Issue 762

Australia

Palestinian refugee Akram al Masri, 31, who was deported from Australia in 2002, has been shot dead in his homeland less than six months after Australian authorities allegedly refused him a visitor’s visa.

South Australian teachers undertook four days of rolling stoppages and community rallies across the state from August 4-7 in an attempt to force the state government to re-negotiate its pay and funding arrangement for public schools and TAFEs. Eighty-three per cent of teachers voted in favour of the stoppages in workplace ballots in late July.

“Queensland is the biggest coal producing state in the biggest coal producing country in the world”, John MacKenzie of Friends of the Earth told an August 6 Socialist Alliance forum.

The fourth annual Equal Love rally and exchange of “Midwinta” vows was held in Melbourne on August 3.

“Abolish the ABCC! Support rights of building workers!” was the message on protesters’ placards outside PM Kevin Rudd’s electorate office in Morningside on August 8.

With the impact of global warming already being felt, it can be hard to feel positive about the future. However, an August 2 “climate justice” seminar at Melbourne University provided some positive directions for the 140 people who attended.

“If only 0.3% of the world’s current nuclear armaments were used, it would create a nuclear winter, and the end of humanity on this planet”, Dr Marianne Hanson, senior lecturer in international relations at the University of Queensland, told the Brisbane Hiroshima Day rally on August 3. The rally attracted 100 people.

Fifty people took part in a discussion around the topic “Sex, sexuality and the church” hosted by the Socialist Alliance on August 6.

From indigenous rights to liberation theology, Brisbane’s third Latin American Film Festival will showcase inspiring films.

World

Announcing the nationalisation of Banco de Venezuela, which will now be “put at the service of the people”, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez stated during a live televised broadcast on July 31 that it would be transformed into a “socialist bank”.

Speaking on his weekly program Alo Presidente on August 3, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez announced important steps towards unity of pro-revolution parties in the lead-up to the November 23 regional elections.

Below is an abridged call for solidarity from the Korean Federation of Trade Unions against July 24 arrest warrants issued for the KCTU leadership by the government of President Lee Myung-bak, as part of a crackdown on the mass movement against the decision to allow US beef imports. The full statement can be read at http://asia-pacific-action.org.

On August 6, police used water cannon and arrested 167 people to break up protests overnight against a visit by US President George Bush, according to an AFP report that day. The 10,000-strong, according to organisers, peaceful candle-lit vigil was protesting the US beef import decision.

More than 10,000 peasants rallied on August 4 in Okara, Punjab demanding the withdrawal of false charges of murder against the leaders of Tenant Association of Punjab (AMP).

“Given everything that is occurring in Tarija, Santa Cruz, Pando and Beni, we have to denounce … that we are on the threshold of a real coup d’etat against the constitutional order”, announced Bolivian minister of the presidency, Ramon Quintana, on August 7.

International oil giant Chevron is lobbying the US government to cancel trade deals with Ecuador over a court case where it faces a US$16 billion fine for polluting the Amazonian rainforest.

Unionists protested on July 20 in San Francisco against the decision by Californian Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to cut the wages of more than 200,000 state workers to the federal minimum wage of US$6.55 per hour, alleging he must do so because the state legislature has not passed a budget.

Below is an open letter from Naser Fayaz, a journalist for ATN TV channel, which has been sent to human rights organisations. It is reprinted from http://asia-pacific-action.org.

The Revolutionary Women of Afghanistan, http://rawa.org, “requests all its supporters and well-wishers of Afghan people to defend the brave and freedom-loving journalist Naser Fayaz and register their protest to his harassment by sending letters to the following sources”: President Hamid Karzai, president@afghanistangov.org; United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, spokesperson-unama@un.org;
Supreme Court of Afghanistan aquddus@supremecourt.gov.af.

“At least 3,000 people mobilized by the Papuan Christian Communication Forum staged a rally in Jayapura” on August 4, a Jakarta Post article reported the following day.

Much of the world is fascinated by the US presidential election campaign.

The Beijing Olympic games, which began on August 8, are shaping up to be a perfect reflection of our times — taking place against a backdrop of human rights abuses, terrorism scares and under a blanket of chemical smog.

Like the good Count of Transylvania, the so-called Doha Round of trade negotiations of the World Trade Organization (WTO) collapsed twice — in Cancun in 2003 and in Potsdam in 2007 — only to come back from the dead.

The defeat of the Colorado Party (PC) in the April presidential election meant much more than a change of government in Paraguay.

A bombing that killed five Hamas members and a five-year-old girl on July 25 in the Gaza Strip has escalated tensions in the Occupied Palestinian Territories between the Hamas government in Gaza and the Fatah-controlled Palestinian Authority (PA), based in the West Bank.

Analysis

There can be no peace, and certainly no peace with coexistence, in Sri Lanka — divided or undivided — until there is an apology from the Sinhalese to the Tamils for all the atrocities unleashed on them, not just in 1983, but all the way back to 1956, and increasingly so today.

The Victorian state government is considering far-reaching changes to workers’ compensation laws.

On August 6, Victoria University of Technology (VUT) hosted a seminar, “Pacific Islands Migration and Labour Mobility: Issues and Responses”, which discussed the potential for an unskilled guest worker scheme for Pacific Island workers. Some Pacific nations have called for such program to help alleviate high rates of unemployment.

The following call to action has been issued by the Adelaide-based Stop the War Fair committee.

A flurry of public meetings followed the federal government’s green paper on carbon emissions trading. I attended two quite different information sessions in Sydney.

Internationally, as in Australia, governments forced to promise climate change action have generally promoted market-based carbon abatement schemes, mostly of the “cap and trade” variety. But can we trade our way out of our climate difficulties? Can market mechanisms deal with a problem of such scale and urgency?

The following call for a national week of protest action, beginning September 21, was issued by the July 5 Climate Emergency Rally organising committee in Melbourne, and endorsed by the August 2 Climate Justice seminar.

“As near as we can tell looking at the historical record, there’s been ice in the Arctic in the summer for at least 16 million years”, Don Perovich, a geophysicist with the US army’s Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory, told the August 4 Four Corners program. Arctic ice melt over this year’s northern summer has been at record levels, leaving the amount of ice remaining alarmingly low.

Hydrologists such as professors Peter Cullen, Richard Kingsford and Derek Eamus, speaking at public forums in NSW earlier this year, warned that Australians are extracting water from stressed rivers and artesian systems faster than it is being replenished.

Letters

Work Choices

@letter =What rock was Nick Everett hiding under during last year's federal election? (Write On, GLW #761) You couldn't move without a Labor political hopeful promising to "tear-up" Work Choices through the campaign. Rudd promised it

General

Having raised a total of $129,040 for the 2008 Green Left Weekly Fighting Fund, we are now more than half-way to our $250,000 target. Our supporters raised $5440 over the last week through donations and several successful fundraising events around the country.

Resistance!

In August 2004, around the same time as the Howard Coalition government banned same-sex marriage, the religious right held an anti-gay marriage forum at Parliament House in Canberra. It was attended by about 2000 people.

The conservative Christian group Hillsong has launched a controversial new youth program “Shine”, aimed, it says, at “promoting self-esteem” in teenage girls considered to be “at risk”, due to personal problems or behavioural issues.

Culture

On “Super Saturday” August 16, hundreds of activists across NSW will staff “Stop the Sell-Off” stalls in 50 NSW electorates. Part of the campaign to stop the state ALP government from privatising electricity, the stalls are expected to gather thousands of signatures on petitions, and promote the mass anti-privatisation rally planned for September 20, at Sydney Town Hall.

Changing Venezuela by Taking Power: The History and Politics of the Chavez Government

By Gregory Wilpert

Verso, 2007

352 pages, $49.95

Cups with no Handles: Memoir of a Grassroots Activist

By Carolyn Landon

Hybrid Publishers, 2008

288 pages, $29.95 (pb)

@details = Growing up Asian in AustraliaEdited by Alice PungBlack Inc, 2008, $27.95 (pb)