Issue 1175

News

Attending my first commemoration of the 1916 Easter Rising in Ireland, held at Waverley Cemetery on April 1, I was struck by the solemnity of the occasion.

The hushed tones of those in attendance denoted a reverence for the event that time and distance has not dimmed. Even the children attending on this hot and sultry autumn day in Sydney’s eastern suburbs seem to catch the sadness among those gathered to remember.

Two weeks after the Australian cricket team demonstrated the true level of integrity in Australian sport, the Commonwealth Games — dubbed the Stolenwealth Games — opened on the Gold Coast on April 4.

About 100 protesters highlighted Australia’s colonial history and the ongoing genocide of indigenous peoples as the opening ceremony got under way. The protest was organised by a national committee including Indigenous activist group Warriors of the Aboriginal Resistance (WAR) and the Brisbane Aboriginal Sovereign Embassy.

The Coalition opposition has blocked legislation introduced by the Victorian Labor government to restructure Victoria's fire services.

The legislation aims at changing the current situation where cities such as Geelong and Ballarat, and many Melbourne suburbs are covered by the Country Fire Authority (CFA) rather than the Metropolitan Fire Brigade.

Thousands of early childhood educators around Australia walked off the job for the third time in 12 months on March 27, as part of the ongoing Big Steps campaign for equal and professional pay.

The walk-off came about because of the federal government’s failure to meet the February 1 deadline educators and their union, United Voice, had set for a response to their demand for a fair pay increase.

“What is happening in Venezuela is a revolution, not a dictatorship,” Pacha Catalina Guzman, an activist with Venezuela’s largest peasant-based organisation, the Ezequiel Zamora National Campesino Front (FNCEZ) and the Bolivar and Zamora Revolutionary Current (CRBZ), told a public meeting of more than 40 people on March 29.

The meeting was the last in Guzman’s Australian tour coordinated by Latin America Solidarity Network (LASNET) that took her to Adelaide, Perth, Brisbane, Canberra and Sydney.

Below is the text of the speech by Tamil refugee and member of the Tamil Refugee Council Lavanya Thavaraja to the Melbourne Palm Sunday refugee rally on March 25.

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I am really happy to see so many people here in support of refugees. This rally is very important for many refugees. This is what gives them hope in the face of danger.

Members of the Whistleblowers, Activists and Citizens Alliance (WACA) blockaded the Home Affairs Department building and the Wilson Security Car Park in Canberra on March 28.

They were protesting the treatment of refugees held in indefinite detention and at risk of being deported to danger. The activists held banners that read “Border Force Tortures Refugees”, “Deportations = Death”, “#Justice4Refugees”, “#SackDutton” and “All Refugees in Detention are Political Prisoners”.

Seven protesters who superglued their hands to a balustrade in the public gallery of Parliament House were found not guilty on March 29 of intentionally damaging Commonwealth property.

The seven were part of a Whistleblowers, Activists and Citizens Alliance (WACA) campaign that on November 30, 2016, disrupted Question Time in protest at the government's treatment of refugees. The parliamentary session was halted as security officers removed the protesters one by one.

 

More than 6000 early childhood educators walked off the job on March 27 for the third time in 12 months to demand equal pay. In addition, more than 30,000 parents made other arrangements for their children, or kept them at home, to stand in solidarity with childcare workers.

The walk-off was part of a nationwide day of action called by the workers’ union United Voice prompted by the failure of the federal government to act on equal pay. Early childhood educators are among the lowest paid professionals in Australia.

Members of Sydney's Brazilian community and socialist and LGBTQ activists organised a vigil in Martin Place on March 26 to demand justice for the assassinated Brazilian socialist city councillor Marielle Franco and her driver Anderson Pedro. Massive demonstrations have taken place throughout Brazil and solidarity actions have happened around the the world.

Video by Mert Balkanli for Green Left TV.

“If we want to look after people and the land as we repower New South Wales [with renewable energy] we have to fight for it”, George Woods from Lock the Gate told a large rally of First Nations people, farmers and city-dwellers who took over Martin Place near NSW Parliament on March 24.

Thousands of people rallied across Australia for refugee rights at the annual Palm Sunday rallies on March 25. Melbourne had its largest rally in years as people called on the government to close down the detention centres, bring them here and let them stay. Walid Zazai, one of the men on Manus Island, sent this speech to refugee activist in Australia. The speech was read out at Palm Sunday rallies across Australia.

United Voice members working at the XXXX brewery in Brisbane stopped work for one hour, supported by other unionists and community members, on March 26.Damien Davie addresses media at rally

United Voice members working at the XXXX brewery stopped work for one hour supported by large numbers of unionists and community supporters on March 26. Their main demand is for job security in a context where labour hire workers are being brought into the brewery with 25% less pay than regular workers and concerns that the company is shifting production interstate.

More photos on the Green Left Facebook page.

Analysis

The federal and Victorian governments announced on March 27 a two-year extension of the controversial Regional Forest Agreements (RFAs) for East Gippsland, the North East and the Central Highlands. They will be reassessed at the end of the two-year period.

You could be forgiven for thinking that the Victorian state government’s March 29 announcement to arm its police with semi-automatic, military-grade weapons was an early April Fool’s joke.

After all, the announcement came in the aftermath of yet another mass shooting in the United States. It also came after the Crime Statistics Agency published data on March 15 showing that crime rates have fallen by 9.9%.

The New South Wales government plans to ban people with a history of drug offences from living in social housing in parts of inner-city Sydney.

The desire to provide an environment that helps people who are trying to minimise their drug use and stay away from drug markets is understandable. The reality is there is no evidence that this is what the policy will achieve.

The recent decision by China to stop accepting low value and contaminated materials for recycling has caused the world price for them to crash. It threatens a crisis for local governments across Australia, which may be forced to send to landfill the stuff that people have sorted and put in their recycling bins.

Politics in Australia, so dominated by the major parties’ conservatism, it is turning people off participating in the political process a survey by the School of Politics and International Relations at the Australian National University has found. However, it also shows more people are moving leftward in their political attitudes.

For nine months I have volunteered at the Villawood Immigration Detention Centre in Sydney.

For the past few months, an African woman has also been visiting the centre. She is Somalian and was once in detention in Villawood. Before that she was on Christmas Island, and before that on Nauru.

On this day we all sat together laughing, as volunteers do. This was the first time I had properly spoken to her. She seemed happy, calm and free.

World

For the past 26 years, Ethiopia has been ruled by an authoritarian government. The party in government is the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) — a very criminal group.

I live next door to the world’s largest gun manufacturer. Here in Mexico, the murder rates are close to civil war levels.

Campaigning for a woman right’s to choose in Ireland has stepped up since the announcement of the date and wording of a referendum on changing the constitution to allow abortion.

The referendum, to be held on May 25, will ask voters whether to repeal the section of the Irish constitution that bans abortion. If passed, it would allow parliament to make laws to regulate the procedure.

An estimated 500,000 people, largely youth, demonstrated in Washington, DC on March 24 against the continued mass shootings at schools across the country.  Hundreds of thousands more mobilised in about 800 cities and towns.

The spark that lit the pent-up tinder of anger against school shootings — of which there have been 18 since January — was the response to the February 14 massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High in Parkland, Florida.

Bhaskar Sunkara is editor of the US-based socialist magazine Jacobin and a member of the Democratic Socialists of America, which has experienced rapid growth over the past year. Green Left Weekly’s Alex Bainbridge spoke to him about US politics under President Donald Trump and prospects for socialists.

Mireille Knoll was brutally murdered in her Paris apartment on March 23. She was 85 years old with a disability and a Holocaust survivor. Police suspect anti-Semitism may have motivated the attack upon her; all prompting an emotional outpouring.

Turkey has condemned Israel’s slaughter of unarmed Palestinians, but the Turkish regime commits the same atrocities against Kurdish people.

The Democratic Autonomous Administration of Afrin Canton in Syria’s north, which is resisting Turkey’s occupation, has warned all Syrians that Turkey’s murderous attack aims at ethnic cleansing.

Israel’s massacre of peaceful protesters in Gaza on March 30, in which 18 people died and almost 1500 were injured, has spread outrage across the world.

The US-based Committees in Solidarity with the Peoples of El Salvador (CISPES) sent international observers to El Salvador’s March 4 legislative and municipal elections. Drawing on their experiences and meetings with social movement organisations, the CISPES delegation published the following report on the elections and the challenges facing the left in the context of big gains for the right.

The United States-backed former dictator of Guatemala Efrain Rios Montt died on April 1, aged 91. Zoe PC takes a look at the legacy of a man never brought to account for his many crimes.

On the 50th anniversary of the huge May-June 1968 strive wave that brought France to the brink of revolution, workers are still fighting for their rights. This was seen clearly with the rail strikes that crippled France on April 3.

Tens of thousands of public sector workers and students, led by the National Society of French Railways’ (SNCF) staff, went on strike to protest a series of attacks on workers’ rights proposed by President Emmanuel Macron.

“General strike! General strike! General strike!” In protests across Catalonia after the March 23 jailing of five MPs and the March 25 detention in Germany of Catalan President Carles Puigdemont, these words rang out loud and appeared on placards and banners everywhere.

A general strike would certainly make the Spanish government of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and the senior judges doing its bidding think twice about their relentless persecution of Catalonia’s pro-independence MPs.

Except that a general strike, while desirable and important as a goal, will not happen until there is an earthquake in the Catalan trade union movement.

Culture

Poisoning Our Children: The Parent’s Guide to the Myths of Safe Pesticides, shows there is plenty of peer-reviewed science finding monumental faults with pesticide use and regulation — science ignored by regulators.

The tropical Andes of Ecuador are at the top of the world list of biodiversity hotspots in terms of vertebrate species, endemic vertebrates and endemic plants. Ecuador contains more diversity than the entire United States.

Good news (for a change)

Research commissioned by Environment Victoria shows that 12 months after the highly polluting Hazelwood power station closed, Victoria has a reliable electricity system and less climate pollution.

About 30 National Union of Workers’ members at Yakult’s Dandenong South probiotic drink factory won a wage rise of 3% and reinstatement of RDOs on March 28 after being on strike for 10 days.

The workers walked off the job on March 19 and maintained a 24-hour picket line at the site while management refused to discuss the issue. Yakult had offered 2.5% at the cost of ending RDOs and deduction of union dues from wages. Australia is profitable for Yakult — it made $332 million profit in 2016-17.