Issue 768

Australia

Friends of Cuba held actions in Perth and Canberra on September 14, kicking off an international campaign to win the release of five Cuban anti-terrorists sentenced to long prison terms in the United States on September 12, 10 years ago.

The five

The Victorian Abortion Law Reform bill was passed by the parliament’s lower house on September 12 after more than 70 hours of debate. This may finally mean that abortion is removed from the state’s Crimes Act dating back to 1958. Until the bill is passed, abortion remains a crime.

My cows can’t swim!”, protested one farmer’s sign, with a marker to indicate just how high the water would rise. “Act now or be dammed!”, advised another, echoing the overall theme of the 500-strong Save the Mary River rally on September 6 at the Traveston Crossing bridge in south-east Queensland.

The Greens were the major beneficiaries of the swing to the left in many councils across NSW at the September 13 elections, probably taking their representation to more than 70 for the first time. Independents and other progressive tickets, including the Socialist Alliance, also made gains.

In the lead-up to the release of a report from the federal government’s review into the Northern Territory intervention, the Australian Indigenous Doctors’ Association has blasted the policy. AIDA describes it as discriminatory, damaging to people’s health and completely unable to alter conditions of child abuse or neglect in remote Aboriginal communities.

Union Solidarity activists blockaded the Dandenong mail distribution centre overnight on September 19 in response to Australia Post’s proposed transfer of a union delegate who took strike action three months ago.

Max Phillips, a newly elected Greens councillor in Marrickville and the Greens’ campaign coordinator for the September 13 NSW local government elections, puts the swing to the Greens down to the state Labor government’s implosion.

The Australian Services Union (ASU) Victorian secretary, Ingrid Stitt, told Green Left Weekly that Labor’s new Interim Transitional Employment Agreements are a “wolf in sheep’s clothing”. The ITEAs were introduced by the Rudd government to replace the notorious Australian Workplace Agreements (AWAs individual contracts).

People power came to Gunnedah in north-west NSW on September 15 as more than 300 farmers and their supporters rallied outside the Gunnedah Basin Coal Conference. They were protesting against a coalmining project in the agriculturally rich Liverpool Plains that was given state government approval in 2006.

McKesson Asia-Pacific, a subsidiary of US multinational medical services operator McKesson Corporation, landed a $176 million government contract to provide an all-hours national health telephone triage system called Healthdirect Australia. It began taking calls in New South Wales in August.

A group of international peace activists blacklisted and deported from Israel were the organising force behind the August 23 breaking of the Gaza blockade by two activist boats.

Fifty ambulance officers and paramedics campaigning for more staff and better conditions bailed up Victorian health minister Daniel Andrews as he visited Geelong on September 19.

The trial of 12 Muslim men under the “anti-terror” laws has ended with seven being found guilty of one or more charges, four found not guilty and the jury unable to decide on one.

Workers at Huyck Wagner in Breakwater have been trying to negotiate a new wage agreement for several months. The boss’s offer of a 2% pay rise would mean, given current inflation, a pay cut in real terms.

Supporters of a woman’s right to choose rallied outside Liberal anti-abortion Senator George Brandis’s office on September 16. They were protesting against Tasmanian Liberal Senator Guy Bennett’s private member’s bill to end Medicare funding for abortions after 14 weeks’ pregnancy. The bill, due for parliamentary debate on September 17, has been referred to a committee.

On September 14, the Yungaba Action Group (YAG) protested at the Bligh Labor government’s community cabinet in Carindale as part of the campaign to save the historic migrant cultural centre from being sold off for private development.

World

On September 10 a British jury acquitted six Greenpeace protesters who were on trial for trying to shut down a coal-fired power station on the grounds that they were trying to stop global warming.

The Socialist Party of Malaysia (PSM) has condemned the arrest of an opposition member of parliament and two journalists (one an outspoken online political blogger) under the Internal Security Act (ISA) allowing indefinite detention after the government’s biggest security clampdown since losing support in March elections.

Until last month’s major party conventions, Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama’s victory was looking the pretty likely. With his message of “change”, it isn’t hard to see why.

Arriving at the Palacio Moneda in Santiago, Chile, on September 14, where close to 35 years ago to the day Chile’s left-wing president Salvador Allende was overthrow in a military coup, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez declared that “in Bolivia a conspiracy is underway, an international conspiracy, financed and directed by US imperialism, just like that which occurred in Chile in 1973’’.

The decision to make public a presidential order in July authorising US strikes inside Pakistan without seeking the approval of the Pakistani government ends a long debate within, and on the periphery of, the Bush administration.

Relative calm has returned to Bolivia following a three-week offensive of violence and terrorism launched by the US-backed right-wing opposition denounced by Bolivian President Evo Morales as a “civil coup”.

On September 17, the Thai parliament elected a candidate from the People’s Power Party (PPP), Somchai Wongsawat, to be the next prime minister.

Four retired and one active Venezuelan military officials have been arrested, a further 33 questioned and the US ambassador expelled in the wake of the September 10 revelation of a planned coup and assassination attempt against President Hugo Chavez.

The below sign-on statement, “In Support of Cuba: Worldwide call to artists and intellectuals”, has been issued by the Cuban government. To add your name, visit http://www.concubahoy.cult.cu.

Colombian trade union and human rights activist Liliany Obando was arrested and detained in a maximum security prison on August 8 by the anti-terrorism unit of the Colombian National Police.

While many Movement for Democratic Change activists are confident that the power sharing agreement between the ruling ZANU-PF and the MDC is a step forward, there are widespread concerns about the deal.

Federal environment minister Peter Garrett has maintained for weeks that he had not been approached by Gunns timber company to extend the deadline on the environmental approval process for the company’s proposed pulp mill in the Tamar Valley. Last week, however, the government extended the deadline from October 4 to January 5.

In April, Nepal held historic elections for a new constituent assembly, a product of years of pro-democracy struggle against the monarchy, including a 10-year-long “people’s war” waged by the Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist (CPN-M), which easily won the largest share of seats in the assembly.

The latest chaos on Wall Street — the worst financial upheaval in the US since the 1930s Great Depression — highlights not just the scale of the world financial crisis, but the needless destruction caused by the blind competition at the core of capitalism.

Thirty years we’ve had, of unfathomably wealthy bankers and dealers being justified as part of the free market.

Supporters of social justice around the world were devastated to receive the news that renowned US socialist and fighter for a better world Peter Camejo had succumbed to cancer and passed away on September 13.

Analysis

As I write this column the newspapers report that United States, Canadian, European and Japanese banks have combined to inject an extra US$180 billion (A$225 billion) into global financial markets. It is the latest desperate measure to try to stem the year-old global financial crisis commonly — and misleadingly — labelled the US subprime mortgage crisis.

“Will my superannuation fund be next?” “Are my savings safe?” As working people in the developed economies watch the assets of one financial institution after another vaporise into nothingness, tens of millions are asking these dreadful questions.

The Macquarie Dictionary defines plutocracy as “the rule or power of wealth or of the wealthy”. With the accession of Malcolm Turnbull, the richest person in parliament, to the leadership of the Liberal Party, this definition would seem to provide a pretty good description of Australian “democracy” also.

In the room are a chemical engineer from a large mining/energy corporation, a solar energy engineer, a psychiatrist, a veterinarian, an artist and a construction worker. Also present are an ex-Labor Party activist, a Greens candidate in the 2007 election and a socialist student. Where do you find all these people, and more besides, in one room working for the one cause? At a meeting of Melbourne’s Climate Emergency Network (CEN).

On September 15, in his last full day as federal opposition leader, Brendan Nelson confronted the Labor government with a tin of baked beans and a jar of jam. “That is the reality for Australian pensioners: baked beans and jam sandwiches”, Nelson said, moving a censure motion against the government for its failure to agree to increase the Age Pension by $30 a week.

The Socialist Alliance will stand two candidates for the City of Maribyrnong in the November council elections, on a platform of “community and environment before developers’ profits”.

Letters

Beauty myth

I am writing in response to Pam Rankin's questions (Write On #767) regarding the way women dress and treat their bodies. To find the answer to who "forces" Western women to wax, pluck, chemical peal and worse, we don't have to look

Resistance!

Amid growing tensions between the United States and Latin America, nearly 1200 young people — representing thousands more — met in the Venezuelan city of Puerto Ordaz on September 11-13 to found the United Socialist Party of Venezuela Youth (JPSUV).

This article is based on a speech to a rally against Gunns’ proposed pulp mill, in Launceston on August 23. It was delivered by Stef Gebbi and Gabby Forward on behalf of Students Against the Pulp Mill.

Culture

“In-Dependence” from Bondage: Claude McKay and Michael Manley Defying the Ideological Clash and Policy Gaps in African Diaspora Relations

By Lloyd D. McCarthy

Africa World Press, 2007

US$24.95, Available from http://www.africaworldpressbooks.com

Two vast and trunkless legs of steel
Like silent Pharaohs over Wall Street stood
Scraping the vast canvas of immortality

@poetry = How many died erecting those towers:
Welders of iron, exoskeletal beams?
Manhattan is missing her two front

War Games

Directed by John Badham, Written by Lawrence Lasker & Walter Parkes

With Matthew Broderick & Ally Sheedy

25th anniversary DVD release

The Bright Lights of America

Anti-Flag

Fat Wreck Chords, 2008

13 tracks, $29.99