Issue 696

Australia

On January 26, more than 500 people marched through Melbourne to mark Invasion Day and to call for an end to black deaths in custody and for justice for Mulrunji, who died in the Palm Island police station in November, 2004. Rally chair Brianna Pike announced at the protest that Senior Sergeant Chris Hurley would be charged with Mulrunji’s manslaughter.
“Celebrate what’s great” was the official theme of this year’s Australia Day, January 26. But for Aboriginal Australians, what was worth celebrating on the day that marks the brutal British invasion of their land was the decision to charge the police officer Chris Hurley with the manslaughter of Mulrunji Doomadgee.
Unions are increasingly concerned over Airline Partners Australia’s (APA) proposed $11.1 billion takeover bid for Qantas. The buy-out, by the Macquarie Bank-led private equity consortium, has yet to be formally submitted, though the Qantas board of directors has unanimously agreed to the $5.60 a share bid.
Prime Minister John Howard is to face trial in the NSW town of Bellingen on February 10. He is charged with offences including wilful and malicious damage to our national and international interests, aggravated indecent assault upon the working class and conspiring to pervert the course of democracy.
Greens MP Lee Rhiannon slammed the police operation at the Big Day Out, saying that the use of sniffer dogs against recreational drug users had put people’s health in danger.
Activists will descend on parliament house in Canberra on February 6 to demand that politicians do more to secure David Hicks’ release from the US prison camp at Guantanamo Bay.
A major victory has been won by the Aboriginal movement in Australia. The Queensland attorney-general’s department has decided that Senior Sergeant Chris Hurley will be charged with manslaughter over the death of Mulrunji Doomadgee. Mulrunji, an Aboriginal man, died in police custody on Palm Island in 2004.
“The goal of socialism is alive; we have seen the future in revolutionary Venezuela”, Australian activists Coral Wynter and Jim McIlroy told a public meeting on January 26. The two have recently returned from a year in the capital, Caracas, reporting on events for Green Left Weekly.
An anti-nuclear Peace Parade and Festival is being planned for Palm Sunday in Melbourne.
The refusal by Tristar Steering and Suspension to pay a dying employee his work entitlements after he applied for a voluntary redundancy is just the latest in a long fight the company’s workers have waged to secure their rightful entitlements. Another 30 longstanding Tristar workers are still awaiting their own entitlements.
A “freedom ride” from Sydney to Canberra will be held on March 25 to mark the 10th anniversary of the Howard government’s overturning of the Northern Territory’s voluntary euthanasia law, the Rights of the Terminally Ill Act (ROTI).

World

Despite right-wing intimidation, the founding congress of the National Liberation Party of Unity (Papernas) successfully concluded on January 20. A leadership was elected, which has already had its first meeting, preparing for a year of “all out” political campaigning.
“In my country, a surgery like that costs [US]$8,000”, said Roberto Andrade from El Salvador about the operation he received in Cuba that removed cataracts from both his eyes, completely free of charge, according to a January 10 Miami Herald article. “I make $12 a day. I would never, ever, be able to save that much.”
On January 21, a day after 25 US soldiers died in Iraq (the third-highest death toll for a single day since US troops invaded Iraq in March 2003), 3200 additional US troops arrived in Baghdad as part of US President George Bush’s plan to boost US forces in Iraq by 21,500 troops. All but 4000 are to be sent to Baghdad, already occupied by 24,000 US combat troops.
On January 22, the Lebanese parliamentary opposition, led by the Shiite-based Hezbollah movement, organised a general strike to demand the resignation of the US-backed government of PM Fuad Siniora.
On January 8, Venezuela’s socialist President Hugo Chavez swore in his new cabinet, including five new members, calling upon them to take an oath that they would “never rest arm or soul in the construction of the Venezuelan path towards socialism”. One the ministers sworn in was Hector Navarro, previously higher education minister and now Venezuela’s minister of science and technology.
Last November, Hu Deping, the deputy chief of the united front department of the Communist Party of China (CPC) central committee, called for a halt to the popular campaign that seeks to force mainland China’s new class of capitalists, most of whom acquired their initial wealth from embezzling the state sector, to return their ill-gotten gains for the public benefit.
On January 22, El Salvador’s main opposition party, the Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN), held commemorative activities for the 75th anniversary of the 1932 Nahua-Pipil indigenous peasant revolt led by indigenous leader Jose Feliciano Ama and Agustin Farabundo Martí Rodríguez , leader of the newly formed Communist Party (PCS).
A genocide is engulfing the people of Gaza while a silence engulfs its bystanders. “Some 1.4 million people, mostly children, are piled up in one of the most densely populated regions of the world, with no freedom of movement, no place to run and no space to hide”, wrote senior UN relief official Jan Egeland and Jan Eliasson, then Swedish foreign minister, in Le Figaro. They described people “living in a cage”, cut off by land, sea and air, with no reliable power and little water, and tortured by hunger and disease and incessant attacks by Israeli troops and planes.
Fifteen-thousand people fled from the town of Vaharai in eastern Sri Lanka following heavy shelling by the Sri Lankan army on January 18. According to the Tamilnet website, the shelling was intensified in the evening despite an urgent message sent to the International Committee of the Red Cross from Vaharai hospital authorities saying that the area around the hospital, where many displaced people had sought refuge, was under attack.
Factional fighting between the armed wings of Fatah and Hamas resumed on January 25 when a vehicle carrying members of the Hamas Executive Force was bombed. Two EF fighters later died as a result of their injuries. The subsequent bloody clashes between rival militants, which took place mainly in the Gaza Strip, left 19 people dead, including a two-year-old boy and eight civilians.
On January 22, 2002, then Movement Towards Socialism (MAS) senator Evo Morales was expelled from parliament, accused of being a “narco-terrorist”. Exactly five years later, as the nation’s first indigenous president, Morales gave his first annual report to parliament. This time it was not Morales who exited prematurely.

Analysis

When the NSW police minister condemned magistrate Pat O’Shane two weeks ago for throwing out a case involving spitting at traffic cops, her response was: “There is an election coming up”. The same answer could well be given for the bipartisan barrage of Muslim-bashing from senior NSW politicians in the countdown to the March state election.
At a meeting in Brazil on April 26, 2006, plans moved ahead between Venezuela, Bolivia, Argentina and Brazil for a major transcontinental oil pipeline. The pipeline would be 10,000 kilometres long and would link the four countries plus Paraguay and Uruguay.
Annette Peardon was nine years old when she and her brother were forcibly removed from their family on Cape Barren Island. They spent their youth in a series of foster homes and institutions around Tasmania. Last November, Tasmania’s parliament passed the Stolen Generations of Aboriginal Children Bill 2006, the country’s first compensation law. Green Left Weekly’s Susan Austin spoke with Peardon about the significance of this law, and her struggle for justice.
Al Gore’s film An Inconvenient Truth has helped dramatise the enormity of the global environmental crisis. The scale of the threat posed by industrially induced global warming, and the short time in which to take meaningful action to prevent catastrophic consequences, makes the question of how to combat global warming arguably the most urgent one facing humanity.
Whether you admire him or hate him, Venezuela’s recently re-elected president, Hugo Chavez, is starting to attract a lot of attention in Australia, and around the world. The man who calls US President George Bush “the devil”, and the “new socialism for the 21st century” that he and his government are creating in Venezuela, are stirring hope in the hearts of many people — and fear in a few.

Editorial

Prime Minister John Howard’s January 25 announcement of plans to deal with the water crisis in the Murray-Darling Basin contains some measures that are small steps in the right direction, such as the replacement of open irrigation channels with covered pipes to reduce evaporation.

Letters

CDM's no solution Chaim Nisism (Write On, GLW #695) wrote about the Kyoto Protocol's Clean Development Mechanism (CDM): "My evaluation is that at least half of the projects are environmentally and socially positive". However, Nisism does not

Resistance!

On January 21, Prime Minister John Howard condemned the organisers of the Big Day Out (BDO) music festival in Sydney for asking those planning to attend not to display Australian flags at the events as an “insult to the freedom it represents”.
Thousands of Canadian students and their supporters are expected to protest tuition fee hikes at a national day of action on February 7.

Culture

Trotsky
By Ian D. Thatcher
Routledge, 2003
240 pages
Bait and Switch: The (Futile) Pursuit of the American Dream
By Barbara Ehrenreich
Granta Books, 2005
237 pages, $24.95 (pb)
American Hoax: Undercover in the USA (sort of)
By Charles Firth
Pan Macmillan, 2006
272 pages
$32.95 (pb)