Issue 788

Australia

The Western Australian Liberal government and sections of the corporate media have responded to the March 12 acquittal of three people charged with assaulting police, by mounting a populist campaign for mandatory sentencing of people convicted of assaulting police.

Mitch, an inspiring Arrernte/Luritja author, poet and artist, and an important voice against the NT Intervention, together with Sam Watson, well-known Aboriginal activist, Brisbane community activist and Socialist Alliance national spokesperson on Indigenous rights, will feature on a panel titled “From Invasion to Intervention: Indigenous Australians speak out”.

A March 18 emergency community meeting called by the Aboriginal Deaths in Custody Watch Committee attracted more than 35 people.

On March 16, Tasmanian timber company Gunns' Ltd withdrew its legal case against the Wilderness Society (TWS), and now has to pay $350,000 in costs.

Escorted by more than 400 police and Road Traffic Authority personnel, truckloads of nuclear waste were secretly transported through the streets of Wollongong on March 16, despite massive community opposition.

Maintenance workers from Foster’s Carlton and United Brewery have had a partial victory in their dispute with Foster’s over jobs. The workers are covered by the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union (AMWU) and the Electrical Trades Union (ETU).

World

Officials of the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN) thanked members of the international observation team on March 16 for their work in limiting electoral fraud committed by the previous ruling right-wing Arena party in the presidential elections on March 15.

The sudden change is disconcerting.

In the aftermath of the killing of two British soldiers and one Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) officer by so-called dissident republicans, opposed to the peace process in the six counties in Ireland’s north still claimed by Britain, right-wing and reactionary forces have sought to use the killings to whip up anti-republican hysteria and attack civil liberties.

On the March 16, an Australian soldier, Corporal Matthew Hopkins, died after a fierce battle with Afghan anti-occupation fighters in the Baluchi Valley.

Performing in Sydney in 2007, comic Sean Hughes expressed his empathy with Britain’s Muslim community — being Irish and living in London, he knew how it felt to be persecuted in the name of “anti-terrorism”.

On March 21, 200 people gathered at Sydney Town Hall for the sixth anniversary of the invasion of Iraq, demanding an end to the current US-led wars and occupations. The protests was organised by the Sydney Stop the War Coalition.

A March 20 Sydney Morning Herald article reported that the International Monetary Fund (IMF) is now predicting that world economic growth for 2009 will be negative for the first time in more than 60 years — shrinking by as much as 1%.

“This government is here to protect the people, not the bourgeoisie or the rich”, proclaimed Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez on February 28, as he ordered soldiers to take over two rice-processing plants owned by Venezuelan food and drink giant Empresas Polar.

On March 19, record numbers of people took to the streets as part of a general strike against President Nicolas Sarkozy’s anti-worker economic policies, a British Guardian article said the following day.

On March 15, the candidate of the left-wing Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN), Mauricio Funes, won El Salvador’s presidential elections — despite significant fraud carried out by the right-wing Arena party.

El Salvador’s new president-elect, Mauricio Funes from the left-wing Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN), has pledged to restore diplomatic relations with Cuba.

After an hour-and-a-half of walking under the intense Sudanese sun, armed with crude maps printed from the internet, we paused before a field of rubble in an industrial area of North Khartoum.

Israel’s tactic of targeting of Palestine solidarity activists has claimed another victim.

Over March 13-20, solidarity committees of Iranians abroad organised a week of solidarity with workers’ rights activists persecuted by the Iranian government. The week of activity occurred in a number of countries, including Australia, France, Norway, Germany, Sweden and Canada. Below is an abridged statement explaining the reasons for the week.

Following a series of anti-government protests that were brutally repressed — with more than 100 people killed since January 26 — the military forced the corrupt and brutal Madagascan President Marc Ravalomanana to step down.

A 38-day general strike in the Caribbean colony of Martinique ended on March 14 with the signing of a protocol between the government and the February 5 Collective, a coalition of unions and other social movements named after the day the strike began.

The “long march” of lawyers and pro-democracy activists, who faced-down state repression including hundreds of arrests, won its key demand on March 16 when the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) backed down in the face of huge resistance and, following five days of mass protests, restored the chief justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudry and other sacked judges to their positions.

The article below is combined from reports published at http://www.tamilnet.com.

“From now begins a new chapter in the history of El Salvador. The victory of the FMLN [Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front] presidential team is based on the whole Salvadoran people”, Salvador Sanchez Ceren, newly elected vice-president for the FMLN, told a cheering crowd of thousands of red T-shirt-wearing party supporters at a huge rally on the night of the March 15 presidential elections.

Analysis

Australian agriculture both contributes to climate change and is adversely affected by it. Any campaign in to force urgent government action on climate change has to include a demand for the radical transformation of rural land use and farming systems to be ecologically sustainable.

A boat-load of asylum seekers believed to be from Afghanistan has been “intercepted” by the Australian navy and sent to the Christmas Island detention centre.

Climate activists have been campaigning against the government’s so-called Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (CPRS) long before the exposure legislation was tabled in parliament on March 10.

Soubhi Iskander is a leading member of the Sudanese Australia Human Rights Association, a committee based in Sydney’s west, that campaigns for the rights of Sudanese refugees. SAHRA is also an affiliate of the Socialist Alliance.

The federal ALP government’s Fair Work Bill passed through the Senate on March 20 after intense wheeling and dealing with Family First Senator Steve Fielding and independent Senator Nick Xenophon.

On March 11, a 185-metre container ship, the Pacific Adventurer was en route from Newcastle to Indonesia via Brisbane when it lost 31 containers in heavy seas about seven nautical miles east of Cape Moreton.

On March 16, federal immigration minister Chris Evans announced that the Rudd government would cut the skilled migration intake for the current financial year by 18,500. This, claimed Evans in a ministerial statement, would “protect local jobs”.

In 2002, the CityPass consortium was awarded the contract to build and run the Jerusalem light rail. Amnesty International, the Arab League, and unions, church and community groups worldwide have condemned this project as another step in Israel's annexation of Palestinian land.

The ingredients of big-business operations in NSW were all there: a multinational tourism operator; environmental groups with varying interests; a donation to the NSW Labor Party; the apparent channelling of another donation; a local council decision overturned by the Land and Environment Court; and development approved by the then-Labor Party planning minister, Frank Sartor.

In the late evening of March 15, the NSW correctional services department used management personnel to transfer 107 prisoners from the Cessnock jail in preparation for its privatisation.

General

There’s an odd mood in the streets as the global recession begins to bite in Australia. Many people seem to have their heads down, worrying about their own problems.

Resistance!

More than 500 people protested coal mining and exports currently underway. Newcastle Harbour is already the world’s biggest coal port.

The detail of PM Kevin Rudd’s election promise of an “education revolution” in higher education is finally coming to light: privatisation, deregulation and increased competition between institutions.

Culture

Revolucion: Five Visions — A breathtaking visual exploration of Cuba reveals five decades of revolution though the lenses of five Cuban photographers. SBS, Saturday, March 28, 3.25pm.

The Atheists — As best-selling books rail against religion,

As Counterpunch and Rock and Rap Confidential disclosed in September, last May U2’s Bono confronted Irish journalist Gavin Martin and myself in the lobby of Dublin’s Merion Hotel.

With the world food crisis shading into the world financial crisis, food prices seemed to settle down. Some financial analysts said the food crisis was over: all the basic food prices had come down — except rice and sugar.