Issue 825

Australia

Morning commuters at Laverton and Seaholme stations may have thought they had gone back in time on February 3. Usually the only staff are roving squads of ticket inspectors. Instead, commuters found a uniformed tram conductor riding the trains with them — giving out information on how the public transport system can be improved and made free.

The New Way Summit on Aboriginal rights was held at the Australian National University, Canberra from January 30 to February 1. It was attended by 150 people, plus around 600 who hooked in via phone and internet links.

The crew on board the Tien Hau in the South Australian regional port of Wallaroo have had to resort to fishing for their meals. The International Transport Workers Federation (ITF) is calling for the $47,000 backpay owed to them in to be paid in full.

The federal opposition and the Australian Greens have both slammed Prime Minister Kevin Rudd for delaying his promised report card on Indigenous affairs for a second year in a row, saying it is a telling indicator of the government's commitment to Indigenous people.

Forty-five people attended a public forum called "Indigenous Survival and Resistance: Solutions — Rudd vs Chavez and Morales” in Sydney’s Resistance Activist Centre on January 30. The forum was co-sponsored by Socialist Alliance and the Sydney Latin American Social Forum.

In early December, there was a call from Mexico for artistic activities to occur in March 2010 around the world.

On January 29, the federal court granted the Australian Crime Commission (ACC) access to confidential medical files held by the largest medical clinic servicing remote Aboriginal communities in the Northern Territory — breaking doctor-patient confidentiality.

A number of refugees in the Christmas Island detention centre remain in a state of lock-down, following an argument over a pool table on November 21.

Bronwyn Jennings, Geelong teacher and community campaigner, is the Socialist Alliance candidate in the Cowie ward by-election for the Geelong City Council, which is currently underway by postal vote.

I had the good fortune to attend a lesbian wedding in Sydney’s Waterfall National Park on January 10. Activist Georgina Abrahams married Journey, her partner of five years, in a ceremony conducted by a monk, Dada Prana, and a nun, Didi, of the Ananda Marga.

World

An historic gathering took place in Faisalabad, the third largest city in Pakistan, on January 29.

A February 4 Daily Dispatch Online article said soil fertility expert Xolobeni said the proposed heavy minerals mining project at Xolobeni is located in South Africa’s Eastern Cape Province in one of the “most environmentally sensitive habitats” ever investigated for mining in the country.

“Gay-rights campaigners and secularists called on Tuesday for protests during a visit to Britain by Pope Benedict XVI this year after he condemned equality legislation seen as friendly to gays”, AFP said on February 1.

As a result of a joint decision taken by six union confederations in Turkey, millions of workers stopped work February 4 in support of workers from the closed-down Tekel leaf tobacco factory, a MRZine report that day said.

On January 27, 1500 people marched in Timika demanding a referendum on the future status of West Papua, a former Dutch colony that has been occupied by Indonesia since 1962.

Venezuela’s Bolivarian revolution, led by President Hugo Chavez, has set “socialism of hte 21st century” as its goal. The process of change faces big challenges from outside and within. William I. Robinson, from the Latin American and Iberian Studies Program at the University of California, Santa Barbara, spoke to Chronis Polychroniou, the editor of Greek daily Eleftherotypia. The interview is abridged from Znet.

The Indonesian foreign affairs department was expecting a visit from an Australian “people smuggling envoy” when three refugee rights activists were apprehended and detained at Port Merak.

Simon Butler represented the Socialist Alliance at the Labour Party Pakistan’s January 27-28 conference. He also addressed the 10,000 strong rally of workers and peasants on January 29 on behalf of the Alliance. The article below is abridged from the Pakistani News on Sunday.

In the aftermath of Haiti’s January 12 earthquake, the dispatch of US and United Nations troops was given priority — even at the expense of rescue teams and medical aid.

On February 12, the corporate sporting behemoth known as the 21st Winter Olympic Games will open to great fanfare here. In a time of economic hardship and government cuts to social programs across Canada, huge sums of public money have been spent to stage this uber spectacle.

The letter published below was sent by Cuban first deputy environment minister Fernando Gonzalez to Yvo de Boer, who is the executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, The December UN climate summit in Copenhagen ended in a farce with an “agreement” drawn up behind close doors by a select group of rich nations, which tried to force it on the rest of the world.

Pacific Rim are a Canadian multinational firm seeking to exploit the “El Dorado” gold deposits in El Salvador's rural north.

Hundreds of thousands of Hondurans took to the streets on January 27 to protest the inauguration of Porfirio “Pepe” Lobo, who was the victor in fraudulent elections held last November. Jeffery R. Webber spoke during the march with Rafael Alegria, a key leader in the National Resistance Front Against the Coup (FNRG) and a Honduran leader of the international peasant movement, Via Campesina. This is reprinted from MRZine.

Perhaps one of the most breathtakingly hypocritical moments of the past year was when US President Barack Obama was awarded the Nobel peace prize.

On June 28 last year, US-trained military officers overthrew elected President Manuel Zelaya. This sparked sustained mass resistance from the poor majority, angry that the rich had overthrown a president who had carried out pro-poor reforms and sought to begin a democratic process to change the pro-elite constitution.

Unite is the fastest growing private sector union in New Zealand. Since being formed in 2004, it has grown to 8000 members.

Analysis

When, after destroying Malcolm Turnbull, the Liberal Party took a surprise turn and embraced Tony Abbott as leader, there were those on the left who greeted the news with combined incredulity and glee.

There can be no National Assessment Program Literacy and Numeracy tests in 2010. The Australian Education Union’s national conference in January reaffirmed that, if NAPLAN data was used by the media to publish league tables, teachers would not co-operate in implementing the tests this year.

It seems bizarre that when the science of human-caused climate change is more worryingly conclusive than ever, climate denial could enjoy a resurgence. After all, no climate denier has published a peer-reviewed article in a scientific journal in the past 15 years.

Richard Downs is a spokesperson for the Alyawarr people from the Ampilatwatja community in the Northern Territory. Last year, he travelled the country on a speaking tour to publicise the situation for Aboriginal people in the NT since the 2007 NT Emergency Response legislation (known as the NT intervention) was brought in by the previous Coalition government. Under the intervention laws, the military was sent into Aboriginal communities.

Increased interest rates, declining working hours and stagnating wages are still chipping away at working people’s living standards, despite small falls in the official unemployment rate in November and December.

On February 2, opposition leader Tony Abbott released the Liberal-National Coalition’s climate policy. For the Coalition, just as for the Rudd government, there’s one thing that’s irrelevant to climate policy — climate science. In Abbott’s 30-page document, the global warming crisis doesn’t rate one mention.

Letters

Optimistic about Cuba

Cuba is supposed to be a dangerous communist country. I spent January in this Caribbean island about the size of Victoria and suffering a trade embargo. My mobile phone stopped working at the US border. What about climate

General

James and Erica Packer have just had a baby. Luckily this time it's a boy.

Resistance!

The South Australian government recently passed laws requiring anyone wanting to make a comment about the upcoming state election on the internet to publish their real name and postcode. This strikes a bold blow against the right to anonymity.

Fast food workers have lost a promised rise in Sunday penalty rates, and nightly overtime for retail staff will be cut, after a ruling by Fair Work Australia.

Culture

In February 1965, John Coltrane released A Love Supreme, still regarded as a jazz landmark. It broke all contemporary sales records and opened a door to a new musical era still echoing today

We come here today to say we're sorry
For the injustice done
We reach out our hands to hold you
We grieve as one
But we won't leave it there cos it wouldn't be fair
We've just begun

Eddie Mabo was a man from an island
And his skin was

Lenin Rediscovered: What Is To Be Done? In ContextBy Lars T. Lih, Haymarket Books, Chicago 2008840 pp., $89:95 pb.

In & Out of the Working Class
Michael D. Yates
Arbeiter Ring Publishing, 2009
217 pp, $19.95.