Issue 1174

Australia

In her March 21 address to the National Press Club in Canberra, ACTU secretary Sally McManus successfully skewered the Malcolm Turnbull government for their woeful disregard for workers' rights.

Pacha Guzman, a leading activist with Venezuela’s largest peasant-based organisation, the Ezequiel Zamora National Campesino Front (FNCEZ), told a public meeting in Sydney on March 21 that despite serious challenges, Venezuela’s pro-poor "Bolivarian Revolution will win".

Guzman also reaffirmed the continued strength of the popular movement for socialism launched by former President Hugo Chavez and said she expects his successor, President Nicolas Maduro, to win the May 20 presidential elections.

The result of the Batman by-election on March 17, triggered by the resignation of Labor MP David Feeney over his citizenship status, shows Labor, with the right combination of candidate and policy, can hold off the Greens.

Labor’s Ged Kearney retained the seat, with 43% of the primary vote. The Greens’ Alex Bhathal, who many expected to win, received 39%. The Liberals did not contest the seat, although a variety of small conservative parties did.

There were multiple demonstrations on the weekend of March 17–18 while a host of dictatorial leaders from the region were welcomed by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to a Special Summit of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN).

A packed meeting in Bairnsdale in eastern Victoria on March 21 was horrified as the implications of a planned mineral sands mine in the area were revealed.

The Kalbar Resources mine has been in the planning stage for several years and is due to start next year. The site is at Glenaladale, about 20 kilometres from Bairnsdale in grazing country, but only 350 metres from the $200 million a year vegetable growing industry in the Mitchell River Valley.

 

Residents of Fitzroy’s massive Atherton Gardens public housing estate rallied and then occupied the local office of the Housing Department on March 16.

The rally was organised by the Atherton Gardens Residents Association (AGRA) and was also attended by supporters of public housing including the Victorian Socialists.

The Victorian Socialists released this statement on the Batman byelection on March 18.

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The Labor Party has managed to retain the seat of Batman, by offering a progressive and competent candidate in Ged Kearney, after years of imposing the right-wing powerbroker David Feeney on the electorate, as part of factional deals.

Conflict has erupted on Melbourne’s waterfront after Qube Ports applied to terminate an enterprise agreement covering its Bulk & General operation. Members of the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) retaliated with a snap 48-hour strike over March 17–18 and declared bans on shifts greater than seven hours and on overtime.

If Qube’s application to terminate the Melbourne agreement is successful, it would be the first time an agreement has been terminated on the nation’s wharves.

Recently released labour force data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics overwhelming shows that those successful in gaining fulltime employment are those who are already employed, rather than young people entering paid employment or those returning to work after an absence.

Over the previous 12 months, a monthly average of 82,640 people became unemployed, while at the same time about 117,500 unemployed people got jobs.

Protesters gathered outside the Sydney studio where Channel Seven broadcasts its breakfast show Sunrise on March 16.

They were there to express their outrage at comments made by two panellists, neither of whom are Indigenous, on the show on March 13. They, and many on social media, objected when one, who had no experience in child welfare or Indigenous affairs, argued the Stolen Generations were justified because Indigenous children were being abused by their parents and a second Stolen Generation was needed.

The Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) and the International Transport Workers Federation (ITF) have undertaken a series of actions against the Victorian Transport Association, which held its annual conference at Lorne’s Mantra Hotel on March 19 and 20.

The actions were taken in protest over the Victorian Transport Association’s support for the Victorian International Container Terminal (VICT).

World

With general elections likely to be held in May, the left and democratic forces in Malaysia are discussing how to respond.

Turkey’s murderous invasion of the Afrin canton in Syria’s north, backed explicitly or implicitly by Russia and the US, succeeded in taking the canton’s capital on March 18. But Kamran Martin says this is far from the end for the Kurdish-led resistance in defence of the democratic revolution in the region.

The leaders of 10 progressive and left-wing Pakistani parties have agreed to form an alliance.

The Kurdish Red Crescent reported on February 27 that at least 348 civilians had died in the conflict begun by Turkey’s January 20 invasion of northern Syria’s small enclave of Afrin.

The announcement by Spain’s right-wing Popular Party (PP) government of a miniscule 0.25% rise for pensions has brought pensioners out onto the streets in the hundreds of thousands in recent weeks, writes Julian Coppens from Merida in the Spanish state. 

France is once again on the brink of an all-out industrial war — and its outcome could transform the country’s political landscape.

Hunger strikes by detainees at Yarl’s Wood immigration detention centre in Bedfordshire — one of 13 detention centres in Britain — ended after a month on March 22. However, campaigners have vowed to continue protests.

Derry community activist Tony Taylor has been held in jail for more than two years without charge or trial on the orders of a British official, write the Free Tony Taylor Campaign Team.

An Israeli military court has approved a plea deal that will see Palestinian teenager Ahed Tamimi serve an eight-month jail sentence on top of a fine of nearly US$1500.

Under the Donald Trump administration, the US government and weapons manufacturers are making a killing through arms sales to other countries, writes Jose Olivares.

March 19 marks 15 years since the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, and the US people have no idea of the enormity of the calamity the invasion unleashed.

The man believed to have been behind a string of bombings that killed two people and injured five in Austin, Texas, died on March 21 after blowing himself up in his vehicle as law enforcement closed in.

In Brazil and around the world, many were shocked by the egregious act of cold-blooded murder that took place on March 14 — and that put on display the open wounds of the country’s 2017 institutional coup, writes Tatiana Cozzarelli.

Across the world, people have responded with outrage, sadness and grief to the assassination of Brazilian pro-poor activist Marielle Franco and her driver Anderson Pedro Gomes in Rio de Janeiro on March 14.

Brazil is one of the world’s most dangerous countries for leftist activists.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has come out strongly against United States President Donald Trump’s latest sanctions on the South American country. These prohibit “all transactions” with “any digital currency” issued by the Venezuelan government — alluding to the cryptocurrency promoted by the Venezuelan authorities, known as “Petro”.

Last October, the hashtag #MeToo went viral around the world as women shared their experiences of sexual harassment and assault.

When South Korean prosecutor Seo Ji-hyun made a historic televised revelation in January of sexual harassment she had suffered in 2010 by a senior prosecutor, it stirred the rapidly spreading #MeToo movement across South Korea.

Fifty years ago, on March 16, 1968, US soldiers attacked the Vietnamese village of My Lai. Even though the soldiers met no resistance, they slaughtered more than 500 Vietnamese women, children and old men over the next four hours, in what became known as the My Lai massacre.

Prominent Brazilian human rights activist and counciller for the left-wing Party of Socialist and Liberation (PSOL) Marielle Franco was assassinated in Rio de Janeiro on March 14. The openly gay councilor was outspoken in defence of the poor and against racism.

Analysis

I was one of the “pro-Palestinian hecklers” that faced off against Alan Dershowitz at the Darling Harbour Convention Centre on February 25.

I heckled because there was no freedom of speech in that United Israel Appeal (UIA) propaganda event. The issues of the stealing of Palestinian land and the killing of Palestinian people were not addressed. I have strong Jewish connections as well as Palestinian friends, some of whom were demonstrating outside, together with the valiant Jews Against the Occupation.

Explaining his call to fast track visas for white South African farmers, the renowned humanitarian Peter Dutton, whose famed concern for those in need of asylum is matched only by his complete lack of potato-like features, explained: “They need help from a civilised nation like ours.”

Sydney is in the grip of "tollway madness" and urgently needs a planning overhaul if it is to become a healthier city, the recent FitNSW forum for planning and health experts was told.

South Australians headed to the polls on March 17 to decide whether they would return the incumbent Labor Party to power after 16 years or hand government to Steve Marshall’s Liberals, with Nick Xenophon’s SA Best as a significant political force.

The results saw the Liberals win, overcoming their recent history of factionalism and disunity marked by ongoing leadership battles. Optional above the line preferential voting was introduced this election, but a redistribution of seats proved more detrimental to Labor.

The consequences of South Australia’s election result on March 17 will be felt far beyond the state’s borders.

It was barely minutes after the SA Liberals, led by Steven Marshall, were declared winners that the federal Coalition began crowing that this was good news for Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s signature policy, the National Energy Guarantee (NEG).

 

Anna Hush is a former Women’s Officer at Sydney University. She has worked with End Rape on Campus Australia, and with journalist and advocate Nina Funnell she co-authored The Red Zone Report, which was released last month. This is an abridged version of a talk she gave at Sydney University at the Women’s Legal Service Feminist Legal Perspectives Seminar on March 7.

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The following is a slightly abridged speech given by Jessika Faithfull to a pro-choice protest on March 18 called by the University of Sydney Women’s Collective.

The protest outside St Mary’s Cathedral in Sydney was called to counter the annual anti-abortion “Walk for Little Feet” rally. A large contingent of NSW Police unsuccessfully tried to shut the pro-choice protest down.

***

I am almost four years old. I am on horseback with my mother as our family is being smuggled from northern Iraq across the border on a clear spring dawn. It is 1988 and the Iran-Iraq War is at its final, gruelling, violent end.

A cool breeze blows against us.

I stare up at the sky tracking the sound of the planes and anticipating the familiar silence before the bang of exploding bombs shatter the earth. The planes circle overhead, but this plane is different from the other planes we’ve seen so often.

Culture

As well as smashing all-time Box Office records in both the US and Australia when it opened last month, The Black Panther movie, like the comic book series before it, combines Black pride with a mirror held up to our racist society. It is also a great film, writes Amy Muldoon.

The Black Panther movie, like the comic book series before it, can bring issues of racism, colonialism and sexism home to a new audience, writes Krystal Kara.

Peter Dutton’s talking to the gun lobby,
Cos that’s the kind of thing he does.
After all, it’s just a harmless hobby,
Giving macho men a lovely buzz.

And now he’s desirous of importing
Some macho men from far away,
He has great experience in sorting
Who should be blocked and who should stay....