Issue 844

News

Pro-choice group Children by Choice has written to Queensland Premier Anna Bligh and two senior state ministers calling for a legislative review of the state's abortion laws, a move supported by the Queensland Council for Civil Liberties (QCCL), said the July 7 Courier-Mail. However, Children by Choice spokesperson Cait Calcutt said all three leaders had replied that the government would not act, saying any change would be up to a private member's bill.
Australian Manufacturing Workers Union organiser Colin Muir, Australian Workers Union organiser Sam Woods, and Electrical Trades Union organiser Gerry Glover joined union members at a barbecue in front of British Aerospace Engineering (BAE) on July 8. More than 290 union members voted to continue an indefinite ban on overtime and working rostered days off, and for 24-hour stoppages on Fridays. Only essential, high-voltage switch work will be carried out.
Unions NSW has called a mass rally and march in Sydney at noon on July 20 in support of South Australian construction worker Ark Tribe, who faces court in Adelaide that day. Tribe faces jail for refusing to be interrogated by the Australian Building and Construction Commission, the special police force set up to break the power of the building unions. The set up by the former Coalition federal government and continues under Labor.
Unions NSW has endorsed and is sponsoring the "stop the privatisation" forum organised by the New South Wales Teachers Federation (NSWTF). The NSWTF has invited speakers from a range of public sector unions, including the Public Sector Association, Nurses Association and Fire Brigade Employees Union. Speakers will show how the NSW government's privatisation agenda has damaged service delivery and caused job cuts and the erosion of wages and working conditions.
Fifty people rallied outside the Department of Immigration and Citizenship on July 9 in response to the Gillard Labor government's proposed new "East Timor solution" for processing asylum seekers. The protest was organised by the Refugee Action Collective. Aboriginal rights leader and Socialist Alliance Senate candidate Sam Watson told the protest: “[Opposition leader Tony] Abbott and [PM Julia] Gillard are creating the atmosphere for another Tampa election, targeting the most vulnerable people.
About 800 people joined the NAIDOC week march on July 9. Young Kooris mostly led the chants, as a show of Aboriginal pride. The most popular chant was “Always was, Always will be, Aboriginal land”. Alf Bamblett, executive officer of the Victorian Aboriginal Community Services Association, told the crowd the federal government was extending income management beyond the Northern Territory and there was every chance it could come into Victoria unless it was resisted.
On July 9, 60 people took to the streets to condemn the death of Aboriginal trans woman Veronnica Baxter. She was found dead in the Silverwater Metropolitan Reception and Remand Centre — a prison for men — six days after her arrest by Redfern police on minor drugs charges. The protesters were in Wollongong for Queer Collaborations, a yearly student activist conference supporting lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, intersex and gender diverse rights. The July 5-9 conference had 180 participants and the theme “Fighting Queers Need Fighting Unions”.
"The recent campaign by the big mining companies, which brought down PM Kevin Rudd, shows the enormous power of these giant monopolies in our capitalist society”, Socialist Alliance activist Marg Gleeson told a public forum, sponsored by the SA on July 6. "This two-month campaign of lies and distortions by the mining barons was victorious. It underlines exactly who holds the levers of power in our 'democratic' country."
Environmentalists are calling for the state government to cancel a mining lease on North Stradbroke Island, off the coast of Brisbane. Huge quantities of sand on the island has been illegally mined and sold to landscape and building industries. On July 3, the Queensland Court of Appeal dismissed an appeal by mining company Unimin against a Supreme Court ruling in December 2009 that it had carried out illegal mining and sale of the sand.
Humanity is in a race against time to avoid the environmental and social catastrophe caused by climate change. At times, it seems we are losing the race. When we look at the sabotage of international summits by the rich countries, or the false solutions peddled by governments and corporate polluters, the challenge we face can seem overwhelming. But globally, there is a rising people’s movement demanding real action on climate. This movement gives reason for hope and inspiration.
Following a community rally against racism in Sydney's inner-west on July 2, activists went to local Labor MP Anthony Albanese's office on July 8 to present him with a huge open letter that had been signed by many in his electorate. The letter called on Albanese to reject the racist politics pursued in the upcoming federal election.
Brisbane Murri activist and Socialist Alliance Senate candidate Sam Watson made the following comments on July 8 on the anti-refugee policies of the two major parties. * * * PM Julia Gillard and opposition leader Tony Abbott are involved in a headlong race to the bottom of the political pile with their policies on asylum seekers. There is no sign of humanity, no compassion, no generosity of spirit.

Analysis

The following is a letter by the Stop the War Coalition Sydney to Prime Minister Julia Gillard * * * We are concerned with the growing threat of a new United States-Israel strike against the people of Iran and are writing to ask you to distance your government from any measure that could lead to an attack on Iran. The media is currently filled with reports of an alleged nuclear threat posed by Iran and the assumed need for the US, or Israel, to take military action.
The New South Wales government welcomed figures released by the state transport department on June 28 showing a slight increase in the proportion of trips taken by public transport in NSW over the 2008/09 year. “In 2008/09 travel by train increased by 3.1 per cent and travel by bus grew by 2.4 per cent whilst car trips fell by 0.8 per cent”, the government website said.
Aboriginal activists and supporters rallied outside Queensland Supreme Court on July 6 to demand justice for Mulrunji Doomadgee, his family and the people of Palm Island. The crowd protested against an action in the court by the Queensland Police Union (QPU) "to stop their six police mates from being charged with serious offences over the Palm Island police cover-up”, Aboriginal community leader and Socialist Alliance Senate candidate Sam Watson said on calling the action.
Aboriginal academic and activist Sharon Firebrace is the Victorian Socialist Alliance Senate candidate in the federal election. Firebrace founded the Aboriginal Genocide Centre. Repealing the NT intervention and standing up for refugee rights are key parts of her election policy. Below, she responds to Labor Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s announcement on refugees. ***
At the conclusion of the New Way Summit in Melbourne over July 1-4, a proposal was adopted stating that: “Aboriginal people be encouraged to take possession of unoccupied and Crown lands, including abandoned buildings, to assert their ownership and original title.” This was the third New Way Summit on Indigenous rights to be held. The New Way Summit was initiated by Euahlayi man Michael Anderson from far-western New South Wales. The first summit was held in Canberra in January.
Last week was another ugly political week in Australia. There was much to be disgusted about, but one line disgusted me particularly. It was from an apologist for the Julia Gillard Labor government who dared to offer this whispered excuse for the PM's shameless embrace of racist scapegoating of desperate asylum seekers: “Julia Gillard is pretending to be conservative so that [Coalition leader Tony] Abbott can't use this issue to win the elections. Once Labor wins, they will implement a different policy. “It's clever politics.”
More than 200 people gathered at the Yirara College in Alice Springs over July 6-9 for a conference entitled Defending Indigenous Rights: Land, Law, Culture Convergence. The convergence brought together Aboriginal communities affected by the Northern Territory intervention to speak and coordinate with anti-intervention and Aboriginal rights groups from around the country.
“A juggernaut out of control” is how lawyer Rob Stary described the Australian Federal Police and ASIO after a judge concluded a case against three Tamils in April 2010. A spokesperson for the AFP defended its prosecution, saying that the criminal inquiry had been “complex” and “challenging.” In Queensland, the police commissioner has been reported as saying that he opposed the publication of the Crime and Misconduct Commission report into the death of Mulrunji Doomadgee, who had his liver split in two after Sergeant Chris Hurly fell on him in a “complicated” way.
Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s July 5 announcement that she would solve the refugee crisis by being tougher on refugees did what former PM John Howard failed to do in his 11 years of conservative rule. She has made former One Nation MP Pauline Hanson feel at home. Hanson announced she wasn’t emigrating to Britain, as planned, saying she was in “total agreement” with Gillard’s plan to “sweep political correctness from the debate”, the Australian said on July 6. Gillard’s main proposals cast refugees as a problem to be solved — and blame the refugees for that problem.
You have been reported in the media as preferring to be judged by your actions rather than as a woman. I congratulate you! This is what all women want: to be judged on their merits not on the basis of gender. An activist of “the second wave” of feminism, I have been fighting (along with my sisters) against sexism in the workplace and the broader community for more than 40 years.
“Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the peacemakers for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country.” I can’t help but be reminded of the these words of Nazi war criminal Hermann Goering as the big parties in Australia intensify efforts at scoring goals at the others expense by putting forward players who can kick the ball (in this case asylum seekers) the hardest.
Luta Hamutuk, a Dili-based non government organisation, released the following statement on July 7. It was translated from Tetum by Tomas Freitas. * * * The July 7 Java Post said: “Prime Minister Julia Gillard has tightened Australia immigration law. Not wanting to be bothered by the economic and social problems caused by asylum seekers, the Australian leader plans to build a detention center for asylum seekers in Timor-Leste.” The above statement shows how Australian foreign policy contains “racist characteristics” toward Timor-Leste and the region.

World

Citizens rallied in two Afghan cities on July 10 and 11, chanting slogans against occupying powers and the unpopular regime of President Hamid Karzai for failing to protect civilians. On July 10, hundreds took to the streets of Mazar-i-Sharif to demand that all occupation forces leave. The protest was organised after an artillery barrage from occupying NATO forces killed six civilians in Paktia province on July 8 and US troops killed two civilians in a pre-dawn raid in the city on July 7. Protesters chanted slogans against occupation forces and Karzai.
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez took a giant symbolic leap in the direction of Latin American independence on July 6 when Venezuela and Ecuador conducted the first bilateral trade deal between two countries using a new trading currency, the Sucre, instead of the US dollar. The Unitary System of Regional Compensation (Sucre) is the currency the adopted last year by the Bolivarian Alliance of the Americas (ALBA) regional bloc to allow member states to trade without using the US dollar.
Acting against our alleged “ambush marketing” and “incitement”, the South African Police Service, newly augmented with 40,000 additional cadre for the World Cup, detained several of us in Durban on July 3. We were exercising freedom of expression at our favorite local venue — the South Beach Fan Fest. Wearing hidden microphones to tape discussions with police leadership, what we learned was chilling.
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said on July 2 that intelligence services at the Caracas airport have arrested a man wanted in connection with terrorist activities in Cuba from the 1970s. The Venezuelan government said El Salvadorean Francisco Antonio Chavez Abarca tried to enter Venezuela on July 1 on a false Guatemalan passport. Interpol alerted Venezuelan authorities to his identity and requested his arrest. On July 7, Venezuela extradited Chavez Abarca to Cuba to face charges for bombings on the island.
A series of investigations have cleared the climate scientists at the centre of the “climate gate” scandal of falsifying or suppressing data. In November, a series of leaked emails from the Climatic Research Unit (CRU) at the University of East Anglia purporting to show them falsifying data to promote the concept of human-caused global warming were released to the media. This occurred in the lead up to the United Nations December climate summit in Copenhagen.
On July 6, the Thai government approved the extension of an emergency decree in 19 provinces, which includes many in the heartland of the pro-democracy Red Shirts in the country’s north-east. The extension came a day after the Brussels-based International Crisis Group (ICG) recommended the government immediately lift the decree and hold fresh elections. But Prime Minister Abhisit Vejajiva, who came to power through the army’s intervention, crushed hopes for new elections weeks ago.
On April 9, the Australian Labor Party government, then led by Kevin Rudd, imposed a three-month suspension of the processing of refugees from Sri Lanka. On July 6, the Labor government of PM Julia Gillard announced, in the context of unveiling its pre-election tougher stance against refugees, that the suspension would not be extended.
A Washington DC court convicted a repeat-offender in May for a crime that could have seen him spend years in prison. The offender was not a BP executive found guilty of criminal negligence over the Gulf of Mexico oil spill. Nor was it any other environmental vandal. It was climate change activist Ted Glick. His crime was to hang two banners off the Hart Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill in September last year.
The financial reform legislation just passed by Congress was proclaimed by US President Barack Obama as “the toughest financial reform since the ones we created in the aftermath of the Great Depression”. This is a kind of doublespeak. The entire thrust of financial reform in the decades since the 1930s has been toward financial deregulation. Being the toughest financial reform measure by that standard merely means that it didn’t give the house away.
The German parliament met on June 30 to elect the country’s largely symbolic president. What should have been a fairly straightforward affair, however, turned into a political embarrassment for Chancellor Angela Merkel. The new election was made necessary by the resignation of Horst Koehler on May 31, after a public outcry over his comments suggesting German military involvement in Afghanistan was commercially motivated. Koehler’s resignation came as Merkel’s governing right-wing coalition was struggling in opinion polls.
Threats of a military attack against Iran by the US and Israel have increased after new sanctions were imposed by the United Nations Security Council on June 9, under pressure from Washington. On July 1, US President Barack Obama signed legislation passed by Congress in June that imposed new US unilateral sanctions targeting foreign companies that sell petroleum products, such as gasoline and diesel, to Iran. This would include producers, insurers and those involved in transportation.
On June 19, six executives — the entire board of Australian mining corporation Sundance Resources — were killed in a plane crash in the Republic of the Congo. Australian politicians and the corporate media emphasised the tragedy of their untimely deaths, showering praise on the deceased.
A recent attempt to forge greater unity among militant union sectors in Brazil has imploded. The Working Class Congress (Conclat) was held in Sao Paulo on June 5-6 to try and bring together various radical union currents. The key forces behind the congress were Conlutas and Intersindical, both formed in opposition to the main union confederation, the Unified Workers’ Confederation (CUT). The CUT unites approximately 60 million formal or informal workers out of a total population of 200 million, making it the biggest workers confederation in the continent.
The proposal for a visit to the 26 Irish counties that make up the southern state by the British head of state, Queen Elizabeth II, has drawn condemnation from Irish republicans. Irish Taoiseach (head of government) Brian Cowan announced in June plans for a royal visit, believed to be for sometime in 2011. It would be the first visit by the British head of state to the southern Irish state since it was founded in 1921.
Poverty and inequality are at record levels according to a new report. The redistribution of wealth from poor to rich overseen by former prime minister Margaret Thatcher, and continued under Labour, will be accelerated by the huge public spending cuts proposed by the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition — unless they are stopped. The Institute of Fiscal Studies’ annual Poverty and Inequality in the UK report released in May makes for bleak reading. Incomes for most households had stagnated for the last seven years under Labour.
The board of Pride Toronto held a press conference on the lawn outside its offices on May 25 to announce the phrase “Israeli Apartheid” would be censored from the upcoming 2010 Pride Parade. The decision, aimed at banning the Toronto-based activist group Queers Against Israeli Apartheid from the gay pride parade, set off a firestorm in the community. This included refusals to take part in the festival and an open letter denouncing the decision by eight founding members who organised the first Toronto Pride parade in 1981.
Greek workers staged their sixth general strike this year on July 8. The strike halted public transport, stopped ferry services, and closed schools, newspapers, courts and public hospitals. About 100,000 people took part in protest rallies in Athens and Thessaloniki, chanting: “Workers, answer the war declared by capitalists with war” and “Let the oligarchs pay for the crisis”.
Hundreds of activists in Washington, DC demonstrated on July 6 outside the White House to protest against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s visit. Protesters held signs calling on the US government to end military aid to Israel as Netanhayu met US President Barack Obama. After the meeting, Obama said: “I think the Israeli government, working through layers of various governmental entities and jurisdictions, has shown restraint over the last several months that I think has been conducive to the prospects of us getting into direct talks.”

Culture

Canada & Israel: Building Apartheid By Yves Engler Fernwood Publishing/Red Publishing Toronto, 2010, 168 pages. Most Canadians today would probably agree that their country's foreign policy is pro-Israel. Even Canada's “liberal” supporters of Israel complain that siding so explicitly with Israel damages Canada's role of a peacemaker. It signals a shift away from the country's perceived balanced approach to the Arab-Israeli conflict.
Sex Work Matters: Power & Intimacy in the Sex Industry by Melissa Hope Ditmore, Antonia Levy & Alys Willman Zed Books When sex workers speak it is often with anger, frustration or reproach. This is because, more than any other group of workers, they have been defined, pathologised and moralised at by others. Sex Work Matters was a labour of love that emerged from a conference of sex workers held in New York in 2006. The result is a collection of essays by sex workers, academics and people involved in providing services to sex workers.
Step by Step: Women of East Timor, Stories of Resistance and Survival Edited by Jude Conway Charles Darwin University Press, 2010 241 pages, $44 Review by Niko Leka The title of Step by Step refers to how the Timorese gained their independence. The steps are told through the firsthand narratives of 13 women who grew up in East Timor. When they were born it was a Portuguese colony, which in 1975 was invaded and occupied by Indonesia. It achieved victory in the quarter century-long struggle for independence in 1999.
Wiya! Angela Pamela by the Super Raelene Brothers & the Little Sisters Collective Review by Emma Murphy Wiya! Angela Pamela, a protest song in three languages with an incredibly catchy base and back beat, is the result of collaboration between funk-folk band the Super Raelene Brothers and the Little Sisters Collective, two Alice Springs-based groups. The song, in Western Arrernte and Luritja, with a smattering of English, is in response to — and part of a campaign against — the proposed Angela Pamela uranium mine.

Fighting Fund

Twitter, for the few who may not know, is a social networking internet service that enables its users to send and read other users' messages (tweets) of up to 140 characters. Increasingly, politicians are using Twitter as part of their (managed) media work. Shortly after becoming prime minister, Julia Gillard joined the Twitterverse. “1.54PM Jul 4: I’ve decided it’s time to take the Twitter plunge! Hopefully I’ll master it. JG.” By her second Tweet, she (or perhaps a specially assigned member of her staff) was behaving like a seasoned Tweeting politician.

Letters

Hollowing out the asylum seeker ‘debate’ On July 5, while waiting for my dentist, I couldn't help hearing Kerri-Ann Kennelly, her show being blared on the big screen in the waiting room. Kennelly was telling us how she welcomed PM Julia Gillard's exhortation for an honest debate on the asylum-seeker “problem”. She welcomed Gillard's dog whistle that political correctness had no part in the “debate” and called on her viewers to share their thoughts by emailing the show. But first, Kennelly had to set the agenda. The tool of choice was fear-mongering.

Resistance!

About 250 people attended the Students of Sustainability (SoS) conference at Flinders University in Adelaide over July 4-8. A highlight of the conference was the attendance of the Indigenous Solidarity Rides bus full of passengers on their way from Newcastle to the convergence at Alice Springs. They presented workshops on the NT intervention, its effects on Aboriginal communities and the struggle to repeal the racist laws.
On June 30, 31 mainly young activists set off from around NSW in an old converted school bus, for the “Indigenous Solidarity Rides” heading to an Aboriginal rights convergence in Alice Springs over July 6-11. At the same time, 25 activists from Brisbane headed to the convergence, also in a bus, as part of the “Justice Ride”.