Issue 734

News

There were emotional scenes in the Perth Coroners Court on November 28 as deputy State Coroner Evelyn Vicker read her findings into the death of a 35-year-old Aboriginal man, Carl Woods, in police custody in the suburb of Parmelia on April 11 last year. Woods’ relatives wept and expressed anger at Vicker’s finding of accidental death.
Stuart Baanstra, a Community Action Against Homophobia (CAAH) activist, refused to sign the 2006 census due to the Australian Bureau of Statistics’ (ABS) refusal to record same-sex married couples. On November 27, Baanstra faced the Magistrates Court for refusing to sign the census. Baanstra pleaded guilty with mitigating circumstances. His lawyer, Natalie Ross, who was working pro bono, asked for charges to be dismissed under Section 19b of the Crimes Act.
The Federation of Community Legal Centres has criticised Victoria’s Office of Police Integrity (OPI) and the Ethical Standards Department (ESD) for allowing “police corruption, misconduct and violence to go unchecked” despite “several damning reports and public hearings” this year, said Will Crawford, a federation spokesperson, on November 28.
Twenty-one police cars swarmed on the inner-western suburb of Flemington on November 28 after allegations a teenager of African descent swore at two police cars on patrol.
ABC Online reported on November 29 that the Australian Capital Territory’s attorney-general, Simon Corbell, intended to introduce a bill that would give legal recognition to same-sex “civil unions”.
To cries of “Barry’s back, Howard’s out”, sacked union delegate Barry Hemsworth marched through the gates of Botany Cranes on November 29 to reclaim his job after 441 days picketing outside the crane yard.

Analysis

On November 16, NSW deputy coroner Dorelle Pinch ruled that five journalists from Australia’s Seven and Ten commercial TV networks who died in the East Timorese town of Balibo on October 16, 1975, were not killed by crossfire (which is what Australian authorities have previously maintained) but were deliberately murdered by invading Indonesian forces, on orders from above in what Pinch ruled to be a “war crime”.
The first round of official talks to negotiate a global climate change agreement to follow on from the Kyoto Protocol in 2012 will be held in Bali, Indonesia, on December 3-14. Representatives of 130 countries will attend, ostensibly to begin a two-year negotiating process.
“It’s time for a new page to be written in our nation’s history” — Prime Minister-elect Kevin Rudd, November 24.
Despite opposition from farmers and consumers, big-business biotech companies scored a major victory on November 27 when both the New South Wales and Victorian governments gave the green light to the commercial cultivation of genetically modified food crops. This opens the gate for pro-GM groups to lobby other states which have not yet agreed to commercial production of GM crops.
The first negotiations between the state government and Victorian teachers following a 10,000 strong November 21 stop-work meeting bore no fruit according to a November 30 press release by the Australian Education Union’s (AEU) Victorian branch.
The November 24 rout of the Howard government owed much to the work of the organised labour movement. Of the marginal Coalition seats targeted by the Your Rights at Work (YRAW) campaign, 20 of 24 have fallen to Labor (including John Howard’s own seat of Bennelong); the other four remain in doubt. Most of those who voted for Labor did so believing that Labor would abolish Work Choices, as promised by Kevin Rudd on October 14, the official start to the election campaign. Yet Labor’s industrial relations policy — Forward with Fairness — promises only minimal changes, replacing the Coalition’s legislation with “Work Choices Lite”.
Kevin Rudd’s election provides an opportunity for Australia and Aboriginal people to repair the damage caused by the Howard years. Rudd’s intention to apologise to the Stolen Generations already indicates a positive change of national policy towards Aboriginal people and should he remove the NT emergency laws, Aboriginal reconciliation will be further enhanced.
Prime Minister-elect Kevin Rudd’s phone call with US President George Bush on November 25, the day after the election, was a reminder about the incoming Labor government’s commitment to the Australia-US military alliance. The government may have changed, but Canberra’s commitment to Australia’s participation in foreign wars and occupations hasn’t.
The November 24 electoral victory of the ALP was based largely upon public opposition to the Howard Coalition government’s Work Choices laws. But in the Northern Territory, opposition among Aborigines to PM John Howard’s “emergency intervention” into their communities was a major factor in boosting support for Labor.
“Now that Labor has decisively won the federal election, it is urgent that Australian troops be withdrawn from Iraq as soon as possible”, Jim McIlroy, the Socialist Alliance candidate for Kevin Rudd’s seat of Griffith, said after the announcement that Labor had defeated the Howard government. McIlroy also called for an end to Australian support for the war in Afghanistan. “All Australian forces should be brought home by Christmas.
Bernie Banton, the widely-recognised face of the legal and political campaign to achieve compensation for the many sufferers of asbestos-related conditions, which they contracted after working for the James Hardie company, died on November 27, at the age of 61.

World

@body intro = BREAKING NEWS — As Green Left Weekly goes to press, the Venezuelan government has released video evidence of a violent destabilisation campaign being planned by US-funded opponents of the Chavez government and the process of change. The campaign is based on rejected the outcome of the referendum being held on December 2. Speaking to up to a million supporters of the constitutional reforms and the revolution on November 30, President Hugo Chavez threatened to cut off oil supplies immediately to the US, in retaliation against any violent attacks.
Ecuador began to implement its “citizens’ revolution” called for by left-wing President Rafael Correa on November 29 with opening of the constituent assembly, made up of elected delegates tasked with reforming the state’s institutional framework and drawing up a new constitution.
Over 50 military and civilian dissidents remain in custody following the storming of the Manila Peninsular luxury hotel on November 29 by troops loyal to President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo to dislodge a group of soldiers who had seized the hotel and used it to hold a press conference calling for a “people’s power” uprising against the unpopular president. Civil society and religious leaders joined the rebels at the press conference.
A 19-year-old Saudi Arabian woman has been sentenced to 200 lashes and 6 months in jail following an incident in 2006 in which she was kidnaped and gang-raped by seven men. When the kidnapping occurred, the woman was in a car in the company of a man who was not an immediate relative, a crime in the Saudi kingdom.
Since the crackdown on the pro-democracy movement in October, there has been little in the mainstream media coverage of events in Burma. During the crackdown, many people were killed or disappeared by the military as society was placed under curfew.
After more than one-and-a-half decades of constant erosion under Beijing’s pro-capitalist policies, China’s public sector has shrunk to less than 40% of the country’s economy, and an even smaller share of industry and services.
Sucre, the home of Bolivia’s constituent assembly, has been subjected to right-wing attacks campesinos (peasants) were violently attacked when they arrived to defend the besieged assembly.
In a new study, entitled Stumbling into Chaos: Afghanistan on the Brink, the Brussels-based Senlis Council international policy think-tank said that the Taliban is now the de facto governing authority in large portions of southern Afghanistan.
“More deadly violence occurred north and south of Baghdad as insurgents appeared intent on sending a message to US and Iraqi officials that their recent expressions of confidence in the nation’s security were premature”, the November 24 Los Angeles Times reported, adding that the attacks were “marked by hits on targets that lately had escaped attack”.
On November 27, as Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert met, with the backing of US President George Bush in Annapolis, Maryland, to discuss a possible peace treaty, Israeli troops invaded a number of West Bank cities and attacked the Gaza Strip, killing at least four people. Abbas’s US-trained Palestinian Security Forces attacked thousands of unarmed demonstrations against the conference in Ramallah, Bethlehem, Nablus, Tulkarem and Hebron.
This year marks the 90th anniversary of the Russian Revolution. In the years following the revolution, its leaders initiated the formation of the Communist (Third) International (Comintern), an international grouping of communist parties. In Venezuela, the leadership of the country’s unfolding socialist revolution have issued a call for a new international of Latin American left parties. In this article, part of a series on the early years of the Comintern, John Riddell looks at the relationship between communist revolutionaries and colonised peoples.
Heightened political tensions between Colombia and Venezuela over Colombian President Alvaro Uribe’s decision on November 21 to cancel the mediating role of his Venezuelan counterpart, President Hugo Chavez, in negotiations for the release of 45 high-profile hostages held by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), signifies more than just a war of words between two presidents, but a clash between the Latin American left and the right-wing aligned with US imperialism.
The following is an open letter to the United Nations Security Council calling for justice and human rights from its mission to Timor-Leste. To view the full list of signatories and sign the letter, visit .
Much coverage of the Venezuelan revolution in the corporate-owned media presents a severely distorted picture of what is occurring in Venezuela and the nature and actions of the government of President Hugo Chavez. James Jordan, the emergency response coordinator for the US-based Venezuela Solidarity Network (<http://vensolidarity.org>), attempts to answer some of the key lies and distortions.
Following the massive student protests in support of the constitutional reforms and the revolutionary process on November 21, Venezuela’s workers’ movement met the next day, with around 1500 representatives from workplaces gathering at the Teatro Teresa Carreno to plan the campaign to ensure a “Yes” vote in the referendum on constitutional reforms on December 2.
The Australia-Venezuela Solidarity Network’s 7th solidarity brigade is underway in Venezuela. As usual, this brigade sounds like an informative and inspiring experience for the participants, who observed the final week of campaigning for a “Yes” vote in the Venezuela’s constitutional reforms referendum on December 2.

Culture

The Dramatically Black: Djarn Djarns — Frankie Dollar is eleven years old. He is the leader of an Aboriginal traditional dance group, who are young urban blackfellas, with a responsibility to keep their culture alive. SBS, Friday, December 7, 3.30pm. Los Zafiros — Formed in 1962, Los Zafiros were known as Cuba’s answer to The Platters. The members all came from the same Havana neighbourhood, and in Cuba enjoyed a popularity comparable to The Beatles. SBS, Saturday, December 8, 1pm. The Judge and the Fanatic — Many Yemenis have fought with the Mujahedeen in Afghanistan, but when the war ended they returned to Yemen to join the long queues of the unemployed, and many of them found it hard to reintegrate. SBS, Monday, December 10, 2.30pm. Cutting Edge: Cheney’s Law — For three decades US Vice President Dick Cheney conducted a secretive, behind-closed-doors campaign to give the US president virtually unlimited wartime power. SBS, Tuesday, December 11, 8.30pm.
A thousand steps
Away from the ballot box
To vote for freedom

A thousand steps
From armed men
With orders to shoot down
Anyone who votes for freedom

A thousand steps
When you have chains
On your hands and feet
To stop you from taking
A step of a single yard
Towards freedom

A thousand steps
From the grave
Where you will be buried
If you take a step
To vote for freedom

A thousand steps
From your dreams
Where you dream
That you can vote
For freedom


@auth poem = Arif Viqar
John’s gone, he’s gone
and I’m forlorn.
The unemployed must cope
without his scorn.
Workers smile
and bosses frown,
why did the voters
let them down.
Eleven long years
of blood, sweat and tears
have given way
to workers’ cheers.
Bennelong voters
so it seems
exceeded all
my wildest dreams. @auth poem = John Tomlinson
Sizwe Banzi is Dead
Written by Athol Fugard in collaboration with John Kani & Winston Ntshona
Directed by Peter Brook
Playhouse Theatre
Sydney Opera House
Until 16 December
Under the Volcano: the story of Bali
By Cameron Forbes
Black Inc., 2007
286 pages, $32.90 (pb)
Harpoon: Into the Heart of Whaling
By Andrew Darby
Allen & Unwin, 2007
296 pages, $29.95 (pb)

General

A report on a November 17 Perth rally against the NT intervention was accompanied by a photo incorrectly credited to Barry Healy. The credit should have read: “Photo by Jodi Hoffmann/courtesy Aboriginal Legal Service of WA.”
Dear Green Left Weekly reader,
What a relief to finally see the back of John Howard and his despised Coalition government!

Letters

Israel's wars If Philip Mendes (Write On, GLW #730) is accurate with his estimation that only about 1% of Australian voters think that Israel´s wars on Lebanon and Palestine are a significant issue, then I am very happy to be included in this

Resistance!

While the tyrant reign of John Howard is over, another is just beginning. The need to fight a Rudd government is quite clear. Many of Kevin Rudd’s so-called “reforms” are just slight changes to Howard’s monstrosities.