Issue 1162

Australia

Workers at the PPG paint manufacturing plant at Villawood have been locked out for more than three months in a bitter dispute over pay and conditions.

The multinational company, which makes Taubmans, Bristol and White Knight paints, locked out 57 workers on August 10 after they refused to cancel legal industrial action during negotiations for a new enterprise agreement.

More than 300 people joined a forest camp in the Pilliga State Forest in north-west New South Wales during the weekend of November 11–12 to protest against coal seam gas (CSG) mining.

The protest culminated in a convoy of about 100 cars filled with locals, farmers and environmental activists making their way into the forest to create a human sign on the sand beds of the river spelling out “NO CSG”.

It is difficult to predict the result of the Queensland election on November 25.

Polls continue to indicate a close result between the major parties with a likelihood that preferences will determine the outcome in many seats. Most likely, whichever party forms government will need the support of independents or minor parties.

A crowd of unionists, estimated by organisers at 15,000, gathered at Belmore Park and marched through city streets to a rally in Cook and Phillip Park on November16, demanding "Stop the War on Workers".

Members of the Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) walked off building sites for the rally, while waterside workers belonging to the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) closed down the Port of Botany for the day.

Investment bank Goldman Sachs is set to reap $16.5 million in NSW taxpayers' funds for a mere 11 months work as financial advisor to the state government on privatisation of the controversial $16.8 billion WestConnex tollway. The money will be paid for work between August this year and next July, in flogging off 51% of the Sydney Motor Corporation (SMC) which is building WestConnex.

The corporate vampires are circling as the sell-off process advances, with Transurban the favorite to buy WestConnex. Transurban already owns most of the toll roads in Sydney.

This month there have been four big wins for the union movement. Seventy jobs were saved at Murray Goulburn after a six month campaign; Dave, the union delegate sacked for leading a protest in his undies, has been reinstated; electricians at Crown Casino all got their jobs back on union conditions; and supermarket giant Coles has agreed to fast-track a vote on a new workplace agreement that will pay much higher penalty rates.

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More than 100 people attended a rally in defence of public housing at the Walker Street Estate in Northcote on November 11.

The Victorian Labor government has announced a "public housing renewal program" that will involve the demolition of nine public housing estates across Melbourne. The land will be sold to developers who are likely to build high rise towers in place of the current low rise buildings.

The emergency on Manus Island has sparked a renewal in the refugee rights movement, with large numbers of new activists coming to their first demonstrations. It has also inspired a range of creative direct actions, including acts of civil disobedience, which have complemented the large protests in the major cities and significant protest actions across regional towns and centres.

It was an all-in protest outside the leaders debate in the Queensland elections on November 16. Stop Adani protesters calling for Tim Nichols to veto the $1 billion NAIF loan alongside Taxi drivers wanting to put Labor last. Unionists against asset sales alongside One Nation members.
 
Inside leaders of ALP, LNP and One Nation (Greens and others were excluded) faced an audience of "undecided" voters, 60% of whom said that Palaszczuk from the ALP won the debate.

Sydney celebrates the result of the postal survey for marriage equality: 62% of participants voted yes, from a turnout of 13 million voters, nearly 80%.

World

In Harare, Bulawayo and smaller Zimbabwean cities, hundreds of thousands of citizens joyfully took to the streets on Saturday, November 18, approving a Zimbabwe Defence Force (ZDF) military semi-coup that resolves a long-simmering faction fight within the ruling party and ends the extraordinary career of Robert Mugabe at the age of 93.

Members of left-wing trade union federation Solidarity of Filipino Workers (BMP) and the socialist  Party of the Labouring Masses (PLM) held a public commemoration of the 100th Anniversary of the Russian Revolution on November 7 in Quezon City, Manila. Photo by Gregorio Bituin, Jr.

More than 100,000 people took part in a three-day sit-in outside the national parliament in New Delhi over November 9-11 against the “anti-worker, anti-farmer and anti-national policies” of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government, Inuth.com said November 13.

Ten national trade unions and many other workers’ organisations from across India took part to campaign for a 12-point workers’ rights charter.

The humanitarian crisis in Puerto Rico continues after almost two months after the hurricanes hit. The imperialist center in Washington continues to refuse to provide anything like adequate aid to its Caribbean colony.

The destruction caused by the two hurricanes that hit the island in September was worsened by a long history of imperialist exploitation, which has devastated the economy and infrastructure. This has greatly deepened over the past decade.

Australia’s behaviour at the UN Climate Conference in Bonn (COP23) has been described as that of a bully. Australia has collected a swag of “Fossil of the Day” awards — given daily by climate activists to the country or group doing its best to stop effective action on climate change.

Australia, along with the US, has been disgracing itself in one of the most contentious areas of the climate talks, known as Loss and Damage. Other developed countries, particularly the European Union and Canada, have not been very helpful either.

The United States is now the only country trying to undermine the Paris Agreement on climate change. While other countries are pledging to cut their emissions — often inadequately, but at least accepting the need — the US intends to raise them.

Meanwhile, the US is taking a step forward on the geoengineering path. Geoengineering, specifically Solar Radiation Management (SRM), refers to large-scale human interventions into the Earth’s climate. These aim to cut the levels of solar radiation that reach the Earth’s surface to artificially cool the planet.

La Via Campesina is a global social movement that unites 148 groups representing small farmers, peasants, rural workers and indigenous communities around the world. It fights for food sovereignty and ecologically sustainable agriculture. At the COP23 climate talks in Bonn, Germany, La Via Campesina released the statement that is slightly abridged below on November 9.

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The December 21 election in Catalonia will not only decide if pro-independence forces can return to administer this region of the Spanish state: it will also decide if the Spanish state’s own underlying crisis of legitimacy intensifies or starts to fade.

In essence, the election will be a plebiscite on the central Spanish government’s takeover of the Catalan government under article 155 of the Spanish constitution and whether a majority think Catalonia has a right to decide its relation to the Spanish state.

Some of the worst fears and dire predictions of opponents of the Keystone XL (KXL) pipeline came true on November 16 when pipeline owner TransCanada announced that more than 200,000 gallons of oil had spilled from the existing portion of the Keystone system in Marshall County, South Dakota.

Peasants, small farmers and Indigenous peoples “feed the world and cool the planet”. This is what the global peasant movement, La Via Campesina, has come to Bonn to put onto the agenda at the COP23 climate meetings — both in the official space and at the People’s Climate Summit where social movements met to strategise for alternatives to capitalism and its climate crisis.

The humanitarian crisis in Puerto Rico continues almost two months after two hurricanes hit. The imperialist centre in Washington continues to refuse to provide anything like adequate aid to its Caribbean colony.

The destruction caused by the two hurricanes that hit the island in September was worsened by a long history of imperialist exploitation, which has devastated the economy and infrastructure. This has greatly deepened over the past decade.

Although the media spends a lot of time portraying Cuba as a “dictatorship”, it has barely covered the fact that Cubans have once again begun a process of electing officials, starting from the local and going all the way up to the national parliament.

Cuba has rejected outright new US restrictions that took effect on November 8, describing them as confirming an "upsurge" of the blockade imposed by Washington since 1962.

Cuba's top diplomat for the Americas, Josefina Vidal, said during a press conference on November 7 that the new measures to prevent US trade with and travel to the Caribbean island were "arbitrary."

It is important to understand the context and the intended (as well as likely) effects of the US administration's actions. With encouragement from Florida Senator Marco Rubio and other Republicans, US President Donald Trump has been trying to help topple the elected government of Venezuela.

Venezuelan foreign minister Jorge Arreaza met with diplomatic representatives from the European Union and rejected the sanctions imposed by the EU against the South American country, on November 14.

"EU sanctions seek to intervene in Venezuela," Arreaza said during the meeting.

Thousands of Filipinos took to the streets to protest the five-day visit of US President Donald Trump. One of the largest protests was the November 13 rally and march by Laban ng Masa, a new coalition of trade unionists, community activists, urban poor organisations, feminists and socialists formed in September to oppose the authoritarian and violent policies of President Rodrigo Duterte. Laban ng Masa released the statement below in response to Trump's visit.

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Statement on the Trump Visit to the Philippines

Analysis

The Coalition government of Malcolm Turnbull is in deep, possibly terminal, crisis.

The combination of the dual citizenship fiasco, the widespread resistance to the government's attempts to push its neoliberal agenda through a maverick Senate and the constant undermining of Turnbull by the right wing of the Liberal Party under the leadership of former Prime Minister Tony Abbott has sapped any public confidence the government was given when Turnbull replaced Abbott only two years ago.

A pin could have been heard dropping in Sydney’s Prince Alfred Park in the moments before the result of the postal vote on marriage equality was announced on the morning of November 15.

Lovers stood with their faces pressed into each other’s chests, whitened knuckles held shaking hands, friends stood shoulder-to-shoulder and rainbow families held each other in tight embraces. Even the blustering wind that had dishevelled our stall all morning seemed to have been holding its breath. All was silent as we braced for the result.

When this debacle around Section 44 of the Australian Constitution started becoming apparent, I found myself amused.

The fact that a group of white politicians were falling victim to a section I believed was inherently xenophobic, particularly when some of those same politicians have been integral in fanning xenophobia to win votes, contained a delicious irony.

How would you feel if you were one of the 6000 workers at National Australia Bank (NAB) who will be made redundant in order to cut costs?

You might have a family with small children, struggling to pay for the weekly groceries and bills, on top of the monthly rental or mortgage payments that you can barely afford.

It is disappointing to see our postal survey victory marred by racism from No and Yes campaigners alike, as they descend on Western Sydney, which turned out 12 of the 17 highest No voting electorates in the country.

But not only is the anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant dog-whistling that shapes this assault on people who live in the west more or less overtly racist, it is also a poor analysis of what went wrong in the west.

Renewable energy projects currently under construction in Queensland are set to create a comparable number of jobs to those of the controversial Adani new coal project, if it proceeds. The growth of renewable power generation will create more jobs than have been lost in coalmining.

Thousands of people gathered around Australia on November 15 to hear the results of the Australian Marriage Law Postal Survey.

While the survey delivered the result that was hoped for by these crowds, there has been a growing awareness that a majority Yes response in the survey does not necessarily deliver an easy pathway to the legislation that would deliver marriage equality. Instead, a new battle is looming, to win not just the legislation that a clear majority of Australians support, but to defend anti-discrimination protections for LGBTI people.

Four hundred men are still protesting in the Manus Island detention centre. They are calling for nothing less than their freedom and will not move to another centre on the Island. They have held out since the Australian government shut down the centre and removed services on October 31.

November 15 was the 107th consecutive day of protest on Manus Island since the Australian government announced it would close the centre.

On a cold, wet November morning in the village of Rocles in central France, I attended a World War I centenary event unlike any I had seen before.

In the town square there is a small war memorial with a marble plaque listing the district's fallen sons, much as you find in every locality across France and Australia.

However, on closer examination, this one is a bit different. Instead of "Vive la France", it has palm leaves engraved in the stone, slogans calling for peace and acknowledges all the victims of war. How could this be?

Culture

Eleven women from Britain and Germany travelled to the occupied Palestinian territory of the West Bank in October on a tour of friendship, solidarity and football.

The promise of participants in the “Freedom Through Football” tour was to share with the wider world the truth of life in Palestine. In particular, it was to highlight the story of women who play football in a country where football for women is far from a cultural norm.

Dozens of high-profile musicians, scholars and activists are calling on Australian band Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds to cancel its performances this month in Tel Aviv.