Issue 777

Australia

[The petition below is being circulated within the Australian trade union movement].

Pip Hinman, from Sydney Stop the War Coalition, held a shoe aloft — in tribute to Iraqi reporter Muntader al-Zaidi — to roars of approval from a 10,000-strong crowd in Sydney on January 4.

On 15th December Prime Minister Kevin Rudd announced a criminally paltry 5% carbon emission target to the National Press Club. Three female protestors in the audience yelled “shame” and were wrestled away by security.

The incumbent ALP faction has scraped back in to retain control of the 43,000 strong NSW Public Service Association (PSA) after elections held on December 5.

Over the weekend of 5-7 December, more than 150 people attended the Sixth Socialist Alliance national conference, held in the Geelong Trades Hall. The conference opened against the backdrop of the Alliance’s promising results in the November 29 Victorian local government elections, in which its candidates scored up to 18.9%.

On December 13, 100 people gathered on the Town Council lawns in Alice Springs to mark the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The action was organised by the Intervention Rollback Action Group (IRAG) and endorsed by the full council of the Central Lands Council.

On 10 December, marking 60 years from the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, as the world celebrated Human Rights Day, the Sri Lankan state continued its denial of basic human rights to the Tamils of north-east Sri Lanka.

Socialist Alliance has condemned the axing of contract positions at BlueScope Steel at Port Kembla that will see hundreds of workers out of work by Christmas.

Over 5000 workers attended a protest rally outside the headquarters of the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC) in Melbourne on December 2.

In a major backward step, Queensland Rail (Q-Rail) will cut livestock freight services to many Queensland farmers, according to a report on Queensland ABC local radio’s Country Hour on November 5.

On November 24, around 600 pensioners atttended a mass meeting called by the Fair Go for Pensioners (FGP) campaign at Melbourne Town Hall.

Almost 2000 Victorian TAFE teachers voted on November 25 to continue their industrial campaign for a new enterprise agreement, which will include a further stop-work meeting in February 2009. Teachers from regional centres were joined at the meeting by metropolitan TAFE colleagues.

“World at a Crossroads: Fighting for Socialism in the 21st Century” is a four-day conference to be held in Sydney on April 10-13 (the Easter long weekend) next year.

Queensland Premier Anna Bligh has announced that construction of the controversial Traveston Crossing dam near Gympie will be delayed for several years after advice from the state's Coordinator General that unless more work is done to address the

The battle to save Victoria's old-growth forests and preserve Victoria's water catchments continued in Warburton on November 23, when 400 local residents and supporters from Melbourne rallied here.

Warburton is surrounded by Mountain Ash forest

Off the coast of the Kimberley region in north-western Australia is the Browse Basin, home to migratory hump-back whales and pristine coral reefs, within close proximity to traditional Aboriginal land and — below the seabed — one of the largest reserves of natural gas in the country.

The East-West Link road tunnel is still being promoted by the Victorian government as a centrepiece of its soon-to-be released transport plan, despite majority support for public transport alternatives.

A review of submissions to the

A fierce controversy has broken out in the NSW Public Service Association (PSA) over the union’s recent pay award. The dispute occurs as the union’s 43,000 members receive voting papers for seven executive members and 45 central councillors.

The Commonwealth Department of Public Prosecution’s (CDPP) formal withdrawal of charges against Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) official Noel Washington on November 28 is a major victory for all workers and unionists.

World

While Western powers and many Arab governments are complicit in Israel’s crimes against the people of Gaza, the revolutionary governments of Venezuela and Cuba have strongly opposed Israel’s war.

Thousands of Egyptians have taken to the streets to protest the continuing Israeli aggression against Gaza and the participation of the Egyptian regime in the isolation of its population.

Between 1pm on January 4 and 2.30pm on January 5, 77 people were killed by the Israeli assault on Gaza. Of the victims, a staggering 21 were children.

In a 1969 interview, then-Israeli PM Golda Meir, referring to the creation of the State of Israel in 1948, said: “It is not as though there was a Palestinian people … and we came and threw them out and took their country … They did not exist.”

People all over the world have finally taken US President George Bush’s call for a “war on terror” seriously, taking to the streets to demand the biggest terrorist organisation in the Middle East, the Israeli Defence Force, immediately cease its terror campaign against the people of Gaza.

When you read the statements from Israeli and US politicians, and try to match them with the pictures of devastation in Gaza, there seems to be only one explanation. They must have one of those conditions, called something like “Visual-Carnage-Responsibility-Back-To-Front-Upside-Down-Massacre-Disorder”.

The following appeal was issued on December 29 by the Palestinian Federation of Unions of University Professors and Employees.

“It’s absolutely impossible, unbelievable, it’s a massacre.”

The below article is a December 29 press release from the Palestinian Federation of Unions of University Professors and Employees (PFUUPE).

Gaza is under attack by one of the most deadly military machines on the planet — with even worse to come as Israel masses troops for a threatened ground invasion.

Appeal from the Higher Follow Up Committee for Arab Citizens of Israel.

For more statements by Israeli, Palestinian and international organisations, visit Links.

The below statement was released on December 12 by Climate Justice Now!, on the Poznan international climate conference. It is reprinted from http://www.tni.org. For more information on CJN contact Nicola Bullard, n.bullard@focusweb.org, or Juana Camacho, deuda@censat.org.

The United Nations climate conference in Poznan, Poland failed to achieve any breakthrough towards a global climate deal – a sign not merely of bad timing, but of a fundamentally flawed system that takes no account of climate justice.

The Australia-Venezuela Solidarity Network (AVSN) condemns the murder of Venezuelan trade unionist Simon Caldera, who was shot in Aragua state on December 4. Caldera was a leader of the pro-revolution Bolivarian Construction and Industry Union.

The Oppressed People’s Movement (Jaring Rakyat Tertindas, Jerit) is conducting a cycling campaign throughout Malaysia to highlight demands for workers’ rights, which will be presented to the prime minister of Malaysia.

CHICAGO — With a unanimous vote, workers at the Republic Windows & Doors plant in Chicago ended their six-day factory occupation late on December 10 after Bank of America and other lenders agreed to fund about $2 million in severance and vacation pay as well as health insurance.

We, the organizations of the anticapitalist Left that sign this text, want to condemn the murder, in cold blood, of 16 year old Alexis Grigoropoulos by a police special guard in the evening of December 6th.

The butchery unleashed on Mumbai by a team of 10 black-hooded terrorists came to an end on November 29 at around 8.30 am. This is the sixth time Mumbai has come under some kind of attack since 1993.

East Timor’s defacto government last week stepped up its assault on the judiciary by blocking the reappointment of a senior judge who ruled against key budget measures last month.

Members of the Australia Western Sahara Association (AWSA) are saddened and shocked by the outrageous killing of two young Saharawi students in Agadir, Morocco.

Speaking during the swearing in of the newly elected PSUV governor of Aragua, Rafael Isea, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez ordered a full investigation into the killing of three trade union leaders in the state and threatened to nationalise any companies which violate workers’ rights.

Below are two statements on the situation in Zimbabwe. The first is by the Zimbabwe Social Forum and the second by the Zimbabwe International Socialist Organisation, which is also part of the ZSF.

On November 22, Hands off Venezuela (HoV) held its fourth national conference at Birkbeck College at the University of London.

Beneficiaries, teachers, adults, disabled people, students and workers came out on Friday to defend the social missions and programs of the national government in the face of threats to close them down by the new governor-elect of the state of Miranda, Henrique Capriles Radonski.

The below article is a statement from the Australia-Venezuela Solidarity Network released on November 28.

Three trade unionists Richard Gallardo, Luis Hernandez and Carlos Requena, leaders of the pro-revolution National Union of Workers (UNT) and also members of the United Socialist Left were shot dead late Thursday night in Aragua state, Venezuela.

I want to give some preliminary and personal impressions, in the heat of the moment, where many comrades are very preoccupied by the significance of the [Chavista movement's] loss of the Mayor of Greater Caracas and of some important or key governorships in the country.

What kind of government in the 21st century can deny another people basic human rights -- that is, the right to food, water, shelter, security and dignity?

The current global economic crisis has all the earmarks of an epoch-defining event. Mainstream economists now openly employ phrases like “systemic meltdown” and “peering into the abyss”.

Dr Fernando Martirena from the Centre of Investigation in Structures and Materials (CIDEM) research institute at the University of Santa Clara, Cuba, recently visited Australia to speak to a number of meetings organised by the Australian Green Development Forum.

Having captured the imagination of progressives across the globe with scenes of indigenous uprisings confronting right-wing governments and multinationals, Bolivia has become a key focus point of discussion within the left regarding strategies for change.

The November 2008 Venezuela solidarity brigade organised by the Australia-Venezuela Solidarity Network (AVSN) spent its first days meeting community activists and hearing reports on the progress of the Bolivarian revolution.

The Socialist Party of Malaysia (PSM), formed only in 1996, shocked Malaysia’s political establishment by winning two seats in the March 8 general elections. Nasir Hashim was elected to the Selangor state legislative assembly and Dr Jeyakumar Devaraj was elected to the national parliament.

Few humanitarian crises have occasioned as much media and activist attention in the US as the conflict in the Darfur region of western Sudan.

In October, a three-member delegation of Australian unionists visited the Western Saharawi refugee camps in the Hamada desert, South West Algeria. Western Sahara has been illegally occupied by Morocco since 1975.

On November 17, the Service Employees Industrial Union (SEIU) announced that it would be holding an advisory ballot of members in California to determine the future of the United Healthcare Workers–West (UHW-W), which with 150,000 members is the SEIU’s third largest local.

After such a long period of time in a vacuum, uncertain of how to respond to change caused by neoliberal economic policies, little by little, democracy movement activists have been able to wrest back the political podium.

President-elect Barack Obama ran his campaign on the promise of bringing “change” to Washington.

The November 27 terrorist assault on Mumbai’s five-star hotels was well planned, but did not require a great deal of logistic intelligence: all the targets were soft.

Supporters and opponents of Venezuela’s Bolivarian revolution have come out with differing assessments post the November 23 regional elections, which Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez had defined as the most important electoral contest yet for the process of change.

The below article is abridged from a speech given by Mano Navaratnam from the Tamil Ealam Women’s Organisation (TEWO) at an October 30 Melbourne film screening of My Daughter the Terrorist, organised with the Socialist Alliance. The Tamil people, whose homeland is in the north and east of Sri Lanka, have been waging a long struggle for national self-determination against the Sri Lankan state.

Analysis

[The following statement was issued by the Socialist Alliance on January 6].

Isaac Shuisha, an Israeli citizen and student involved in the Palestine solidarity movement in Sydney, spoke to Green Left Weekly’s Simon Butler about the reasons behind Israel’s assault on Gaza and the campaign for a free Palestine. Shuisha is a member of the socialist youth organisation, Resistance.

The below article a statement released by the Socialist Alliance. To get this statement in Arabic, download placards for rallies, to see a range of pictures and videos of solidarity acti0ons, and for details of upcoming anti-war rallies and meetings, please visit http://www.socialist-alliance.org. For further comment: Tim Dobson 0413 928 894

The media release below was released by the Socialist Alliance; on December 15. For comment, phone David 0403 871 082, or email queensland@socialist-alliance.org

On December 13 hundreds of people rallied in all Australian capital cities to protest against the federal Labor government’s plan to censor the internet.

In the lead up to the November 2007 Federal elections, ALP leader Kevin Rudd assured voters that his party took climate change seriously and would follow a very different path from that of the anti-environmental Howard government.

Alice Springs, the heart and pulse of Australia. While that is true in terms of location, few Australians know very much about their heart.

Watershed Victoria is an environmental organisation dedicated to the campaign against the proposed desalination plant at Wonthaggi in Victoria, and for a sustainable water policy. Watershed’s Chris Heislers spoke to Green Left Weekly’s Katherine Bradstreet.

Green Left Weekly’s Zane Alcorn spoke to Sally Corbett, chairperson of the No Tillegra Dam group, which is seeking to have Hunter Water reverse their 2006 decision to build a dam comparable in size to Sydney Harbour near Dungog, about 90km out of Newcastle.

Widely held community and union concerns about the exploitation of 457 visa temporary migrant workers have been confirmed by a report released on November 14.

Having ridden to power largely on the back of Australian people’s concern and anger over attacks on their rights and conditions at work, Labor have – a mere twelve months later – at last unveiled their shiny new proposed industrial relations legislation. So, what are we to make of it?

While governments worldwide push neoliberal policies including “free” markets, “free” trade (and lately “free” trillion dollar pay-outs to prop up businesses), new legislation from the Australian federal government indicates it does not want such freedoms for the population when it comes to what they may view on the internet.

The recent conviction and sentencing of Aboriginal man Lex Wotton has brought back into public discussion the shameful continuing suffering — and death — of Australia’s Indigenous people at the hands of the law.

“If these people can spend millions and millions on sending troops to fight other countries, why can’t they spend maybe a couple of billions just to save people, like ourselves; the marginalised, poorest of the poor. Why? Because we are taking the brunt, we are the victims of these green[house] gas emissions, the pollution made by industrialised countries.”

The following article is based on a speech given at the November 20 Transgender Day of Remembrance in Canberra.

“The surge in the vote for socialist candidates in the weekend Victorian local government elections shows that increasing numbers of working people are looking for candidates whom they trust to defend their interests as economic crisis looms”, Socialist Alliance Victorian State Convener Sue Bolton said on December 2.

The following is abridged from George Newhouse’s speech at the November 26 opening of “ARTicles — The Human Rights Declaration”, Amnesty International Australia’s 2008 art exhibition, which celebrates the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

“Work Choices is tantalisingly close to being gone forever”, Labor’s workplace minister Julia Gillard said as she introduced the Fair Work Bill (FWB) on November 25.

Green Left Weekly’s Simon Cunich spoke to Peter Kennedy, a coalminer and anti-coal activist and Graham Brown, who worked with Kennedy until retiring from mining last year. Both men were at a November 22 protest outside Eraring coal-fired power station, on the NSW Central Coast. Brown’s comments were recorded in September.

For all the misery it represents for ordinary people, there is at least one positive result of the current capitalist financial crisis. The idea of nationalisation is getting an airing again in the West, however squeamish capitalist leaders and pundits may be about using the actual word.

Editorial

“An entire refugee family in one fell swoop was killed this morning as they took cover in their home, which took a direct hit from Israeli shells”, according to a diary direct from Palestine written by Laila El-Haddad and published on January 4 on Electronic Intifada.

There is no room for any doubt that Australia is suffering from an epidemic of domestic violence.

General

With the help of Socialist Alliance members in the growing Sudanese community in Australia, Green Left Weekly -- Australia's leading socialist newspaper -- is proud to publish a regular Arabic language supplement.

The final hard copy of the year has limited Australian news to make space for more longer, analytical articles to enjoy over summer. There are extended articles online which don't appear in the hard copy, and we will continue to publish articles on

It’s not often we hear the rich talk honestly about the poor in public. We can only guess what goes on behind closed doors, but out in the open CEOs are supposed to stick to their PR script — squeaky clean and politically correct. Well, thanks to billionaire Gerry Harvey we don’t have to guess anymore.

Resistance!

“Poor Human Nature, what horrible crimes have been committed in thy name! Every fool, from King to policeman, from the flathead parson to the visionless dabbler in science, presumes to speak authoritatively of human nature. The greater the mental charlatan the more definite his insistence on the wickedness and the weaknesses of human nature. Yet how can anyone speak of it today, with every soul in a prison with every heart fettered, wounded, and maimed?” — Emma Goldman

On February 3, the first sitting day of federal parliament in 2009, thousands of climate protesters will encircle Parliament House, peacefully demanding the government take real action on climate change to ensure a safe climate future.

Culture

Being Harold Pinter

Q Theatre, 597 High Street, Penrith, NSW

January 14-17, $42/$37

Bookings (02) 4723 7600; boxoffice@jspac.com.au or http://www.jspac.com.au

Permaculture Diary & Calendar

$28 & $20

Order from Michelle Margolis at michele.margolis@gmail.com.

IN 1969, that Ulster gutter preacher

Ian Paisley

himself

with his Yankee doctorate from Bob Jones U,

unsmiling,

with

his dirty money salted away,

with

his imperial law

and his gunmen in the shadows

called

Going to Extremes: Notes from a Divided Nation

By Barbara Ehrenreich

Granta, 2008

224 pages, $26.95

Blair Unbound

By Anthony Seldon (with Peter Snowdon & Daniel Collings)

Simon & Schuster, 2008

669 pages, Paperback $29.95

Thirsty Country: Options for Australia

By Asa Wahlquist

Jacana Books, 2008

216 pages, $27.95

Australian fans of quality, progressive music are in for a real treat this summer with the joint tour by left-wing songwriters Alistair Hulett from Scotland and David Rovics from the US.