Issue 695

Australia

The Tasmanian government’s Stolen Generations of Aboriginal Children Bill 2006, which set up a $5 million compensation fund, was passed by the upper house of the state parliament on November 28, having been unanimously approved in the lower house seven days earlier.

The NSW Labor government has launched a broadside attack against Aboriginal magistrate Pat O’Shane in the lead-up to the March 24 state elections.

Last May 1, more than 1 million people joined the May Day celebrations in Caracas, Venezuela. Since then, Venezuela’s impoverished population, led by socialist President Hugo Chavez, has taken over more workplaces, set up more cooperatives, established hundreds of free public education and health programs, organised their neighbourhoods and taken big steps towards exercising “popular power” in their country.

On January 11, SX News reported that the gay magazine had been barred from being provided to detainees at Sydney’s Villawood immigration detention centre.

On February 19, campaigners for the repatriation to Australia of David Hicks again demanded that the Australian parliament seeks his immediate release from the US military prison at Guantanamo Bay.

An Invasion Day protest to be held on January 26 will demand justice for Mulrunji and an end to Aboriginal deaths in custody. It will be the first time in many years that such a demonstration has taken place in Melbourne on Invasion Day.

A youth march will be held in Launceston on January 26, Invasion Day. The march organiser, Nala Mansell, told Green Left Weekly that Aboriginal young people from all over Tasmania will be coming together to say that they won’t be part of the “Australia Day” celebrations.

The Stop Bush Coalition (SBC) is organising a rally at the Sydney Town Hall for 10am, September 8, to protest US war criminal George Bush’s visit to Sydney during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit.

Releasing a report on mainland immigration detention centres on January 19, human rights commissioner Graeme Innes said that, while some improvements had been made, Australia’s mandatory detention laws should be repealed.

The struggle for justice for Palm Island man Mulrunji — who died on November 19, 2004, in a police watch-house from horrific injuries within one hour of being arrested — is growing.

The third anniversary of the death of Aboriginal teenager TJ Hickey will be on February 14. TJ was impaled on a metal fence while being chased by Redfern police. Had police followed proper medical practices, it is likely that TJ would have survived.

One year ago 43 West Papuan asylum seekers arrived in North Queensland fleeing Indonesian government oppression. Today in West Papua, the oppression continues, the Australia West Papua Association (AWPA) said in a January 18 media release.

A confidential report titled Partnerships Queensland was drafted last year by the Queensland Department of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Policy. The report — which found there was an urgent need to improve the standard of living for Indigenous people and take “immediate and sustained action” — was withheld from public release before the September state election. Premier Peter Beattie’s government abolished the department after Labor’s re-election.

The trial of four activists who inspected the US-Australia top-secret spy base at Pine Gap for terrorist activity, is set to continue on May 29.

It’s been more than five years since the first hooded, shackled men were brought to the US prison at Guantanamo and although not a single prisoner has been tried or convicted of any crime, more than 400 still remain, including David Hicks.

World

Intimidation by armed right-wing thugs and police harassment failed to disperse the January 18-20 founding congress of Indonesia’s new National Liberation Party of Unity (Papernas) at Kaliurang, near Yogyakarta in Indonesia.

A chain of events triggered by the passage of a new agrarian reform law, part of the “agrarian revolution” of indigenous President Evo Morales, has brought into sharp relief the drive by the right-wing opposition to overthrow Morales’s government, even if it means pushing Bolivia towards a civil war.

Abdias Jean was murdered on January 14, 2005, shortly after finishing his lunch near his home in the Village de Dieu slum.

Cochabamba is a city with a history of struggle. In April 2000 the people stood up against the privatisation of their water supply, threw out the multinational Bechtel and retook control of the local water company. In October 2003 they joined the thousands of people on the street in El Alto, La Paz and other cities to defend the right of the people to nationalise the country’s gas reserves, effectively forcing, then president and champion of the neoliberal economic model Gonzales Sanchez de Lozada to flee the country.

On January 15, Ecuador’s new president, Rafael Correa Delgado, was sworn in, promising to build “socialism of the 21st century” to overcome the poverty and instability of the small Andean country.

“Venezuela’s Leap Backwards” was the headline verdict of the January 10 Washington Post editorial, which attempted to throw doubt on the legitimacy of the December 3 presidential election in Venezuela that returned socialist President Hugo Chavez to office with a record 7.3 million votes (63% of the total vote cast)."Venezuela's Leap Backwards" was the headline verdict of the January 10 Washington Post editorial, which attempted to throw doubt on the legitimacy of the December 3 presidential election in Venezuela that returned socialist President Hugo Chavez to

Late last year, Green Left Weekly’s Kerryn Williams spoke to the assistant secretary of the Sudanese Communist Party (SCP), Suleman Hamid El Haj, in Khartoum about political developments in Sudan since the January 2005 signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA). The CPA ended the two-decade-long war between Sudan’s central government in Khartoum and the south.

After months of pressure following the debacle of the July-August war in Lebanon, Israeli defence chief Lieutenant General Dan Halutz announced his resignation on January 16, prompting thousands of Lebanese to take to Beirut’s streets in celebration.

Testifying to a January 12 US Senate hearing on President George Bush’s new Iraq war strategy, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice warned Nuri al Maliki, Washington’s puppet Iraqi prime minister, that he was “living on borrowed time”.

Around 200 pick-up trucks and cars comprised the long snake of a protest caravan making its way along Jakarta’s main thoroughfare, Jalan Thamrin, after a rally outside the Presidential Palace, where speakers called on the people to “withdraw the mandate” of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. The occasion for the protest was the anniversary of the mass protests and riots against the Suharto government that took place on January 15, 1974.

The Bush administration’s decision to send more troops to Iraq in the face of rising opposition among ruling-class politicians and pundits, and against the wishes of the overwhelming majority of the US people, represents a desperate gamble.

When supporters of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez rallied in the Teresa Carrena theatre in Caracas on December 15 to celebrate their presidential election victory, “there were cheers in the back half of the theatre”, wrote Caracas-based Marxist writer Michael Lebowitz in Venezuelanalysis.com, “but few in the high-priced seats”.

On December 29, 2006, the 176-member standing committee of the National People’s Congress (NPC — China’s law-making body) lent its support to the draft of the proposed Property Law. Many fear this controversial law will help launder the enormous state wealth already appropriated illegitimately by corrupt Communist Party officials and their hangers-on, as well as encourage more such activities.

Analysis

George Paris, convener of Save Our Rail (SOR), has congratulated Susan Price, a Socialist Alliance candidate for the NSW Legislative Council in the March 24 election, for a “worthwhile policy” on rail and public transport. SOR has been campaigning for the retention of electric rail services to Newcastle against repeated attempts by the Labor government to close the line.

George Paris, convener of Save Our Rail (SOR), has congratulated Susan Price, a Socialist Alliance candidate for the NSW Legislative Council in the March 24 election, for a “worthwhile policy” on rail and public transport. SOR has been campaigning for the retention of electric rail services to Newcastle against repeated attempts by the Labor government to close the line.

The Australian writer Donald Horne meant the title of his celebrated book, The Lucky Country, as irony. “Australia is a lucky country run by second-rate people who share its luck”, he lamented in 1964, describing much of the Australian elite as unfailingly unoriginal, race-obsessed and in thrall to imperial power and its wars.

Sheikh Isse Musse, Imam of the Virgin Mary Mosque and spiritual leader of Melbourne’s Horn of Africa Muslim community, condemned the US bombing of his native Somalia and its instigation of the invasion by Ethiopian troops inlate December. He also expressed hope that out of the current conflict Somalia might regain its sovereignty and national unity after years of anarchy and violence.

On January 18, the Australian ran a story on a leaked report commissioned by the Peter Beattie Labor state government on the shocking living conditions for Aborigines in Queensland (see accompanying article). Green Left Weekly asked Sam Watson, Murri leader and member of the Socialist Alliance, about this and the ongoing struggle for justice for Indigenous people in Australia.

The decision by a full bench of the Australian Industrial Relations Commission (AIRC) on appeal to deny a Victorian cinema manager access to unfair dismissal laws because he was sacked for “genuine operational reasons” is another blow to attempts to hold unfair employers to account.

Tamworth, 595 kilometres north of Sydney, each year welcomes more than 50,000 people to its music festival. The town boasts it is the Australian equivalent of “Nashville”, albeit on a small scale.

The case of Melbourne man Jack Thomas should be ringing alarm bells over the use of the so-called anti-terror laws in Australia. Thomas’ case demonstrates that these laws can be, and are being, misused for political purposes against someone who is not a terrorist.

Letters

CDM projects

I'm an ecologist, not a leftist. My motivations are maybe a little different from yours. We founded a small NGO called Noe21 (visit <http://www.noe21.org>) and we are evaluating solutions to climate change, among which of

Resistance!

As “Australia Day” approaches, heralded by government advertisements telling us to “celebrate what’s great”, the question arises again: what is nationalism?

Culture

Rumpole and the reign of terror

By John Mortimer

Penguin/Viking, 2006

184 pages, $39.95 (hb)

One-time Hunter & Collector, and now solo performer, MARK SEYMOUR has often taken part in political rallies, as well as performed on the stages of Australia’s premier rock venues. At times his music and ideological stance have seemed as one. Recently he spoke to Green Left Weekly’s MIRIAM GRAVINO.

Science: A War on Science — The debate over "intelligent design" versus evolution, and a court case which puts it to the legal test. SBS, Sunday, January 28, 8.30pm.

Drug Trials: The Dark Side — Poor and illiterate patients in India are being

As Used on the Famous Mandela: Underground Adventures in the Arms and Torture Trade

By Mark Thomas

Ebury Press, 2006

339 pages, $35 (pb)