Issue 1196

Australia

An estimated 7000 childcare workers took industrial action by walking off the job around Australia on September 5 to demand equal pay.

On September 13, Micah Weekes, once a coal miner and now an anti-coal activist stopped a coal train heading into the world’s largest coal port in Newcastle.

A former scaffolder from the Central Coast, Weekes worked in the coal industry for nearly 10 years. He said he was taking action because of the coal industry’s toxic impact on people’s health.

“You don’t have to work in the industry to get sick from this. My kids are going to get sick. It’s already happening. People in my community have reoccurring respiratory illnesses, cancers and tumours.”

“Kick coal out of politics” was the key message protesters sent to the new Prime Minister from Cronulla Park on September 8.

The action in the PM's electorate involved some 500 people and was part of the global #Rise for Climate. It was one of 40 protest actions organised in all capital cities and some 30 other cities and towns across the country.

Actions focussed on clean energy where people and justice are put before profits were organised in 83 countries.

Fifty refugee supporters held a vigil on World Suicide Prevention Day, September 10, to commemorate the suicides of three refugees in the space of two weeks.

A snap protest was organised by the Committee in Solidarity with Peoples Struggles in Iran on September 12 in response to the execution of three Kurdish political prisoners in Iran: Ramin Hussein Panahi, Loghman Moradi and Zanier Morandi.

Protesters took to the streets of Sydney on September 12 against Australia’s prosecution of Witness K and his lawyer Bernard Collaery for allegedly whistleblowing on Australia’s bugging of Timor-Leste government offices.

“Crystalline silica is the new asbestos, but Australians are simply not aware of the dangers involved in working with such a common substance as compressed stone,” Victorian Trades Hall Council (VTHC) secretary Luke Hilikari said at the release of the new silica dust standard in late August.

There has been a significant rise in the number of workers suffering silicosis and lung cancers caused by inhaling silica particles while manufacturing, cutting and installing compressed stone benchtops.

Banned from entering Australia by the federal government, former United States intelligence analyst turned whistleblower Chelsea Manning instead delivered her message of hope to audiences in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane via video link.

The Australian immigration department denied Manning a visa on the basis of failing “the character test”, citing as grounds the time she spent in jail for leaking documents that exposed US war crimes in Iraq.

Environment consultancy and advocacy group Coast and Country has released damning evidence that suggests Adani acted illegally by undertaking pre-emptive work at its proposed mine site in Queensland’s Galilee Basin. 

Lots of environmental campaigns are covered in this week’s Activist Report along with the latest union, feminist, refugee and anti-fascist actions.
 
 

World

In recent days, Malaysia attained international notoriety for caning two women after their being convicted in a religious court of attempting to have sex in a car.

In striking contrast, on September 6, the Indian Supreme Court held that section 377 of their penal code, which criminalised consensual acts between adults of the same sex, was unconstitutional. That is a mature decision that gives 1.2 billion people in India the freedom to have consensual sex.

The Malaysian Trade Union Congress (MTUC), several other trade unions and the Malaysian Socialist Party (PSM) have slammed as “humiliating” and “beggarly” the new Pakatan Harapan (Alliance of Hope) federal government’s announcement that it would increase the country's minimum wage by just RM50 (A$17) a month to RM1050 ($350) from next January.

Unions are considering calling a mass workers’ protest.

Pakatan Harapan had promised to raise the minimum wage to RM1500 within 100 days if it won the May 9 general election. 

Four months after the new Italian government was installed, the reactionary nature of the coalition between the populist Five Star Movement (M5S) and the far-right Lega (League) emerges more clearly each day, writes Daniele Fulvi.

Despite the fact that the League won only about 17% of the votes in the last elections (compared with 32% for the M5S), the interior minister and League leader Matteo Salvini is emerging as the undisputed head of the government. He is dictating the government agenda as he sees fit.

More than 1 million people marched in Barcelona on September 11 in support of Catalonia’s struggle for independence from the Spanish state. The day is marked each year as Catalonia’s national day, commemorating Barcelona's capture by Bourbon forces in 1714 during the War of Spanish Succession.

This year’s march also demanded the release of pro-independence political prisoners, who have been jailed for their role in last year’s independence referendum.

Venezuela’s foreign minister Jorge Arreaza has reiterated his condemnation of the United States for seeking an intervention and supporting military conspiracies.

His September 9 comments followed a report that members of the US government have been meeting with Venezuelan military officers who were actively plotting to oust democratically elected President Nicolas Maduro since mid-2017.

There is a growing body of pro-establishment statements in the United States opposing the possibility of US military intervention in Venezuela, writes Steve Ellner.

The latest expression of this position is a New York Times editorial titled “Stay Out of Venezuela, Mr. Trump”, published on September 11.

At first glance the editorial is a welcome statement that counters the careless war-mongering declarations coming from the ilk of Marco Rubio and a number of high-ranking Trump administration officials, as well as Donald Trump himself.

The US Central Intelligence Agency’s drone program in Africa is expanding, the New York Times said on September 10.

Just south of the Libyan border, a covert military base in Dirkou, Niger has been deploying fleets of drones on surveillance missions for several months, a Defense Department spokeswoman, Major Sheryll Klinkel told the NYT.

Bolivian President Evo Morales said “the US is the real threat to humankind” on September 7 in response to US Senator Marco Rubio's talk of using the US Armed Forces against the Venezuelan government. Rubio had said Venezuela “has become a threat for the region and even for the United States”.

As Yemeni journalists reported that at least 15 civilians were killed in Saudi airstrikes in the port city of Hodeidah on September 12, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo officially certified that Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), whose three-year assault on the country has been made possible by US support, are doing all they can to avoid civilian casualties.

Hundreds of thousands of people joined protests around the world on September 8 calling on governments to take serious action on climate change. 

The Assad regime and its allies have been building up their forces around the rebel-held Idlib province, in Syria’s north-west, in preparation for a major offensive. Some bombing raids have already been carried out in the south and west of the province.

Meanwhile, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) are carrying out guerrilla resistance against the occupying Turkish army and its militia allies in the Afrin canton, a predominantly Kurdish area of northern Syria.

The Malaysian Trade Union Congress (MTUC), several other trade unions and the Malaysian Socialist Party (PSM) have slammed as “humiliating” and “beggarly” the new Pakatan Harapan (Alliance of Hope) federal government's announcement that it would increase the country's minimum wage by just RM50 (A$17) a month to RM1050 ($350) from January 2019.

Unions are considering calling a mass workers' protest.

Activists from the Movement Against the Occupation of the Timor Sea (MKOTT) are mobilising public support in Timor-Leste for former Australian spy "Witness K" and his lawyer Bernard Collaery, whose trial began in Canberra on September 12.

Analysis

Talk has once again resurfaced about extending police powers and militarising police forces after a violent brawl outside a pub in Collingwood, Victoria, earlier this month. But many are asking just how far governments are willing to go in sacrificing freedoms for an ill-conceived notion of being “tough on crime”.

The federal Coalition government has dropped further in the polls following the knifing of former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull. Nevertheless, both new Prime Minister Scott Morrison and the hard right Peter Dutton/Tony Abbott faction in the Liberal Party seem determined to take politics even more to the right.

While conservative governments are constantly making calls to criminalise trade union activities, Geelong Trades Hall Council secretary Colin Vernon says governments should instead be focusing on the real crime wave occurring in our community right now.

Sometimes the most powerful protests are those made in silence by brave individuals deciding to take a stand.

Samoan Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi made an impassioned plea for the big powers in the region to stop bullying small Pacific Island nations just days before the 49th Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) was held in Nauru over September 3-6.

South Australia’s Liberal government gave final approval for Leigh Creek Energy to begin a three-month trial of an underground coal gasification (UCG) process, despite UCG technology being banned in other states due to its devastating impacts on the environment.

Culture

With a bold call for protests against Israel’s crimes of apartheid, US-based pop band Of Montreal has dropped out of Israel’s Meteor Festival on September 4, just days before it was set to begin.

This follows the cancellation by headliner Lana Del Rey, who nixed her performance on August 31.

Call of the Reed Warbler: A New Agriculture, A New Earth
By Charles Massy
University of Queensland Press, 2017
592, paperback

In Call of the Reed Warbler: A New Agriculture, A New Earth, Monaro farmer Charles Massy has written an excellent book on agricultural change to restore the environment.

Massy talks about his transformation from a land degrader to a land regenerator, and the inspiration he received from dozens of other Australian farmers who have done the same.

2028
By Ken Saunders
Allen & Unwin, 2018
$29.99

This satirical novel is set in Australia’s near future and revolves around an accident-prone Liberal Prime Minister running a hopeless election campaign.  

The setting is near enough to be uncomfortably recognisable but allows Ken Saunders to stretch out today’s neo-liberal realities to the point of absurdity. 

The Doomsday Machine: Confessions of a Nuclear War Planner
Daniel Ellsberg
Bloomsbury, 2017
420 pages

After the controversy of US Army whistleblower Chelsea Manning being refused a visa on “character” grounds, Phil Shannon takes a look at a book by one of Manning’s forerunners – Daniel Ellsberg, best known for leaking the Pentagon Papers in 1971, exposing US military secrets.

Australian artists are joining the more than 140 international artists in the call for a boycott of Eurovision 2019 if it goes ahead in Israel next May, says BDS Australia.

Inspired by the conscientious artists who refused to perform in apartheid South Africa in the 1980s, Palestinian artists and cultural groups have called for non-violent pressure in the form of boycotts on Israel until it complies with its obligations under international law.

In a world of Donald Trump, climate change and the threat of World War III, we need a laugh and quick — before it is too late.

So Green Left Weekly has put together what should be an electrifyingly funny evening in Sydney on September 22. It even features a couple of well-known, if not exactly well-loved names with Donald Trump and Tony Abbott making an appearance on stage (via the impersonation skills of Jonas Holt)

BlacKkKlansman
Directed by Spike Lee
Starring John David Washington, Adam Driver, Laura Harrier & Topher Grace.
2018, in cinemas now

For the final chapter in his book, Real Talk: Aboriginal Rappers Talk About Their Music And Country, Green Left Weekly's Mat Ward drives two hours south of Sydney to talk to Dobby. To find out why it's the final chapter, read on...