Issue 1166

News

In an event organised by Fighting In Resistance Equally (FIRE) on January 26, more than 10,000 people gathered at The Block in Redfern to pay their respects to Australia’s first nations and show support for Indigenous rights.

Ken Canning, chairman of the Indigenous Social Justice Association, kicked off the event by saying: “It’s really great to see all of these faces here. We want this to be a healing day and we need this to be a peaceful event.” He added: “We are peaceful people despite what the media says.”

Since the 2010 declaration of the Anna Bligh state Labor government that Adani’s proposed Carmichael coalmine and rail project in Central Queensland was being assessed as a “significant project”, opponents have raised the shady dealings of the company on its home turf, India.

The continued support for the project by Labor and Coalition forces in Queensland and Canberra, in the face of the growing likelihood of the project achieving “stranded asset” status as sources of financing dry up, raises the question: “What is in it for the pollies?”

The South Australian government has begun a public consultation on whether to hold a trial of underground coal gasification (UCG). The practice was banned in Queensland after it caused “irreversible” damage to hundreds of square kilometres of valuable Darling Downs farming land.

Around 500 refugees on Nauru have signed a petition to Australian Border Force demanding a timetable for refugee resettlement, to be immediately resettled in Australia pending any further resettlement options and to reunite families that have been separated.

About 130 refugees will fly to the US in the next month: 40 refugees flew from Port Moresby on January 23 and the remaining 90 refugees from Nauru are scheduled to fly in February.

More than 200 detainees at detention centres in Villawood in Sydney and Maribyrnong in Melbourne, were on hunger strike for five days from January 15–19 in protest at visitor restrictions announced by Border Force.

Beginning January 22, visitors will have to give five days’ notice of any visit and fill in a five-page form, with actual visits restricted to one-on-one.

Visitors will be required to provide 100 points of identification.

Bupa Aged Care has agreed to a wage increase of 11.25% over three years after more than 1000 aged care nurses and carers in Victoria took part in protected industrial action affecting 26 nursing homes.

The new enterprise agreement also includes significant improvements to workplace entitlements and workload management.

About 90 workers at envelope manufacturer Australian Paper’s Preston plant stopped work on January 16 and formed a picket in front of the factory after nine months of negotiations failed to secure a new enterprise agreement.

About 50 representatives of Australian unions rallied outside the Consulate of Fiji in North Sydney on January 18 to protest the lock-out of 200 airport workers at Nadi International Airport in Fiji. The workers, including baggage handlers, check-in staff and caterers, had been locked out by the management of Air Terminal Services (ATS) since December 16.

Even though the NSW government convinced Fair Work deputy commissioner, Jonathan Hamberger on January 25 that the Rail Tram and Bus Union’s (RBTU) overtime ban and proposed 24-hour strike should be suspended, Sydney’s hard-pressed commuters continue to support railway workers’ demand for an agreement that does not mean drivers have to work overtime to take home a fair wage.

Railway workers want a wage rise of 6% a year over the next four years to bring them in line with wages for drivers in other states.

Over 100 people took part in an emergency demonstration in Sydney on January 21 to protest the Turkish government's military assault on Afrin in the Democratic Federation of Northern Syria (previously known as Rojava).

This video profiles one of the speeches at that rally by Socialist Alliance member Peter Boyle

Analysis

Homemade signs and pink pussy hats abounded on January 21 as thousands of women rallied in Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne as part of the international Women’s Marches.

As hundreds of thousands marched across Europe and the US, 1500 people — many of them young women — gathered in Sydney’s Hyde Park to form a human chain in a symbol of global solidarity. In Melbourne, protesters marched from Alexandra Gardens and formed a human chain along the banks of the Yarra.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has seized on International Monetary Fund (IMF) forecasts predicting a rise in global economic growth following the US administration’s corporate tax cuts, to call for similar cuts here.

Describing the proposed cut as an “enterprise tax program”, Turnbull said on January 22 that the measure would “result in more investment and more jobs” — despite significant evidence that “trickle down” economics does not work.

Treasurer Scott Morrison has demanded that Labor supports its proposal to cut the tax rate for big business from 30% to 25%.

Green Left Radio on 3CR spoke to Anas Alwakil, a Sudanese community activist and Nawal Ali, a social worker and advocate for women, on January 19 about the federal government’s fear-mongering and the so-called Sudanese gang crime wave that has hit Victoria.

* * *

Australia’s 33 billionaires increased their wealth by more than $38 billion dollars last year — or more than $1 billion each. That is more than $3 million each a day!

At the other end of the spectrum, Credit Suisse data cited in the Sydney Morning Herald showed the wealth of the bottom half of Australians declined in the same period alongside stagnating wage growth.

A new report from Oxfam, released on the eve of the World Economic Forum, revealed that Australia’s richest 1% owned 23% of the country’s total wealth last year, up from 22% the year before, and more than the bottom 70% combined.

Based on data from Credit Suisse, the report also revealed that Australia now has 33 billionaires, up by 8 in the past year alone.

The Oxfam report shows that inequality is worsening.

The Australian billionaire Dick Smith has been on the stump again warning of the growing gap between the haves and the have-nots.

“If we're not careful, if you end up with really wealthy people and lots of poor people, in the end the poor people will rebel,” he said late last year.

 “You look at what happened in Russia in 1917 where they ended up with the tsar and the tsar's friends who are all equivalent billionaires.

 “The pitchforks came out and we had revolution.”

When federal parliament reconvenes on February 5, the Coalition government’s first priority will be to pass two punitive bills which, if made into law, will make life even harder for those trying to get by on income support.

After receiving approval from Russia, the Turkish state has launched an air strike with 69 jets, bombing the Afrin centre and Cindirêsê, Reco, Shera, Shêrawa and Mabeta districts in northern Syria, ANF News reported on January 20.

World

Egyptian authorities detained Sami Anan, a former army general who had announced his candidacy for the upcoming presidential elections, on January 23. Anan was seen as President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi’s last major challenger as he attempts to secure a second term in office.

The ex-military chief of staff, Anan was taken to the Military Prosecutor's office in Cairo, according to his son and one of his lawyers.

Gilbert Achcar, a socialist writer who has long followed the Arab world, says the current Tunisian revolt, with protests against spending cuts and austerity breaking out across the country this month, was a “foreseeable” continuation of the Arab Spring uprisings of 2011.

Archar spoke to Calian Mace and Hala Kodmani in a January 14 interview first published in French daily Liberation. The version below is reprinted from International Viewpoint.

***

The Labour-led coalition government in New Zealand was formed in October after the welcome usurping of nine years of rule by the neoliberal National Party.

However, Labour was only able to form government with the help of two minor players — the populist, anti-immigration New Zealand First and the Greens.  

OK, it’s (almost) official. The zombie Trans-Pacific Partnership, widely criticised as a huge, undemocratic corporate power grab, has been restored to life

What’s the latest move and is it irreversible?

Three years after Kurdish-led forces liberated the northern Syrian city of Kobane from ISIS — after a months-long siege that captured the world’s imagination — the democratic, multi-ethnic and feminist revolution in Syria’s north is facing a new assault.

This time, it is coming directly from the virulently anti-Kurdish Turkish state, which had supported ISIS’s siege of Kobane.

Mass protests have been taking place across Iran since December 28, 2017, despite heavy security and state repression.

The protests are against widespread poverty, the skyrocketing cost of living, vast official corruption and brutal political repression.

Erica Garner, Black Lives Matter activist and daughter of African American victim of police murder Eric Garner, died on December 30 aged 27.

The proximate cause of death was a heart attack, extremely rare in one so young. The underlying cause was the trauma-induced stress (PTSD) she and her family suffered because of Eric’s murder in 2014, the exoneration of the killer cops, and the callous way the Garner family was treated by city authorities, including Democratic Mayor Bill de Blasio.

In November 2016, as the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) met in Bogota’s Colon Theatre to sign an agreement – for the second time – to bring the country’s long-running armed conflict to an end, it was clear that peace-building in Colombia faced a myriad of challenges and obstacles.

Venezuela’s National Constituent Assembly (ANC) has approved a proposal to hold presidential elections before April 30. 

The move came a day after the European Union announced sanctions targeting seven Venezuelan senior state officials on January 22.

Brazilian professor and researcher Sabrina Fernandes discusses former president Luiz Inacio “Lula” da Silva’s January 24 corruption trial and the country’s forthcoming October presidential election.

Former Brazilian president Luiz Inacio “Lula” da Silva has lost his appeal against 2017 corruption conviction last year in a major blow to his chances of regaining office.

The judgment was reached on January 24 after two of the three appeal court judges in the case voted to uphold the decision of a lower court. While Lula can still take his appeal to a higher court, the court's decision could rule him out of October's presidential election. 

"Last year it felt like a funeral. This year it feels like a resistance."

Those words--from one of the many hundreds of thousands of protesters who took to the streets on January 20 as part of the massive Women's Marches marking the shameful anniversary of US President Donald Trump's first year in office--summed up the political mood.

In two words: Pissed off.

Culture

Radical Perth, Militant Fremantle
Edited by Charlie Fox, Bobbie Oliver & Lenore Layman
Black Swan Press
Curtin University, 2017
283 pages, $30.00

When we think of Western Australia, we generally do not think about left-wing politics or radical actions. WA’s unique history, demographic, natural resources and generally prosperous economic conditions had always shaped a strong sense of a place not especially inclined to serious challenges to the status quo.

Nobody better reflects the military and political elites’ cavalier attitude to nuclear weapons than Sir William Penney, the architect of Britain’s hydrogen bomb program.

Asked how destructive the new weapons were in meetings in 1961 between US Democrat President John F. Kennedy and British Conservative Prime Minister Harold Macmillan, Penney casually answered by saying: “It would take twelve to destroy Australia, Britain five or six, say seven or eight, and I’ll have another gin and tonic, if you would be so kind”.

Apocalyptic futures are common plot lines these days, but few as starling as this one. It has all of the big-ticket items like global warming and alien invasion, but with the added element of passionate and physical acting.

I could not wait to purchase my ticket to Iraqi singer Nour Al-Zain’s scheduled concert in Sydney this weekend. I made a trip to ‘Iraqi’ Fairfield last week and finally purchased the ticket. I had saved up the ticket money over the past few weeks. 

With much anticipation to finally see my favourite Iraqi singer live on his first ever tour to Australia, I counted the days and hours — and even had plans to welcome him at the airport.