Issue 1193

Australia

Our current industrial laws are anti-worker, anti-union and unjust. A campaign to change them is a must.

United Firefighters Union (UFU) members employed by the Metropolitan Fire Brigade (MFB) and the Country Fire Authority (CFA) held meetings to discuss their struggle to win enterprise agreements for their workplaces on August 20.

The proposed new agreements are still being blocked, several years after the expiry of the previous agreements. This is largely due to federal industrial relations legislation that has created a range of obstacles. CFA and MFB managements have also obstructed attempts to resolve the problems.

Australian parliamentarians are over-paid and out of touch with the concerns of ordinary people. By contrast the New Zealand Labour government has just frozen politicians’ pay for 12 months.

“We owe it to future generations to do our best to halt this disastrous project,” Greens MLA for Newtown Jenny Leong told an August 22 public meeting about the controversial $17 billion WestConnex tollway project.

According to Monash University professor Chris Nash, who also addressed the meeting, "It is not too late to stop this project".

Amid the chaos of #libspill, the Coalition government's signature plan to cut the big business tax rate from 30 to 25% for companies with turnover above $50 million was blocked in the Senate on August 22. The vote was 36 to 30.

Australian Workers' Union (AWU) members from various Alcoa refinery plants in Western Australia have been on strike since August 8, following a breakdown in enterprise bargaining agreement negotiations between the union and management.

An alliance of organisations and individuals have formed the Unite Against Trump Alliance to begin coordinating a protest against US President Donald Trump when he visits Australia in November. The following statement, initiated by outgoing NSW Greens Senator Lee Rhiannon, is being circulated for sign-ons in the lead up to the protests that are being organised across the country including in Cairns, Canberra and Brisbane.

The housing crisis could be overcome through a “new system of universally accessible housing, with rents based on ability to pay”, according to Action for Public Housing. The problem, they say, is that “the housing needs of our people come second to profit and greed” for the NSW Coalition government.

Our rights and our country are under dire threat, said the Wangan and Jagalingou Traditional Owners. It feels like we’re going backwards 230 years ... to when the forces of assimilation and conquest began dispossessing Traditional Owners of the land.

Chanting “Fund the gap or we’ll be back,” more than 200 health workers protested outside Victorian health minister Martin Foley’s office on August 16 to demand the Labor state government restore funding to community mental health services. Services have been severely affected by the state government’s decision to cut $75 million from mental health funding.

World

Not long after the FBI raid on Trump Organization attorney Michael Cohen’s office and home, journalist Adam Davidson made a bold prediction in the New Yorker: “We are now in the end stages of the Trump Presidency.”

With overwhelming support from both Democrats and Republicans in Congress, the new 2019 budget for the military is 13% larger than in 2017. It is even bigger than what Donald Trump had proposed, writes Barry Sheppard.

The US spends more on its armed forces than China, Saudi Arabia, Russia, Britain, France and Japan combined, according to the United Nations. About 17% of the nation’s entire US$4 trillion budget goes to the military.

Jailed former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva has increased his support by five percentage points and would win Brazil’s October presidential election if he was allowed to run, a poll by CNT/MDA showed on August 20.

This news came just days the United Nations’ Human Rights Committee said the Brazilian state must “take all necessary measures” to allow Lula, the candidate of the left-leaning Workers Party (PT), to exercise his full political rights as a candidate in the presidential elections.

It had been planned to be a lavish celebration on the Pnyx hill next to the Acropolis in Athens where the citizenry would hold popular assemblies in the ancient democratic period.

The angry aftermath of the forest fires last month put paid to Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras hosting European Union and other luminaries in such a way. The event was to mark the formal end of the country’s subordination to the austerity memorandums enforced on it by the “troika” of the European Commission, the European Central Bank (ECB) and International Monetary Fund.

Venezuelans braced themselves as a series of long-anticipated economic measures came into effect on August 20, including the launch of a new paper currency called the Sovereign Bolivar.

The new currency brings with it a revaluation of all prices, wages and pensions, which will be cut by five zeros. Both the old Strong Bolivar and Sovereign Bolivar will co-exist for a period of time yet to be announced by the government.

Flooding due to monsoon rains in mid-August has devastated the southern Indian state of Kerala. Hundreds have been killed and hundreds of thousands evacuated.

In the August 19 statement below the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) Liberation accuses India’s hard right BJP government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi of deliberate neglect of flood victims.

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In recent weeks, a new wave of protests and demonstrations in the streets, civil disobedience and strikes in factories has been sweeping all over the cities and towns of Iran, writes Reza Akbari.

This follows the protest wave in mid-January, when the people, infuriated by the high cost of living, corruption, nepotism, inequality and injustice flooded into the streets, crying out their discontent and anger.

More than 600 delegates in Cuba’s National Assembly of People’s Power, the country’s highest decision-making body, approved the draft of a new Constitution on July 22. It came after two days of debate in which more than 100 delegates participated, writes Helen Yaffe.

Venezuelanlaysis.com has been a widely acclaimed source of news and analysis of Venezuelan politics since 2003. It provides a critical look at the nation’s pro-poor Bolivarian Revolution and the mainstream media’s often highly distorted reporting of it. The site’s collective released slightly abridged the statement below about the temporary suspension of its Facebook page on August 16.

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Analysis

The federal Coalition government remains unstable even though Scott Morrison has replaced Malcolm Turnbull as Prime Minister in the August 24 leadership spill.

There was once a time when racist, divisive and discriminatory commentary would be condemned by many viewers and readers of the establishment media. Not any more.

Sometimes the enemy of your enemy is an even more menacing enemy — and there’s every reason to suppose that is the case with the reactionaries in the Liberal Party.

Is it any wonder polls show 58% of Millennials think of socialism in a positive way? Many are questioning capitalism, for the simple reason they are wondering how they will be able to afford to move out of home. Housing once was a rite of passage in Australia. Now, it is barely considered a human right.

What a month it's been for public expressions of racism. To cap it off, the day after Fraser Anning's hate speech, Labor and the Coalition combined to retrospectively excise Ashmore and Cartier Islands from Australia’s migration zone.

Here’s a novel idea: Instead of politicians voting themselves another pay rise, how about we give them a pay cut? A real pay cut. We ask them to do what a couple of million Australians are expected to do, week in and week out.

Culture

What do you need to lead our nation?

New Zealand solidarity activist Maire Leadbeater’s new book, See No Evil: New Zealand’s betrayal of the people of West Papua, features a theme also relevant for Australia. Both countries were involved in the tragic betrayal of West Papua.

Legendary soul singer, feminist and civil rights icon Aretha Franklin, who died aged 76 on August 16, was often called the "Queen of Soul" as well as the “Voice of Black America”, noted Common Dreams.

At the first preseason NFL games on August 9, players continued to protest racial inequity and police violence by kneeling or raising a fist during the US national anthem, writes Dave Zirin.