Issue 1210

Australia

After 18 months of enterprise negotiations and strike action in December and February, Brisbane ferry workers have won significant improvements in pay and conditions. A new agreement was accepted in principle at a union mass meeting on February 27.

The management of the public ferry service has been in the hands of private company TransDev. For years, the company has used aggressive tactics against the workers to drive down wages and conditions.

I had the privilege of attending the Pascoe Vale Football Club's February 22 celebration of Hakeem Al-Araibi's homecoming after he spent about two and a half months in a Thai jail for no crime other than being a refugee and human rights advocate.

School students striking for climate action won’t be bullied by conservative media and politicians telling us not to strike from school on March 15 as part of the Global #ClimateStrike.

Thousands of people, many under 30, rallied in Sydney’s Hyde Park to save live music in NSW on February 21.

La Trobe University Latin American studies lecturer Ralph Newmark told a meeting of 80 people on February 20 that the English-speaking media misrepresents the causes of the crisis in Venezuela.

The meeting was organised by the newly-formed Venezuela Solidarity Campaign.

Newmark said the crisis is being caused by external pressure from the United States and internally by the Venezuelan middle and upper class who oppose the government’s pro-poor measures.

“We’re mad as hell and we’re not taking it anymore!” Mary Court, secretary of the Penrith Valley Combined Unions (PVCU) and No M4 Toll, told the Don’t Mess With the West rally on February 16.

“Western Sydney will rise up; we’re not a dumping ground for Sydney’s problems”, Court said. “The ‘toll tax’ on the M4 Motorway is an assault … We are being forced to pay this M4 toll until 2060, increasing at a rate much higher than inflation, to pay for the Coalition state government’s cost blow-outs elsewhere.

The Socialist Alliance will be running three Hunter-based candidates in the March 23 NSW state elections.

Following its successful November state election campaign, the Victorian Socialists held its inaugural conference on February 16, attended by more than 230 members.

Grandmothers Against Removals rallied in Sydney on February 13 against new state laws that are set to further raise the rate of forced removals.

Hundreds of people marched through Newtown, Sydney, against Adani’s proposed Carmichael mega coalmine in Queensland’s Galilee Basin, on February 17.

Protesters demanded local Labor MP Anthony Albanese and his party come out against the mine.

School students led the march and called for support for their March 15 School Strike 4 Climate.

Residents from Annandale and Rozelle, in Sydney’s inner west, protested against WestConnex on February 15. The controversial $17 billion WestConnex tollway is set to destroy a much-used park and cycle track in the area.

Former secret police agent under dictator General Augusto Pinochet Adriana Rivas will face court again on March 1 to see if she is extradited back to Chile, where she is facing charges relating to alleged torture and kidnapping offences.

Around 50 protesters gathered at short notice outside a forum addressed by Adani’s Australian CEO Lucas Dow on February 19.

The meeting was for contractors interested in working with Adani on its proposed Carmichael mega coalmine in Queensland’s Galilee Basin.

Activists highlighted the dangers of working with Adani which is facing prosecution for alleged crimes, has been involved in legal disputes with former contractors who have not been paid and has a record of attracting protesters to companies that associate with it.

After years of eluding justice, notorious Chilean torturer Adriana Rivas has finally been arrested and her extradition request by the Chilean state accepted by Australian authorities.

World

Despite being prime minister in a minority government, Pedro Sánchez said that his government would run its full term. Why did he change his mind and call early elections?

The following statement on the February 13 arrest of Filipino journalist Maria Ressa was issued by the Filipino human rights movement, iDefend.

iDefend condemns the arrest of Maria Ressa by the National Bureau of Investigation on February 13 on charges of cyber-libel.

Ressa’s arrest is the latest demonstration of how government critics are silenced in a manner which mirrors a familiar style of the late Marcos dictatorship.

Nine hours after Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders confirmed on February 20 he would challenge Donald Trump for the US Presidency the campaign had raised US$6 million from 225,000 contributors.

Press freedom in the Philippines is under increasing threat following the arrest and prosecution of journalist Maria Ressa, a critic of Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte, writes Merck Maguddayao.

US actor and activist Danny Glover criticises the US over its actions against Venezuela.

Venezuelan president, Nicolas Maduro accused his US counterpart Donald Trump of wanting to impose “white supremacy” on the country following his “Nazi-like speech” in Miami on February 18.

Direct losses to Venezuela's economy from US financial sanctions are estimated to be US$38 billion.

In West Papua, human right abuses at the hands of the Indonesian military continue, including the use of chemical weapons.

US President, Donald Trump is testing the waters with his national emergency. If it is upheld by the Supreme Court, he could invoke more powers than those related to the wall.

While the political establishment in Ireland is determined to downplay the need for an Irish unity referendum, it is plainly obvious that the appetite for such a poll is growing by the day.

Analysis

As housing unaffordability becomes an increasingly critical social issue in Australia, it is perverse to find that most MPs own two or more homes.

Ben, a friend of ours, lives in public housing in Glebe. His house has been flooded three times in the past two years. His roof needs repairs and he has been told by a bureaucrat that the $27,000 cost to fix the problem is “too much”.

Despite two rounds of mediation in the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal (NCAT) — which resulted in the tribunal issuing a notice of order by consent of both parties and an instruction to the government to conduct major repairs — his house remains in the same sorry state. 

Social media companies are putting profits before children, policymakers in Britain are arguing.

Last week, British minister for mental health and suicide prevention Jackie Doyle-Price called for Youtube, Facebook and Instagram to be treated like publishers that are responsible for the content on their platforms following the suicide of British teenager Molly Russell, who was exposed to graphic images on Instagram and Pinterest.

An ever growing number of Sydneysiders are now aware that WestConnex will not solve Sydney’s traffic problems — instead it will only worsen the chaos.

Many also see that its $16.8 billion budget has been seriously underestimated: it is more like the $45 billion that SGS Economics, the private contractor engaged by the City of Sydney indicated. This figure includes the additional work needed to connect the tollway with local road networks, costs that were deliberately excluded to downplay the project spend.

It is increasingly clear that we need more public transport to reduce air-polluting travel and provide much-needed sustainable jobs.

But state governments are captive to the road industry. The result is poor planning, expanding and expensive road tolls and more carbon pollution.

The following is the Socialist Alliance’s Sustainable Transport policy — an example of what an alternative transport plan could look like.

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The Socialist Alliance has a vision for a better world — and we are running in the federal election to share that vision and help make it become a reality.

The Australian Financial Review has revealed that the federal Coalition government awarded a $423 million security and cleaning contract for three Manus Island refugee detention centres to Paladin Group, a company that, at the time, was registered to a Kangaroo Island beach shack. 

Culture

Here are the best new albums that related to this month's politics. (There are actually far more than 10 - count them). What albums would you suggest? Comment on TwitterFacebook, or email

Operation Chaos: The Vietnam Deserters Who Fought the CIA, the Brainwashers & Each Other
Matthew Sweet
Picador, 2018, 351 pages

More than 60 international NGOs have added their voices in protest against the plan to hold the finals of the Eurovision Song Contest in Tel Aviv this year. They are now part of what is quickly becoming an international campaign by civil society groups seeking to move the event, which is scheduled for May, from Israel.

Campaigners for gay, lesbian and transgender rights have urged a boycott of this year’s Eurovision Song Contest in Tel Aviv in May.