Issue 839

Australia

Adelaide: Friday June 4, 3.30pm, Victoria Square, protest organised by Action for Palestine. Bring placards, banners, your friends and your outrage!

Brisbane: Friday June 4, 5pm, Brisbane Sq, Cnr Queen and George Sts.

Canberra: Thursday June 3, 4pm rally at Garema Place organised by AJPP and UnionsACT.

Hobart: Friday June 11, 5pm. Corner of Murray and Macquarie St.

Melbourne: Saturday June 5, 2pm, outside State Library, City.

On May 18, during proceedings in Fair Work Australia, negotiations ended between Ford and the Electrical Trades Union and Australian Metal Workers Metals Division over the “Ford Australia Enterprise Agreement 2009 (Skilled Trades)”.

The content of the agreement has been the subject of a dispute that has involved two 24-hour strikes.

BRISBANE — Fifty people, Iranians and supporters, rallied in Queens Park on May 22 to protest against the execution in early May of five Kurdish nationalists by the Iranian regime.

The protesters held photos of people disappeared and killed during the movement for democratic rights over the past year.

Community representative Fazil Rostam said: "Kurds are 10% of the Iranian population, but make up 50% of the prison population. Fifty percent of executions are of Kurdish people."

“Facing the world economic crisis: From Greece to Australia” was the title of a public forum, sponsored by Socialist Alliance, Resistance and Green Left Weekly on May 25.

Marxist academic Gary MacLennan and Socialist Alliance candidate for the federal seat of Brisbane Ewan Saunders spoke.

MacLennan explained that the world economic crisis showed signs of deepening, not ending. He said right-wing explanations of the crisis blamed government mismanagement, rather than the capitalist system.

PERTH — On May 25, a rally was held to support a woman's right to choose abortion. The rally was attended by members of Resistance, Socialist Alliance, Socialist Alternative, the Cross Campus Queer Network, the ROAR Feminist Collective and other activists. The action was called in response to an anti-choice protest organised by Church associated groups and led by Archbishop Barry Hickey. The anti-choice action was to mark the 12th anniversary of, and protest against, the decriminalisation of abortion in Western Australia.

One hundred pensioners rallied outside Victorian Parliament House on May 27 to demand a raise in the aged pension.

The rally was organised by the Fair Go for Pensioners Coalition (FGPC), which had previously organised nationwide protests in November 2008.

Frank Cherry, national coordinator of the coalition, told the crowd: “We’re rallying today to highlight the plight of pensioners, both to the state and federal government, and to begin the second stage of our campaign to increase the pension.”

MELBOURNE — On May 25, about 50 people attended a forum on Burma's election, which is due to occur this year.

The forum was addressed by Debbie Stothard, coordinator of Alternative ASEAN Network on Burma, who noted the many undemocratic structures set up by the military junta.

She said: “The 2008 constitution will guarantee military control over the election and resulting parliament. Election commissioners are handpicked by the regime, political parties must exclude ‘convicted persons’ such as Aung San Suu Kyi and there is severe censorship and restrictions on campaigning.

The following is abridged from a motion unanimously passed on May 22 by the general membership of the Climate Emergency Network, Victoria. For more information on CEN, visit the group's website.

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Over the past decade or so, a climate movement has developed in many countries, both developed and developing. There has been a tendency for the climate movement in North America, Europe, and Australia to focus on ecological modernisation as a climate change mitigation strategy.

More than 200 people rallied to call for an end to the Northern Territory intervention at Sydney Town Hall on May 28. Monica Morgan, from Amnesty International, told the crowd the intervention was forcing Aboriginal people off their lands and taking away their culture.

Morgan said this was the outcome of an ongoing process of assimilation that began in Sydney in 1788 and spread across the country. She said ongoing solidarity was necessary for Aboriginal people to survive as a culture.

Ten activists from Thai Red Australia, plus Guatemalan and El Salvadoran activists from the Latin American Social Forum, were part of the 80-strong Socialist Alliance NSW state conference on May 22 in Sydney.

The conference launched Socialist Alliance’s federal election campaign. In the opening session, Senate candidate Rachel Evans outlined a “people’s budget” that puts the environment and people’s wellbeing over militarism and profiteering.

SYDNEY— One hundred and fifty people took part in a pro-choice rally on May 29. The rally called for the repeal of anti-abortion laws and for charges against the Cairns couple facing prosecution for having used RU486 to be dropped.

Labor MLC Penny Sharpe and Greens MLC Lee Rhiannon echoed the views of pro-choice activists in saying the laws were draconian and needed to be repealed. The protest, called by Women's Action Abortion Campaign, was timed to coincide with a Right to Life conference, which ended up not going ahead.

Dozens of campaigners have hit Melbourne’s streets to campaign for the Hazelwood power station to be shut down. Climate action groups in the inner city are doorknocking thousands of homes every weekend to get the message across.

Hazelwood is Australia’s most polluting power station. Climate campaigners have targeted it with protests since the state government extended its operating licence until 2030. It was originally meant to be closed down and replaced in 2005.

The following is abridged from a motion passed at the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union state conference in Western Australia on May 27. The motion was proposed by John Sharp-Collett, secretary of the Retired Members Division.

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World

UPDATED JUNE 4 - International outrage has been expressed through ongoing mass protests around the world, condemnation of Israel's actions by most governments (apart from the US), and calls for the immediate lifting of Israel's blockade of Gaza. Nicaragua has suspended diplomatic ties with Israel and Sweden, Spain, Turkey and South Africa have recalled their envoys. Cuba, Venezuela and Bolivia had already cut their diplomatic ties with Israel.

* * Update: On May 31 heavily-armed Israeli commandos attacked the unarmed Freedom Flotilla. Israeli forces have fired on activists in at least one of the boats, with media reports of up to 10 people killed and many more injured.

Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela
Ministry of People's Power for Foreign Affairs
Caracas, May 31, 2010

The President of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, Commander Hugo Chavez, emphatically condemns the brutal massacre perpetrated by the State of Israel against the members of the Liberty Flotilla, as a result of the war action started by the Israeli Army against defenseless civilians, who tried to carry humanitarian aid supplies to the Palestine people of the Gaza Strip, who are victim of the criminal blockage imposed by the State of Israel.

More than 55,000 BT (formerly British Telecom) workers could walk out on strike this month unless the telecommunications giant bows to their demands and improves its “derisory” pay offer.

Communication Workers Union delegates voted unanimously on May 26 to give BT until June 4 before serving formal legal notice of the union’s intention to ballot for industrial action.

The decision came just hours after BT’s annual financial report revealed that its chief executive, Ian Livingstone, and three other directors raked in bonuses totalling £2.7 million last year.

When the White House is quiet as protesters are butchered in the streets of Bangkok, suspicions are raised. Silence often equals complicity.

One can only imagine what the US government’s response would be to a Venezuelan government slaughter: the US media and US President Barack Obama would loudly condemn such an act.

The history of US-Thailand relations explains why. During the Vietnam War, the US used Thailand as one of the main “anti-communist” bulwarks in an area that included China, Vietnam and other countries that were challenging capitalism.

At the G20 Economic Forum in Pittsburgh in September, President Barack Obama said his administration would combat climate change by phasing out the US government’s grandiose subsidies to the fossil fuel industry.

But a report released on April 13 by Synapse Energy Economics (SEE) said Obama hadn’t followed through on his promise to cut dirty energy handouts.

In the wake of Britain’s inconclusive general election, there is much talk of the “national interest”.

It’s said that politicians of all parties have to pull together to address the crisis caused by the country’s enlarged fiscal deficit. Specifically, they must agree to a package of deep public spending cuts.

Nothing, it is said, is more urgent, more unavoidable.

In contrast, it seems climate change can be left perpetually on the backburner — though there is a far greater expert consensus about its dangers than those of a large deficit.

The melting of the Arctic ice cap is one of the most foreboding signs of dangerous climate change.

If too much ice melts, it will set off natural feedback loops that warm the planet even faster and disrupt weather patterns.

A month ago, satellite data from the US National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) suggested the Arctic sea ice was growing back. In early April, the ice cover was close to the 30-year average.

But in recent weeks, the NSIDC has recorded a rapid drop in ice cover. By late May, the ice cover had dropped below what it was in May 2007 — the lowest year on record.

To guarantee access to essential foods amid price inflation and supply shortages in some items, the Venezuelan government recently nationalised a major flour producer, granted low-interest credits to small and medium-sized producers, opened new subsidised food markets, sanctioned price speculators and hoarders, and is in the process of reforming its land reform law.

Human rights organisations have reported that, almost a year after the coup that ousted Honduran President Manuel Zelaya, repression by security forces had left the country “more dangerous than Colombia”.

An Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) delegation confirmed that the murder, harassment and intimidation of opposition supporters, journalists and peasant and worker organisers had continued “with impunity” since the coup regime handed power to President Porfirio Lobo in January.

Giles Ji Ungpakorn is a Thai socialist in exile in Britain after being charged with lese majeste (insulting the monarch). He is a member of Left Turn Thailand.

Ji Ungpakorn’s blog, Wdpress.blog.co.uk, covers the struggle for democracy in Thailand, and the brutal repression meted out by the military backed regime. On May 25, the blog listed the names of all the pro-democracy Red Shirt protesters being hunted down by the regime — 66 arrest warrants had been issued and 21 people were already in custody.

On May 25, 70 people protested outside the Thai embassy in Jakarta in solidarity with the pro-democracy Red Shirts in Thailand. The protest was jointly called by the Working Peoples Association (PRP), the People’s Democratic Party (PRD), the Confederation Congress of Indonesia Union Alliance (Konfederasi KASBI); the Indonesian Nasional Front for Labour Struggle (FNPBI); the National Student League for Democracy (LMND)

On June 11, South Africans will start partying like no time since liberation in April 1994. It is a huge honour for our young democracy to host the most important sporting spectacle short of the Olympics.

The ordinary people who have worked hard in preparation deserve gratitude and support — especially the construction workers, cleaners, municipal staff, health-care givers and volunteers who will not receive due recognition.

But balancing psychological benefits against vast socioeconomic and political costs is vital.

Sixty thousand public-sector workers from across Romania rallied in central Bucharest on May 19 to protest against government plans to slash their wages and benefits under a loan deal with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and European Union (EU).

Civil servants, teachers, doctors and retirees blew whistles and yelled “Down with the lying government!” and “You have pawned our future”, as they protested outside government offices in Victoriei Square.

Israel faces unprecedented pressure to abandon its official policy of “ambiguity” regarding its possession of nuclear weapons.

Israel’s equivocal stance on its atomic status was shattered by reports on May 24 that it offered to sell nuclear-armed Jericho missiles to South Africa's apartheid regime in 1975.

The revelations are deeply embarrassing to Israel given its long-standing opposition to signing the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. It has argued instead that it is a “responsible power” that would never misuse nuclear weapons technologies if it acquired them.

The president of Haiti’s Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) announced on May 24 that presidential and parliamentary elections would be held on November 28, the constitutionally prescribed date.

“The CEP is up to the task of organising general elections in the country”, said Gaillot Dorsinvil, who is also the handicapped sector’s representative on the nine-member council, handpicked by President Rene Preval.

But tens of thousands of Haitians don’t agree and have been demonstrating in the streets in recent weeks to demand a new CEP — and Preval’s resignation.

With a mass general strike on May 20 in the private and public sectors and a large demonstration in Athens and other cities, the workers of Greece continued the struggle to overturn an austerity program imposed by the Greek government, European Union (EU) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

Participation in the strike was as big in the private sector as in the public sector, which is the target of most of the austerity measures.

“The life of a trade unionist in Colombia is very difficult and complex”, visiting union leader Edgar Paez told Green Left Weekly.

Paez said 4000 unionists have been murdered in Colombia in 28 years. “Last year, 47 unionists were killed, 48 the year before. Union leaders need armed guards, bulletproof cars, camera surveillance and bulletproof windows on their offices.

“They lose the possibility of a normal family life.”

Analysis

Condemn Israel's attack on the Gaza flotilla

Socialist Alliance statement June 3, 2010.

Socialist Alliance condemns the completely unwarranted and murderous attack by Israeli armed forces on the civilian flotilla carrying aid to Gaza.

Not since the French Secret Service blew up the Rainbow Warrior in Auckland Harbour in 1985 has there been such a brazen act of international piracy by a sovereign state.

The national executive of the Construction Forestry Mining Energy Union (CFMEU) decided at its May 12 meeting to join the global campaign to isolate apartheid Israel.

The union assessed the approach of trade unions around the world and consulted Izzat Abdulhadi, head of the Palestinian delegation to Australia.

The real sordid scandal in New South Wales Labor politics is not transport minister David Campbell’s visit to a gay Kensington bathhouse or Channel 7’s secret videoing of it — it’s the homophobic bigotry that continues in Premier Kristina Keneally’s government.

If Campbell had left his ministerial position because of Sydney’s public transport mess, rather than being caught at Ken’s of Kensington, it would have been justified.

Ark Tribe is an Adelaide construction worker facing up to six months’ jail for refusing to be interrogated by the Australian Building and Construction Commission, the secret police set up by the former John Howard federal government to smash the strength of the building unions.

The following article is abridged from www.arkstribe.blogspot.com.

* * *

On May 24, foreign minister Stephen Smith announced that an unnamed Israeli diplomat was to be expelled from Australia. This was in response to revelations that Israel’s spy agency, Mossad, had stolen the identities of four Australia citizens to create cloned passports.

The passports were used by Mossad agents involved in the January 20 murder of Hamas activist Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in Dubai.

“Break the war alliance” is one of the key messages anti-war groups will send to US President Barack Obama when he visits Australia in June.

Protesters plan to focus on the stepped-up US war drive in Afghanistan and Pakistan. They will also demand of Obama and Prime Minister Kevin Rudd that the occupying troops leave.

Compared to the Bush administration, total US defence spending is projected to rise from US$534.5 billion in 2006 to $663.7 billion in 2010 according to Congressional budget papers.

The federal Labor government’s freeze on processing visa applications by Afghan and Tamil asylum seekers is being challenged in many quarters.

Legal advice published by the Human Rights Law Resource Centre on May 23 said many of the factual and legal assumptions of the policy are open to “substantial challenge”.

Bill McKibben is one of the world’s best-known climate activists and writers. He was the founder of the 350.org campaign, which organised more than 5200 protests in 181 countries on October 24.

CNN called the 350.org protests “the most widespread day of political action in the planet's history”.

On May 18, the Queensland Crime and Misconduct Commission (CMC) announced it would take over primary responsibility for investigating all deaths in police custody in the state.

This followed the recommendation made by deputy chief magistrate Brian Hine when he delivered his findings on May 14 to the third coronial inquest into the 2004 death of Aboriginal man Mulrunji Doomadgee in the Palm Island watch house.

On November 19, 2004, Mulrunji was walking home when sergeant Chris Hurley, driving by in his police vehicle, arrested him on a drunk and disorderly charge.

It took nearly six months to organise, but on May 21, representatives from seven anti-war groups finally met defence minister Senator John Faulkner to request he re-consider a Greens’ initiative to amend the Defence Act. The amendment would require that MPs vote on whether or not Australian troops are sent to war.

While the lobby, spearheaded by Nick Deane from the Marrickville Peace Group, did not change the senator’s mind, Deane told Green Left Weekly that he felt the exercise was still worthwhile because Faulkner heard a range of views.

Mal Tulloch, assistant NSW secretary of the Construction Forestry Mining Energy Union, took part in a study tour to Palestine in March, organised by APHEDA, the aid organisation of the Australian Council of Trade Unions. The CFMEU has supported APHEDA since it was established in 1987.

As soon as Tulloch arrived in Palestine, he realised it was not going to be a holiday. He shares his impressions below.

* * *

It was like a visit to a war zone, while also a great opportunity to witness what the Palestinian struggle has been about for the past 62 years.

The absence of war does not mean peace in Tamil Eelam — despite what we hear from the Sri Lankan and Australian governments.

The struggle for Tamil freedom continues on community radio station 3CR, 855AM. 3CR is one of the main platforms for Tamil activists in Melbourne. Aran Mylvaganam is co-presenter of the Tamil Manifest and Tamil Voice programs on 3CR.

He explains how the situation of Tamils in Sri Lanka is as desperate as it ever was.

* * *

Youth activist and part-time worker Gemma Weedall has been endorsed by the Socialist Alliance to contest the seat of Adelaide in the upcoming federal election.

Weedall recently completed a Bachelor of Social Sciences at the University of Adelaide, where she was a well-known student activist.

She was environment officer on the 2009 Student Representative Council and convened several clubs and collectives. A passionate grassroots climate change activist, Gemma is an active member of the Climate Emergency Action Network (CLEAN)

Writing in the May 27 West Australian, Paul Murray said WA Labor senators facing election will have to “explain to voters why they intend to support a tax that is so palpably against WA’s best interests”.

For Murray, who was referring to the Rudd government's proposed Resource Super Profits Tax (RSPT), it is simply a given that the interests of the people of Western Australia coincide with the interests of the big mining companies that operate in the state.

Authoritarian governments hate sex, and it seems the Australian government is no exception.

The current target is the adult porn industry, with a focused attempt to roll back access to adult and consensual pornography. Money and resources are thus diverted from real evils, such as the physical and sexual abuse of children.

On May 21, the Fairfax press announced that incoming passenger cards for those arriving in Australia had been changed so individuals would now be obliged to declare whether or not they had pornography in their possession.

Resistance!

Plans are well underway in some states for the “Justice Bus Trips” in July to Alice Springs, where a gathering in defence of Aboriginal justice and human rights activities is being organised. Support for the Aboriginal rights movement has increased steadily over the past year, spurred in no small part by the historic Alyawarr people’s walk-off.

In July 2009, the Alyawarr people walked off their community of Ampilatwatja, which was prescribed as part of the Northern Territory Emergency Response — better known as the NT intervention.

May is zine season, with zine events happening around the country. Zines are a popular form of creative expression for young people as an alternative to the tacky and commercial mass media.

Young people are often locked out of other outlets of creative expression in society. The education system is geared to stunt creativity and promote conformism. Zines are a great way to be social about information and knowledge, and provide opportunities to network in ways otherwise impossible.

Culture

Lani’s Story
Click here for link

Review by Sanna Andrew

The documentary, Lani’s Story, follows the incredibly brave and courageous story of a young Aboriginal woman who not only endured and survived life threatening violence from her partner, but who goes on another harrowing journey long afterwards to bring the man to justice.

This Time is Different: Eight Centuries of Financial Folly
By Carmen Reinhart & KennethRogoff
Rrinceton University Press, 2009, 496 pages

Review by Barry Healy

Australia has had a lucky escape from the Global Financial Crisis (GFC) our noble leaders and economic pundits tell us.

Not so, says 800 years of economic experience assembled in This Time Is Different: Eight Centuries of Financial Folly.

In the seemingly endless wave of disgusting prejudice that flows out of the sewer pipe that is the mainstream media, sometimes it can be pleasantly surprising how things turn out.

On May 20, Australian Football League (AFL) star Jason Akermanis said in a Herald Sun column that the football world was not ready for openly gay players, and that those thinking about outing themselves should stay in the closet.

On the same day, David Campbell resigned as NSW minister for transport after being outed by Channel 7 News, who filmed him exiting an all-male sex club.

American Radical: The Trials of Norman Finkelstein
Directed by David Ridgen & Nicolas Rossier
Baraka Productions

Review by Antony Loewenstein

Jewish critics of Israel are as old as the ideology itself. Zionism was regarded by most Jews in Europe as an idealistic delusion before the Second World War, but the Holocaust literally changed everything.

Fighting Fund

The obscenely wealthy have been celebrated again with the release of Business Review Weekly’s annual Rich 200 list. Sitting in top spot is Westfield Group chairperson Frank Lowy, whose personal fortune is estimated to be $5.04 billion. That's about 17,000 times our 2010 fighting fund target here at Green Left Weekly.

Spanish-language

Read the issue #3 of Green Left Weekly’s Spanish-language supplement here.

For environmentalists, indigenous rights activists, feminists, socialists and all progressive people, Latin America is a source of hope and inspiration today.

The tide of rebellion and revolution now sweeping Latin America is posing a serious challenge to imperialism’s brutal global rule. For anyone who wants an end to war, exploitation and oppression, Latin America’s struggles to create alternatives are crucially important.