Issue 789

Australia

New laws have been passed in the NSW parliament that allow police to conduct secret searches of people’s homes, including the examination of computers. The new laws build on anti-terrorism legislation, but the new powers are for crimes as minor as growing a few cannabis plants.

One hundred and fifty people protested in Canberra on March 21 against federal government plans to introduce a national internet filter. The protest was organised by the Digital Liberty Coalition.

The Western Community Action Network (WeCAN) held its first public forum at the Footscray Town Hall on March 19.

The reintroduction of a rail-based public transport system for Cairns and promotion of rail freight in far-north Queensland were the key themes of a 100-strong public meeting on March 18.

Hundreds of progressive activists and socialists from around the globe will descend on Sydney over Easter, for this year’s most important discussion on capitalism’s crises and the socialist solutions.

Dozens of actions were held outside the offices of MPs nationwide on March 27 to protest the Rudd government’s proposed Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (CPRS).

On March 23, 100 students attended a demonstration at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT)_organised by the Islamic Society, as part of a long-running campaign for a dedicated Muslim prayer facility on the city campus.

Below is speech delivered by Gaza Defense Committee activist Ophelia Haragli, at a March 2 protest in Sydney against former Israeli ambassador to the United Nations, Dan Gillerman, who was on a speaking tour of Australia. Gillerman told the Sydney Morning Herald on February 16 that “Israeli troops should get a medal” for their massacre of 1300 civilians in Gaza earlier this year. The protest was organised by the Gaza Defence Committee http://www.gazadefencecommittee.org

The Australian Greens’ March 21-22 national council meeting in Perth discussed the party’s climate change policy. The council called on the Rudd government to adopt stronger emissions reduction targets.

Attempts by the Australian Zionist lobby to discourage audiences from hearing visiting Israeli anti-occupation activist Jeff Halper, which included pulling an advertisement from the Australian Jewish News and cancelling a meeting at a Sydney synagogue, only served to gain media publicity for his speaking tour.

A protracted industrial dispute between construction giant John Holland and 39 sacked workers at the West Gate Bridge reconstruction project in Melbourne continued on March 27, with a vibrant demonstration by union members and their supporters at the bridge.

The workers temporarily called off their three-week community protest at the John Holland worksite after the company finally agreed to enter into negotiations early last week.

The workers, however, pledged to continue their demonstrations every morning at the bridge until a satisfactory settlement is reached with the company.

World

The article below is an abridged statement released by War Without Witness on a new report prepared by WWW on innocent Tamil civilians killed by the Sri Lankan Army’s military offensive between January 1 and March 23. To read the report, visit http://www.warwithoutwitness.com.

“For us in the FMLN [Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front], the victory in the presidential elections is a demonstration that our people are in a state of constant revolution, and understand the necessity for real change”, Rigoberto Diaz, assistant secretary of the FMLN international relations commission, told Green Left Weekly.

“Fat cats in terror after anti-capitalists attack Fred the Shred’s home”, was the headline on the right-wing British Daily Mail’s March 26 report that the luxurious Edinburgh mansion of former Royal Bank of Scotland CEO Sir Fred Goodwin had been vandalised by a group calling themselves “Bank Bosses Are Criminals”.

On March 21, President Hugo Chavez announced a series of economic measures designed to strengthen the Bolivarian revolutionary process in Venezuela, in the face of the challenges posed by the international financial crisis.

The Blue Diamond Society is the largest LGBTI (lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, transgender and intergender people) rights organisation in Nepal. The society’s coordinator, Subash Pokharel, spoke with Ben Peterson about the current situation for LGBTI people and how it relates to the process of transforming Nepal since the overthrow of the monarchy and declaration of a republic by an elected constituent assembly last year.

For a country among the world’s poorest, Nepal has some impressive architecture.

Canada’s Conservative government has extended its attacks on the right to free speech.

The United States authorities indicted five Cubans in Miami in 1998 for their role as agents of Cuban security, infiltrating right-wing Cuban terrorist groups. The Cuban Five requested that the trial judge move their trial out of Miami, arguing it was impossible to receive a fair trail in a city renowned for its fanatically anti-Castro Cuban exile community.

President Hugo Chavez announced on March 21 the takeover of all national and international seaports and airports, returning them to the direct control of the national government.

The article below is abridged from Socialist Voice, http://www.socialistvoice.ca>. It is by the editors of SV, Roger Annis and John Riddell. Annis is among the international guests attending the World at a Crossroads conference, Sydney, April 10-12. For more information, or to register, visit http://www.worldatacrossroads.org.

“As present deputy PM Najib Razak plans to takeover the prime ministership on April 2, there seems to be a pattern of growing repression”, warned Socialist Party of Malaysia (PSM) secretary general S. Arutchelvan.

On March 19, more than 3 million people joined in the second day of strikes and mass demonstrations called by France’s eight main union federations so far this year.

Like 2008, this year is witnessing waves of strikes and demonstrations by Egyptian workers in various sectors and organisations.

In one of her last acts as US secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice had Nelson Mandela’s name removed from the US terrorist watch list.

It took Kamahl Mashni six minutes to decide to join the Viva Palestina aid convoy headed to Gaza from Britain on Valentine’s Day.

Israel is a deeply militarised apartheid society.

The historic enactment of Bolivia’s new constitution that grants unprecedented rights to the country’s indigenous majority, approved by over 61% of the vote on January 25, represented the beginning of “communitarian socialism”, according to President Evo Morales.

French revolutionary socialist and leader of the New Anti-capitalist Party, Olivier Besancenot, was listed among the 50 people who will “frame the debate” on the future of capitalism in an article in the British Financial Times on March 10. Besancenot is part of a list dominated by capitalist politicians, central bankers, financial investors and mainstream economists.

Denmark’s supreme court found six activists guilty of financing terrorism on March 25. The activists had sold T-shirts bearing logos of two left-wing groups listed as terrorist organisations under EU law: the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP).

Brett Elder died after police used a taser on him in Bay City, Michigan on March 22. The 15 year old was tasered after police were called to break up a fight in a city apartment. After first taking Elder into custody, police later took him to a hospital where he was pronounced dead.

The article below is abridged from a March 17 statement by the National Security Archive, which is an independent non-governmental research institute and library located at the George Washington University. The NSA is calling for the release of military files and an investigation into the “intellectual authors” of the abduction and disappearance of activists by the US-backed military dictatorships in the 1980s.

The international crisis that erupted in the northern summer of 2008 demolished all the neoliberal dogmas and exposed the deception behind them. Unable to deny their failure, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) claim they no longer uphold the set of neoliberal policies known as the “Washington Consensus”.

Analysis

Two reviews present the Rudd government with opportunities to readjust the policy settings of post-secondary education and determine its future funding arrangements.

In its latest Report of the Committee of Experts on the Application of Conventions and Recommendations, released in 2009, the International Labour Organisation (ILO) has called on the federal government to suspend the operations of the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC) and comply with ILO recommendations.

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, in Washington last week to meet US President Barack Obama, made clear the ALP government’s support for the US’s wars overseas. The Australia-US war alliance is as strong as ever, he declared.

One hundred people gathered on March 17 at the Wollongong City Diggers Club to celebrate the life of NSW Public Service Association (PSA) activist Anne Meehan who passed away on March 12 after a long illness.

The federal ALP government, in league with employer organisations and conservative economists, wants workers — in particular the lowest paid and most vulnerable — to pay for the economic downturn.

Biochar production has been the object of considerable research and experimentation in Australia.

On March 20, former federal court judge Marcus Einfeld was sentenced to three years jail, with a non-parole period of two years, for trying to get out of a speeding fine.

The tiny Indian Ocean nation of the Maldives will become carbon-neutral within 10 years. This was the pledge made by Maldives President Mohamed Nasheed on March 15.

The low-lying country will be among the first in the world to be inundated by rising sea levels caused by human-induced climate change. The highest point in the chain of 1200 islands and coral atolls is just 1.8 metres above sea-level.

Letters

Taxi industry not driven by community needs

Protesting cab drivers have been told by Victorian premier John Brumby to "get over it". According to the Brumby government, Victoria needs more cabs, another 630 this year, to address the needs of

General

Christine, a stalwart of the anti-war movement in Australia, shakes her head at the gross double standards of the mainstream media in Australia when it reports the casualties in the war on Afghanistan. She shakes her fists in anger and then gets on with organising the next anti-war protest.

Resistance!

A new student group, backed by the National Union of Students (NUS), that promises to eradicate racism and hatred has been hailed by those that promote ideas based on both racism and hatred.

I attended Powershift 2009, which brought 10,000 young people together in Washington DC to demand serious action on climate change, and have a few observations to make about the North American youth climate movement.

Culture

Watchmen

Directed by Zack Snyder

Written by David Hayter and Alex Tse

With Jackie Earle Haley, Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Billy Crudup

ASIO: The Enemy Within

Written & published by Michael Tubbs, 2008

275 pages,$25

Available from the Search Foundation, lvl 3, suite 3B, 110 Kippax St, Surry Hills, NSW

Ph 9211 4164, fax 9211 1407

Easy Virtue

Directed by Stephan Eliot

Written by Stephan Eliot and Sheridan Jobbins

With Jessica Biel, Ben Barnes, Kristin Scott Thomas & Colin Firth

In cinemas

Tinariwen, who are touring Australia in April, first became known abroad at the initial Festival of the Desert in Mali in 2001, now an annual event. This was also the year it started travelling to Europe. Until then its music was for Tuaregs across the Sahara, an outlet during their resistance struggle, when forced by drought into exile in Libya or south-eastern Algeria in the 1970s.