Issue 1185

Australia

The grassroots campaign to increase welfare payments for the unemployed received a boost on June 12 from the national body that represents councils across Australia.

The Australian Local Government Association (ALGA) overwhelmingly voted in support of a motion calling on the federal government to increase the Newstart Allowance, the Centrelink payment for unemployed people.

In April Adani applied to the federal Department of Environment and Energy to expand a dam by 450% and build a pipeline for its Carmichael coalmine, without an assessment under national environment laws.

The Victorian Socialists’ campaign to get Stephen Jolly elected to the Victorian Legislative Council ramped up on June 17, as nearly 100 people blitzed the Richmond electoral district in the party’s first major doorknock of its campaign.

Activists, including candidates Jolly, Socialist Alliance’s Sue Bolton and Socialist Alternative’s Colleen Bolger, braved the rain, wind and frigid temperatures to knock on more than 2000 doors. The response received was mostly warm and positive.

A group of about 80 activists from across the state climbed the steep mountain slopes in the Rubicon State Forest in Victoria’s Central Highlands on June 9 to highlight one of Victoria’s largest logged areas.

The group held a 25 metre-long banner saying “Save the Rubicon — Stop the Logging” and a second 13 metre-long banner saying “Forests for Life Not Logging” as they stood in the devastated landscape.

Refugee supporters interrupted question time and occupied the public gallery and foyer of Victorian parliament on June 19, demanding the state government cancel its contracts with Wilson Security over its role in Australia’s offshore refugee detention centres.

The activists, members of Whistleblowers, Activists and Citizens Alliance (WACA), held banners that read “Refugee abusers are guarding our parliament” and “Vic govt  — refuse to be complicit”.

The Sydney University branch of the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) held a forum on campus on June 13 to discuss how to organise to rewin the right to strike.

Professor John Buchanan, from the University of Sydney Business School, told the forum: "The current Fair Work Act (FWA), introduced by the previous Labor government, is the second worst industrial relations legislation in Australian history, after John Howard's Work Choices.

More than 100 members of unions, aid and development organisations, health, environment and other groups rallied in Sydney on June 15 outside the Federal Parliament's Joint Standing Committee public hearing on the controversial Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)-11 trade agreement. The rally was organised by the Australian Fair Trade and Investment Network (AFTINET).

The annual Melbourne Green Left Comedy Debate held in Brunswick Town Hall on June 16 started off on a sad note with a tribute in words and song to Eurydice Dixon, a young woman comedian who was murdered on her way home from a gig on June 12.

Here is a list of vigils being held around the country for Eurydice Dixon, who was raped and murdered in Melbourne on her way home from work on June 13.

World

In what Amnesty International described as “another way to punish parents and children for seeking protection,” United States President Donald Trump retreated in the face of huge outcry over his administration’s policy of ripping apart families at the US-Mexico border — signing an executive order on June 20 that will instead lead to families seeking safety being jailed together.

For the past month, Chile has been moving to the beat of demonstrations and university occupations carried out by a historic feminist movement calling for non-sexist education and an end to harassment and gender inequality, write Clémence Carayol & Mathieu Dejean.

Women’s and LGBTI rights activists presented Venezuela’s National Constituent Assembly (ANC) with a series of proposals to legalise abortion and expand sexual and reproductive rights on June 20. This comes in the wake of the vote in Argentina’s Congress to legalise abortion, and at a time when the issue of abortion has gained added importance given the impact Venezuela’s economic crisis has had on women.

“Nothing will stop us now!” These were the words of the excited and emotional activists when Argentina’s parliament voted narrowly (129 votes to 125) to decriminalise abortion.

The British government could intervene to extend reproductive rights to Northern Ireland but it chooses not to, writes Kellie O’Dowd from Northern Ireland’s Alliance for Choice.

A soldier is to stand trial for the 1988 fatal shooting of a man as he walked through a British Army checkpoint during Britain’s military occupation of the six counties in Ireland’s north still claimed by Britain.

A country that for more than 70 years maintained an amateur football (soccer) league is today hosting the biggest sporting event in the world, writes Javier Szlifman.

Analysis

The Centre for Independent Studies (CIS), a right-wing think tank, is not at all happy with the results of a survey they commissioned from international polling agency YouGov Galaxy to find out the attitudes of “Millennials” (people born between 1980 and 1996) in Australia to socialism and capitalism.

The poll found 58% were favourable to socialism and 59% thought that “capitalism has failed and government should exercise more control of the economy”.

Following the rape and murder of Eurydice Dixon, the initial response by Victoria Police included warning women to exercise “personal responsibility” and “situational awareness” at night, among other unhelpful suggestions. Unsurprisingly, this victim blaming sparked a backlash on social media.

Vice-chancellor of Australian National University (ANU) Brian Schmidt released a long statement on June 5 explaining why the university had ended negotiations to partner with the Ramsay Centre for Western Civilisation. He said it was because the centre wanted “unprecedented influence” as part of the deal.

A new round has been launched in the ongoing struggle over the protection of workers' rights to their lifetime savings in Australia's $2.6 trillion superannuation industry.

The Productivity Commission's latest report into Australia's $2.6 trillion, scandal plagued, superannuation industry has called for a number of reforms. While noting a number of serious problems with the current system, its proposals to tackle them are just as flawed and still put workers' earnings at the mercy of the market.

Our toxic habit of overharvesting what nature has provided has both environmental and personal implications if resources fail to be proportionally replenished.

The most commonly examined effects of deforestation are loss of habitat, climate change and global warming. However, the presence (or absence) vegetation can also have an impact on the mental health of society.

The size — and composition — of the national vigils for comedian Eurydice Dixon on June 18 has given us some hope that with a growing awareness about violence against women we can achieve at least some of the measures we so desperately need.

Not since the community response to Jill Meagher’s murder in 2012 have so many people taken to the streets to demand that women have the right to live free of fear.

Their accountants and lawyers have done their annual magic. They have massaged the numbers, whisked away a gazillion or more dollars to the Cayman Islands, or some other tax haven and — oh, what a miracle — they have managed to reduce their taxable income to zero (or better still, into the offset bliss of notional “losses”).

And all this while they sit by the pool, sipping only-the-best champers.

What a life — for some.

Irene Doutney, a tireless campaigner for the downtrodden, laid down her warrior gloves on June 11.

She fought her last herculean battle against cancer and passed away at the Sacred Heart Hospice, Darlinghurst, having outlived doctors’ expectations while being cared for by a loyal friend in her Redfern public housing apartment.

When I moved to Sydney, in even the most dreadful of weather, Irene was always at rallies. Against the war, protesting for refugees, demanding justice for TJ Hickey, for marriage equality: Irene was always there.

ABC Friends National has called for nation-wide rallies in July to protest the continual funding cuts to the ABC, the ongoing conservative attacks on the independence of the ABC and the recent Liberal Party Federal Council motion supporting privatisation of the national public media organisation.

The Liberal Party’s peak body voted by a margin of more than 2:1 on June 16 for "the full privatisation of the ABC, except for services into regional areas that are not commercially viable".

Eurydice Dixon, a young woman comedian, was sexually assaulted and murdered on her way home from a gig in Melbourne. On June 18, more than 10,000 people gathered for a vigil in Princess Park where her body was found. Sue Bolton, a Socialist Alliance Moreland city councillor and a candidate for the Victorian Socialist ticket in the upcoming state election, shared her reflections on the mass outpour of solidarity. Video interview by Peter Boyle for Green Left TV.

I’m pleased there has been a swift backlash to the Victorian police urging women to take responsibility for their safety after the murder of Eurydice Dixon on June 12.

The police response is both ridiculous and misogynist. It puts the onus on women to avoid being attacked.

The logical extension of their approach is for women to stay at home, and only go out with a male chaperone.

Culture

The Killing Season: A History of the Indonesian Massacres, 1965-66

By Geoffrey B Robinson

Princeton University Press, 2018

429 pages

From October 1965 to mid-1966, one of the worst mass killings of the 20th century took place in Indonesia. Anywhere between 500,000 and more than 1 million people associated with the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI) were estimated to have been killed and more than 1 million others jailed, some for more than 3 decades, in an anti-leftist purge led by the Indonesian military.

Two new documentaries that screened at the recent Sydney Film Festival shine a light, in contrasting but powerful styles, on an important, yet often neglected story in the refugee narrative — why people seek asylum.

US chef and author Anthony Bourdain, who tragically passed away on June 8, demanded that we consider the humanity of so many who were wrongly portrayed by the rest of the media, writes John Nichols.

As the 2018 World Cup frenzy starts to take over the news cycle, it is crucial to highlight examples of how the sport has brought people together. Michael Blosser writes that one example is the case of Celtic FC and Palestine, with the Glasgow-based club showing consistent solidarity with the Palestinian struggle. 

The question asked by many isn’t whether the Palestinian cause is worthy of support — it clear is — but why Celtic and its fans have so consistently offered support while many others haven’t.

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Donald Trump has partly backed down on the most extreme aspects of his cruel policy towards migrants seeking safety — but Shaun King writes that separating migrant families is something the US has been doing for centuries.