Issue 1164

News

Stop Adani Brisbane held a media conference and celebratory action outside the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China in Brisbane. The ICBC and the China Construction Bank have just publicly ruled out funding Adani.

The campaign continues to pressure the Turnbull government to rule out funding via a $1 billion NAIF loan and on other banks to similarly refuse funding for Adani.

Australian Services Union (ASU) members at Melbourne’s Women’s Health West (WHW) took protected industrial action and walked off the job on November 29 to protest their employer’s actions in relation to stalled enterprise bargaining negotiations.

WHW is a not-for-profit organisation that provides a range of domestic violence and women’s health services to the community. The industrial action took place during the global “16 Days of Activism” campaign held from November 25 to December 10, which focuses on eliminating gender-based violence against women and girls.

A coalition of anti-tollway groups has called for a mass rally early next year to bring together communities fighting against the controversial $18 billion WestConnex tollway and other disastrous road projects being pushed by the NSW Coalition government. The rally is planned for February 17 at 2pm.

A sleeper issue in the recent Queensland election was the inaction by mines minister Anthony Lynham on the Land Court’s ruling of May 31 to reject the application by New Hope Coal for the third stage in the expansion of the Acland coalmine, known as Acland Stage 3, in the agriculturally rich Darling Downs.

Workers gathered at Geelong Trades Hall on November 24 to raise funds for Esso maintenance workers in Longford, Victoria, who have been locked out for 170 days. Barbecues sizzled, drinks flowed and Scabby the Rat was inflated, while workers were entertained by the classic rock band, Rock n Roll Exchange.

Esso’s maintenance contractor UGL, which operates maintenance on the gas rigs in Bass Strait, ended the previous employment agreement and offered workers a new agreement with 40% less pay, worse conditions and extended rosters on the platform with no guaranteed shore breaks.

Victoria Police are being used by the state Labor government to threaten and harass protesters who have been organising in support of asylum seekers on Manus Island. Activists described the behaviour of the police at a recent rally as state sanctioned violence.

On November 24, a neo-Nazi grabbed the rally microphone and began screaming into it that refugees were rapists and that they should not be bought to Australia.

Momentum for a new super-union has accelerated with a strong vote by members of the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) and the Textile Clothing and Footwear Union of Australia (TCFUA) in favour of amalgamating with the giant Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU). Both unions reported an overwhelming Yes vote.

The MUA vote was 87% in favour, with 50% of members participating. This involvement is higher than past internal MUA elections for union officers.

War drums are beating louder in Asia. North Korea launched another ballistic missile on November 29. In response, the Japanese government requested an emergency meeting of the United Nations Security Council and South Korea conducted a "precision-strike" drill, firing three missiles into the sea off the east coast that was designed to emulate a strike on the North's launch site.

Analysis

The history of the 13-year campaign for marriage equality in Australia is an incredible underdog story, but you would not know that if you got your news from the mainstream media.

Throughout the period of the postal survey, the implication has been that marriage equality activists are powerful bullies stomping around the political playground and kicking over the sandcastles of defenseless No campaigners, such as the Australian Christian Lobby (the tax-exempt lobby group that receives millions of dollars each year in corporate funding).

The Manus Island tragedy is the latest in a series of systemic human rights abuses by successive Australian governments in recent decades.

But there is another story: one of courageous resistance in some of the most hostile situations imaginable — a resistance led by several hundred people on Manus Island who are still protesting, still demanding “freedom, nothing less than freedom”.

When renowned ecosocialist Ian Angus came to Australia in 2011 he observed that for most people it is “easier to imagine the end of the world than to imagine the end of capitalism”. 

Unfortunately, imagining the end of the world is getting easier. There are almost daily reports of the accumulating effects of climate change, to choose just one source of potential apocalypse.

The humiliating about-face forced on Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull when he announced a royal commission into the banking and financial sectors on November 30 could be the beginning of the end for the Coalition government.

The publication of NSW Greens Senator Lee Rhiannon’s new pamphlet, Sold off, sold out: the disaster of privatisation and how to reclaim our common wealth, is timely.

With the federal government now supporting a royal commission into the banks and widespread controversy over national energy policy, the damaging consequences of privatising many of the country’s formerly publicly owned industries is clear for all to see.

Finance industry workers are facing increasing pressure as banks seek to maximise their already hefty profits. Our jobs are becoming increasingly precarious, and all the while our wages and conditions are being threatened with cuts.

These days, if you walk into a bank, you’ll find very few staff and a lot of ATMs, which not only give cash but do almost everything a teller can do. You will also find a concierge, whose job is to shift customers to self-service via online banking. Tellers have performance targets for shifting customers online.

This month we celebrate the 163rd anniversary of the Eureka Stockade.

It is important to celebrate and mark historical anniversaries, especially one such as the Eureka Stockade, whose legacy has played such a pivotal role in the struggles of Australia’s working people for a fair, just and democratic society.

Another United Nations climate conference (COP23) is over — though many people would have barely noticed, given the lack of media coverage. The Paris Climate Agreement is locked in and, contrary to the Coalition’s inetrpretation, Australia needs to ratchet up its emissions reduction.

This is a useful time to reflect on where Australia sits globally on climate action and what areas are of concern.

Another year will soon be over. Green Left Weekly will take a short break so the many volunteers who worked very hard all year to keep our project going can have a little holiday.

Thank you to all our regular readers and subscribers and all the people who kindly contributed to keep this project alive.

In his early 20s, James was denied full life insurance cover because he revealed that he had discussed genetic testing with a genetic counsellor, as his mother had bowel cancer and carried a gene mutation.

He was tested and found to carry a mutation in the MSH6 gene, one of the DNA mismatch repair genes in Lynch syndrome.

Don Burke, a television host and “family man”, is the latest celebrity to be outed as a serial sexual harasser. A joint investigation by Fairfax Media and the ABC has uncovered multiple claims of Burke committing indecent assault, sexual harassment and bullying of women in the late 1980s and 1990s. 

As more women come forward with their horrific experiences with this particular monster, we need to ask what more can be done? Do we just expose more perpetrators, or is there something else?

What to make of the NSW Greens preselection result, which delivered a 60–40 win for Mehreen Faruqi against Lee Rhiannon?

To close observers it was not a surprise. In the two preselections last year in the NSW Greens, what we might call the Brown Greens pipped the left or red Greens on both occasions.

World

The United States Senate passed a Bill on December 2 that will allow oil drilling in Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) – an area which has been protected since 1960. Chair of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, Senator Lisa Murkowski, managed to get a narrow 52-48 vote for the Bill – a part of the tax reform legislation – to pass.

The threatened 19.6-million acre refuge is located in northeastern Alaska and is home to polar bears, caribou, migratory birds and other wildlife, but also billions of barrels of crude oil underground.

Protests on December 3 against balatant electoral fraud in Hondura's November 25 election marked the third day of mass mobilizations despite the government enforcing a 10-day curfew as of December 2, TeleSUR English said.

Hardly a day goes by without much of the mainstream media concentrating on Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential elections. This includes any news about the various investigations into the question, much blowhard opinionating by talking heads, charges that Russia sought to collude with Donald Trump’s campaign, and more.

It is probably true that Russia would seek to influence US politics to the extent it thought it could. But to keep a sense of proportion, we should recall that the world’s foremost “meddler” in other people’s politics and elections is Washington itself.

All three competing blocs in the intensely polarised December 21 Catalan election are working feverishly to win in a battle shaped by Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s October 27 sacking of the Catalan government.

The first round of Chile’s presidential election was held on November 19. The right-wing candidate, ex-president Sebastian Pinera, won with 36% of the votes. He will compete in the second round against centre-left candidate Alejandro Guiller.

But the big surprise was the result for the Broad Front (FA), a heterogeneous left coalition headed by Beatriz Sanchez. The FA candidate came in third, with 20% of the vote (just two points short of making the second round).

Crop varieties have been selected and reproduced over thousands of years by farmers, creating great diversity. India, for example, used to have 200,000 varieties of rice. Seeds were kept each year for replanting and exchanging in what was a free or low-cost system for many farmers.

Israel’s fight against the global boycott, divestments and sanctions campaign (BDS) has taken another turn with its attempt to prevent the publication of a database of companies operating in its illegal West Bank settlements.

More than 1600 delegates gathered for the third annual conference of La France Insoumise, the radical left political project that has stormed onto the stage of French politics, over November 25-26 in the city of Clermont-Ferrand.

The group’s name defies a neat translation, often rendered as France Unbowed, Unsubmissive or Untamed. Only launched in February last year, the group is widely seen as the only real and effective opposition to President Emmanuel Macron. Founding spokesperson and former presidential candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon is recognised in opinion polls as the effective leader of the opposition.

Will a verbal war between a senile dotard and a little rocket man result in an actual war? Probably not, but at the moment, the risk is unprecedented.

The reason it remains unlikely is simply because the consequences of any actions are so catastrophic. Right now, this is the only deterrent to war.

Riding the crest of a powerful Bersih (“clean”) democracy movement in the streets, Malaysia’s Pakatan Rakyat (People's Pact) opposition alliance won 53% of the popular vote in the 2013 general election. Gerrymandered electorates, however, ensured they took only 40% of the seats.

Yet as a new general election approaches, likely early next year, the incumbent Barisan Nasional (National Front, BN) government looks set to easily hold on the power.

On November 27, known to Tamils as Heroes Day, those who died fighting for an independent Tamil homeland were commemorated at ceremonies throughout the north and east of Sri Lanka.

In view of the December 10 municipal elections, communards and revolutionary activists closely associated with some of the most important initiatives in communal organisation in the country have been put forward as candidates for mayor.

Although we cannot say this is a mass phenomenon, it is undoubtedly a deeply significant event for various reasons.

Venezuela’s National Constituent Assembly (ANC) has denied permission to one of its grassroots delegates to stand as a mayoral candidate in the upcoming December 10 municipal elections.

Angel Prado was elected to the ANC on July 30 as a territorial delegate for his municipality of Simon Planas. Prado is also a leading member of the El Maizal commune in Lara state.

Culture

Two decades ago, barely anyone called themselves an ecosocialist. Yet today the term is widespread on the left.

This comes from an awareness that any viable alternative to capitalism must do away with the current destructive relationship between human society and the wider natural world. It also stems from a recognition that too many socialists in the 20th century failed to take environmental issues seriously.

Serenading Adela: A Street Opera is a major new community theatre event now in rehearsal.

It celebrates a colourful protest on January 7, 1918, when, on a hot summer night during World War I, supporters of British-born suffragette and anti-war militant Adela Pankhurst gathered outside the bluestone walls of the Women’s Prison at Pentridge in the Melbourne suburb of Coburg.

Adam Mayer’s book on Marxist currents in Nigeria is what it says on the cover — a rich history of Marxist and revolutionary thought and struggles that are little known outside the West African nation.