Issue 847

News

In the midst of a Federal Election and with the major party leaders equivocating on climate change and a price on carbon, the Zero Carbon Australia Stationary Energy Plan will be launched at a free public forum in Sydney Town Hall on Thursday 12 August at 6.00 pm. Hosted by the journalist and broadcaster, Quentin Dempster, the speakers will include: · Malcolm Turnbull, MP for Wentworth · Bob Carr, former NSW State Premier · Scott Ludlam, Greens Senator for WA · Matthew Wright, Executive Director, Beyond Zero Emissions · Allan Jones, Sustainability Expert, City of Sydney
TOWNSVILLE — More than 230 miners at the Thiess Collinsville Coal Project walked off the job on July 27 over a two-year-old pay dispute. The strike has halted all production at the mine. Secretary of the Collinsville lodge of the Construction Forestry Mining Energy Union Rick Grant told the July 29 Townsville Bulletin the miners had dug in and weren’t about to back down. Grant said the dispute was over what workers considered an outdated enterprise bargaining agreement. He said the EBA was well below what miners in other parts of the Bowen Basin were being paid.
On July 27, Cockburn Shire council workers took industrial action in protest to the managements offer of a pay-rise in this years new enterprise bargaining agreement. The workers for the shire, which is in southern Perth, have refused the offer, which falls sort of what they consider fair. The workers belong to two unions, the Australian Services Union (ASU) and the Local Government Racing and Cemeteries Employees Union (LGRCEU), which are organising their pay campaign.
BLUE MOUTAINS — About 60 people filled the Family Hotel bistro on July 24 to see Actively Radical TV's new film on the NT intervention, Alyawarr Walk-Off Protest vs Northern Territory Intervention. The event, organised by Green Left Weekly and the Socialist Alliance, also heard a reportback from the recent anti-intervention convergence in Alice Springs and the “Justice Tour” bus trip. Many participants expressed disgust at the Labor government’s role in the intervention. Many were also amazed at how little coverage there was in the media about the issue.
The “world’s first dedicated climate election website” Vote Climate, which rates political parties climate change policies, has recommended a vote for the Socialist Alliance in the upcoming August 21 federal elections. Vote Climate provides detailed policy analysis based on available policy as the primary source, and public documents and public statements as a secondary source. SA is ranked first as the only party that has “policies that might stop runaway climate change” and “adopt a climate emergency response”.
In New South Wales, 96.3% of rail workers have voted in favour of strike action to further their campaign for a new enterprise bargaining agreement. The combined unions campaign committee notified Railcorp this would take the form of a fare-free day involving station staff and transport officers. Strikes at maintenance depots and workshops are planned at Hornsby, Flemington, Mortdale, Sydenham and Eveleigh for all Rail, Tram and Bus Union members on August 5 from 10am-2pm. All RTBU office workers at Burwood and Granville will strike the same day from 11am-1pm.
The Melbourne International Film Festival (MIFF) apparently screened Iraqi film Son of Babylon against the wishes of the filmmakers — who object to the sponsorship of the MIFF by the apartheid state of Israel. Israel faces an international boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign by opponents of its oppression of Palestinians. As with the international campaign against South African apartheid, this includes a call for a cultural boycott.
The launch of the Nuclear Freeways Campaign took place outside federal resources minister Martin Ferguson’s office on July 30. The launch was a send-off for a group of activists from Friends of the Earth who will travel the likely route nuclear waste will be transported from Sydney to a proposed nuclear waste dump at Muckaty station in the Northern Territory.
Canberra’s bus service, Action, is trying to impose a new enterprise bargaining agreement (EBA) on bus drivers to undermine their rights at work. Under the current EBA, 40% of Canberra’s bus drivers are part-time and have to wait four years until they can get full-time work. If the part-time to full-time ratio that Action wants is implemented, workers will have to wait seven to eight years for a full-time job. “We’re fighting to protect bus driving as a profession”, one bus driver said.
Food security will be a focus of November’s Climate Change/Social Change conference, being held in Melbourne. An entire workshop stream will be devoted to the topic. The global food system captures the insanity of production for profit: One in six people in the world are malnourished, yet the United Nations estimates that 40-50% of all food in the United States is wasted. Food waste makes up to half of Australian landfills.
“I’ve never felt so good about an election”, an upbeat Senator Bob Brown told a packed crowd at Leichhardt Town Hall on July 29. The Greens parliamentary leader urged people to help his party out in the August 21 election in which the Greens hope to win the balance of power in the Senate. Having been excluded the previous week from the “great debate” featuring Labor Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Coalition leader Tony Abbott, Brown used the opportunity to talk up policies that, had he been included, may have made it worth watching.
The statement below has been signed by the Australian Socialist Alliance, the Malaysian Socialist Party (PSM) and the Indonesian Working People’s Association (PRP). * * * We, the undersigned organisations, view with serious concern the possibility of military aggression towards the people of Venezuela by the Colombian government, which could be supported by the United States using its seven military bases recently installed in Colombia.
Barbara Shaw, a well-known Indigenous activist and leader of the Intervention Rollback Action Group in Alice Springs, said on July 27 that she would stand as a candidate in the Northern Territory seat of Lingiari in the August 21 federal election. Shaw will stand for the Greens against Labor’s Warren Snowdon, who holds the seat and is federal Indigenous health minister.
Protesters had coal trains backed up for kilometres at the small mining town of Collinsville, inland from Bowen, north Queensland, on July 26. They were protesting against the dust and noise of the trains, and the plan to upgrade the rail line to bring up to 70 coal trains a day through their town. About 15 coal trains a day rumble through the middle of Collinsville. The residents picketed the line for three days, bringing coal train traffic to a complete halt.
The Cairns Women’s Network (CNW) has endorsed a planned national day of action for abortion rights on October 9. “We do not understand why a section of the Qld Criminal Code from 1899 is being used to bring charges against a young Cairns couple in 2010”, said Dr Carole Ford from the Cairns Women’s Network. “All people who respect a woman’s right to control her own fertility should support repeal of these archaic laws.” Ford said the CNW was planning a peaceful vigil in Cairns beginning on October 11.
For 10 years, the former Tip Top bakery site in Brunswick East has attracted ambitious property players who later saw financial ruin. These include disgraced property spruiker Henry Kaye followed by Norm Carey’s property group Westpoint. Thanks to the new owner, Toll Holding’s CEO Paul Little, the heritage buildings of the site are sitting exposed to elements and vandals. In April, Little demolished all buildings other than the Harry Norris frontage.
BRISBANE — To celebrate the 57th anniversary of the start of the Cuban Revolution, the Australia-Cuba Friendship Society organised a night of Cuban poetry readings, live music and food and drinks. On July 26, 1953, Fidel Castro led an attack by opponents of the Batista dictatorship on the Moncada Barracks. The event was held at the Queensland Council of Unions building. Veteran left-activist Jim Sharp read some poems from his new book, which was launched on July 31.
Ben Courtice, Socialist Alliance candidate for the seat of Gellibrand, launched his election campaign on July 31 outside the Maribyrnong Detention centre. Courtice told Green Left Weekly the Socialist Alliance calls for an immediate end to mandatory detention and off shore processing. It also supports an increase to the currently low refugee intake to a minimum of 20.000 per year .

Analysis

A prolonged industrial dispute is continuing at the University of New South Wales (UNSW) as a result of the ongoing refusal of vice-chancellor Fred Hilmer to bargain in good faith with the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) over staff concerns about pay and conditions — especially job security. Hilmer’s intransigence should come as no surprise. When Hilmer announced his decision to take up a tidy $750,000 annual salary package as vice-chancellor of University of New South Wales back in 2005, he said partial deregulation of education was like being “half pregnant”.
On July 25, climate change minister Penny Wong, Australia’s first openly queer government minister, came out against equal marriage rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) people. “On the issue of marriage I think the reality is there is a cultural, religious, historical view around that which we have to respect”, she told Channel 10. Wong’s statement dramatically shows the utter moral bankruptcy of the Labor Party on the issue.
During the lead-up to the federal election, there has been almost total silence on Aboriginal rights and the Northern Territory intervention. Aboriginal communities and towns across the NT have suffered three years of income quarantining, compulsory leases over land and housing, a bilingual education ban in schools and cuts to funding for employment programs and services. The corporate media and politicians have ignored the problems caused and made worse by these racist and paternalistic policies.
What do right-wing columnist Gerard Henderson and Australian Workers’ Union national secretary and ALP factional player Paul Howes have in common? A visceral hatred of Greens and socialists. As the already widespread disillusion with politics-as-usual deepens, the Greens have a chance of holding the balance of power in the Senate after the August 21 poll. This is grist to the mill for the right-wing commentators. Henderson sounded yet another furious warning in his article in the July 27 Sydney Morning Herald titled “Radical roots seep through at the heart of Greens”.
Prime Minister Julia Gillard seems determined to avoid the facts on asylum seeker issues. In her address to the Lowy Institute on July 6, she claimed an updated United Nations report “confirmed the improved human rights and security situation in Sri Lanka and that displaced people continue to return to their homes”. In fact, the report repeatedly referred to “acts of violence and human rights abuses ... abductions, disappearances, assaults, extortion, forced recruitment and extra-judicial killings continue to be committed with impunity by multiple actors”.
The First Nations Political Party (FNPP) is a new party contesting the upcoming federal election. The party will contest two lower house seat a and field a four-person senate ticket in WA. It will also run a senate candidate and content a lower house seat in the Northern Territory. Aboriginal activists Marianne Mackay and Glenn Moore began working towards forming an Indigenous political party in late 2009. They have a goal to getting Aboriginal people elected to parliament. “We need a pure Aboriginal voice in parliament”, Moore told Green Left Weekly.
· Indigenous juveniles aged 10-17 were 28 times as likely as non-Indigenous juveniles to have been detained. Adults are 13 times more likely. · The infant mortality rate for Indigenous Australians is 9.7 per 1000 live births compared with 4.4 per 1000 live births for non-Indigenous Australians. · The gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous life expectancy: 11.5 years for males and 9.7 years for females. · The Indigenous unemployment rate is 16% compared with 5% of non-Indigenous Australians.
Soubhi Iskander is a Socialist Alliance Senate candidate for NSW in the 2010 federal elections. He was born in Sudan and has been a socialist for more than half a century. Despite being jailed and tortured, he remains a committed and active socialist and now is the editor of Green Left Weekly’s Arabic supplement, The Flame. Iskander is furious but not surprised at the scapegoating of refugees and recent immigrants in the current federal election campaign.
This federal election both Labor and the Coalition have failed to present any serious policies to address climate change. The Greens on the other hand have a plan to cut emissions, but does it go far enough? The Coalition’s Tony Abbott rose to the leadership with the backing of a hardcore group of climate denier MPs. His “direct action” policy on climate change has two big problems: it’s not direct and it’s not much action.
The family of Aboriginal elder Mr Ward, who died in the back of a prison transfer van in January 2008, will receive $3.2 million from the WA government. It is in addition to the $200,000 interim payment previously given to the Ward family. The payment comes in the wake of escalating protests organised by the Deaths in Custody Watch Committee (DICWC) in support of the family. The most recent rally was a large march through the city on July 11 in the wake of the Director of Public Prosecutions’ (DPP) decision not to lay any charges in this case.
A group of sixty refugee rights activists visited the Villawood Detention Centre on July 25 to take part in a planned soccer match and BBQ with refugees. It was organised by Socialist Alliance and Greens members and supported by the Construction Forestry, Energy and Mining Union (CFMEU) and Union Aid Abroad (APHEDA). We wanted to show solidarity with refugees and highlight both the ALP and the Liberal’s inhumane refugee policies. However, when we arrived we were turned away, deemed a “security threat.”
Mortgage rates, we are told, are at historical lows. And yet, according to The experience of Mortgage Distress in Western Sydney report released in June by the University of Western Sydney, some mortgage holders are finding it so hard to pay, they are reduced to eating nothing but rice. The study sought to investigate the impact of mortgage distress as experienced by individual households. The accepted definition of mortgage stress centres on the borrower being in payment arrears of 90 days or more. The UWS study argues that this definition is not broad enough.

World

Why are the British and US governments saying the leak of military documents about Afghanistan has "put our soldiers at risk"? It's us who have been kept hidden from this information, not the Taliban. For example, many of the revelations are previously hidden details of civilian casualties, but Afghans in those areas probably already knew about those deaths.
On July 29, the leaders of the 12 countries belonging to the Union of the Southern Nations (Unasur) held an emergency meeting in Quito, Ecuador, to discuss the crisis between Venezuela and Colombia.
“If the people keep identifying democracy as a system that is worst [sic] than the Taliban government, the people will support the anti-coalition forces and the security condition will degenerate”, an unnamed member of the Paktya provincial council is quoted in one of 75,000 classified US reports about the military occupation of Afghanistan published by the Wikileaks website on July 26. Before publication, the files were shared with journalists from the New York Times, the Guardian and Der Spiegel for authentication and analysis.
On July 12, six months to the day after January's earthquake, the Haitian government held a ceremony behind the crumbled National Palace. Before assembled dignitaries from embassies, NGOs, and Haiti’s elite, President Rene Preval and Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive draped medals of honor on prominent figures ranging from CNN celebrity journalist Anderson Cooper and Hollywood actor Sean Penn to retired Colonel Himmler Rebu and retired General Herard Abraham, officers who have enforced dictatorships and participated in coups over the past 30 years.
Internationally recognised legal standards are being flagrantly ignored in the treatment of political prisoners from the pro-democracy Red Shirt movement. The prisoners have been detained by the Abhisit Vejjajiva military government since the bloody crackdown against unarmed demonstrators in May.
Early on July 27, Israeli bulldozers, flanked by helicopters and throngs of police, demolished the entire Bedouin village of al Araqib in the northern Negev desert. Despite having land rights cases pending in the court system, hundreds of al Araqib villagers were instantly made homeless a month after Israeli police posted demolition orders. Eyewitness reports say the police were accompanied by several busloads of right-wing Israeli civilians who cheered during the demolitions.
Canwest News Service reported on July 6 that the Canadian parliament’s Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development had, at a secret June 17 meeting, abruptly cancelled a big report on the Alberta tar sands oil mining project and its impacts on water. The parliamentarians even destroyed draft copies of their final report. After listening to testimony from scientists, bureaucrats, lobbyists, aboriginal chiefs and environmental groups, the committee dropped the whole affair like a bucket of tar. The Alberta provincial government refused to testify.
On July 29, 250,000 power loom workers in Faisalabad, Pakistan’s third largest city, won a 17% pay increase after a nine day strike. Authorities also agreed to release four unionists arrested during the dispute. The authorities’ backdown came after a march of more than 25,000 striking workers. Thousands of workers rallied throughout the strike, despite the Punjab government banning public gatherings on July 19.
One year after workers occupied the Vestas wind turbine factory on the Isle of Wight in protest at the company’s decision to cease production, a new organisation, Sureblades set up by former Vestas employees has risen from the ashes. It is due to start making blades within two months just yards from the closed factory. Sureblades has been driven by Sean McDonagh, a National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT) member. He was one of the sacked Vestas workers involved in the occupation, during which he ran operations from outside the gates.
“It is not just posturing towards Iran, the US has massively increased its presence in Latin America”, Nelson Davila, Venezuelan ambassador to Australia told a July 14 forum. The gathering was part of the “Underground Talk” series at the New International Bookshop at Melbourne Trades Hall.
Police raided and shut down electricity unions across Iraq in mid-July, carrying out an order from the electricity minister that could have been lifted from Saddam Hussein’s rule book. The order prohibits “all trade union activities at the ministry and its departments and sites” and authorises the police “to close all trade union offices and bases and to take control of unions' assets properties and documents, furniture and computers”.
On August 7, Alvaro Uribe will complete his reign as president of Colombia — eight years of spectacular government criminality and corruption, even by Colombian standards. A brief review of just his second term illustrates this. The Washington Post reported on November 18, 2006 that the Uribe administration was in crisis. Investigations revealed that members of Congress collaborated with right-wing death squads to fix elections and assassinate opponents. That was the tip of the iceberg.
The recent diplomatic manoeuvres by the US and Colombian governments against Venezuela have put the region on red alert. There are a clear warning signs that US imperialism has stepped up its plans to overthrow the revolutionary government of Venezuela through military means, as support for opposition parties drops in the lead up to the September National Assembly elections. An intense mobilisation within Venezuela and internationally is needed to make it clear that imperialism will pay the highest price possible if it attempts to plunge the region into war.
Just hours before coming into effect on July 29, Arizona’s anti-immigrant law SB 1070 had some of its provisions overruled by federal district judge Susan Bolton. The overruled provisions include: • The obligation for police officers to determine the immigration status of everyone they stop, if officers have a “reasonable suspicion” that they might be in the country unlawfully; • Mandatory detention of people arrested even for minor offences (such as traffic violations), if they can't prove that they are in the US legally;
The judge entrusted by Colombia’s Constitutional Court to investigate the legality of an agreement to hand over seven military bases to the US military has deemed the pact unconstitutional because it was not approved by Congress. The report was handed down by Judge Jorge Ivan Palacio on July 23, a day after Colombia unleashed its slanderous attacks that Venezuela was “harbouring narco-terrorists”. Palacio’s report on the agreement will be reviewed by the nine-judge panel of the Constitutional Court, which has to deliver a ruling by August 17.
Trade unionists from more than 30 countries met in Caracas for the Third Union Encounter of Our Americas also expressed their support for Venezuela and willingness to mobilise to stop any possible aggression. “In the face of any attempt by Colombia or any other country, to obstruct the revolution [in Venezuela], the working class will come out bravely to defend the process and the country”, said Marcela Maspero, a national coordinator of National Union of Workers (UNT) in Venezuela.

Culture

These poems by Iranian poet Mohsen Soltany Zand mark the chasm that has opened around and within us. A century ago, the war poems of World War I conveyed the futility and horrors of war. By doing so, they expressed a clinging to life. For instance, Italian poet Giuseppe Ungaretti wrote “lying a whole night/beside a butchered comrade/never have I clung so to life”. This clinging and choosing of life, persisted even when it seemed the nuclear threat of “mutually assured destruction” was imminent.
Wander through the labyrinthine lanes from Chippendale to Marrickville, and it will strike you: Sydney has been hit with a tidal wave of new art galleries. Galleries like MOP in Chippendale, At The Vanishing Point on south King St and First Draft in Surry Hills are among a new generation of art spaces that are strictly not-for-profit, often self-funded and always run by and for artists. They’re called artist-run initiatives (ARIs), and they’re blasting a fresh gust of air through the art community.
“Yes, the notable features with iPhone 4 — both the device and the iOS4 — are mostly tweaks”, said a June 22 review on the popular site BoingBoing.net. “But what tweaks they are.” In the interests of full disclosure, I’ll admit I have no idea what “iOS4” means. But my eye was caught by the admission that the iPhone 4, launched in Australia on July 29, was almost the same as the iPhone 3. Corporations use “inbuilt obsolescence” as part of artificially creating markets. This means the products they sell are deliberately made to break down — so we have to keep buying more.

Fighting Fund

No one won the so-called Leaders’ Debate on July 27 — not even the “worms”. It was no debate at all, and showed that people and the environment will lose with either the ALP or the Coalition in government. Coalition leader Tony Abbott hasn’t convincingly shed his climate change denialism and his promise that Work Choices is “dead, buried and cremated” is even less credible. Prime Minister Julia Gillard presided over Work Choices-lite and shares with Abbott an irresponsible determination to avoid serious action on climate change.

Resistance!

The University of New South Wales' management could face more student protests if it refuses to budge on key issues, the president of the Student Representative Council has told Green Left Weekly. Osman Faruqi told GLW that management’s decision to stand down about 80 staff had been the catalyst for the largest student demonstration in years at UNSW. The stand downs move came as the local National Tertiary Education Union branch imposed bans on the release of student results after management delayed bargaining over union demands for 16 months.
After spending over two weeks on the road together, students and activists onboard the New South Wales “Indigenous Solidarity Ride” stopped at Olympic Dam on July 15 to protest against a proposed uranium mine expansion. The bus riders travelled through rural NSW and South Australia to attend the Defending Indigenous Rights: Land, Law, Culture convergence in Alice Springs over July 7-9. They also took part in the Students of Sustainability conference in Adelaide.