Issue 830

Australia

Two Afghan and nine Tamil asylum seekers faced Christmas Island magistrates court on March 11. They pleaded not guilt to all charges related to a so-called riot in the Christmas Island detention centre last November.

“When it comes to climate change the Socialist Alliance assumes two things, one is that this is an emergency and the time in which to act is incredibly short”, said Mel Barnes, Socialist Alliance Candidate for Denison, on March 11.

The Cowie ward voters in Geelong have shifted their votes from Labor to conservative candidate Eddy Kontelj by a landslide in the by-election declared on March 8.

On March 11, 40 people attended a public forum about fighting the Western Australian government’s proposed “stop and search” laws.

Lake Cowal, located between the Murrumbidgee and Lachlan rivers that feed into the Murray Darling basin, is the sacred heartland of the Wiradjuri country.

Socialist queer rights campaigner Rachel Evans, who helped re-launch Community Action Against Homophobia (CAAH) in 2004 when the same-sex marriage ban was touted, has been preselected on the Socialist Alliance's New South Wales Senate ticket.

On February 25, the Senate rejected the Greens’ amendment to the marriage act that would have seen discrimination on the basis of gender and sexuality removed from the legislation.

Protests were held in London, Toronto, Auckland, Sydney, Melbourne and Perth on March 10 to mark the 150th day that about 250 Tamil asylum seekers have been stuck on a boat at Merak, Indonesia, waiting for resettlement in Australia.

Tasmanian premier and education minister David Bartlett’s flagship education reforms have become a thorn in his side in the run up to the March 20 state election, with Australian Education Union (AEU) members campaigning for a vote against Labor.

Two hundred Aboriginal people and supporters rallied outside state parliament on March 10 to protest the death in custody of another young Aboriginal man in a Queensland prison.

“We want to be one voice, we have to support all the people and back them up to come back to their own culture”, Murray George, a Pitjantjatjara elder from Fregon community in the far north of South Australia, told a March 2 meeting in the Adelaide Activist Centre.

Thousands of workers rallied on March 9 in protest against the state Labor government's plans to privatise public assets. The crowd of 5000 people rallied at the Roma Street Forum, before marching to state parliament.

On 22 February, Newcastle Greens councillor Michael Osborne received a notice of a “code of conduct” complaint, because he’d taken part in a protest.

In response to the Colombian President Alvaro Uribe's call to his ambassadors to ban the screening of Insurgency of the 21st Century, Australian activist groups have started promoting the documentary.

Indonesian and Australian activists are preparing to protest US wars in the Middle East and the stepped-up “war on terror” during US President Barack Obama’s visits.Indonesian and Australian activists are preparing to protest US wars in the Middle East and the stepped-up "war on terror" during US President Barack Obama's visits.

Leading anti-war campaigner Pip Hinman, who is currently helping organise protests that will meet the visit of US President Barack Obama, has been preselected as Socialist Alliance’s candidate for the federal seat of Grayndler in Sydney’s inner west.

World

On March 21, US President Barack Obama will depart on a short tour of the Asia-Pacific region. His main destinations will be Indonesia and Australia, but the trip will include a brief stopover in Guam.

More than 1500 women marched in Lahore from Nasir Bagh to the Punjab Assembly, under the banner of the Women Workers’ Help Line (WWHL) to celebrate International Women’s Day (IWD) on March 8.

An article posted at RAWA.org on March 10 by Marc W. Herold said that on February 27, the US/NATO forces occupying Afghanistan “killed three people, including two children, in Alasai district of Kapisa province”.

Bridget Chappell, an Australian solidarity worker in the Palestinian territory of the West Bank, was arrested by occupying Israeli forces on February 7 and threatened with deportation for simply engaging in peaceful protests alongside Palestinians.

“Since 2008, Cuba has begun footing the bill for the country’s transgender men and women to undergo gender reassignment surgery”, Baywindows.com said on March 10.

On March 7, Iraqi national elections were held. The results are not expected to be known for months. With “only” 43 people killed in related violence, the Western media hailed them as a step forward in developing a “democratic” Iraq. Eric Ruder looks at the background to US plans to create a stable client state in the oil-rich nation. The article below is abridged from US Socialist Worker.

Hundreds of anti-AIDS campaigners on March 1 urged Ugandan lawmakers to reject a proposed anti-gay law calling for tough penalties against homosexuality, including the death penalty, AFP said that day.

On May 28, 2008, an elected constituent assembly declared Nepal’s centuries-old semi-feudal monarchy finished. As Nepalese people celebrated in the streets, the Himalayan country was declared a republic.

Cuba's successful models of sustainable development — in areas of food, housing and health — are now being widely replicated throughout Latin America.

A Bolivian social program that prevents the deaths of two mothers a day from complications related to pregnancy and childbirth is making headway despite administrative difficulties.

Despite the fanfare about Asia’s “miracle” economies, the problem of “missing women and girls” is actually growing, the United Nations Development Program-sponsored 2010 Asia-Pacific Human Development Report said.

Indonesian socialist group, the People’s Democratic Party (PRD), made an historic decision to relaunch itself as an open party at its seventh congress on March 1-3.

A March 1 Wall Street Journal article compared the low earthquake death toll in Chile to Haiti, and cited conservative economist Milton Friedman as the saviour of the Chilean people.

The Left Liberation Front is contesting 19 seats in the April 8 parliamentary elections in Sri Lanka.

Latin America has suffered constant aggressions from Washington during the past 200 years.

Spanish judge Eloy Velasco accused the Venezuelan government of socialist President Hugo Chavez of supporting armed pro-self-determination Basque organisation ETA on March 8.

The Venezuelan government will increase health spending this year and expand its immunisation program, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said on March 3. New statistics also highlight the country’s decreasing poverty and inequality.

Analysis

Politicians from the Coalition and Labor Party are proposing nearly identical housing polices for remote Aboriginal communities — and both ignore the experiences of Aboriginal people themselves.

The Sandon Point community, on the New South Wales south coast, has been fighting for decades to protect the area from developers. Sandon Point is a declared Aboriginal site, significant for ecological and historical reasons and valued as public open space.

Redistributing wealth from big business to the community through welfare payments is not what one would expect from opposition leader Tony Abbott.

Witness Roy Bramwell told the re-opened inquest into Aboriginal man Mulrunji Doomadgee’s death on March 8 that police threatened to “come after him”, as they crushed his original damning witness statement and threw it in the bin.

Western Australia needs a broad and inclusive mass movement to stop the Barnett government’s push to privatise public services and smash public sector workers’ conditions.

James Hansen, director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies and an Adjunct Professor at Columbia University’s Earth Institute, admits he’d prefer to spend his time out of the public eye, building on the decades of scientific research that has won him a reputation as the world’s top climate scientist.

Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono visited Australia over March 9-11. Unsurprisingly, the issue of asylum seekers was the leading concern for the federal Labor government, the corporate media and refugee advocates alike.

A Tasmanian opinion poll released on February 24 by EMRS has stunned political commentators throughout Australia, with headlines noting the surge in support for the Greens.

When a respected scientific journal carries a peer-reviewed article branding the key technology behind “clean coal” as “profoundly non-feasible”, you’d think governments and coal corporations would react in some fashion.

One feature of the otherwise successful Perth rally against internet censorship on March 6 was an attempt by a far-right political group to hijack the event.

About 300 people participated in the rally and march. Speakers included internet studies lecturer Mike Kent, Greens Senator Scott Ludlam and an Iranian refugee, who talked about the draconian nature of Iran's internet censorship.

Other speakers included Socialist Alliance Senate candidate Ben Peterson and Mike Walmsley from the Liberal Democratic Party.

Editorial

“Earth Hour” will be held around the world on March 27. The event is organised by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and involves participants switching off their lights for the hour as a symbolic declaration of support for environmental action.

Letters

Freedom to hate … injustice

Regarding Steve Gumerundji Hodder's article, "Freedom to hate is not free speech" (GLW828). I believe we do have the freedom to hate injustice, tyranny, cruelty and racism, and to say so.

I think, too, that the

General

Well, now I really feel safe. The Australian defence department has finally started to buy up vital necessities to protect this country. Oil paintings, comfy handmade chesterfield lounges, memberships to exclusive golf clubs… You name it; our defence department now has it. I guess you can’t underestimate the usefulness of a well-rested backside and a perfect golf swing during hand-to-hand combat.

On March 8, the Green Left Weekly website received a Top 10 Award from
the web analytics company Hitwise.

Good point, Peter, why not?

"If [Tony Abbott] will add 1.7 per cent to the corporate tax rate to pay for maternity leave, why not another 1.7 per cent to improve Aboriginal health, and another 2.7 per cent for hospitals to trump Rudd's

Resistance!

More than 40 people marked International Women’s Day on March 8 with a celebration of women’s music at the Newcastle Resistance Centre.

Culture

Slow Death By Rubber Duck: How the Toxic Chemistry of Everyday Life Affects Our Health
By Rick Smith & Bruce Lourie
University of Queensland Press, 2009
323 pages, $34.95 (pb)

I’m not racist but…
Arc One Gallery
45 Flinders Lane, Melbourne
until May 1

The February 19 Tiger Woods press conference was an exercise in self-abasement that will achieve the opposite of its intended effect. I haven’t seen anything this painfully scripted since The Phantom Menace.

Eco-sufficiency and Global Justice: Women write political ecology

Edited by Ariel Salleh

Pluto Press/Spinifex Press, 2009