Issue 1168

Australia

As the South Australian government fights a state election where Labor is in a three-way battle for power with the Coalition and Nick Xenophon’s SA Best party, it has announced plans to build a 250MW “virtual power plant”, linking household rooftop solar and battery storage.

One of the most staunch resident action groups fighting the corporate profit-driven, road-building frenzy of the NSW Coalition government is Community Action for Windsor Bridge (CAWB).

The Australia Institute says developing the Northern Territory's shale oil and gas resources would release an extra 34 billion tonnes of carbon, 60 times Australia's current annual carbon pollution.

Hundreds of people attended a rally in Melbourne's CBD on February 4 to protest racist media coverage and treatment at the hands of the police and politicians.

The protest was organised by Sudanese activists in the wake of comments made by federal and state Coalition politicians about a supposed “African youth crime wave”.

Unemployed activists, with the support of the Geelong Trades Hall Council, have established a branch of the Australian Unemployed Workers’ Union (AUWU) in Geelong.

With the help of the Australian Workers Union, the first union for employed hair stylists, Hair Stylists Australia, was officially launched on February 1.

United Voice has lost a five-year equal pay case after the full bench of the Fair Work Commission ruled on February 6 that they had failed to show early childhood educators were paid differently to men performing work of comparable value.

Around the country, on March 25 (Palm Sunday in the Christian calendar), people will be protesting about the federal government’s ongoing cruelty towards refugees.

They will be demanding an end to offshore detention and boat turn-backs and for asylum seekers on Manus Island and Nauru to be brought to our shores and offered permanent protection.

Many readers won’t need a reason to join the protests, but here are three new ones.

A coalition of socialists announced on February 5 that they are forming the Victorian Socialists to field a ticket to contest the Northern Metropolitan Legislative Council seat in the November state election.

Our political system is broken. The Liberals rule for their corporate mates. Labor is little better, tailing the political right and selling out its working class supporters to big money and developers.

It’s time for a genuine left alternative.

In the November 2018 state election, left wingers are uniting as the Victorian Socialists to get Yarra councillor Stephen Jolly elected to the upper house for the Northern Metropolitan Region.

We are for the poor against the rich, for workers against their bosses, for the powerless against the powerful.

World

A Labour government would officially apologise and pardon the suffragettes for the miscarriages of justice they suffered in fighting for women’s right to vote in Britain, said Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.

Venezuela's presidential elections have been set for April 22 as talks between the government and opposition aimed at promoting peace and unity appeared to crumble.

Thousands of solidarity activists from all across the Democratic Federation of Northern Syria defied a threat of bombardment by the Turkish State on February 6 to stand in solidarity with the resistance in Afrin.

An Assyrian representative from Deir ez-Zor in Syria’s east who attended the rally said: “We say no to an Ottoman occupation, we say to all peoples’ of the region, we are one hand in the fight against terror, the terror of [Turkish President Recep Tayyip] Erdogan, and the terror of Daesh. We don't do this for any, except for our children.”

Thousands of health workers and members of the public joined marches across Britain on February 3 to demand the government act to end the crisis in Britain’s public National Health Service.

Britain’s socialist Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn vowed to end Britain’s rough-sleeping crisis if elected prime minister by “immediately” purchasing 8000 homes for people with a history of sleeping on the streets.

The statement below, “Message from the Women of Afrin to the Women of the World”, was released on February 3 by Kongreya Star Efrin, a confederation of women’s organisatons in Afrin (Efrin in Kurdish).

Protesters gathered in New Delhi, India, to protest against the 2018 national budget released by the right-wing Bhartiya Janta Party government, labelling it “anti-people” and “anti-labour”.

US Secretary of State and former CEO of oil giant Exxon Mobil Rex Tillerson has threatened Venezuela with a ban on oil exports, only days after hinting that the country’s president, Nicolas Maduro, could be overthrown by a military uprising.

Describing Venezuela’s armed forces as a possible “agent of change”, Tillerson suggested on February 1 that the military could “manage a peaceful transition” should they remove Maduro from office.

Ecuador’s February 4 “popular consultation” resulted in a victory for the government of President Lenin Moreno, with the Yes option obtaining an average vote of 67% across the seven questions included in the referendum.

As 17-year-old Palestinian girl Ahed Tamimi remains in prison awaiting trial for slapping a soldier who invaded her family’s yard, three 17-year-old Israeli girls are at the centre of a lawsuit over the decision by New Zealand singer Lorde to cancel a planned Tel Aviv concert.

A wave of street demonstrations have spread across major cities in Sudan in protest against new austerity measures pushed by the North African country’s government.

This winter has been extremely cold in South Korea, with temperatures regularly reaching well below -10°C — perhaps another sign of climate change.

In a move that “smacks of something you see in a totalitarian country,” according to historian Douglas Brinkley, United States President Donald Trump is reportedly pushing for a huge display of his country’s military prowess.

The slow-burn fire sale of Mexico’s public assets could be about to end – or at least, that’s what has market analysts worried.

On January 20, Turkey launched an invasion of Afrin, one of the three cantons that make up the Democratic Federation of Northern Syria (also known as Rojava), the site of a profound, Kurdish-led social revolution based on multi-ethnic participatory democracy and women’s liberation.

The invasion has killed dozens of civilians in an area that has welcomed hundreds of thousands of refugees from Syria’s conflict. Turkey’s actions would be impossible without at least passive acceptance from several great powers active in Syria. Cihad Hammy looks at the motivations for various major players.

Analysis

The transport system in Australia is in crisis. The push by governments and the private roads lobby to build more tollways, sell off our public transport to the big corporations is worsening services, raising costs and creating a transport impasse for the public.

At the centre of this is the current transport disaster in Australia’s biggest city, Sydney.

Simon’s unexpected death, at the age of 51, is a big loss for friends, family and the socialist and workers’ movements.

Community groups opposed to the controversial $17 billion WestConnex tollway project have criticised the recent decision by NSW Roads and Maritime Services (RMS) to dismiss the 13,000 objections lodged against the WestConnex M4-M5 Link Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). 

RMS responses, published by the NSW Department of Planning on February 5, effectively disregarded or rejected serious environmental, health and probity problems with the project.

The Murray-Darling Basin Declaration was signed on February 5 by 12 eminent scientists and economists — Quentin Grafton, Darla Hatton MacDonald, David Paton, Graham Harris, Henning Bjornlund, Jeffery D Connor, John Quiggin, John Williams, Lin Crase, Richard Kingsford, Sarah Ann Wheeler and Richard Davis — who are concerned that the current Murray-Darling Basin Plan is not working.

* * *

Four years ago thousands of people lit candles in more than 750 locations across Australia to remember slain 23-year-old Iranian asylum seeker Reza Berati and demand an end to Australia’s detention system.

It was the largest post-Howard government mobilisation for refugee rights to date.

At rallies across the country activists who had been in contact with people in Manus Island detention centre exposed the horrors of that night.

The purpose of the Turnbull government is to clear every obstacle it can to help big business maximise its profits.

No environmental protection or social good is too important to be sacrificed for this goal. No surprise then that they are trying to cripple freedom of expression. For them, the more people are ignorant, confused and in fear the better.

Take these three assaults on our ability to analyse and criticise their actions.

For almost 14 years we have repeated the same sad story of the death of TJ Hickey.

The young Kamilaroi man was happily riding his bike in Waterloo on February 14, 2004, totally unaware of the tragedy that was to come. A police car driven by then Constable Hollingsworth, started to pursue him. On the corner of Phillip and George streets, a police vehicle hit the bike and TJ was catapulted and impaled on the spiked iron fence.

The journalists’ union and legal organisations have warned that the federal Coalition government’s latest amendments to the Criminal Code Act 1995 would make it difficult, if not impossible, to report on what the government does behind closed doors.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten told the National Press Club in Canberra on January 30 that he had become increasingly sceptical of Adani”s Carmichael coalmine in recent months: “We’re certainly looking at the Adani matter very closely,” he said. “If it doesn’t stack up commercially or if it doesn’t stack up environmentally it will absolutely not receive our support.”

“So, how come the left is so divided?”, we get asked routinely. After a conversation in which we try to put 150 years of struggle into its historical context, they inevitably respond with: “Yes, but don’t you think you’d be able to fight the right better if you were bigger and stronger?”

The answer is yes!

Culture

Game of Mates tells the story of two Australian men, the working-class Bruce and the capitalist James — two imaginary but emblematic men with very different lives.

Written by economists Cameron Murray and Paul Fritjers, these two archetypal characters are used to tell the story of economic theft across Australia.

The latest film about former British PM Winston Churchill, Darkest Hour, is already being tipped for the Oscars, with Gary Oldman’s portrayal of Churchill at the helm of speculation.

Oldman’s performance is indeed brilliant, but let us be clear. While it is a great piece of cinema that, artistically speaking, deserves many awards, it is also a film that glorifies a certifiably vile man.