Issue 1171

Australia

The Tamil Refugee Council released this statement on February 28.

* * *

A former member of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE, or Tamil Tigers) deported under duress from Australia on February 22 is being harassed and intimidated, along with his family, by the Sri Lankan state.

Santharuban was handed over to Sri Lankan authorities at Bandaranaike airport, Colombo, where he was questioned for about four hours.

Another dispute inside the NSW Greens has hit the headlines, with a complaint being brought against NSW MLC Jeremy Buckingham for allegedly acting in a manner prejudicial to the party’s interests

On February 20, Greens MLC Justin Field posted a “letter to NSW Greens members” on his personal Facebook page saying a complaint had been lodged against Buckingham following his statements to an ABC Four Corners program last August.

Two hundred people marched in Kalgoorlie on February 24 to protest the possible parole of a man who deliberately ran down and killed 14-year-old Elijah Doughty in August 2016. The man had pursued Doughty in a four-wheel-drive through bushland in Boulder, 600 kilometres east of Perth, because he believed the motorbike Doughty was riding had been stolen from his home.

Any one of the 1000 people who attended a rally at Belmont on February 19 could have told their own horror story of bus privatisation.

Speaking on behalf of many, several community members exposed the lie that privatised bus services make it easier for people to get around.

New mother Kimberley Anderson described how she and her three-month-old baby, on the way to a medical appointment, waited in the rain for a bus that never showed.

For another parent, Bec Cassidy, the new timetable and service cuts meant she had to change her daughter’s primary school.

About 100 unionists rallied outside the Fair Work Commission’s Sydney office on February 28 in support of workers at the Port Kembla Coal Terminal (PKCT), who were locked out again on February 15.

The corporate owners of PKCT are locking out its unionised workforce every time a ship arrives and replacing them with temporary workers.

An environment plan for petroleum exploration company Asset Energy to start seismic testing off the coast of Newcastle has been accepted by the federal regulator, the National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority.

Energy Security Board chairperson Kerry Schott told the 150 people attending a public forum on the National Energy Guarantee in Sydney on February 26 and the 500 or so linked through the live webinar: “We’re here to listen”.

But apparently not to the activists from the Australian Student Environment Network (ASEN), who gate-crashed the event, calling for the proposed policy to be rejected because of its weak carbon reduction target and impact on renewable energy.

More than 500 people gathered at the Coonamble Bowls Club on February 10 to declare they do not want a gas pipeline across NSW’s western slopes and would fight to protect the Great Artesian Basin.

The meeting expressed deep-seated concern about the potential threat of coal seam gas (CSG) mining to the Great Artesian Basin.

APA has been contracted to build a gas pipeline through the NSW slopes and plains for gas giant Santos, which wants to sink 850 CSG wells in a 95,000-hectare project area in the Pilliga State Forest.

The Mardi Gras festival provides the space to give the queer community a powerful voice. During the festival we can also hear diverse voices within the broader queer community.

Queer Muslims were one of these diverse groups that made their voices heard with a special event on 16 February. Sydney Queer Muslims, a non-profit independent organisation for mostly religious queer Muslims, presented a symposium at Sydney University Business School.

World

When Zimbabwean opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai succumbed to cancer on February 14, he left his Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party in turmoil without an obvious successor.

Tributes are pouring in for this “hero of the nation”, according to Zimbabwe Standard. Its editorial said: “Tsvangirai is an undoubted hero whose commitment to democracy and human rights will inspire many generations to come.”

From militant suffragette at the beginning of the 20th century to campaigner against colonialism in Africa after World War II, British Sylvia Pankhurst dedicated her life to fighting oppression and injustice.

In what has proven to be the largest industrial action in the higher education sector in recent history, the University and College Union (UCU) launched the first day of strike action across Britain on February 22.

Striking against planned cuts to the pension schemes of academic staff, staff and students took collective action on 61 different universities across the country.

The relationship between Italians and fascism has always been ambivalent in the aftermath of World War II. This is mainly because Italians have never come to terms with its fascist past.

As a result, neo-fascist groups are flourishing today amid increasing social and political hatred, and receiving considerable media coverage. This includes groups such as CasaPound (named after the fascist poet Ezra Pound) and Forza Nuova (New Force).

With the release of the full text of the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) on February 21, activists in the 11 signatory countries finally got to see if their worst fears of a corporate power grab would be confirmed.

Unfortunately, they mostly were.

“This is not a conflict over elections. It’s the Honduran people rejecting the policies of plundering, death and violence of the state”, said Berta Zuniga Caceres, the daughter of murdered indigenous rights leader Berta Caceres and coordinator of the Civic Council of People’s and Indigenous Organisations of Honduras (COPINH).

At least six people were wounded in clashes between police and protesters in Honduras on February 27 as protesters voiced their opposition to the visit of United States Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley, and her country's support for President Juan Orlando Hernandez, who was re-elected amid electoral fraud allegations last November.

If we are serious about using International Women’s Day, held annually on March 8, to campaign for the freedom and equality of women and girls, then we should not ignore Palestinians.

Much has been made in the corporate media of a humanitarian crisis on Venezuela’s borders having been caused by a flood of refugees leaving the country.

Here, Joe Emersberger takes down a recent example of the kind of crude propaganda that the corporate media has been running in its campaign against Venezuela.  

Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza said US-imposed sanctions are making foreign debt renegotiation more difficult and that the government would look to work with other countries to alleviate their needs.

Five months after Hurricane Maria devastated the Caribbean island of Puerto Rico, 25% of the US colony’s people are still without electricity. No state in the US has ever experienced such a long blackout.

As President Donald Trump continued smearing millions of immigrants as violent gang members to justify racist deportations, it happened again.

A young white man entered a school on February 14, not far from where I graduated, and unloaded a legally purchased weapon of war. He killed 17 innocent people in three minutes.

The mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida, United States, on February 14 that left 17 killed and 14 injured was the 18th school shooting in the US this year.

What has made this shooting different was not only its violence but the unprecedented response to it, largely led by the Marjory Stoneman Douglas students.

Italian general elections on March 4 will be a testing ground for the new grassroots, left-wing movement Potere al Popolo (Power to the People), born only four months ago.

In a climate of hatred that has poisoned the electoral campaign, Power to the People has stood out for its scale of popular participation, both in the way it established its political agenda and in the campaign itself. In this sense, Power to the People is an unprecedented attempt at creating a real bottom-up democratic movement.

Asma Jahangir was a Pakistani social activist and world-renowned human rights lawyer, who died on February 11, aged 66. Below is a statement released by the Awami Workers’ Party (AWP), a socialist party in Pakistan formed by the merger of several left parties in 2012.

***

The leaders and workers of the AWP are shocked and grieved at the devastating news of the demise of Asma Jahangir, who passed away from cardiac arrest on February 11. It is hard to put into words the tragedy that her loss represents.

Analysis

The fact that Barnaby Joyce has been forced to step down from the leadership of the Nationals is a good thing. Not so good was Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull's reframing of the former deputy PM's wrongdoings in terms of a paternalistic, sexual moralism.

Rather than address Joyce’s abuse of parliamentary privilege to ensure his partner maintained her well-paid media advisor job and questions over Joyce’s expenditure claims for travel and accommodation, Turnbull decided to play the moral card.

Hundreds of refugee families defied a protest ban in the Indonesian city of Makassar on Sulawesi on February 21.

They marched from their refugee accommodation to the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) with banners and placards that read “No one is illegal” “Is there any UNHCR?”. A young girl held up a placard, almost as tall as her, that read “We are forgotten”.

A damning new investigative report has detailed the dark culture of degrading misogynistic harassment, sexual violence and the dangerous, disgusting hazing rituals that take place behind the sandstone walls of the most prestigious of Sydney’s residential colleges.

Investigators reviewed almost 90 years of newspaper reporting on University of Sydney college scandals. The report found evidence that current traditions date back several decades.

During his recent meeting with US President Donald Trump at the White House, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull proposed that Australian superannuation funds invest in Trump's plan to renew the US's ailing national infrastructure. He was repeating a view being pushed by Australian ambassador and former Treasurer Joe Hockey for the US to adopt Australia's controversial "asset recycling" scheme by state and local governments, aided by federal subsidies.

Communist and feminist Zelda D’Aprano became the symbol of the fight for equal pay when, in October 1969, she chained herself to the Commonwealth Offices in Melbourne, after becoming frustrated at the lack of pay equity for women.

D’Aprano was employed by the meatworkers union, which was involved in a test case on the gender pay gap in the meat industry before the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. At the time, women’s participation in the workforce was 38% and they were paid 75% of men’s wages for doing the same work.

As women and their allies around the world prepare to strike, rally and march on International Women’s Day, abortion rights are once again on the agenda in many countries.

In January, the federal government launched its new Defence Export Strategy, which aims to turn Australia into one of the world’s top 10 arms exporters. The strategy will raise government assistance for arms exports, making Australia more like Britain and other major arms-exporting states.

From November 2016 until September 2017 I was as a guest of New South Wales Health. For much of that time I was in a desperate situation. I entered Campbelltown Hospital in septic shock and would certainly have died had it not been for the fabulous efforts of the doctors and nurses who treated me.

The hospital system is an excellent place for saving lives. Unfortunately, it is not geared for long-term inmates. The longer you have to stay, the more is likely to go wrong.

Labor and some unions should stop equivocating about the Adani coalmine.

In the movement to stop Adani’s Carmichael coalmine Australia is experiencing a social movement of generational significance.

Culture

Growing up in northern Queensland in a family of unionists, I learnt the bare facts of the region’s radical history as part of the local folklore — Townsville had elected Communists to the local council, and Bowen twice sent a Communist, Fred Paterson, to state parliament.

More than halfway through this endless seven-round season, the 2018 AFL Women’s season has been catastrophe after catastrophe for the AFL.