ruling.

Mobile phones are already prohibited in onshore immigration detention centres and on Christmas Island for refugees who tried to come to Australia by boat.

I don’t know if an opinion poll has ever been done, but a sizeable portion of Australians, perhaps a majority, recognise that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people had their land invaded by the British and experienced a systematic genocide.

The fact that this is widely recognised is reflected in the huge protests in response to threats to close remote Aboriginal communities and the response to Warriors of Aboriginal Resistance’s call-out for protests. Even back in 1988, there were 100,000 people protesting the so-called Bicentenary in Sydney.

The Australian Federal Police (AFP) raids on the Melbourne and Sydney offices of the Australian Workers Union (AWU) on October 24 show the state is becoming more authoritarian at a time when more people are disengaging from politics as usual.

Resistance!

Immigration minister Peter Dutton’s citizenship bill amendments lapsed on October 18. It is not the first time Dutton has failed to pass new laws relating to immigration, visas and citizenship and is another illustration of the growing discontent with some of the government’s far-reaching, Trump-like, proposals about immigration law.

It was opposed in the Senate by Labor, the Greens and the Nick Xenophon Team. They also combined to deny Dutton an extension to October 20. In the end, with the numbers against it, the Bill never even made it to the floor.

Culture

Climate & Capitalism editor and author of A Redder Shade of Green: Intersections of Science and Socialism Ian Angus takes a look at six new books on Marx’s ecosocialist views, climate change and health, theory and action, inevitability versus contingency in evolution, new politics and the meaning of Marx’s Capital.

Cyril Lionel Robert James, best known as CLR James, was a Trinidadian-born, Black socialist whose work spanned many of the great struggles of the 20th century and across many continents.

A life-long anti-Stalinist, he died in 1989 just as the Soviet Union was beginning to break up – something that brought him joy. 

Now his remarkable life has been captured in a new documentary Every Cook Can Govern.

Former top dog at the Health Services Union (HSU) Michael Williamson used to joke that “nothing’s too good for the workers – and their representatives”, as he brazenly defrauded the union to the tune of $5 million.

Just one lavish, boozy lunch with his cronies would burn through the annual dues ($600) of one of his low-paid union members – hospital cleaners, orderlies, clerks, porters, etc – writes journalist, Brad Norington, in Planet Jackson.