Issue 842

News

Deaths in Custody Watch Committee (Western AAustralia) spokesperson, Marc Newhouse today announced a series of protest actions to be held following the Director of Public Prosecutions’ decision not to lay criminal charges against any of the parties responsible for the death in custody of Mr Ward in 2008. Mr Ward, an Aboriginal elder, died while being transported hundreds of kilometres across the WA Goldfields in a privately-operated prison van with faulty air conditioning.
A national gathering of Aboriginal community leaders will expose what they describe as the “treachery inherent in government policies targeting the civil and political rights” of their communities. The New Way Aboriginal Summit, being held in Melbourne from July 1 – 4 to coincide with NAIDOC Week, will host a press conference at 12.40 pm this Friday 2nd July at Trades Hall Council, the main summit venue.
Location: 'I have a dream' mural, King Street, Newtown When: Friday July 2, 4.30-6pm Representatives of local community organisations and political parties will take part in a community speak-out against racism on Friday July 2 in Newtown. They will assemble under the “I have a dream” mural – featuring the legendary anti-racist Black American campaigner Martin Luther King. Speakers participating include:
A wave of rallies and marches commemorating World Refugee Week swept across the country in the past week. On June 20, people rallied in Melbourne, coming from across the city and regional areas. Given the rain, organisers were happy with the turnout of 2000 people. It was the biggest protest in support of refugees for several years. Tamil refugee Arun Mylvaganam described his experiences escaping Sri Lanka and traveling to Australia, where he spent three months in detention. He was only 13 at the time and had no family members with him.
Australia’s leading conservation groups said in a joint statement on June 21 that concern about lack of action to provide safeguards against large-scale oil spills in Australia will be a high-profile issue in the next federal election. Thirty-two environment groups — including the Australian Conservation Foundation, WWF Australia and Pew Environment Group — have called on all political parties to commit to a network of large marine sanctuaries this coming election to provide safeguards for Australia’s unique marine life.
On June 5, New South Wales Teachers Federation state council voted to initiate a “Stop the Privatisation” forum to organise against the state government’s privatisation plans for the public sector. The forum will invite participation from the Public Sector Association (PSA), Fire Brigade Employees Union (FBEU) and other public sector unions. After the forum, the federation will initiate a public sector delegates meeting to discuss and organise a public sector-wide response to the privatisation agenda.
Following the New Way Summit on Aboriginal rights in Canberra in January, a second summit will be held in Melbourne over July 1-4. Convenor of the Victorian New Way Aboriginal Summit, Socialist Alliance member Sharon Firebrace, told Green Left Weekly: “We expect a lot of people will attend to learn that the New Way grassroots movement is a true opposition to what the federal government is dishing up to us in their shameful charade of establishing the First Nation Congress of Australia.”
Queer rights groups are initiating a high school referendum against homophobia and for same-sex marriage rights over August 2-6. Planned to help build the August 14 National Day of Action for equal marriage rights, the referendum will be a chance for students to discuss homophobia and how to combat it in their school. There are high levels of homophobia and prejudice in high schools. In Australia, 68% of gay, lesbian, bisexual, trans and inter-sex (LGBTI) people experience homophobia in school.
As climate change compels us to reduce carbon emissions, urban gardens that provide locally produced food are becoming an increasingly important model. The African Food Project is an urban, organic farm that grows traditional African vegetables for the African community around the outer western suburb of Blacktown.
On June 22, Queensland unions won a court victory with the ruling that Queensland Rail had broken the law by not consulting workers over privatisation plans. “Queensland Rail has been slapped with a $600,000 fine after it failed to consult its workers over plans to privatise part of the company”, the June 23 Courier-Mail reported. “A Federal Court ruling earlier this month found QR breached 20 of its enterprise bargaining agreements by not consulting workers about the planned sell-off before it was announced.”
On March 10 Veronnica Baxter, a 34-year-old Aboriginal woman from the Cunnamulla country, south-west Queensland, was arrested by Redfern police and held on remand. She dressed, appeared, and had identified as a woman for 15 years and was known by family and friends as a woman. Yet she was placed at the all-male NSW Silverwater Metropolitan Reception and Remand Centre. Six days later, after a 14-hour break between checking her cell, she was found dead, hanging in her single cell.
Despite a promise before the last election, the Brumby state Labor government has introduced legislation to extend the urban growth boundary for Melbourne. Planning Amendment VC 67 expands Melbourne’s Urban Growth Boundary to accommodate the 284,000 houses the government expects will be needed if Melbourne’s population reaches 5 million before 2030. About 70 people from the Green Wedge Coalition, Protectors of Public Lands and Planning Backlash protested against these plans on June 22.
On June 20, a 100-strong rally against the Northern Territory Emergency Response (the “NT intervention”) was held, protesting its third anniversary. On June 21 the Senate passed legislation allowing one of the most oppressive aspects of the intervention — welfare quarantining — to be extended to all welfare recipients (Indigenous and non-Indigenous) in the NT, and then to targeted communities throughout Australia.
Sand mining on Stradbroke Island, offshore from Brisbane, will be phased out by 2027, under a new plan announced by the Queensland state government on June 20. Most of the island will become national park and development of ecotourism will be the main industry.
On June 25, federal trade minister Simon Crean signed a deal to export up to 20 million tonnes of dried brown coal to Vietnam. The deal was signed with ironically-named Victorian company Environmental Clean Technologies (ECT). Fifty people protested outside the venue in Southbank where the deal was signed, despite the rain and only a few hours notice of the event.

Analysis

June 21 marked the third anniversary of the Howard government’s “national emergency” intervention in 73 prescribed Aboriginal communities in the Northern Territory, the so-called Northern Territory Emergency Response (NTER). In the name of protecting children, the basic liberties of Aboriginal people were suspended and a draconian and paternalistic state project of improvement was launched to “stabilise, normalise and then exit” these communities. Stabilisation was to take one year and normalisation four.
The federal Labor government passed the Social Security and Other Legislation Amendment (Welfare Reform and Reinstatement of the Racial Discrimination Act) bill on June 21 — exactly three years after the Northern Territory intervention was launched by the Howard-Coalition government. Welfare quarantining: • Will be extended to include about 20,000 people in the NT, starting from July 1; • Can be applied to young people on Centrelink payments, people who have been on unemployment or parenting benefits for more than a year, or people referred by family services;
Professor John Mendoza, head advisor to the federal government on mental health, recently resigned his position, citing frustration at government inaction on one of Australia’s leading causes of death and disability. The article below is abridged from a letter he sent to members of campaign groups GetUp! explaining his reasons for resigning. * * * On June 18, I resigned my position as the head advisor to the government on mental health.
A hastily convened caucus of Australian Labor Party federal MPs replaced former prime minister Kevin Rudd with his deputy, Julia Gillard, on June 24. This made her Australia's first woman PM. Treasurer Wayne Swan replaced Gillard as deputy PM. The dramatic takeover unfolded publicly the previous night when the chiefs of Labor's right-wing factions withdrew their support for Rudd.
Duncan Roden is a member of Resistance socialist youth organisation. He was born in Fiji and is a leading member of the Parramatta Climate Action Network. He has been preselected by the Socialist Alliance to run in the federal seat of Parramatta in the coming election. Below, Roden responds to rugby player Timana Tahu’s stand against racism. * * *
Australian Labor Party finance minister Lindsay Tanner announced on June 24 he would quit politics at the next election. His seat, the electorate of Melbourne, could become the first lower house seat one by the Greens in a federal election. Greens candidate for Melbourne Adam Bandt is running a serious campaign. The Greens say only one in 10 people who voted ALP last time need to change to the Greens for Bandt to win the seat. Bandt spoke to Green Left Weekly’s Ben Courtice about his campaign. ***
Michael Kumarasamy, one of the asylum seekers accused of being involved in a riot between Tamil and Afghan detainees at Christmas Island detention centre in November 2009, attended his trial on June 18 … about two hours late. Kumarasamy’s lawyer, Simon Freitag, had emailed Perth Immigration Detention Centre to ensure staff there knew when the case was on. When his client was late, he again rang Perth IDC.
NASA climate scientist James Hansen has called them “factories of death”. British columnist George Monbiot has said “everything now hinges” on stopping them. US climate writer Bill McKibben is prepared to be arrested to have them shut down. But Australian state governments don’t get it — they are still enchanted by coal-fired power stations. Climate campaigners say Australia should urgently replace existing coal-fired power plants with renewable energy, but 12 new “death factories” are slated to be built in Australia over the next few years.
US intelligence services are closely monitoring the movements of Wikileaks’ founder, Julian Assange, after he said the website would soon release a classified Pentagon video showing a May 2009 US air strike in Afghanistan that killed up to 140 civilians. The “Garani” video, if released, would follow the video released by Wikileaks in May, which showed US soldiers in an Apache helicopter fatally shooting about a dozen civilians in Iraq, including a reporter from news agency Reuters. That video received worldwide prominence and considerably heightened Wikileaks’ profile.
In late June, two important events related to renewable energy took place. On June 24, the Senate passed changes to the government's renewable energy target, removing the bias towards small-scale energy systems that put many wind farm projects on hold. The scheme set a 20% renewable energy target by 2020.

World

Indonesian military forces have stepped up their campaign of repression in West Papua in recent months. But leaders of the Free Papua Movement (OPM) continue to defy Indonesian demands to surrender. The campaign for West Papuan independence has been amplified by the continuing repression and lack of improvement of living standards under the current “special autonomy” system. An eyewitness report from West Papua Media Announcements (WPMA) posted on Pacific.scoop.co.nz on June 16 described a large military mobilisation in the mountainous Puncak Jaya region in central West Papua.
The 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa began its final round of 16 on June 26. it came amid the unrelenting drone of vuvuzela horns, the knockout of big teams such as Italy and France, and street protests by local residents angry at the 40 billion rand the government has spent on the corporatised event. Meanwhile, South Africa’s poor suffer substandard housing and access to basic services. Football, or “soccer” in Australia, is the “world game”, played by millions of people around the world and watched by hundreds of millions more. But is it truly the “people’s game”?
Labour history was made as New Zealand had its first mall workers strike on May 25. Workers in JB Hi-Fi in Albany, organised with the Unite union, went on strike for better pay and against a culture of bullying and intimidation against union members. Unite had already organised the first strike at a JB Hi Fi store on April 16. Unite member Jack Lucas said: “Our manager told me that I would never get a pay rise if I stayed with the collective. There was a lot of pressure put on me to resign.
On June 14, Muhammad Juma Abu Wardeh, a 17-year-old Palestinian labourer, was shot and wounded by Israeli snipers along the “buffer zone” in eastern Gaza as he collected materials for a cement plant in Jabaliya, north of Gaza City. Israel’s ongoing blockade against the Gaza Strip has prevented access to raw construction materials, forcing workers to risk their lives to trawl open agricultural areas for resources.
Women, the unemployed, the ill and frail will be the biggest losers from the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government’s slash-and-burn budget — and there will be no economic recovery. That was the dire warning on June 23 from Canadians who have bitter experience of an identical right-wing assault on the public sector. In the weeks leading up to the June 22 budget, the Con-Dem coalition sought advice from Canada’s former finance minister Paul Martin, who wielded the axe on his country’s public spending in the 1990s.
More than a year after its victory over the pro-independence Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), the Sri Lankan Army (SLA) continues to hold large areas of land in the predominantly Tamil north and east of Sri Lanka as “high security zones” (HSZ). Many of the Tamil inhabitants who were evicted from these areas to create the HSZs during the decades-long war are still unable to return to their homes.
News from Thailand is alarming: hundreds of people detained for violations of the emergency decree, including children, injured people chained to their hospital beds and several assassinations of local leaders of the pro-democracy Red Shirt movement. The country is moving deeper into an authoritarian and military regime. The elite are even considering postponing elections for six years, thus giving Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva the possibility of leading the country for ten years against the will of most Thai citizens.
On June 25, ABC News Radio reported 79 occupation soldiers had been killed so far that month, the highest number in any month since the October 2001 US-led invasion. On June 23, US President Barack Obama sacked the commander of US-led occupation forces in Afghanistan, General Stanley McChrystal — but not for the rising body count. The sacking was in response to a July Rolling Stone article in which McChrystal and his aides regularly refer to civilian leaders of the occupying powers (including Obama) using terms such as “clown” and “fucking gay”.
On June 1, part-Peruvian US actor and indigenous rights activist Q’orianka Kilcher was arrested for “disorderly conduct” after chaining herself to the White House fence while Peruvian President Alan Garcia met with US President Barack Obama. Garcia refers to the Amazonian indigenous peoples of his country as barbaric savages. Kilcher had doused her body in black paint, symbolic of the oil killing the Amazon and its people.
On June 20, US group Act Now to Stop War and Racism (ANSWER) released a statement, abridged below, on the blockade of the docks in Oakland that prevented an Israeli ship unloading its goods as part of the global boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign targetting apartheid Israel. * * *
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon announced on June 22 the formation of a three-member panel to advise him on whether Sri Lanka committed crimes during the last months of its war against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, Reuters said that day.
The United States has renewed military aid to Honduras with a donation of 25 heavy trucks valued at US$812,000, Spanish website infodefensa.com said. On June 18, US ambassador Hugo Llorens also announced Washington would give Honduras $75 million through USAID for various development projects and $20 million as part of the Merida Program to enhance “security”.
A major split over the US blockade of Cuba has emerged between domestic “dissidents” in Cuba and their former partners in Miami. The US corporate media is paying attention to what appears to be a new anti-Cuban strategy. A letter signed by 74 of the “dissidents” on the island calls for an end to Washington’s ban on US citizens travelling to Cuba. On the other hand, most of the Cuban-American members of Congress are fiercely defending the nearly 50-year-old economic blockade in all its forms. The “new contras” are now up against the old.
The Canadian province of Alberta is well known as a climate-destroying behemoth. The tar sands developments in its north are the single largest source of greenhouse gas emissions on the planet. Less well known are the ambitions of its neighbouring province, British Columbia. It shares similar fossil fuel reserves and ambitions as Alberta. Vast coal and natural gas reserves are being opened at breakneck speed. Construction is underway or planned for accompanying road, rail, pipeline and supertanker transport routes.
Right-wing candidate Juan Manuel Santos won the second round of the Colombian presidential elections on June 20. This re-affirms Colombia’s position as the US’s chief proxy in the region, playing a similar role to that of Israel in the Middle East. Santos won 69% of the run-off election against Green Party presidential candidate and former Bogota mayor Antanas Mockus. However, IPS said on June 21 that, with just 45% of registered voters taking part in the poll, Santos won with a mere 30% of potential votes.
The world’s worst ever oil spill is also the biggest methane leak in human history, US government scientists have said. The US Geological Survey’s “flow team” has estimated between 4.5 billion to 9 billion cubic feet of natural gas have escaped from BP’s Deepwater Horizon rig since it exploded in April, Associated Press said on June 19. John Kessler, an oceanographer at the Texas A&M University, told AP the leak was “the most vigorous methane eruption in modern human history”. Scientists think methane makes up 40% to 70% of what is spilling from the damaged BP rig.

Culture

Our children are still being fed racist messages by toy manufacturers and stockists. A recent browse through Northlands K-Mart toy department led me to wonder: If all Baby-Borns are white, where did Wrestler Action Man come from? Despite catering to one of the most multicultural parts of Melbourne, Northlands K-Mart does not have a single non-white baby doll in its massive display.
Creation Directed by Jon Amiel Starring Paul Bettany & Jennifer Connelly In cinemas The life of Charles Darwin has all the elements of an engaging movie — adventure, conflict, insecurity, heartbreak and ultimately victory over entrenched ideas and institutions. The film Creation takes up some of these issues, portraying Darwin (Paul Bettany) in the years preceding the publication of On the Origin of Species, grappling with his theory and confronting the religious conservatism of his wife Emma (Jennifer Connelly).
What’s Wrong With Anzac? The Militarisation of Australian History By Marilyn Lake & Henry Reynolds UNSW Press, 2010, 183 pages, $29.95 (pb) On April 25 in Australia, it is humanly impossible to escape the slouch hats, the Dawn Service, the Last Post, the khaki uniforms and the military ceremonies endlessly recycled in the establishment media. The cult of Anzac Day is pervasive, the culture of war unavoidable.
Sydney-based fringe magazine Spunk has announced it plans to use its latest fundraiser event, Possessed, to raise awareness and support for the Boomalli Aboriginal Artists Cooperative, which is threatened with imminent eviction by the Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts.

Editorial

The deaths of three Australian commandos in a helicopter crash on June 21 should bring home the message: it's time to leave Afghanistan. The deaths bring the total number of Australians killed in the occupation to 16. This, not to mention the countless thousands of Afghan deaths, should be enough reason to call an end to Australian participation in this war.

Fighting Fund

Newly installed Prime Minister Julia Gillard has offered a truce and fresh negotiations with the mining industry over the government's proposed Resources Super Profits Tax (RSPT). Watching the industry's advertising campaign, you'd think the RSPT spelt the end of civilisation as we know it. According to one BHP Billiton ad, the RSPT will mean “fewer projects, jobs and opportunities for our future generations”. The ad's title, above an all-Australian image of young blokes playing footy, reads: “Australia loves to compete, but the Super Tax could take us out of the game.”

General

It is with great sadness that Green Left Weekly reports the death of human rights activist Rosemarie Waratah Gillespie, 69, who unexpectedly died in Melbourne on June 21 from a stroke. An activist for more than 40 years, she was a human rights lawyer, activist, author, filmmaker, anti-capitalist, Indigenous activist and mother. Waratah lived in Port Kembla and frequently travelled to Sydney to attend meetings at Humanist House, where she was vice president of the Humanist Society. The society was just one of her many passions.

Letters

Refugees and climate change Today (June 20) is World Refugee Day, observed each year as a way of raising awareness on the plight of refugees. Given the increasingly regressive policies being adopted by the federal government when it comes to asylum seekers, this day is needed more than ever.

Resistance!

In July, Socialist Alliance election candidates will be taking a trip to the Northern Territory to personally witness conditions under the federal government's intervention into Aboriginal communities. SA youth candidates — and Resistance members — Jess Moore, Zane Alcorn and Ewan Saunders will join Indigenous activists, students, community groups and campaigners from across the country in Alice Springs for an important gathering of intervention-affected Aboriginal communities.
Organisers are expecting about 400 people to descend on Adelaide for the Students of Sustainability (SoS) conference over July 4 – 8. The conference is held annually for students and activists involved in environment and social justice movements. Over the four days, workshops will be held on topics as diverse as climate change, guerrilla gardening, Indigenous rights, campaigning for renewable energy on campus and many more. SoS gives participants the confidence, practical skills and motivation needed to campaign for a cleaner and healthier Earth.