Issue 1187

Australia

Hundreds of union members and supporters made the trek to the ExxonMobil (ESSO)/UGL Longford Gasworks on June 28 to mark the first anniversary of an ongoing industrial dispute.

Unionists from across the state attended. There were contingents from the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union, Electrical Trades Union and the Australian Workers Union — the three main unions in the dispute.

Nearly 80 workers at Laverton Cold Storage in Melbourne’s western suburbs went on strike for the first time on June 25 when negotiations for their first enterprise bargaining agreement (EBA) broke down.

The Laverton workers are the lowest paid cold storage workers in Victoria, with a base rate of $20.50 an hour — only 30 cents more than the minimum wage. They work in sub-zero temperatures ranging from -10°C to -35°C. Laverton Cold Storage recently doubled the size of its facility in Truganina, showing it is not short of money.

 

International and domestic students rallied outside the NSW state Labor Party conference on June 30, calling for an end to the discriminatory policy under which international students are ineligible for student travel concession cards.

Despite having more than 300,000 international students enrolled in universities across the state, NSW is the only state in Australia that does not give international students travel concessions.

 

Dozens of creative and disruptive actions were held across Australia under the banner of “drawing a red line” on new coal. Organised by Front Line Action on Coal (FLAC) and local Stop Adani groups, people from Auckland to Melbourne and many regional communities protested outside politicians’ offices, dropped banners over freeways and blockaded coal train lines.

Polls show more than 55% of Australians oppose the Adani coalmine, with about 70% opposing government financial support for it.

A protest at the University of Sydney on June 27 demanded the University Senate drop its talks with the multibillion dollar Ramsay Centre for Western Civilisation, which had offered millions to the university to offer a “Western Civilisation” degree.

"The refugee crisis is a union issue, as well as a social justice issue," Australian Services Union (ASU) NSW and ACT deputy secretary Judith Wright told about 100 people on June 27 at the "Change the Rules for Refugees" forum organised by Unions for Refugees.

"The ASU has members in support services for refugees. They see first-hand the results of the oppression and violence suffered by asylum seekers," she said.

Delivery rider Josh Klooger told the Fair Work Commission on July 3 that he deserves rights and protections, after Foodora sacked him earlier this year when he challenged their low rates and poor conditions.

The hearing is the first involving an unfair dismissal of a worker in the gig economy.

Ahead of the hearing, Klooger said: “Riders deserve fair rates, superannuation and protections when they are sick and injured on the job.

"We deserve the right to be able to challenge unfair sackings and speak out about the way we are treated.

The Australian government’s July 3 announcement that it had axed its contributions to the Palestinian Authority (PA) through the World Bank's Multi-Donor Trust Fund for the Palestinian Recovery and Development Program has been condemned by Palestinian activists.

The Ngara Institute’s annual Activist of the Year award was shared by the Knitting Nannas Against Gas, whose creative and persistent nonviolent strategies have been so important at blockades and protests, and Annie Kia, who developed the hugely successful “neighbour to neighbour” community engagement process for Lock the Gate.

The award was presented on June 30 at Ngara’s annual lecture in Mullumbimby, presented by former Human Rights Commissioner Gillian Triggs.

World

Thousands of Rafael Correa supporters marched through one of Quito's main arteries on July 5 in defense of Ecuador's former president, accused of orchestrating a failed kidnapping attempt in 2012 – a charge he vehemently denies.

Carrying giant 'No, Neoliberalism' signs and shouting "A united community will never be beaten," demonstrators marched along Quito's 10 de Agosto Avenue towards the Plaza Grande, outside President Lenin Moreno's executive offices, but were blocked by police and military forces.

By now, it is widely known that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan “won the election” in his country. But Muhsin Yorulmaz writes that the authoritarian leader’s support is waning.

More than 100,000 people took to the streets on June 30, in about 750 cities and towns in every state across the country, to protest the separation of immigrant children from their parents seeking asylum and denounce President Donald Trump’s “zero tolerance” policy that made this cruel practice possible, writes Barry Sheppard from San Francisco.

Those that are angry with Trump-style migrant policies must show equal anger towards governments in Europe, writes Nick Dearden.

While there have been some major legislative advances for LGBTI rights in Latin America, there is still much to be done, writes Erin Fiorini.

Venezuela’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) community held their annual pride march in Caracas on July 1.

This year’s march was larger than last year’s event and formed part of continental gay pride activities with large demonstrations held in Colombia, Argentina and Brazil.

Tiziri Kandi is an officer with the hotel workers’ branch of the General Confederation of Labour (CGT) – a major confederation of French trade unions. Following the 111-day Clichy Holiday Inn strike in Paris, she spoke with Joe Hayns about the strike, outsourcing, and the limitations faced by railway workers in their struggle against President Emmanuel Macron’s attack on the state-owned railway operator, SNCF.

In Green Left Weekly #1172, Peter Robson launches a boots-and-all attack on bitcoin, but what is missing amid his torrent of abuse is an analysis of bitcoin and its social potential and impact.

Jock Palfreeman, a prisoner rights activist in Bulgaria, has launched an international appeal for the prisoner support group he helped establish from inside Sofia Prison.  

Palfreeman has been a prisoner for more than 10 years on trumped-up murder charges. He was instrumental in setting up the Bulgarian Prisoners’ Association (BPRA), which has successfully changed the law.   

Mexico’s left-wing Morena movement stormed the presidency and appeared poised to flood both houses of congress, despite an election marred by violence and allegations of irregularities.

The leftist candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (widely known as AMLO) won the presidency of Mexico on July 1 with more than 53% of the vote, according to a preliminary count released by Mexico's electoral authority INE.

With participation at 62.9% participation, Ricardo Anaya from the right-wing National Action Party (PAN) came second with just over 22% of the vote.

Analysis

 

A "Fix NSW Transport" lantern walk will be held on August 11, beginning at Town Hall and proceeding through city streets, to highlight community opposition to tollways, especially WestConnex, and the crisis of public transport in the state.

Initial endorsements included activist groups No Westconnex: Public Transport Not Motorways; EcoTransit; Friends of Erskineville; Keep Sydney Beautiful; Rail Tram and Bus Union; Netwown Residents Against WestConnex, National Tertiary Education Union; Restore Inner West Line; and Westconnex Action Group.

The federal government, supported by the Labor Party, successfully amended the Criminal Code Act 1995 by passing the National Security Legislation Amendment (Espionage and Foreign Interference) Bill 2017 on June 28 to introduce new espionage offences. Green Left Weekly’s Pip Hinman asked NSW Greens Senator Lee Rhiannon about the laws’ possible impact on those struggling for a better world.

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Will the changes make it more difficult to protest? Do they criminalise dissent?

Another fundamental liberty of the people of New South Wales took a hit on July 1.

On that day a new regulation under the Crown Land Management Act 2016 took effect, granting the NSW government wide powers to disperse or ban protests, rallies and virtually any public gathering across about half of all land across the state.

The powers apply on any Crown Land — land owned by the state government, including town squares, parks, roads, beaches, community halls and more.

The latest round of penalty rate cuts, which reduce weekend and public holiday penalty rates for staff in the retail, hospitality and pharmacy sectors by 10–15% from July 1, is estimated by the ACTU to affect 700,000 workers.

Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees’ Association national secretary Gerard Dwyer said the penalty rate cuts would cost many retail and fast food workers between $2000 and $6000 a year.

As a lesbian feminist in the early 1970s, I worked in coalition with gay men to bring about change, not only to gain equal rights but to change the world views on institutions that supported male privilege and men having more power than women.

Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions Sarah McNaughton SC recently filed criminal charges against Canberra lawyer Bernard Collaery and his client, a former officer of the Australian Secret Intelligence Service (ASIS).

“Say it loud, say it clear, refugees are welcome here” is a chant that has been synonymous with the refugee rights movement in Australia since I became active some years ago.

That was a time when putting children in detention was, to some extent, something to hide — not a policy to win support from your voting base.

“Cultural insurgency” is all the buzz these days, but it is also a very real phenomena in the age of mass disillusionment with neoliberal capitalism.

People are not only sick of the market-knows-best mantra being shoved down our throats by corporate and political elites but are sharply aware that cultural spaces are being increasingly monopolised and manipulated by big business.

Whenever the Coalition and Labor stop bickering and agree in serious tones that something must be done in the “national interest” you can be sure they’re up to no good.

NSW has just passed a law enforcing safe zones outside abortion clinics. It has been well received by supporters of reproductive rights and clinic workers. But some argue such laws — which now cover most states and territories — are a serious infingement of free speech.

Culture

Many Australians have probably never heard some of these Australian languages before Yothu Yindi, Gurrumul, Shellie Morris and others brought them to broader ears. But they are the languages of this continent: they grew up with this land, evolved with it, and have much to tell us about its histories, ecologies and peoples.

The Fare Network (Football Against Racism in Europe) is an organisation that tracks racism and homophobia in the football (soccer) world. For the 2018 World Cup in Russia, they set up a series of “diversity houses” for the LGBTQI community and people of colour.

Now in St Petersburg, they have been evicted from the building they were leasing for these safe spaces. Other tenants are also reportedly under instruction not to offer subleases, leaving only the brutal symbolism of a diversity house shuttered.