Issue 723

News

After months of stalling and weeks of harassment, police this morning have escalated their intimidation of anti-APEC protesters. Following on the success of the student strikes against US President George Bush, which took place around Australia on Wednesday September 5, crowds are already gathering in Sydney. The main rally against war criminals Bush and PM John Howard will take place at Sydney’s Town Hall, at 10am. Green Left Weekly's Tony Iltis reports that the police water cannon is already on display, and the gathered activists have had motorcades of riot squad vehicles drive around them, sirens blaring.
Continuing their harassment, police have begun confiscating banner poles from activists at Town Hall and at the various convergence points. Alex Bainbridge, from the Stop Bush Coalition has told the media “We are not in a declared zone, and we do not intend to go anywhere near a declared zone, so by confiscating these poles, the police are actually breaking their own laws.” Under the new laws, police are able to confiscate poles of over one metre, within the “declared zones”. As an example of the politicised role the police a playing in these protests, a small, pro-Bush gathering, which is taking place closer to the “declared zone”, has not had its long banner poles confiscated.
SEPTEMBER 8 — Alex Bainbridge, chairing the Stop Bush/Make Howard History anti-APEC rally told the gathered crowd that there were 10,000 people gathered at Sydney’s Town Hall. A contingent of hundreds of high school students arrived at Town Hall, chanting “Troops out now!”, while a contingent of hundreds of trade unionists arrived chanting “The workers united will never be defeated!”
Thousands of protesters from near and far gathered at Town Hall on September 8 to protest US President George Bush and PM John Howard.
Protesters march from Town Hall to Hyde Park in Sydney on September 8.
Images: Despite a concerted campaign of intimidation by police, hundreds of Sydney students walked out of class in an impassioned protest against Australian Prime Minister John Howard and US President George Bush. [Full report to come.]
Despite a concerted campaign of intimidation by police, hundreds of Sydney students walked out of class in an impassioned protest against Australian Prime Minister John Howard and US President George Bush.
Victorian Labor Premier John Brumby said on August 21 that he will only extend his government’s contracts with Yarra Trams and rail company Connex until the end of 2009, after which there will be a world-wide tender for private operators of Melbourne’s public transport systems.
The September 1 Daily Telegraph published the names and photographs of all but two of the 29 people who have been put on the NSW police commissioner’s list of people to be excluded from much of the Sydney CBD during the APEC summit, and who will even be banned from flying into or out of Sydney airport.
Victoria’s new Labor premier, John Brumby, has asked the Victorian Law Reform Commission to advise on how to reform abortion law. The commission’s report is due in March 2008, after the federal election. The move came right before a private members bill was to be put to parliament by ALP member Candy Broad.
On August 29, 60 people attended a public meeting in Dulwich Hill to launch a sister-city relationship between the inner-west Sydney municipality of Marrickville and the Palestinian city of Bethlehem in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.
On August 31, after booking a flight with Jetstar Airways, Duncan Meerding, a legally blind 20-year-old Hobart resident, phoned the airline’s service centre to request assistance in navigating on and off the plane, in navigating the Sydney Airport Terminus and with baggage recovery.
On August 30, footwear workers formerly employed by Michaelis Bayley Holdings Pty Ltd — maker of the Homy Ped shoe brand — staged a protest outside the company’s Footscray offices. According to Textile, Clothing and Footwear Union (TCFUA) secretary Michele O'Neil, the company has sought to avoid redundancy provisions contained in the enterprise bargaining agreement it had committed to honour two years ago.
A spirited demonstration outside Toyota’s Melbourne headquarters on August 28 highlighted the company’s abuse of workers’ rights in the Philippines.
In this centre of the tourism industry, a new opportunity is emerging to organise the recreational diving industry. The catalyst for this has been the refusal by Brooke O’Mara to continue to work under a $3 per hour “training” contract. Many work under similar contracts in the industry.
For nearly seven years, the Sandon Point Aboriginal Tent Embassy has guarded the Kuradji man burial site, artefacts and middens at Sandon Point at the bottom of Bulli Pass, in the northern Illawarra. Planning minister Frank Sartor, using recently legislated powers, has given approval to Stockland and the Anglican Retirement Village Trust for a huge development the size of a suburb on the site.
On August 28, 100 people met at the Newcastle Town Hall to protest against the Newcastle City Council’s proposal to close Mayfield’s public swimming pool.
On August 30, the Tasmanian parliament approved an operating permit for Gunns Ltd’s proposed $2 billion Tamar Valley pulp mill. The independents-dominated upper house voted by 10 votes to four to allow the mill to go ahead.
On July 17, Chris M, a union delegate at the NSW State Transit’s Port Botany depot, was sacked by the State Transit Authority (STA), which is the government owned authority responsible for the operations of Sydney Buses and Newcastle Buses & Ferries. The sacking occurred four days prior to M becoming a permanent employee and thus having access to unfair dismissal protection.

Analysis

The following speech was delivered by Pip Hinman, a member of Sydney’s Stop the War Coalition and the Socialist Alliance, to the September 8 “Stop Bush” protest in Sydney.
Textile, Clothing and Footwear Union (TCFUA) Victorian secretary Michele O’Neil was so furious when she heard the Labor Party’s reworking of its industrial relations policy that she penned an open letter to Labor leader Kevin Rudd and deputy leader Julia Gillard in protest [see page 8].
Sydney is to be shut down in the lead-up to the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit from September 2. US warmonger-in-chief George Bush will be attending amid an unprecedented amount of money and effort being spent on security.
Three-metre high security fences, heart-stopping tasers, a bone-smashing water cannon, mobile prison buses and — perhaps most disturbing of all — the threat of automatic incarceration for randomly abducted protesters? Welcome to the growing international phenomenon of “population control”. The Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum is in Sydney, and NSW security chiefs are telling you to follow orders, shut up and stay away. Prison cells are ready and waiting if you fail to heed the warning.
Established in December 2001, the Victorian Institute of Teaching (VIT) was set up with the stated aim of regulating and promoting the teaching profession in Victoria.
The following open letter to federal ALP leader Kevin Rudd and ALP industrial relations spokesperson Julia Gillard was issue on August 29 by Michele O’Neil, national assistant secretary of the Textile, Clothing and Footwear Union of Australia (TCFUA).
A leaked document outlining PM John Howard’s climate action plan for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit — to be held in Sydney on September 8 and 9 — once again confirms the Coalition’s dangerously cavalier approach to global warming.
Victorian Trades Hall Council secretary Brian Boyd spoke to Green Left Weekly’s Sue Bolton on August 20 about some Victorian unions’ plans for another mass mobilisation against the Work Choices legislation.
Michael Barker’s reply (“Promoting ’democracy’ through civil disobedience”, GLW #722) to a letter-to-the-editor by Jack DuVall (GLW #718, online edition) contains some serious factual errors and misleading comments regarding the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict (ICNC), for which I serve as chair of the board of academic advisers.

World

Operation Banner, a 38-year British military operation in the north of Ireland, formally came to a close on July 31. The operation began in 1969, when British troops were deployed in the six counties that make up the sectarian state of Northern Ireland to support the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC), which was unable to maintain “public order” in the face of the explosion of the civil rights movement. The RUC had also been thoroughly discredited among the Catholic and nationalist communities for its role in facilitating sectarian pogroms against them.
On August 28, the Palestinian Authority (PA) “caretaker” government headed by Salam Fayyad announced that it would outlaw 103 charitable societies in the Israeli occupied West Bank. Fayyad, who was appointed on June 15 as PA prime minister by PA President Mahmoud Abbas of the Fatah party after Abbas dismissed the elected government of PM Ismail Haniyeh of the Hamas party, told Palestinian media these charities, most of them are affiliated with Hamas, had committed administrative and financial irregularities.
Addressing thousands of members of the battalions of the new United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV), packed into the Poliedro Stadium in Caracas on August 25, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez called for an “offensive” to guarantee the approval in the national referendum of his proposed constitutional reforms, which he says are necessary to guarantee the country’s transition to socialism.
Prime Minister Gordon Brown looks set to break Labour’s 2005 election manifesto pledge to hold a referendum before Britain signs up to a new European Union constitution. At an August 22 press conference with German leader Angela Merkel, Brown announced that there was no need to hold a referendum and that the matter would instead be decided by parliament.
Over the course of more than 10,000 years, the rich biodiversity of the Andes-Amazon region has created a culture that is closely interlocked with Pachamama (Mother Nature). This culture is marked by deep knowledge of nature and is highly agricultural. Ours is one of the seven zones of the world to have originated agriculture. It has yielded the greatest variety of domesticated species. This has given rise to a cosmic vision different from the Western outlook that views the creator as a superior immaterial spirit who created man in his image and likeness and created nature to serve him. For the indigenous cosmic vision, humanity is a daughter of and part of Mother Earth. We must live in her bosom in harmony with her. Each hill or peak, each river, each vegetable or animal species has a spirit.
Whenever a socialist from the generation whose political ideas were shaped by involvement in the global movement against the US-led Vietnam War pay their first visit to Vietnam, it is a bit like a pilgrimage. It is an encounter with a symbolic home of our political hopes and convictions.
“The internal situation will intensify over the next months, more contradictions will emerge, simply because we have no plans to hold back the march of the revolution”, said Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez on March 24, speaking to more than 2000 promoters of the new socialist party being constructed in Venezuela. “These contradictions”, he said, would “intensify, because we are dealing with the economic issue, and there is nothing that hurts a capitalist more than his pocket, but we have to enter into this issue, we cannot avoid it”.
A new assessment by the CIA and 15 other US spy agencies of Washington’s counterinsurgency war in Iraq, released on August 23, argued that the addition since early February of 28,500 US troops to the 134,000-strong US occupation force has brought “measurable, but uneven improvements in security”. However the report provided no statistics to support this claim.
During a 24 hour visit in Haiti’s Plateau-Central, human rights organisation AUMOHD (Association of University Graduates Motivated for a Haiti with Rights), headed by lawyer Evel Fanfan, recorded interviews with hundreds of victims from the 2001-04 attacks by former soldiers in the area. During this period, three of the most heavily targeted Lavalas communities were Mirebalais, Lascahobas, and Belladeres. (Fanmi Lavalas is the party of Jean-Bertrand Aristide, the Haitian president ousted in a 2004 coup.) Human rights investigators visited all of these communities and held discussions with groups of the victims.
I walked with Roberto Navarrete into the national stadium in Santiago, Chile. With the southern winter’s wind skating down from the Andes, it was empty and ghostly. Little had changed, he said: the chicken wire, the broken seats, the tunnel to the changing rooms from which the screams echoed. We stopped at a large number 28. “This is where I was, facing the scoreboard. This is where I was called to be tortured.”
Two trade unionists have been murdered in Panama for opposing mass dismissals and the obligation to join the yellow union, SINDICOPP, controlled by construction giant Norberto Odebrecht. The International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), which has three affiliated organisations in Panama — Confederacion de Trabajadores de la Republica de Panama (CTRP), Confederacion General de Trabajadores de Panama (CGTP) and Convergencia Sindical (CS) — has condemned the murders.
On August 28, a Tuesday, the centre of the city of Cochabamba was unusually quiet, even compared to Sundays. Most shops had their shutters down, and the chaotic combination of small street stalls was replaced by a few women selling orange juice on one corner, another selling nuts. Some young boys played with a ball on the main road — normally alive with trufis, micros and taxis, but on Tuesday almost empty. The quiet was a product of a strike organised by the right wing, targeting the government of Bolivia’s indigenous president, Evo Morales.
On August 22, more than 5000 workers at a mobile phone component factory in Shenzhen, southern China, struck against their bosses’ attempt to increase their work hours without extra pay.
“The brutal killings of these Indonesian domestic workers occurred in an atmosphere of impunity fostered by government inaction”, argued Nisha Varia, senior researcher in the Women’s Rights Division of New York-based group Human Rights Watch (HRW), on August 17. Varia was referring to the deaths in early August of Siti Tarwiyah Slamet, 32, and Susmiyati Abdul Fulan, 28 — two Indonesian women domestic workers beaten to death by the Saudi family that employed them.

Culture

Pig City: From the Saints to Savage Garden
By
Andrew Stafford
University of Queensland Press, 2004
$32.95
Stolen Apples
By Paul Kelly
Capitol, 2007
11 tracks, $25.99
Sixty Thousand Barrels — The residents of Sydney's Botany are attempting to fight a dire environmental threat 60,000 barrels of highly toxic waste in their midst. SBS, Friday, September 7, 2.30pm. Robert F Kennedy: The Garish Sun — Examines
The lead singer of rock band U2, “Sir” Bono, was awarded his honourary Knighthood Commander of the Order of the British Empire in March. In an example of the power of the corporate media to paint black as white, the multi-millionaire Bono has somehow gotten a reputation as a progressive social activist, standing up for the downtrodden of the world.

General

Green Left Weekly is taking a one week break as our staff will be attending the APEC protests. The next issue will be dated September 19. However, coverage of the APEC protests will be posted on our website, http://www.greenleft.org.au.
A report released on August 30 by the Australia Council Of Social Services (ACOSS) shows that the number of Australians living in poverty has increased over the past 10 years. Using an international poverty line of 50% of median income, the numbers increased from 7.6% to 9.9% of the population between 1994 and 2004, or nearly 2 million Australians. This measure is used extensively in OECD countries. Using the same poverty line used in the UK and Ireland, 60% of median income, poverty has risen from 17.1% of the population in 1994 to 19.8%, or 3.8 million Australians, in 2004.

Letters

Climate change We're on the fast track to climate meltdown unless greenhouse gases are slashed 60% by 2050. We teeter on the edge of ghastly feedback loops, as the Arctic soils melt and threaten to spew trillions of tons of methane into the air.

Resistance!

The world that we live in is crumbling around us. Imperialist nations such as the US use fear and violence as a means to an end — an end that favours the interests of the rich and the powerful. The Iraq war provides an example: Had Iraq been the world’s biggest producer of, say, potatoes, and not oil, Saddam Hussein would have been left to his misguided, vegetable-driven devices.
The September 5 student strike against US President George Bush’s visit, initiated by Resistance, has triggered a wave of anti-war activism on high schools across Sydney. Students from more than 20 high schools, including Mosman High, Pennant Hills High and North Sydney Girls High, have pledged to walk out of classes to protest Australia’s involvement in the Iraq war, to call for genuine action against climate change and to defend the right to protest.