Issue 840

Australia

Brisbane, June 18, 2010 - “The only way to find out the truth about the behavior of the Queensland police hierarchy in the cover-ups that followed the November 2004 killing of Mulrunji on Palm Island is to institute an independent commission of inquiry run by a respected interstate figure,” Sam Watson, well-known Murri rights activist and Socialist Alliance lead Senate candidate for Queensland said today.

“In the meantime the Queensland Police Service (QPS) hierarchy, beginning with commissioner Robert Atkinson, must be sacked.”

Thousands of people are expected to join the World Refugee Day rallies around Australia between June 19 and June 26.

In Melbourne, the rally - to be held on Sunday June 20 - has the theme “Not another Tampa election”.

Patrick McGorry, Australian of the Year will speak at the Museum Square to refugees, asylum seekers, human rights agency staff and volunteers, refugee advocates and activists before the marchers move off to the EMERGE FESTIVAL at Fitzroy Town Hall.

June 15, 2010 - Thousands rallied and marched around Australia in support of Ark Tribe, a construction worker possibly facing jail for simply failing to attend an interrogation by the construction industry police “Star Chamber” - the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC).

Workers held an overnight vigil outside the ABCC offices in Melbourne, 500 rallied and marched in Sydney and up to 1,500 rallied outside the Adelaide Magistrate's court. Trade unionists from other parts of the country have gone to Adelaide to show their solidarity.

SYDNEY - Such is the groundswell of community anger against the Israeli commando attack on the peace flotilla to Gaza that the Campbelltown branch of the ALP passed a strongly-worded motion on June 7 including calling on the Rudd government to cut ties with Israel.

The motion also condemned the attack and the blockade of Gaza, and called for support for the solidarity protests being organised by the Palestinian community and their supporters.

By Rosamund Dallow-Smith and Pip Hinman

SYDNEY – Conservation and other groups are opposed to the NSW environment minister Frank Sartor’s National Park development bill, introduced into the NSW parliament on June 2. The plan will shift the focus of National Parks away from conservation toward development. It will also allow tourism to be formally recognised as a purpose of national parks, contravening the long-held principle that national parks were only for nature conservation and visitation.

On May 30, big protests were held in most Australian capital cities against recent killings in the Afghan province of Behsud. Fifteen hundred people rallied in Sydney and up to 400 in Melbourne.

Initially, the protest was to demand the Australian government stop deporting Hazara asylum seekers to Afghanistan, because the situation is not safe for the Hazara ethnic minority.

However, when news broke that some Hazara had been massacred by Afghan Pashtun nomads in the province of Behsud, the protest’s focus shifted to calling for international support for the Hazara.

Refugee advocates have launched the “Bring them home, minister Evans!” campaign in response to the news that 92-year-old Irene Joseph, deported to Sri Lanka with her 68-year-old son on March 5, had collapsed and almost died in the village where they now live.

Joseph is permanent resident of Australia and had lived here since 1979. In 1996, when she re-entered Australia after a holiday, she was mistakenly issued with a temporary visa.

Workers at the BHP Billiton Mt Arthur coalmine went on strike for about 26 hours on May 26 and 27. It was the first strike at the mine (formerly known as the Bayswater pit) in its 23-year operational history.

A striking worker from the mine said the reliability of coal supplied by the mine was a big selling point and the strike would damage the mine’s reputation.

The worker, who did not want his name used for fear of retribution, told Green Left Weekly the dispute started when another worker arrived on the afternoon of May 26 and was told she had been sacked.

BRISBANE — On June 4, a picket of Rio Tinto Coal offices highlighted opposition to the big mining companies' scare campaign about the federal government's proposed tax on mining "super-profits”.

Socialist Alliance federal election candidates condemned corporate greed and said mining tax revenue should be used to fund renewable energy programs.

Venezuelan trade unionist and community educator Alexis Adarfio Marin visited Australia last month, informing many audiences of the radical changes being carried out by Venezuela’s Bolivarian revolution.

Adarfio was a guest of the Search Foundation, which hosted a range of international guest speakers at its Australian Left Renewal Conference in Sydney over May 29-30.

On June 3, a small group of protesters educated Edgewater residents about the threat climate change poses to their suburb. Edgewater, one of Melbourne’s newest suburbs, could be partly underwater if climate change is not stopped. According to council data, 370 Maribyrnong homes were affected during floods in 1974.

Community group Save Our Rail held a lively picket outside a 700-strong meeting of the anti-rail lobby Fix Our City (FOC) at Newcastle Town Hall on June 3.

FOC is a business and developer lobby group whose explicit aim is to have the Hunter Development Corporation (HDC) “urban renewal report” implemented.

The HDC report’s main proposal is to cut the Newcastle at Wickham station.

Save Our Rail drew 150 people to the counter-rally. It had the support of the Rail Tram and Bus Union, which brought several large union banners.

The Electrical Trades Union (ETU) has banned its members from working in uranium mines, nuclear power stations or any other part of the nuclear fuel cycle, AAP said on May 31.

The union says uranium is the new asbestos in the workplace. The ban will apply to ETU members in Queensland and the Northern Territory and breaching it could lead to expulsion, said ETU Qld secretary Peter Simpson.

BRISBANE — "You know that we are rising, our day is surely coming”, were the words of a new song featured in Lebanese-Australian activist and musician Phil Monsour's benefit concert for Palestine on May 29.

Monsour, who recently returned from a trip to Palestine and Lebanon, recounted his experiences with songs and video images taken during his participation in the Union Aid Abroad-APHEDA Middle East study tour in March.

The movement for Australian union action against Israel is gaining strength after the apartheid state’s latest murderous attack on the unarmed aid flotilla to Gaza.

The South Coast Labour Council (SCLC) and the New South Wales and Australian Capital Territory branches of the Australian Services Union have joined the Construction Forestry Mining Energy Union in committing to the international boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign against the aggressive Israeli state.

Australian unions and peak bodies have also called on members to attend the many protest actions.

On May 31, Israeli defence force commandos boarded an aid ship in international waters. The ship was trying to break the illegal military blockade of the Gaza strip and transport much-needed food and medical supplies. Nine aid activists were killed and several snap actions were held in Australia to condemn Israel’s actions and call for an end to the blockade.

On June 1, 250 people rallied in Brisbane to condemn Israel’s attacks on the Gaza aid fleet. ALP vice-president Wendy Turner, and socialist activist and lecturer in creative industries Gary MacLennan, spoke.

World

For more international union actions against Israel, see here

Solidarity with the Palestinian people - three-day strike for Israel commercial vessels

World Federation of Trade Unions
Athens, June 8th 2010
www.wftucentral.org
E-mails : international@wftucentral.org

Dear colleagues, trade unionists and workers,

Resistance is building in Europe against government attempts to force ordinary people to bailout the failed financial system of “casino” capitalism.

After four general strikes in Greece this year, and two more planned, strike action is beginning in Spain against planned attacks on public services and welfare.

The following is a talk delivered by Scott Weinstein to a public forum in Winnipeg, Manitoba on May 7. Weinstein is a Montreal-based nurse who volunteered for five weeks of medical duty in Haiti shortly after the January 12 earthquake. The full speech can be read at Rabble.ca.

* * *

The US's worst-ever environmental disaster took yet another bad turn after British Petroleum's (BP) latest efforts to stop the torrent of oil from the Deepwater Horizon well failed.

Public discontent is growing, with increasing calls for a government takeover of the operation and seizure of BP’s assets.

The Deepwater Horizon oilrig exploded on April 20, killing 11 workers and releasing between 19.7 million and 43 million gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico.

After Israel’s May 31 raid on a civilian vessel trying to deliver goods to Gaza, Egypt announced on June 1 that it would temporarily open its border with Rafah to allow humanitarian and medical aid into the Gaza Strip.

On May 31, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak responded swiftly to the Israeli navy's assault on the Freedom Flotilla, affirming Egypt's support for the people of Gaza.

Israel’s ambassador to Egypt was quickly summoned by Egypt’s foreign ministry, and told Egypt condemns the violence against international activists and rejects the continued Gaza blockade.

As news was released of Israel's attack on the Freedom Flotilla and rising casualties among the passengers, the mood at Gaza's modest seaport grew sombre. Hundreds of civilians including governmental and non-governmental representatives, activists and ordinary Palestinians were waiting anxiously to welcome those on board the flotilla. All were shocked when news of the naval attack was first reported and silence overwhelmed the gathering.

International outrage against Israel’s May 31 massacre of activists on a boat bringing aid to Gaza has been expressed through ongoing mass protests around the world, condemnation of Israel's actions by most governments (except the US), and calls for the immediate lifting of Israel’s blockade of Gaza.

Nicaragua has suspended diplomatic ties with Israel. Sweden, Spain, Turkey, Ecuador and South Africa have recalled their envoys. Cuba, Venezuela and Bolivia had already cut their diplomatic ties with Israel.

Dutch prosecutors fired the opening salvo on May 31 in a notorious case involving a Swiss-based oil trader which dumped hazardous waste in Ivory Coast, the British Morning Star said on June 1. The dumping was allegedly to save itself the paltry sum of €400,000 (about A$576,000).

The article said prosecutor Luuk Boogert accused oil trader Trafigura AG and local authorities of putting “self-interest above people’s health and environment” at the criminal trial in Amsterdam. The ship had docked at Amsterdam en-route to Ivory Coast.

Thousands of workers across France protested on May 27 against President Nicholas Sarkozy’s planned attacked on the French pension system.

The protests were called by a coalition of union confederations, including the General Confederation of Labour (CGT); French Democratic Confederation of Labour (CFDT); United Union Federation (FSU); National Union of Autonomous Unions and Solidaires. They came after the government failed to withdraw or modify the planned changes to the pension system following protests on March 23 and May 1.

It’s been dubbed the “suicide express” by Chinese media, LabourStart.org said in an appeal to support workers in a Chinese factory at which there has been a spate of suicides by its workforce.

“Twelve workers, all between 18 and 24 years old, have committed suicide, at the production facilities of Foxconn Technology Group, a Taiwan-owned enterprise based in Shenzhen, southern China.

“Foxconn is a key supplier to various leading brands including Apple. International brands constantly drive down prices and demand shorter delivery time when placing orders.

The United Nations Special Rapporteur for the Occupied Palestinian Territories, Richard Falk, called, on May 31, for the international community to bring to justice those responsible for Israel’s deadly raid on a ship bringing humanitarian aid to Gaza, Countercurrents.com said that day. The raid killed at least nine people.

Venezuela foreign minister Nicolas Maduro said on June 2 that Venezuela’s announced cancelling of Haiti's debt of US$395 million with Petrocaribe was now official.

Petrocaribe is a program under which the Venezuelan government offers discounted oil, to be paid back over long-term low-interest loans, to Caribbean and Central American nations.

Maduro made the announcement after the World Summit on the Future of Haiti. The summit was held in the Dominican Republic with the participation of representatives from 50 countries.

The struggle against inflation, corruption, and destabilisation in Venezuela’s economy is continuing.

In the last week of May, workers from nationalised companies marched to protest hoarding and price speculation and call for worker-run management, while national investigators arrested the former president of the state-run food company PDVAL for alleged involvement in the diversion of food from the market.

The picture is clear: the activists attacked in the Israeli military’s May 31 nighttime commando raid on a boat bringing humanitarian aid to Gaza were not armed.

In Israel, the media is broadcasting disinformation, using edited videos. But it is clear there was no crossfire during the raid, just Israeli fire.

Israel claims there was an attempt by activists onboard the Mavi Marmara, to steal weapons from soldiers. But either the army’s spokespeople or the soldiers themselves are telling false tales.

The following text is from a petition by the World People’s Movement for Mother Earth, which demands that United Nations climate change negotiations include proposals from the World People's Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth, held in Cochabamba, Bolivia, in April. You can sign the petition here. Find out more about the Cochabamba summit, including resolutions passed, here

* * *

About 2000 demonstrators gathered outside Israel’s Ministry of Defense late May 31 to protest the military's violent raid on an aid flotilla that attempted to break the country’s years-long siege on the Gaza Strip.

Haggai Matar, a member of the Coalition Against the Siege, told Ma’an news the protests were an expression of anger and shock about the Israeli navy raid that left at least 10 activists dead and dozens hurt a day earlier.

The government of German Chancellor Angela Merkel is in crisis, following the resignation of Germany’s president Horst Koehler on May 31.

Koehler — a former head of the International Monetary Fund, and German president since 2004 — resigned after a public backlash against comments he made connecting the German economy with increased overseas military deployments.

The Qatar-based media network Al Jazeera has published on its website a series of harrowing eyewitness accounts from survivors of Israel’s military raid on a flotilla of ships bringing humanitarian aid to Gaza. An example is published below. To read the full list, visit www.english.aljazeera.net.

* * *

Haneen Zabi, member of the Knesset (Israeli parliament): “We were expecting the Israeli army to stop us, to prevent us from entering but surely we didn't expect such a war against us.

Hundreds of Thais and an Australian remain in jail, as the government of Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva continues to repress the grassroots pro-democracy Red Shirt movement. Some Red Shirt protesters are still in hiding.

This follows the full-scale military assault on May 19 that ended a six-week protest by thousands of Red Shirts in the commercial centre of Bangkok. Australian Colin Purcell, of Perth, has been caught up in the repression and is still detained by police.

In early March, after a three-month media bombardment about the country’s economic crisis, the Greek government — backed by conservative opposition parties, the European Union (EU)and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) — announced harsh austerity measures for ordinary people.

These included unprecedented salary, pension, job and public services cuts and large-scale privatisation. The government offensive entails an enormous income transfer from workers and pensioners to big business and the State Revenue Office.

The Brussels-based European Campaign to End the Siege on Gaza said it had already secured funds to support three new aid ships to be sailed to Gaza, the Ma’an News Agency said on June 2.

The fleet will be called the Freedom 2. Campaign head Arafat Madhi said it would be “much bigger than the first”, which included nationals from more than 40 nations and 10,000 tons of aid. The first fleet is now held by Israel after the takeover of six ships in international waters on May 31.

Moshe Dayan, Israel’s most celebrated general, famously outlined the strategy he believed would keep Israel’s enemies at bay: “Israel must be a like a mad dog, too dangerous to bother.”

Until now, most observers assumed Dayan was referring to Israeli military or possibly nuclear strategy, an expression in his typically blunt fashion of the country’s familiar doctrine of deterrence.

Following Israel’s May 31 kidnapping of six ships in the Freedom Flotilla bring humanitarian aid to Gaza, the Irish ship, MV Rachel Corrie, continued its path towards Gaza. The ship, named after a US activist killed by an Israeli bulldozer in 2003, was carrying building materials, 20 tonnes of paper and other supplies Israel refuses to allow into the Gaza Strip, FreeGaza.org said on June 4.

It’s time the Israeli government’s PR team made the most of its talents, and became available for hire.

Then, whenever a nutcase marched into a shopping mall in somewhere like Wisconsin and gunned down a selection of passers-by, they could be on hand to tell the world’s press: “The gunman regrets the loss of life but did all he could to avoid violence.”

Then various governments would issue statements saying: “All we know is a man went berserk with an AK47, and next to him there’s a pile of corpses, so until we know the facts we can’t pass judgement on what took place.”

The following statement was released by the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee on June 1. For more information visit bdsmovement.net.

* * *

Sydney-based journalist and author Antony Loewenstein is an outspoken critic of Israeli policies and author of the best-selling 2006 book My Israel Question. He is the co-founder of advocacy group Independent Australian Jewish Voices and is a board member of Macquarie University’s Centre for Middle East and North African Studies. Articles and commentary by Loewenstein can be found at Antonyloewenstein.com.

Analysis

Sanna Andrew is the Socialist Alliance candidate for Fremantle, Western Australia, in the coming federal elections.

She joined the Socialist Alliance in 2007. She is a qualified social worker and has worked in community-based mental health service provision for more than a decade.

Andrew is also an active member of the Australian Services Union (ASU) and sits on the executive council as a representative of the Social and Community Services Sector division.

* * *

In 2006, as Labor opposition leader, Kevin Rudd, made much of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the German theologian, pastor and pacifist.

Bonhoeffer took part in the German resistance to the Nazi regime and helped German Jews escape the country.

Bonhoeffer was murdered by the Nazis in 1945.

For Rudd in 2006: “Bonhoeffer is, without doubt, the man I admire most in the history of the twentieth century. He was a man of faith. He was a man of reason. He was a man of letters … He was never a nationalist, always an internationalist. And above all, he was a man of action …”

The 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.

Governments around the world have condemned the actions of Somali pirates in international waters off the horn of Africa, and have even sent naval armadas to confront them.

Forty years after the first equal pay test case, the gap between male and female wages continues to widen.

Australian Bureau of Statistics figures released on May 20 put the pay gap (as of February 2010) at 18%. Women on average now earn $239.30 a week less than men.

The pay gap has increased 0.5% over the quarter (from 17.5%) and 1.5% over the year (from 16.5%). The gap is now at its highest level since August 1994.

Hundreds of Aboriginal workers in the Northern Territory are demanding real wages for construction work that they are compelled to do under “Work for the dole” schemes.

Eighty rallied on June 2 outside state parliament house in Darwin to demand jobs with justice.

Elders from Kalkaringi community say people in their community are being forced to work for up to 30 hours a week on construction sites or they will have their Centrelink payments cut.

On May 28, it was reported that the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists was considering allowing a certain form of female circumcision, involving “ritual nicks”. RANZCOG later said it was a misrepresentation, and that “anyone suspected of performing such genital mutilation should be reported to authorities”, the Sydney Morning Herald said the same day.

But if we reject all forms of female circumcision, why is it that male circumcision remains so acceptable?

If elected, Liberal opposition leader Tony Abbott would not only bring back the punitive measures carried out under the previous Howard government's “Pacific Solution” — including temporary protection visas (TPVs) and offshore processing — but introduce extra cruel measures against refugees that arrive in Australia by boat.

Abbott and opposition immigration spokesperson Scott Morrison released the Liberal/National Coalition policy for so-called border protection on May 27.

One sentence in the final declaration of the Search Foundation’s Left Renewal Conference (From Global Crisis to Green Future) captured the key issue: “Capitalism has been unable to address inequality, war and ecological degradation, and must be replaced by a democratic system that puts human need before greed, and socialises wealth instead of debt.”

The Rudd ALP government was elected on a promise to take serious action on climate change. Yet it hasn’t acted and Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions — already the developed world’s worst per person — are on the rise again.

In late May, the Department of Climate Change announced emissions had risen in the December 2009 quarter, rebounding from a dip caused by the global economic crisis. Most of the rise came from the energy sector, said the May 28 Sydney Morning Herald.

The most serious controversy that has emerged in the climate movement this year is probably about the role of natural gas in a transition to a zero-emissions society.

The national climate summit in March did not debate gas, but decisions taken there have influenced the debate. A decision of that summit was to campaign to “replace Australia's dirtiest coal-fired power station, Hazelwood, with clean energy by 2012”.

Editorial

The world was shocked by Israel’s latest act of barbarism — an act of high-seas piracy that ended in slaughter. Israel’s excuse of “self-defence” is so ludicrous it is hard to believe anyone is expected to take it seriously.

On May 31, Israel raided the six boats of the Freedom Flotilla bringing humanitarian aid to the Palestinian Gaza Strip. The Gaza Strip has been subjected to a siege of growing intensity by Israel since 2006. The flotilla contained people from more than 37 nations.

In recent weeks, the big mining companies have spent millions on propaganda against plans to make them pay more tax. But the results of a June 1 Newspoll showed they have hardly made a dent on public opinion.

Both big parties are losing ground, the poll said. Labor’s primary vote dropped two points, to 35%. The Coalition went down by the same margin, from 43% to 41%. But the bombshell was the record Greens vote — up four points to 16%.

This is not a new trend. Support for the Greens has risen steadily over the past decade.

Letters

Israel’s latest atrocity

After yet another terrible massacre by Israel, this time against mostly foreign nationals in international waters, it must be said that several Western countries bear a lot of the responsibility for this and previous Israeli crimes.

These nations, principally the US, Britain and Australia, have constantly tolerated Israel carrying out atrocities without any condemnation or repercussions. In fact they usually make pathetic excuses for Israel’s actions, and stop criticism of Israel in the UN and other forums, granting Israel impunity.

General

On May 30, 2010, Green Left Weekly published an article titled “Australia expels diplomat but remains ‘firm friend’ of Israel”. It contained the untrue and defamatory suggestion that Paul Howes, National Secretary of the Australian Workers’ Union, was thrilled by the killing of Palestinian Hamas commander Mahmoud al-Mabhoh in Dubai in January this year.

Green Left Weekly is taking a break. Our next printed edition will be dated June 23. Stay tuned to this website for breaking news and analysis.

Resistance!

The socialist youth organisation Resistance unequivocally condemns the outrageous, illegal and murderous attack by the Israeli Defense Force on the civilian flotilla carrying aid to Gaza.

Israel's assault kills twice. The theft of urgently needed humanitarian aid that was destined for the starving people of Gaza, and the murder of at least nine innocent people by the Israeli commandos, is inexcusable.

Put Rudd on a boat so that he can see
what it feels like to be a refugee
trying to run from imperial slaughter,
on a leaky boat in shark-infested waters

How can these arseholes be so heartless?
— lock people up in bureaucratic darkness
They say they're Christian, but where’s the compassion?
They put Aboriginal people back on rations

It’s the Lib-Lab; hypocrisy reigns supreme,
they've got their redneck corporate Australian dream
they want to
make you think you're playing on the same team as them
as they are skimming off your share of the cream

Culture

In April, Arizona passed SB 1070, a controversial law that encourages police officers to harass residents they "reasonably suspect" to be undocumented migrants. Chuck D, from hip-hop legends Public Enemy, spoke to sports journalist, broadcaster and author Dave Zirin about SB 1070. Abridged from Zirin’s website, Edge of Sports .

* * *

DZ: Why did you choose to record “Tear Down this Wall?”

The Idea of Communism
By Tariq Ali
Seagull Press 2009, 126 pages

This short book is the first in a series called “What Was Communism”, which aims to explore the practice of Communism in the 20th century.

Tariq Ali’s main thesis is that “The failure of official Communism in the 20th century and the restoration of capitalism in Russia and China … far from negating some of the premises that underlined the project in the first place, emphasises their continuing importance”.

Long ago, I was made to understand that Palestine was not Palestine;
I was also informed that Palestinians were not Palestinians;
They also explained to me that ethnic cleansing was not ethnic cleansing.
And when naive old me saw freedom fighters
they patiently showed me that they were not freedom fighters,
and that resistance was not resistance.
And when, stupidly, I noticed arrogance, oppression and humiliation
they benevolently enlightened me so I can see that arrogance was not arrogance,
oppression was not oppression, and humiliation was not humiliation.

This must be a momentous occasion. According to the May 22 Sydney Morning Herald, the Dalai Lama — a major leader of a major religion — has declared himself “half Marxist half Buddhist”.

First we must ask questions about Buddhism itself. Is Buddhism a single religion, or even a religion? Would the two main streams constitute a schism? The Dalai Lama is the largely undisputed global figurehead of Mahayana Buddhism. There is no equivalent figurehead in the other dominant stream, Theravada, which stretches from South Asia to South-East Asia.

Fighting Fund

In these days of growing media concentration, Green Left Weekly is a vital voice committed to human and civil rights, global peace and environmental sustainability, democracy and equality.

By printing the news and ideas the mainstream media won't, GLW exposes the lies and distortions of the power brokers and helps us understand the world around us. In the words of multi-award-winning investigative journalist John Pilger, "Without GLW, freedom of press and public truth-telling in Australia would be gravely ill."