Issue 1182

Australia

The last legal roadblock Adani faces, the challenge by the Wangan and Jagalingou Traditional Owners of the Galilee Basin to the Indigenous Land Use Agreement, is likely to be resolved this month. While the proposed Carmichael mine in central Queensland is often deemed “a stranded asset”, as Adani has not succeeded in securing finance for the $16.5 billion project, it will not just walk away.

Another person who came to Australia seeking safety and security died on Manus Island on May 22. The Rohingya man is the seventh person to die on Manus Island since Labor re-established offshore detention.

The man died after jumping out of a bus — it is being reported as a suicide. Doctors for Refugees had been calling on the government to bring him here for more than a year as he suffers from epilepsy.

Activists opposed to the opening up of coalmining in Queensland’s Galilee Basin have taken to the streets in local actions calling on Coalition and Labor MPs to stop the Adani coalmine from going ahead.

On May 18, activists in Ballarat protested outside the local MPs office and on May 19 more than 200 gathered outside the Camberwell office of environment minister Josh Frydenberg. Rallies were also held in Brisbane and Adelaide.

Angry Bananas in Pajamas on placards at rally against cuts

Unions have condemned the federal government's decision to cut a further $84 million from funding for the ABC in the federal budget announced on May 8.

The budget confirmed the government has frozen the indexation of ABC funding to effectively cut that amount over three years. These latest cuts come on top of the $254 million the Coalition government has already removed from the ABC's revenue since 2014.

Hundreds of people linked hands on the shores of Perth, Adelaide, Melbourne, Newcastle and many other coastal towns across Australia on May 19 to call on Norwegian oil giant Statoil-Equinor to drop its plans to drill in the Great Australian Bight.

The event was organised by the Great Australian Bight Alliance, a convergence of 13 conservation groups, including The Wilderness Society, Sea Shepherd Australia, Seed Indigenous Youth Climate Network, Australian Marine Conservation Society, Conservation Council South Australia and First Nations Mirning and Kokatha elders.

As the government’s criminal case against Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) officials John Setka and Shaun Reardon ended in embarrassing collapse, unions called for the repeal of draconian secondary boycott laws.

Sympathy strikes are one of the most common forms of secondary boycott. They involve a union taking industrial action to force a company to cease trading with another company until the targeted company agrees to industrial demands. The law against secondary boycotts thus interferes with the right of workers to campaign collectively.

The Victorian branch of the Electrical Trades Union (ETU) has decided to withdraw its financial support for federal Greens MP Adam Bandt and formally rejoin the Labor Party.

The branch disaffiliated from Labor in 2010 over the then-Kevin Rudd government's refusal to dismantle the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC).

Around 60 people unfurled a long blue ribbon on May 19 at Coogee beach five metres from the coast line. The action symbolised future seal level rises and the erosion of Coogee's beautiful coast line if state and federal governments continue to support coal and gas production over renewable energy. 

The “Line in the Sand” action was part of the Repower NSW campaign, which, in the lead up to the state elections next March, is calling on the government to phase out coal-fired power stations and ensure a just transition to 100% clean energy by 2030.

Liddell power station.

The union representing workers at the ageing Liddell power station has welcomed AGL Energy’s plan to transition it to a clean energy hub, even as pro-coal Coalition MPs called on Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to amend competition laws to force AGL to keep it as a coal-fired facility.

World

Ireland, one of Europe's most socially conservative countries, has voted by a landslide to liberalise the world's most restrictive abortion laws, Common Dreams noted.

French police and protesters clashed in Paris on May 22 after unions — angered by years of public-sector pay cuts and President Emmanuel Macron's economic reforms — urged state employees to stop work and join nationwide street protests.

Riot police charged at protesters with batons in central Paris, firing stun grenades and tear gas. Police said 20 demonstrators were arrested.

The demonstration was called by the large labour unions plus many smaller ones, and involved the organisation of street rallies in about 140 cities, towns and villages across France.

Venezuelan Foreign Affairs Minister Jorge Arreaza responded forcefully to the latest round of US sanctions, which follow hard on the heels of socialist candidate Nicolas Maduro’s electoral victory on May 20.

“There is no unilateral measure, no pressure from any foreign power that can intimidate the Venezuelan people,” the top diplomat stated.

As Ireland prepares for its referendum today, May 25, on repealing the constitutional amendment prohibiting free, safe, legal abortion, women and health workers in Rojava, the largely Kurdish area in Syria's north, have expressed their solidarity with Irish women’s right to choose.

With the exception of the Vatican state and Malta, Ireland has the most restrictive abortion laws in Europe. It exceeds Saudi Arabia and Qatar in its restrictions on women’s rights to basic reproductive health.

Even before Venezuela’s May 20 presidential vote had taken place, the United States —headed by a president who lost the popular vote in an electoral system that systematically disenfranchises millions of poor and non-white voters — rejected the elections as “neither free nor fair”.

The Lima Group, a coalition of 13 right-wing Latin American countries plus Canada, also refused to recognise the results. Among its members are:

In recent days, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have once again been ratcheting up their clash of the colonisers, writes Marcel Cartier.

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, who took office in February from Jacob Zuma, is facing a rebellion within the union movement over proposed changes to the labour laws.

Haidar Eid is an associate professor of English literature at Al Aqsa University in Gaza. He and his students joined the Great March of Return protests near the Israeli border. Eid’s statement below was read out at the Socialist Alliance’s May 18 screening of the Palestinian film The Wanted 18 in Geelong.

***  

We, the victims of a multi-tiered system of oppression, occupation, colonisation and apartheid, are fighting on behalf of the international community for the rule of law.

The Cambridge Analytica scandal has put data harvesting in the spotlight, but Tom Walker writes that the problem goes far beyond Facebook.

As the United States’ largest corporations continue their unprecedented stock buyback spree in the wake of President Donald Trump’s US$1.5 trillion tax cut, new government data published on May 22 shows that US banks are also smashing records thanks to the Republican tax law. They raked in $56 billion in net profits during the first quarter of 2018 — an all-time high.

Large-scale teacher-led rebellions against cuts and for workers’ rights have broken out in US states such as West Virginia, Arizona, Oklahoma and Colorado. Although it has received less publicity, teachers are also rebelling in the US’s Caribbean colony of Puerto Rico.

Fighting to keep the island’s public schools open in the wake of the devastation caused by Hurricane Maria last year, teachers are boycotting standardised tests and even teaming up with parents to occupy their schools.

More than 300 international representatives from organisations such as the African Union, the Caribbean Community and the Electoral Experts Council of Latin America, as well as former heads of states, parliamentarians, trade unionists and solidarity activists, were present for Venezuela’s May 20 presidential vote. Among them was Eulalia Reyes de Whitney, a Venezuelan-born activist with the Australia Venezuela Solidarity Network (AVSN).

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro won the Venezuelan presidential elections on May 20, gaining a second presidential term for six years with more than 5.8 million votes, the National Electoral Council (CNE) announced that night.

With 92.6 percent of the votes counted, Maduro had 5.8 million votes, while his closest rival, former governor Henri Falcón getting 1.8 million votes, said CNE President Tibisay Lucena who added that in total, 8.6 million Venezuelans voted, out of an electoral registry of 20.5 million people.

Analysis

 

The Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade References Senate Committee released a report on May 19 into the implications of climate change for Australia's national security, which warned that climate change poses a "current and existential national security risk" to Australia.

The report defined an existential threat as “one that threatens the premature extinction of Earth-originating intelligent life or the permanent and drastic destruction of its potential for desirable future development”.

Climate change is “a current and existential national security risk”, according to a Senate report released on May 17. It says an existential risk is “one that threatens the premature extinction of Earth-originating intelligent life or the permanent and drastic destruction of its potential for desirable future development”. These are strong words.

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's faces printed on to swimsuits

I’m late commenting on the royal wedding due to having to recover from a drinking game I invented for the spectacle: you had to take a shot each time you see a parasite. Here’s a tip for anyone wanting to try this game next time: best play it in the emergency department of your local hospital to save time.

How did Murray Goulburn, once Australia’s biggest milk processor and a successful dairy cooperative since 1950, end up being sold to its international competitor, Canadian dairy giant Saputo? In the final part of this series (read), Elena Garcia provides some answers. [You can also read part one, two and three.]

Despite the profitability of the Australian dairy industry and its claims to support “innovation" and "jobs and growth”, the federal government refused to step in and help Murray Goulburn expand into untapped Asian markets.

Port Augusta solar power plant in South Australia

The federal government's National Energy Guarantee (NEG) policy, which was announced last year, was given provisional approval by state governments at the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) meeting in April, subject to further negotiation on details, including the emissions targets. What does this mean for renewable energy and climate action, key issues affected by Australia's coal-dominated electricity grid?

Australia is continuing to avoid any possibility that it might stand up for Palestinian sovereignty and human rights with its behaviour at the United Nations.

I’ve been a Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) member for 15 years and I cannot remember a time when the union was not portrayed as a pack of gangster-like thugs, who standover "innocent" bosses.

Somehow the nature of a tough, multi-billion dollar industry with a history of being the most dangerous in the country always gets lost in the propaganda.

So imagine my delight, along with tens of thousands of other CFMEU members, when blackmail charges against union officials John Setka and Shaun Reardon were dropped on May 16.

Last month millions of Australians saw footage of sheep dying slowly from heat and thirst while being shipped on the Awassi Express from Fremantle in Western Australia to Doha, Qatar.

How did Murray Goulburn, once Australia’s biggest milk processor and a successful dairy cooperative since 1950, end up being sold to its international competitor, Canadian dairy giant Saputo? In the third of this multi-part series (read part one and two), Elena Garcia provides some answers.

Culture

PNG has asked that someone be tasked

To examine Manus as a destination

For tourism indeed, so let’s take heed!

They’re awaiting a recommendation.

               Dear Sir or Madam

For your disposal I have a proposal

For the Manus tourism survey,

They need some actions, they need attractions

For the industry they want to purvey.

Rebel Prince: The Power, Passion & Defiance of Prince Charles

By Tom Bower

William Collins, 2018

Meghan: A Hollywood Princess

By Andrew Morton

Michael O’Mara Books, 2018

“Nobody knows what utter hell it is to be Prince of Wales,” whined Charles, the heir to the British throne.

The Lucky Galah

By Tracy Sorensen

Picador

Sydney, 2018

279 pages, $29.99

The Lucky Galah is the first novel from Tracy Sorensen, tutor in media at Charles Sturt University, documentary maker and former Green Left Weekly journalist.

The novel is largely told from the perspective of a galah named Lucky. From her cage or perched on her owner’s shoulder, Lucky observes and narrates life with a degree of omniscience, yet lives life caged or restricted by clipped wings.

Palestinians are hailing the decision by Brazilian music legend Gilberto Gil to pull the plug on a planned performance in Israel.

Meanwhile, dozens of artists are declaring their support for the cultural boycott of Israel following the latest Israeli mass killings of civilians in the occupied Gaza Strip. They include bands such as Portishead, Wolf Alice and Slaves.