Issue 845

Australia

Five hundred people rallied outside the Perth Supreme Court Gardens on July 11 to demand that the coronial investigation into Mr Ward's tragic death be reopened.

Mr Ward, a respected Aboriginal elder, was literally cooked to death in the back of a prisoner van while being driven from Laverton to Kalgoorlie to face court for a traffic offence in January 2008.

The coroner found that temperatures inside the van reached 47° Celsius and that metal surfaces in the van would have reached 56°C.

Network of Women Students of Australia is an annual feminist student conference. This years conference was held in Newcastle from July 14-18 with the theme “intersections”. Eighty students attended.

Mish from sex-worker peak body Scarlet Alliance spoke about trans and sex worker rights. Rachel Evans spoke on behalf of Socialist Alliance about the same-sex marriage campaign.

On July 12, state environment minister Donna Faragher approved an additional three coal-fired power stations in Western Australia. These power stations will contribute to a 75% increase in the state’s greenhouse emissions, according to the Environmental Protection Authority.

Of the three power stations, one is a brand new private sector development. The other two are older power stations that were built in the 1960s and have not been in use for some time, which will be expanded and refurbished. This will more than double the number of coal-fired power stations in Collie.

Staff at the University of New South Wales are in a protracted dispute with a notoriously right-wing and anti-union administration, which is refusing to negotiate a new and fair collective agreement. Read more on the dispute here.

To send message of support, or to donate to hardship fund to assist the more than 80 UNSW staff who have been stood down without pay by the administration in retaliation for taking legal industrial action, visit the National Tertiary Education Union UNSW webpage.

SYDNEY — Dr Adam Lucas, the Sydney coordinator of the climate research and advocacy group Beyond Zero Emissions (BZE), told a July 14 meeting that BZE's stationary energy plan showed it was possible for Australian to move to 100% renewable energy in a decade.

Lucas gave an outline of the report, which will be launched publicly in Sydney in August.

Supporters of the Addison Road Centre in Marrickville met on July 15 to discuss a plan to sustainably deal with the centre’s waste and turn ARC into a leader in environmental sustainability.

The centre was built in 1914 as an army barracks. The NSW Lands Department handed it over to the community in the late 1970s after a long struggle. For 30 years, ARC has provided a large community space in inner-western Sydney.

A law preventing local councils from providing waste services to non-ratepayers has meant ARC faces a huge cost for waste removal.

On July 17, unionists and residents from Forrest, a small town in the Victorian Otways region, converged on the shire office at Colac to protest against an Optus communications tower being placed in the middle of their town.
The community picket line was established on the site for the new tower two weeks earlier. The community sought support from the construction unions, which it has received from the Construction Forestry Mining Energy Union and the Electrical Trade Union.

Work at all P&O Automotive and General Stevedoring (POAGS) wharves shut down nationwide in all 15 ports for 24 hours at midday on July 14 after the death of another waterside worker. It was the third this year, the second at POAGS operations and the third fatality at Appleton Dock in seven years.

A 41-year-old Melbourne waterside worker, Stephen Piper, was crushed to death that morning at Appleton Dock.

Hundreds of angry Queensland nurses rallied outside Queensland parliament on July 14 to protest against the ongoing pay debacle caused by problems with the new computerised payroll system.

Queensland Health introduced the system four months ago. Problems have included health workers being underpaid or not being paid at all, ABC Online reported on July 15. The rallying nurses chanted "No pay, no work!", and many threatened to quit if the errors were not fixed soon.

"Stop Unimin from totally destroying Stradbroke Island”, Aboriginal leaders Dale Ruska and Sam Watson, urging supporters to attend a rally outside the Magistrates' Court on July 14. “Stop this mining vandal and thief. The Stradbroke Island people need your support. The state government has taken Unimim to court. They must be judged and they must be stopped!"

Forty activists held a protest on July 15 against the expansion of the Olympic Dam uranium mine.

They blockaded the entrance to highlight the catastrophic effects the mine and its expansion would have on traditional owners, their land and future generations.

Catrina Staurmberg, at the protest, said: “This is a toxic mine, no one is safe. Radioactive material does not discriminate. If the open-cut expansion or any kind of uranium mining continues it will put many lives at risk across the country.

Anti-war activists took to the streets on July 15 outside Labor MP Tanya Plibersek's office to collect support for a giant “troops out” petition that will be presented to the new pro-war PM Julia Gillard.

With a federal election looming, and at least 61% of Australians opposed to Australia having troops in Afghanistan, Stop the War Coalition is organising to increase the pressure for a withdrawal.

Twenty-four of the 50 Kennon Auto workers who are members of the Textile Clothing and Footwear Union have been on strike since July 1 for a pay rise. The rise has been denied to them for the past three years.

Police and the company are increasing the pressure to break the picket line, but the community has been mobilising to support the striking workers.

Workers at local factories have walked off the job at short notice to supplement the workers' protest at vital moments, preventing trucks from breaking through.

About 650 people packed into a Melbourne university lecture theatre to see the launch of the Zero Carbon Australia 2020 Stationary Energy Plan on July 14.

Held jointly between Beyond Zero Emissions and the Melbourne University Energy Institute, the event heard from a number of speakers about how renewable energy could power Australia.

Tasmanian Premier David Bartlett announced on June 22 that he “accepted the [state] Planning Commission’s recommendation” to reject the Lauderdale Quays canal estate proposal at Ralphs Bay. “It found the proposal was unsustainable, and not consistent with the objectives of the planning system or the state coastal policy”, Bartlett said.

Read letters of support to UNSW staff.

On July 7, members of the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) at the University of New South Wales (UNSW) started receiving letters from the university that said they had been stood down without pay for imposing a ban on the recording and transmission of student results to the university.

The union imposed the bans after negotiations with university representatives failed to make progress on improving job security, pay and other conditions for UNSW staff.

World

Up to 1.5 million people flooded the streets of Barcelona on July 10 in an enormous demonstration behind a lead banner proclaiming: “We are a nation, we decide.” The turnout exceeded the most optimistic forecasts.

Even the most conservative and Spanish-nationalist media admitted this huge protest against the constitutional court’s undermining of Catalonia’s Statute of Autonomy was one of the biggest since the end of the Franco dictatorship in 1975 — and the most important in the history of Catalan nationalism.

The TV anchorwoman was conducting a split screen interview with a journalist who had volunteered to be a witness at the execution of a man on death row in Utah for 25 years.

“He had a choice”, said the journalist, “lethal injection or firing squad”. “Wow!” said the anchorwoman.

Cue a blizzard of commercials for fast food, teeth whitener, stomach stapling, the new Cadillac. This was followed by the war in Afghanistan, presented by a correspondent sweating in a flak jacket.

Francisco Chavez Abarca, who was recently extradited to Cuba, has admitted being contracted by Cuban-born terrorist Luis Posada Carriles to carry out destabilising acts in Venezuela in the lead-up to the September National Assembly elections.

Posada Carriles is a former CIA agent wanted for his role in a 1976 attack on a Cuban plane that left 73 passengers dead. He lives in Miami. The US government, going against international law, has refused Venezuelan and Cuban requests to extradite him.

Citizens rallied in two Afghan cities on July 10 and 11, chanting slogans against the 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.

On July 6, while 32-year-old Mustansar Rindhawa was listening to a worker who had not been paid his wages by a textile boss, an unknown person with a Kalashnikov entered the front room and fired.

Mustansar tried to save his life by running to the next room, but 10 people were determined to finish him off.

I met Mustansar briefly on June 19 in Faisalabad, less than a month before his murder. He was one of 30 participants in a trade union training course at the Labour Qaumi Movement (LQM) offices.

The people of Honduras are continuing their struggle for democracy more than one year after the June 28 military coup that overthrew elected President Manuel Zelaya.

The dictatorship tried to legitimise itself with fraudulent elections that brought President Profiro Lobo Sosa to power. The United States government, which was complicit in the coup, recognised the results despite almost no other government doing so. The US has since fully restored military assistance.

A jury voted on July 8 to convict a transit police officer who killed an unarmed 22-year-old African American man, Oscar Grant III, on an Oakland station platform 18 months ago. But the officer was convicted of the least serious possible manslaughter charge.

The verdict left Grant’s family and their supporters — and the community that Grant called home — bitter and angry.

Existing levels of greenhouse gases may be enough to push Arctic temperatures 19°C higher, a recent study has found.

A University of Colorado at Boulder scientific expedition to Ellesmere Island in the high Arctic found evidence that the ice cap may be far more sensitive to warming than had been thought, the team said on June 29.

The team used fossil records to measure temperatures on the island during the Pliocene period — 2.6 to 5.3 million years ago.

The research confirmed the area was mostly ice-free and about 19°C warmer on average than it is now.

Wilder Marcano is a director of the network of communes in Caracas. The communes are part of the push, supported by President Hugo Chavez, to deepen popular power and create a new, revolutionary state. Venezuelanalysis.com said on February 8 there are 184 communes “in construction” across the country.

The French Parliament, on the eve of Bastille Day, voted 335 to one in favour of preventing Muslim women wearing a full face-covering veil in public.

The July 13 Le Monde said the new law was strongly supported by the right. The gutless Socialist Party (PS), French Communist Party (PCF) and Green Party, while being “resolutely opposed” to the wearing of the niqab and the burka, abstained.

The PS’s big objection was that the legislation is a “gift for fundamentalists”.

Maybe. Mostly it’s a gift for every racist Islamophobe in Europe.

Months out from the September national elections, the eyes of football-crazy Brazil have been focused on the World Cup.

Discussions have centred on the performance (or lack thereof) of the men in the national football team. But it is three women who have been making the biggest impact on politics — especially on the left.

Argentina’s Senate narrowly approved a measure on July 15 legalising same-sex marriage, the New York Times said that day. The NYT said Argentina is the first Latin American nation to allow gay couples to wed.

The bill, which was sponsored by the government of President Cristinia Fernandez, was passed by 33-27. On July 15, Prensa Latina said Fernandez congratulated the Senate, saying the bill will allow for the protection of the rights of a minority.

Al-Sharq al-Awsat said on July 15 the Libyan aid ship, Amaltheal (“Hope”) docked the night before at al-Arish in Egypt. The ship was bearing 2000 tons of aid supplies for the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, which is blockaded by Israel.

The ship’s odyssey from Greece was marked by uncertainty and danger for the 21 passengers. It developed a mechanical problem that made it move very slowly on July 14. There was a question about whether its captain might try to take it right into Gaza, despite the Israeli military’s blockade.

Analysis

PM Julia Gillard was supposed to launch Labor's new policy to tackle climate change on July 23. But in essence she merely restated the same old Labor climate policy: delay, delay and delay again.

Gillard's speech was pages long, but her climate agenda can be summarised in just four words — more talk, less action.

The core promise was that her government would create a "citizens assembly" to discuss options to deal with global warming. Perhaps the government will propose the ice caps and glaciers hold off from melting until Gillard's august assembly has concluded its deliberations.

Since the March 20 state elections and the installation of a power-sharing government between the Labor Party and the Greens, there have been quite a few notable developments in Tasmanian politics.

Tasmania could be the first state to legalise voluntary euthanasia. The attorney-general and deputy premier Lara Giddings told states parliament on June 22 she would work with Greens leader Nick McKim to prepare a private members’ bill about voluntary euthanasia.

Defence minister Senator John Faulkner has joined the list of cabinet members who, since Julia Gillard became prime minister, have said they will resign from the front bench after the upcoming elections.

He dismissed suggestions that this was because he had doubts about the unpopular war in Afghanistan, which he has the task of promoting.

Pressure is now bearing down on the Australian climate movement because there has been so little forward progress in the federal government’s climate policy.

The pressure is for the movement to accept, support and campaign for weak and inadequate climate policies on the grounds that something is better than nothing.

This is plain from looking at the new, media-driven “consensus” about the need for a “price on carbon”.

In her speech to the National Press Club on July 15, Prime Minister Julia Gillard threw down the gauntlet to the labour movement. In a speech outlining the plans for a second-term Labor government, Gillard promised to run a regime of “reforms” that would entrench greater competition and privatisation.

There should remain little doubt about Gillard’s intentions. Her speech was aimed directly at the wallets of big business.

Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s high-handed attempts to impose a “regional asylum seeker processing centre” on East Timor have angered Timorese politicians and activists.

Despite Gillard’s talk about finding a regional solution to a regional problem, the “problem” of “unauthorised boat arrivals” in Australia is one of perception.

The Liberal-National opposition and the Murdoch tabloids have devoted considerable energy to creating anxiety in sections of the Australian community about the country being swamped by “boat people”.

The article below is the Socialist Alliance’s updated Climate Charter. For more information, visit the Socialist Alliance website.

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For years, climate scientists have warned us that we need to act on climate change. Now, science is saying that climate change is taking place more rapidly than everyone previously thought.

The warning signs are obvious. April and May were the world’s hottest months since records began. This year’s Arctic ice sheet melt is taking place at a pace never seen before.

I’m a climate change activist and have lived in Hobart for five years. During that time, I’ve been involved in the campaign against the Gunns’ pulp mill, through the group Students Against the Pulp mill. More recently I’ve been a member of Climate Action Hobart.

I’m running as a candidate for the Socialist Alliance for the seat of Denison in the August 21 federal election.

Twenty years ago, superannuation was an employment benefit enjoyed only by public sector workers and management level employees in the corporate sector. Most workers had no access to superannuation.

Today “super” is an “industry” of great value and interest to finance capital. The $1.3 trillion in superannuation funds came in handy when the ongoing “great financial crisis” (GFC) began in 2008. It was a lifeline for Australian corporations caught short.

What happened to create this behemoth?

The Council of Single Mothers and their Children (CSMC) has taken a stand, in solidarity with Indigenous single mothers in the Northern Territory, against the income management and Basics Card scheme. These policies were part of the NT intervention, rolled out across Aboriginal communities in 2007.

Legislation passed in the Senate on June 21 amended the Social Security Act to allow income management to also be applied to non-Aboriginal people, across the NT and then eventually across Australia.

Resistance!

Resistance has always championed solidarity with refugees, in a political arena of racism and fear-mongering. Resistance is committed to building campaigns demanding dignity, respect and human rights for asylum seekers.

Recently, we have been reaching out to refugees who are detained like prisoners for legitimately seeking asylum in Australia. Group visits to Villawood detention centre in western Sydney were initiated by Sydney Resistance about three months ago. Wollongong and Newcastle Resistance branches have also been involved.

Last year, 20-year-old Aboriginal dancer Rarriwuy Hick was put on welfare quarantining under the Northern Territory intervention. The difference was that she was living outside the government's prescribed zone — in New South Wales. Hick spoke to Ash Pemberton, from Green Left Weekly and Resistance about her experience with welfare quarantining and the affects of the intervention on her home community of Dhalinybuy in east Arnhem Land.

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What led to you being put onto welfare quarantining while you were living in NSW?

Culture

Fidel Castro Handbook
By George Galloway
MQ Publications, 2006

Review by Ramona Wadi

In the introduction, to the Fidel Castro Handbook author George Galloway describes himself as “a partisan for Cuba, for the revolution, for the leadership”. While a partisan view may be shunned in journalistic terms Galloway has no hesitation in embracing a revolution and being loyal to a cause that inspired working class and other exploited people throughout the world.

Terrorism and the Economy — How the War on Terror is Bankrupting the World
By Loretta Napoleoni
Seven Stories Press, 176 pages

Review by Thomas Kollmann

With no end in sight to operations in Afghanistan, an incisive review of how the much-hyped international events of the last nine years have led us there is very welcome.

Economist Loretta Napoleoni is renowned for throwing light on the murky world of the financing of terrorist groups.

Peoplequake: Mass Migration, Ageing Nations & the Coming Population Crash
By Fred Pearce
Corgi Books, 2010, 352 pages

Review by Martin Empson

In the 200 years since the Reverend Thomas Malthus first penned his tract, An Essay on the Principle of Population, the question of the “carrying capacity” of the planet has repeatedly appeared.

Most recently, mainstream debates around how to solve the question of climate change have boiled down to the simplistic argument that “there are too many people”.

Fighting Fund

Just days after the ALP replaced Kevin Rudd with Julia Gillard as PM, Rio Tinto boss Tom Albanese delivered a blunt warning to governments around the world, especially Third World governments, not to be tempted to go for what he called “resource nationalism”.

“As you know, the original May proposal for a super tax caused a furious national debate in Australia”, Albanese told a gathering of mining executives and big investors at Lord's in London.