Issue 837

News

Members of the Iranian community and their supporters protested outside the NSW state parliament on May 13 after the executions of five union activists in Evin prison in Tehran on May 9. Shirin Alam-Houli, Ali Heydarian, Mahdi Islamian, Farzad Kamangar and Farhad Vakili were hanged after being convicted of Moharebeh — “waging war on God”. Four of the activists were members of Kurdish opposition groups.
A great dinner and cultural event was held on May 8 in Lidcombe in Sydney’s west, bringing together progressive migrant groups, Socialist Alliance and Greens members and Green Left Weekly supporters. A lively crowd of 120 people attended. Eight migrant groups were present. Food was donated by Cafe Rare Treats and the Australian Palestinian Cultural Centre. Sudanese Communist Party member and Socialist Alliance Senate candidate, Soubhi Iskander, spoke about how refugees were being harmed and not helped by the ALP.
Melbourne-based climate activist Ben Courtice toured Newcastle, Sydney and Wollongong from May 10 to 12 to report back from the World People’s Summit on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth, which took place in Bolivia in April. The conference was held in Cochabamba and attracted about 35,000 activists. Bolivia’s radical indigenous President Evo Morales convened the summit. Organisers said people from more than 140 countries attended. In Sydney, 45 people attended a reportback meeting on May 11, sponsored by Green Left Weekly.
One hundred people rallied in Brisbane Square on May 14 to commemorate Al Nakba —— “the catastrophe”. Al Nakba took place on May 15, 1948, when Israeli forces drove hundreds of thousands of Palestinian civilians out of their lands, and consolidated the Jewish state.
NSW Premier Kristina Keneally announced that the Labor government would block a proposed open-cut coalmine near Scone in the Upper Hunter Valley on May 14. The decision puts an end to the Bickham coal project, which would have mined coal for the next 25 years, threatening to contaminate the Pages River and other water sources for local farmland. The decision also permanently bans any open-cut coal mines at the Bickham site. Keneally said: “This mine is simply not compatible with the unique rural characteristics of this locality, including the horse-breeding industry.
A near-disaster involving toxic waste in the southern Perth suburb of Hamilton Hill has revealed that working class neighbourhoods are exposed to potential carcinogens local resident and Socialist Alliance candidate Sanna Andrew said. The Fremantle Steam Laundry in Hamilton Hill burst into flames in the early hours of May 13. Fire fighters ordered some nearby residents to evacuate because the factory had a stockpile of the dry cleaning chemical perchloroethylene (PCE).
More than 60 people attended Brisbane's premiere screening of a new documentary by Sydney's Actively Radical TV about the construction of the Alyawarr people's Protest House at their walk-off camp near Ampilatwatja in the Northern Territory. The film has interviews with unionists from across the country who worked with the community to build the house. It also features community members and leaders.
On May 10, skilled trades members of the Electrical Trade Union (ETU) and the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union from Geelong and Broadmeadows Ford plants held a 24-hour stoppage. They were demanding better pay and conditions under their enterprise bargaining agreement (EBA) and took their protest to the street. Ford wants to freeze the wages of all fixed-term employees at the current (2008) level one entry rate ($986.65 a week). The company did not verify the length of its proposed wage freeze.
May 17 is International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia. On May 15, thousands around Australia marked it by marching in support of equal marriage rights. In Melbourne, 3000 people from diverse organisations rallied at the state library. Among the speakers were the director, cast and crew members of the current production of Waiting for Godot, including well known actor Ian McKellen.
The coroner in the third inquest into the death in custody of Mulrunji Doomadgee on Palm Island in 2004, Queensland deputy chief magistrate Brian Hine, has handed down an “open finding”. This means no criminal charges will be laid against senior sergeant Chris Hurley. Delivering his report on May 14, Hine cited the unreliability of witnesses, who changed their stories many times throughout the various investigations and inquiries, as the reason for his inability to make a definitive finding. But he also said there was evidence of collusion by police officers to protect Hurley.
The campaign against league tables continued on May 11 with a protest organised by the Inner City Teachers Association (ICTA) of the NSW Teachers Federation. Fifty people rallied outside the office of NSW education minister Verity Firth. After the Australian Education Union federal executive’s last-minute decision to lift the ban on the National Assessment Program — Literacy and Numeracy tests, the action showed the campaign against league tables, and the damage they do to school communities, will continue.

Analysis

Brian Walters, former Liberty Victoria president, former Free Speech Victoria vice-president and Greens candidate for the state seat of Melbourne, has long been a advocate of free speech. He is the author of Slapping on the Writs: Defamation, Developers and Community Activism. On May 8, he addressed a rally in Brunswick, Melbourne, which called on the local Barkly Square shopping centre to end its ban on community stalls.
Say what you will about coal, but at least it stays where it’s put. On its way to the user, coal doesn’t gush from the rail trucks, spreading itself through the atmosphere and warming it at about 70 times the rate of carbon dioxide. Natural gas is different. A new draft study provides evidence that, in the US, enough natural gas leaks into the air to give gas-fired electricity, megawatt-hour for megawatt-hour, a bigger greenhouse impact than electricity from good-quality steaming coal.
It’s another election year and we’re witnessing another round of racist fear-mongering. Along with refugees, Muslims are in the crosshairs once again and the Liberal/National Coalition opposition is trying to grab votes by playing on people's worst instincts. On May 6, Liberal Senator and parliamentary secretary Cory Bernardi called for a ban on the wearing of the burqa, after a case of armed robbery was committed by someone allegedly using the burqa as a disguise.
Labor Treasurer Wayne Swan’s third budget, delivered on May 11, continued the neoliberal austerity agenda of the previous Howard government. Delivered in the shadow of the Henry tax review, released by the government on May 2, Labor’s budget continues to grind away at social and environmental spending in the name of fiscal conservatism.
The federal government’s $672 million Strategic Indigenous Housing and Infrastructure Project (SIHIP), has failed to improve Aboriginal housing in the Northern Territory. Only a handful of houses have been built and adequate repairs to existing current housing stock have not been made. Announced in 2008, SIHIP promised 750 houses for chronically overcrowded Aboriginal communities. The project is running over budget but still failing to meet the needs of remote communities.
Five Australia-bound Tamil asylum seekers vanished in shark-infested waters near the Cocos Islands over May 5-9. They were seeking help for the 59 other men, women and children aboard a wooden fishing boat that had travelled from Sri Lanka and spent more than 20 days at sea. Australian border patrol had let the boat flounder without food, fuel or water for at least eight days before the refugees were finally rescued on May 9. But the Labor federal government has refused to call an inquiry, referring the tragedy to federal police and immigration.
An angry Prime Minister Kevin Rudd told the May 12 7:30 Report that he was “passionate about acting on climate change”. Yes, we know. But if only he’d stop acting and start doing. The demise of the Rudd Labor government’s proposed Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (CPRS) is not the problem. It’s a good thing. The problem is that the government still has no serious climate change policy.
Truth is stranger than fiction! What else can describe the extraordinary revelation by Fremantle Greens MP Adele Carles on April 25 of her four-month affair with Liberal Party MP and now ex-treasurer Troy Buswell, and her subsequent resignation from the Greens on May 6? For some commentators in the corporate media, the pity of the whole thing is that Buswell’s “considerable talents” will go to waste and his potential to succeed Colin Barnett as premier has been undone by his bad judgment.

World

May 17 If the military-backed government of Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajia dissolved parliament, announced fresh elections and ordered a cease fire, the violence would end immediately and the Red Shirts would all go home. Since the start of the latest bloody crackdown on May 13, the death toll in Bangkok, as of May 17, is 35, all civilians, except one air force personnel, all killed by the army. If you include the deaths from the April crack down, Abhisit is now responsible for 65 deaths with 1669 injured in order that his military-backed government can stay in power.
Did you hear the one about the election everyone lost? On May 6, Labour, the party in power, lost 100 seats and with it the chance to continue in government after 13 years. The Conservatives lost the victory all the polls had been promising them for the past 18 months. The Liberals suffered perhaps the most devastating humiliation after Cleggmania turned out to be a complete and utter mirage. The man who apparently wowed us so much in the TV leadership debates actually lost a number of seats rather than gaining any.
The following statement was released on May 15 by the Socialist Party of Malaysia. Click here to read a statement issued by a number of Asian left groups on in solidarity with the Thai democracy movement. * * * The Socialist Party of Malaysia (PSM) condemns Ahbisit's government and the military of Thailand for the latest round of violent assault on pro-democracy Red-Shirt protesters in Bangkok.
As Tiger Woods returns to golf, not all his affairs are salacious headlines. In Dubai, the Tiger Woods Golf Course is costing $100 million to build. Dubai relies on cheap Third World labour, as do certain consumer brands that have helped make Woods a billionaire. Nike workers in Thailand wrote to Woods, expressing their “utmost respect for your skill and perseverance as an athlete” but pointing out that they would need to work 72,000 years “to receive what you will earn from [your Nike] contract”.
The Liberal Democrats have committed to support about $10 billion in public spending cuts as part of their coalition deal with the Conservative Party, Counterfire.org said in a May 12 article. An abridged version is below. * * * Liberal Democrat (LD) leader Nick Clegg is deputy prime minister (not bad for a leader who lost seats in the election) and another four members of his party will be in cabinet as part of the power-sharing deal signed with the Conservative Party (Tories).
This statement was release by organisations in the Asia-Pacific region on May 13. If your organisation would like to sign on, please email international@socialist-alliance.org. * * * We, left and progressive organisations from the Asia-Pacific region, express our solidarity with the resistance of the Greek people against the harsh austerity being imposed upon them by the governments of the European Union (EU) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
For the first time ever, a member of the British Green Party, Caroline Lucas, was elected to parliament in the May 6 general elections. Printed below is a May 7 statement from GreenParty.org.uk * * * Greens all over Britain were celebrating this morning as the news was announced that party leader Caroline Lucas had won the Brighton Pavilion seat.
The hip-hop community in Arizona came together in a “Not In My Backyard” approach to protest the state’s new immigration law by remaking Public Enemy’s song, “By the Time I Get to Arizona.” A music video is soon to follow. Hip-hop artists Queen YoNasDa, DJ John Blaze, Tajji Sharp, Yung Face, Mr Miranda, Ocean, Da'aron Anthony, AtlLas, Chino D, Nyhtee, Pennywise, Rich Rico, and Da Beast express multicultural perspectives on a law they collectively consider to be racial profiling.
Since October, dozens of social leaders have been shot and eight killed in the struggle between Spanish-based oil and gas multinational Union Fenosa and communities in the west of the country. On October 24, Victor Galvez was shot 32 times as he left his office, where he was meeting with neighbours whose electricity supply had been cut off by one of Union Fenosa’s subsidiaries. Opposition to Union Fenosa began with the privatisation of electricity supply in 1999, with the multinational as the main beneficiary.
The following is an abridged speech by Bolivian President Evo Morales to a meeting of the G77 and China, which brings together 130 developing countries, at the United Nations on May 7. The World People’s Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth was held in Cochabamba, Bolivia over April 19-22. For more information on the conference, and for the full resolutions adopted, visit PWCCC.org. * * *
An ex-oil worker has told the May 12 Huffington Post that oil giant BP often faked reliability tests for equipment meant to stop spills such as the Deepwater Horizon spill, which began on April 20. Mike Mason, an oil worker in Alaska for 18 years, said he personally witnessed more than 100 occasions when BP employees manipulated tests on safety valves designed to cut off oil flow in case of emergencies. He said the tests would determine whether the valves could withstand certain amounts of pressure for five minutes at a time.
Photographer David Hoffman had his London home visited by British police on the day of the May 6 general elections. They forcibly removed a poster from his window featuring a photo of Conservative Party leader (and now prime minister) David Cameron and the word “wanker”, the British Guardian said on May 11. Hoffman said police threatened him with arrest and handcuffed him during the visit, claiming the poster was “offensive campaign material”. Hoffman said police “went completely over the top”, the Guardian reported.
“The time of big energy was supposed to have faded with the election of Barack Obama to the presidency”, Billy Wharton wrote in a May 12 www.counterpunch.org article. “Then, a humble Coloradan, with a cowboy hat that seemed permanently affixed to his head, named Ken Salazar ambled to the microphone to accept Obama’s nomination to be the new Secretary of the Department of the Interior (DOI).”
The conventional wisdom is that the world has largely survived the great financial crisis. Journalists and economists talk about recovery, while politicians claim to have averted catastrophe. However, the bailouts of banks and financial stimulus packages that governments used to “solve” the crisis merely turned banks’ debt into public debt. The problem has simply been shifted to the public sphere and potential catastrophe merely delayed.
There are many myths about Cuba that the mainstream media happily reinforces, especially about Cuba’s democratic processes. Contrary to media assertions, in Cuba there are general elections, the last ones taking place in 2007-08. In these elections, deputies to the parliament (National Assembly of People’s Power) and delegates to the provincial assemblies are elected for a five-year mandate.
Since March 14, Bangkok has been paralysed by mass pro-democracy protests. The protesters known as “Red Shirts”, have demanded the resignation of unelected Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and new elections. Abhisit came to power in December through the overthrow of a democratically elected government by right-wing “Yellow Shirt” gangs, assisted by the military and elements of the royal family.
Cuba provides the best conditions for motherhood among developing countries, Save the Children's State of the World's Mothers 2010 report has found. The Times of India reported on May 5 that the report “examines 160 countries — 43 developed and 117 developing ones — and analyses the best and worst places to be a mother based on 10 factors such as the educational status, health, economic circumstances of the mothers, as well as the basic well-being of children”.
Germany’s ruling centre-right coalition suffered a double defeat on May 9, when it lost its ruling majority in an important state election in North-Rhine Westphalia. Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Party (CDU) scored its lowest ever vote in the state, dropping 14 points to only 34.6%, on a par with the centre-left Social Democratic Party (SPD), which slipped to 34.5%. Support for the arch-neoliberal Free Democrats (FDP) — the CDU’s coalition partner on a state and federal level — stagnated at 6.8%. The Greens emerged as the big winners, doubling its vote to 12.1%.
In further moves to strengthen the state’s role in the economy, Venezuelan President Chavez announced on May 11 the creation of a publicly owned import-export company as part of a broader plan to combat “the hegemony of the bourgeoisie”, speculation and inflation. Despite price controls and a fixed exchange rate, inflation reached 25.1% in 2009 — the highest in Latin America. Central bank figures reported inflation climbed 5.2% in April (double that of March), bringing accumulated inflation for 2010 up to 11.3%.
Bangkok is bathed in blood, yet again. Unconfirmed reports indicate that Thai Prime Minister Abhisit's soldiers have shot dead at least 50 people do far. Hundreds are injured. The regime says there are 500 “terrorists" in the protest site. Earlier they said that they would use snipers to shoot “terrorists”. The only terrorists are in the Government, the army and the Palace.
“There are two ways forward: Either save capitalism, or save Mother Earth”, Bolivian President Evo Morales said, stressing that this was the choice facing governments at a May 7 press conference in New York. There, he discussed the outcomes of the 35,000-strong World People’s Summit on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth with United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.
Laws punishing women for wearing the burqa and the niqab in public were passed by the Belgian lower house of parliament on April 29. A similar law has been discussed by French President Nicholas Sarkozy, and the French National Assembly passed a non-binding resolution in favour of a ban on May 11. These laws have been pushed by right-wing governments on the basis of security needs and protecting national identity, but the laws have also been justified as promoting equality for women. On this basis, the laws have received support from sections of the left and the feminist movement.
Perhaps no other sector better exemplifies the challenge the Bolivian government faces in lifting the country out of the poverty and dependency afflicting South America’s poorest nation than its all-important mining industry. Mining minister and former miners’ union leader Jose Pimentel told Green Left Weekly: “Bolivia has been a mining country for more than 500 years, ever since the Spanish came and discovered the legendary wealth [of the silver mines] of Potosi.”
Under the new constitution approved in January 2009, the state now controls all minerals, metals, precious and semi-precious stones in the country. While respecting previously granted concessions to private companies, it has restricted new concessions to joint ventures with the state In 2007, the Bolivian government returned 100% control of the Huanuni tin mine to the state-owned Comibol. On May 3, the government nationalised the Glencore-owned antimony smelter, which has been out of operation for more than two years.
Federal immigration authorities have pressured one of San Francisco’s major building service companies, ABM, into firing hundreds of its own workers. Some 475 janitors have been told that unless they can show legal immigration status, they will lose their jobs in the near future. ABM has been a union company for decades, and many of the workers have been there for years. Olga Miranda, president of Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 87, said: “They’ve been working in the buildings downtown for 15, 20, some as many as 27 years.
Jed Brandt, a member of US Kasama Project, is in Katmandu reporting on the ongoing struggle between Nepal’s poor majority, led by the Unified Communist Party of Nepal-Maoists (UCPN-M), and the US and Indian-backed elite that removed the UCPN-M-led government last year.
The tremendous success of the April 19-22 World Peoples Summit on Climate Change and Mother Earth Rights held in Cochabamba, Bolivia, has confirmed the well-deserved role of its initiator — Bolivian President Evo Morales — as one of the world’s leading environmental advocates. Since being elected the country’s first indigenous president in 2005, Morales has continuously denounced the threat posed by the climate crisis and environmental destruction. Morales has pointed the figure at the real cause of the problem: the consumerist and profit-driven capitalist system.

Culture

The party of the troglodytes had lost its man of steel, and craved another overlord to bring them all to heel. The smirking trog turned down the job. Folks knew he was a wanker. The doctor couldn’t pull it off, so then they tried the banker. Meanwhile the planet’s heating up — that’s not just trog hot air. It’s carbon gases spewing out from coal plants everywhere. They must be shut before seas rise and low land disappears. But trogs in caves care only how to save their own careers. The banker trog had stepped outside and sniffed the warming haze,
Newspeak in the 21st Century by David Edwards & David Cromwell Pluto Press, 2009, 299 pages, $25 Review by John Smith News-analysing website Media Lens isn’t liked by the corporate media.
‘Perish the Privileged Orders’: A Socialist History of the Chartist Movement By Mark O’Brien New Clarion Press Revised Edition 2009, 119 pages Review by Alex Miller If you believed the corporate media, you might think that the greatest threats to parliamentary democracy in a country like Britain have come from Kaiser Wilhelm’s armies in World War I or — today — from Al Qaeda and Islamic jihadists. In fact, the greatest enemies of representative democracy in Britain over the centuries have been the British ruling classes themselves.
A new Sydney-based arts project is inviting artists to submit work that investigates a radical perspective. The inaugural Live Red Art Awards will culminate in a festival and exhibition at the Addison Road Community Centre in October 17, 2010, and focus on interactive, multidisciplinary art that excites, engages and inspires audiences to imagine a different world. An award of $3000 will be granted to the artist whose work best reflects the project's theme — “Another world is possible, but we must fight for it”. There will also be a people's choice award of $500.

General

Green Left Weekly — Australia’s leading non-corporate newspaper — has an ambitious target to raise $300,000 for it’s fighting fund this year. This is the amount needed to ensure we can cover all the costs associated with research, production and distribution. It’s no small thing to produce such a quality publication.

Letters

Proportional, not preferential The proposal by outgoing British PM Gordon Brown to have a referendum on the electoral system is fraught with danger for Nick Clegg's Liberal Democrats. Brown proposes a referendum on the British first-past-the post system and the Australian preferential vote system. A vote for the Australian system would be a death warrant for the Lib Dems.