Issue 1181

Australia

Seventy refugee supporters held a birthday party for a young girl outside the State Library on May 12. They ate birthday cake and sang "happy birthday".

But three-year-old Kopika was unable to attend. She was kept behind razor wire in the Broadmeadows detention centre, along with her parents and sister.

Refugee activists outside the Sydney Insitute.

The dishonorable Minister for Home Affairs, Immigration and Border Protection was invited to speak to the right wing “think tank” Gerard Henderson’s Sydney Institute on May 16. A group of determined refugee activists turned up to greet Dutton when he arrived.

Information provided by the NSW Water Office indicates that if the Bylong coalmine in the Upper Hunter region proceeds, there is a real danger of the Bylong River and local creeks drying up.

The Bylong coalmine, a project of South Korean government-owned company Kepco which supplies coal to the electricity industry, involves open cut and underground extraction of up to 6.5 million tonnes of coal for a period of 25 years. The Planning and Assessment Commission’s hearing of Kepco’s application was completed in May last year and its review report was completed in July.

The owner of a Queensland tour company that underpaid its workers has been jailed by the Federal Court in a contempt of court case brought by the Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO). It was the first time a boss had been jailed as a result of action by the FWO.

Two–and–a–half years after the suicide of Chinchilla farmer and Lock the Gate activist George Bender, who had led a decade long campaign against fracking, on May 11 Linc Energy was fined a record $4.5 million for causing serious environmental harm at its underground coal gasification plant on Queensland's western Darling Downs.

Protesters outside the NT Labor Party conference

Divisions in the Northern Territory Labor Party were on show on May 12 as the party’s annual conference voted to ban fracking across the territory, weeks after Chief Minister Michael Gunner lifted a moratorium on the practice. The vote was a vindication for the more than 200 protesters who gathered outside. 

Blackmail charges brought against Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining and Energy Union (CFMMEU) leaders John Setka and Shaun Reardon were dropped by Victorian prosecutors on May 16 in a major embarrassment for the federal government’s trade union royal commission, police and prosecutors.

The formation of Victorian Socialists is continuing to generate excitement among progressives in Victoria, with about 600 people attending the election campaign launch in Collingwood on May 12.

Organisers anticipated about 300 people would attend, but the venue was soon filled to capacity and about 200 people were relocated to the building’s basement. The three candidates and other speakers had to give their speeches twice!

World

In just over 24 hours on May 14 and 15, the single greatest number of deaths and injuries of Gazans at the hands of the Israeli military since the start of the Great March of Return protests on March 30 occurred. Lisa Gleeson writes Israel’s latest crimes must be a catalyst to strengthen the struggle for Palestinian freedom.

The world saw two starkly opposed moral cultures on May 14, writes Barry Sheppard.

Large swathes of Pakistan are in the stranglehold of a caricatured feudalism, writes Farooq Tariq.

Voices from across South America have denounced Israel’s massacre of more than 50 Palestinians on May 14 and its ongoing repression of protesters participating in the Great March of Return that began in Gaza on March 30.

They have also condemned the United States’ decision to move its Embassy to Jerusalem and pledged support to the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israeli apartheid.

For those who have been following Brazil closely in recent years, the case against former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva is clear-cut. And no, it’s not about tackling corruption, it’s about subverting Brazilian democracy for the second time in two years.

The recent uplifting news that 11 of the 21 political prisoners in Honduras would be released on bail and allowed to contest their charges in freedom has brought joy to their comrades but also brought into sharp focus the situation of those who remain locked up on false charges.

An international group of intellectuals and activists are demanding media corporations report on the May 20 Venezuelan elections in a more balanced and honest way, instead of reproducing the single narrative that is being spread by most media outlets.

Thousands of Argentine’s were on the streets on May 15 protesting President Mauricio Macri’s latest macroeconomic policy — a major loan from the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

The Catalan parliament finally voted in a new president on May 14, 199 days after the pro-independence bloc held on to its majority at the December 21 elections imposed by the Spanish government.

As cases of grave sexual violence against women continue to make headlines in India, another grim story has surfaced. A recently published study found that sex discrimination in the South Asian country kills more than 200,000 girls under the year of five-years-old annually.

Malaysia’s May 9 general elections caused a shock upset, with the Barisan Nasional (BN) losing control of the government for the first time since independence in 1957. This was a historic win for the opposition against the corrupt, authoritarian ruling party.

Analysis

Captain Cook has loomed large in the federal government’s 2018 budget. The government has allocated $48.7 million over four years to commemorate the 250th anniversary of Cook’s voyage to the South Pacific in 1770. The funding has been widely debated on social media as another fray in Australia’s culture wars, particularly in the context of $84 million in cuts to the ABC.

In delivering his third federal budget speech on May 8, federal Treasurer Scott Morrison claimed his government would guarantee the essential services Australians rely on. Presumably this included the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS).

However, Morrison only mentioned the NDIS once in his half-hour budget speech, and that was 25 minutes in. He said, “every dollar and every cent committed to delivering the National Disability Insurance Scheme remains in place and always will,” before quickly moving on to "stopping the boats", "terrorism" and border security.

The Australian Council of Trade Unions' new Change the Rules campaign is well underway.

In conjunction with a professional advertising and social media strategy, the campaign was launched on April 7, building up to the 12 Days of Action in early May around the May Day rallies. Thousands of people attended these rallies across the country, culminating in 120,000 workers marching in Melbourne on May 9.

The likelihood of Australia meeting its obligations under the 2015 Paris Climate agreement to cut emissions by 26–28% by 2030 (compared with 2005 levels) is becoming a vain hope if budget provisions are any indication.

While federal Treasurer Scott Morrison was spruiking low and middle income families as the “winners” in the federal budget, unnoticed among the biggest “losers” was the Australian Securities and Investment Commission (ASIC).

The Victorian Labor government’s final budget before the November state election is strong on spending — for health, education and public transport, but unfortunately also for toll roads and law and order.

More than 600 people rallied in Sydney on May 14 to protest against Black deaths in custody after footage showing a Western Australian senior sergeant deliberately driving over 18-year-old Aboriginal man William Farmer was released. The police officer who assaulted Farmer has been stood down, but the young man sustained serious injuries as a result of the assault.

It is bad enough that Australia is not on track to cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 26–28% on 2005 levels by 2030, as it is notionally committed to doing, but according to the government's own figures, it is only set to reduce them by 5%. What makes it worse is that even the 26–28% target is very conservative and unlikely to be sufficient.

In truth, wealthy industrialised countries like ours should be seeking to become net zero emission economies and societies, both because we can and because it is simply not worth gambling with the continued existence of life as we know it.

Multinational gas corporations are expected to sell $50 billion worth of Australia’s liquefied natural gas (LNG) overseas every year, but it will be at least 10 years before the national treasury receives any rise in tax revenue. Even then, many projects will never pay any tax to the government for the resources they export.

A report prepared for the federal government into the operations of the Petroleum Resource Rent Tax (PRRT) shows that revenue from the offshore gasfields will remain static until at least 2027.

Labor Opposition leader Bill Shorten delivered his budget reply speech on May 10, promising to deliver a “bigger, better and fairer tax cut for 10 million working Australians”.

Culture

The former British colony of Malaya (now Malaysia) gained its independence on August 31, 1957. However, this was based on a deal by the Malay elites represented by the conservative United Malay National Organisation (UMNO) and Chinese and Indian capitalist classes with British colonialism. This deal preserved the privileges of the Malay elite.

Ten years earlier in 1947, a different vision of independence based on popular democratic participation and multi-ethnic solidarity came together in the “People’s Constitution”.

The season of zonked flies
Trapped behind windowpanes
They fall into coffee cups
Loll in left over gravy on dinner plates
A last indulgence on dessert platters
Rolling over, legs up
Not dead yet but on the way
Gone brutally bonkers
No wriggling out of here

The recently re-published classic history of radical politics in Queensland, The Red North: The Popular Front in North Queensland, was launched at a series of forums in Melbourne, Brisbane and Cairns over the past month, Jim McIlroy reports.

At the same time as the Israeli Defense Force massacred more than 50 Gazans protesting against the US shifting its Israeli embassy to Jerusalem, Matte Gallo writes that Italians are joining protests against the decision of the major cycling race Giro d’Italia to start the contest in Israel.

In various stages of this important Italian sporting event, many activists have protested -- waving flags, chanting slogans and making their presence felt energetically.