Issue 848

News

Media statement August 9, 2010 Rachel Evans, the lead NSW Senate candidate for Socialist Alliance, condemned Family First’s Wendy Francis’ likening the legalisation of same-sex marriage to the legalisation of child abuse as “homophobic” and “incitement to more violence against lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, transgender and queer people”.
WYONG — Climate action activists confronted Prime Minister Julia Gillard on August 3 when she appeared at a soccer club in Wyong on the NSW Central Coast. She was handed a statement from the local climate action group about transitioning as soon as possible from fossil fuels, to renewable energy and a copy of the Zero Carbon Australia plan by Beyond Zero Emissions. Activists held placards that said: “Fund solutions not pollution” as Gillard was speaking. They then confronted Gillard as she left the soccer club.
Some of the Illawarra’s foremost fighters for social justice have backed Socialist Alliance candidate Jess Moore in the seat of Cunningham on the New South Wales south coast. Highly regarded, veteran trade unionists Monica Chalmers, Neville Arrowsmith, Jim Keogh and Ken McBride, who have all spent decades in union and solidarity campaigns, have endorsed Moore and are helping her campaign. Moore is a well-known community activist who is national coordinator of the socialist youth organisation Resistance.
The Tasmanian Gay and Lesbian Rights Group (TGLRG) organised political candidates to publicly sign a pledge stating their party would not use election material that incited hatred or ridicule against people based on their sexuality or gender. The pledge signing took place at Salamanca markets in Hobart on July 31 and was signed by the Socialist Alliance, Greens, Democrats and Labor candidates and independent candidate Andrew Wilkie.
Conservation groups from Tasmania, Victoria, Western Australia, New South Wales, Canberra and Queensland took part in local actions on August 5 to highlight the threats to biodiversity that burning native forests for electricity will create.
The Sandon Point Aboriginal Tent Embassy (SPATE) is set to appeal a July 26 Land and Environment Court dismissal challenging the proposed Stockland 181-lot residential super development at Sandon Point, in the Wollongong suburb of Bulli, New South Wales.
Residents are organising to stop mining company LD Operations plans to start a new coal mine next to the town of Margaret River in Western Australia. Margaret River is five hours south of Perth famous for its wineries, surfing spots and outstanding natural beauty. A public meeting on August 1 with only one day’s notice drew 60 people. It is a sign of strong community opposition. There are plans to hold a demonstration as part of the national Walk Against Warming rallies on August 15.
More 150 people turned out in Darwin on August 3 for the launch of the Australian Greens Northern Territory Senate campaign. The Greens are running two Aboriginal candidates: country music performer and Arrente man Warren H. Williams and Aboriginal rights activist Barbara Shaw A big part of their campaign is opposition to the NT intervention, launched in 2007 in response to allegations of child abuse and neglect in remote Aboriginal communities.
The Parramatta Climate Action Network (ParraCAN) staged a series of rolling protests outside New South Wales state government ministers offices calling for no new coal The NSW state government is planning to construct two new coal-fired power stations, which will increase the state’s greenhouse gas emissions by up to 15%. ParraCAN is circulating a petition calling for the prohibition of the construction of new coal-fired power stations; the development of a phase-out plan for coal; and that the state government support job creation in renewable industries.
Brami Jegan, a young campaigner for social justice who is standing for the Greens in the New South Wales Senate, is very critical of the ALP’s policies on asylum seekers and the war in Afghanistan. Jegan told Green Left Weekly she understands the challenges migrant communities face in settling in this country. She also had first-hand experience of the devastating impacts of war. “During my visits back to Sri Lanka between 2002-2006, I was able to spend time with Tamils affected by the war.”
Aboriginal activist Michael Eckford, better known as Michael Anderson, launched his campaign for the NSW Senate on August 3. Eckford was forced to stand under his birth certificate name because of Australian Electoral Commission regulations. Eckford is running with former ALP member Criselee Stevens, who said she quit Labor because “they are so out of touch with the real grassroots concerns and priorities”.
More than 850 people packed into the Sydney Town Hall for a “Save Sydney from Over-development” public meeting organised by Friends of Barangaroo on August 3. The meetings was organised to in response to a proposed development of the harbour-side Barangaroo area. There are serious community concerns about the plan to hand over public space to private developer Lend Lease, which plans to build a large hotel on the land.
National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) members at the University of New South Wales (UNSW) have vowed more industrial action to fight the ongoing refusal of vice-chancellor Fred Hilmer to negotiate on improvements to job security, pay and other conditions for UNSW staff. In particular, the union is concerned about the unregulated use of fixed-term contracts and casual employment at the university. An NTEU meeting on August 4 voted for partial work bans in preparation for and participation in UNSW promotional events from August 30 to September 4.
Jim Sharp, a well-known veteran of the left and labour movements in the city, launched his book of poetry, entitled Leftside at the Queensland Council of Unions building on July 31. About 100 people attended. Speakers included Marxist historian Humphrey McQueen and music was provided by Jumping Fences.
A landmark agreement has been signed in Western Australia between the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) and the Community and Public Sector Union/Civil Service Association of Western Australia (CPSU/CSA) over union representation in the state’s higher education sector. The following abridged statement was posted on NTEU.org.au by NTEU WA division secretary Lyn Bloom. * * * The CPSU/CSA in WA has announced that it is withdrawing from active involvement in the higher education sector.
“Always Was, Always Will Be, Aboriginal Land: The struggle for Aboriginal rights”, was the title of an August 3 forum in the Brisbane Activist Centre sponsored by Socialist Alliance and Resistance. Speakers were Murri activist and SA Queensland Senate candidate Sam Watson and Ewan Saunders, SA candidate for the seat of Brisbane who has recently returned from the Justice Bus Ride to the Northern Territory.
The Stop the War Coalition Sydney held a picket outside ALP MP Tanya Plibersek’s office on August 5 to call for an end to Australian support for the war in Afghanistan. The STWC has condemned the Australian government’s purchase of 18 unmanned spy drones and training packages worth $175 million. Spokesperson Marlene Obeid said: “The drones are part of an offensive weapons system that, almost certainly, will be linked to US systems in Afghanistan and Pakistan. In other words, Australia will be subsidising US assault operations, which will kill more Afghan women and children.”
“The major parties, Labor and Liberal, have failed to highlight Indigenous issues, and have largely ignored problems important to my community in this election”, Sam Watson, Aboriginal activist and Socialist Alliance Senate candidate for Queensland, said at a rally to launch his campaign for the Queensland Senate 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 offshore processing. It also supports increasing Australia’s low refugee intake to a minimum of 20,000 per year .

Analysis

The Socialist Alliance proposals for the federal election, detailed at www.socialist-alliance.org, won’t come cheap. They include lifting welfare payments above the poverty line, ending the 200,000 public housing waiting list, achieving 100% renewable energy by 2020 through a plan of public investment, boosted public transport including inter-city high-speed rail, and closing the gap in Indigenous health, education and housing.
Abdul Ramahi is a Palestinian-Australian who lives in Melbourne. A member of the Socialist Alliance, he is active in campaigns to raise awareness on the plight of the Palestinian people. His own story, which he told Green Left Weekly, illustrates how the lives of Palestinians in the global diaspora are shaped by the ongoing injustice and resistance in their homeland. Born in 1938, in a village called Muzeira, five kilometres from present-day Tel Aviv, he had a happy childhood. His father was a justice of the peace and owned a large amount of land — close to 100 hectares.
Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s catch phrase for this election is "sustainable". No longer, according to Gillard, should we look to a big Australia, but a "sustainable" population. In a speech in western Sydney on July 21, Gillard emphasised the squeeze on health services, transport, roads and infrastructure. She hinted her "sustainable population" mantra would ease the squeeze. Apart from rhetoric largely designed to pander to irrational fears of immigrants and prejudices against asylum seekers, Labor has failed to explain what it means by "sustainable".
A growing number of unions across Australia have backed the international boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign targeting Israel. The campaign demands that Israel ends its apartheid-like policies towards Palestinians. The National Council of Churches in Australia (NCCA) said in a July 20 statement that it would “continue to add its voice to the call for an end to Israel’s occupation of Palestine and condemning all acts of terrorism”.
Dismayed by the Labor government’s inaction on climate change and looking for an alternative? Don’t look to the Liberals. If the ALP has been dodgy on the issue, Tony Abbott’s party has been dodgier. Sincere commitment on the issue is hard for Abbott. At a public meeting last September, he said global warming was “absolute crap”. But the Liberal leader is remarkably consistent on one thing — the “need” to funnel large amounts of public money to big business.
In Russia, a seven-week-long heatwave has caused giant firestorms to break out across more than 114,000 hectares of the country. At least 48 people have died and more than 400 new fires broke out on August 4 alone, the Kyiv Post said that day. Russian President Dmitri Medvedev said on July 30 that “practically everything is burning” in 14 regions of the country, Time said on August 2. In the past, Medvedev has not seemed too concerned about climate change. At last year’s Copenhagen climate conference he bluntly announced that Russia would increase its emissions.
VoteClimate.org.au has released a detailed description of the climate policies of parties contesting the August 21 federal election. It is the world’s first dedicated climate election website and is run by climate activist Adrian Whitehead, a founder of Beyond Zero Emissions and a Target300.org campaigner. The site, which includes links to each partiy’s policies, ranked the policies as following:
On August 14, rallies will take place in 13 different cities around Australia for the sixth annual national day of action for equal marriage rights. Last year’s national day of action drew more than 10,000 people, making it the biggest demonstration for queer rights in Australian history. The movement has claimed 2010 as its “national year of action”. Activists have taken some colourful initiatives to build this year’s rally. Sydney’s Community Action Against Homophobia threw eggs at cardboard cut-outs of Tony Abbott and Julia Gillard.
As of June 25, more than 4116 people, 566 of them children, were in Australian immigration detention centres, according to figures published on the Department of Immigration and Citizenship website. The site also noted an increase of 46 people in the past week. In a country of 22 million people, 46 is a minute figure. That “stopping the boats” is a key election promise of both major parties illustrates the mean-spiritedness of their campaign.
Liberal leader and extreme conservative Tony Abbott, who famously described climate change as “absolute crap”, is looking dangerously close to becoming prime minister on August 21. The prospect of a government headed by a Christian fundamentalist nicknamed “the mad monk” has struck dread into many progressive-minded people. The August 7 Sydney Morning Herald reported that a Herald/Nielson poll showed the Liberal/National Coalition had increased its lead in the primary vote to 44% to Labor’s 36%. Coalition led Labor 51% to 49% on a two-party preferred basis.
Aboriginal woman and single mother, Sharon Firebrace, has fought her way through poverty and racism to make a life for herself and her 19-year-old son. But Firebrace isn’t one to be dragged down by social disadvantage. The Socialist Alliance is proud to have Firebrace run as a Senate candidate in Victoria. While campaigning with SA, she also runs the Aboriginal Genocide Centre, which she founded. She convened the New Way Aboriginal Summit in July and organised a recent Rock Against Racism concert.

World

Despite US President Barack Obama’s promise to Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez that his administration wouldn’t interfere in Venezuela’s internal affairs, the US government-funded National Endowment for Democracy (NED) is channelling millions to anti-Chavez groups. Foreign intervention is not only executed through military force. The funding of “civil society” groups and media outlets is one of the more widely used mechanisms by the US government to achieve its strategic objectives.
The following open letter was written by Bernardo Alvarez Herrera, Ambassador of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela to the US, to the Washington Post editorial board. He wrote in response to a July 30 editorial that accused Venezuela of harbouring Colombian “terrorists”. Alvarez said: “This letter has been made public given that The Washington Post rarely publishes our responses.” * * *
The US emission trading scheme in sulphur dioxide (SO2) — the gas that causes acid rain — is widely held as proof that the market can cut pollution. Pro-market commentators point to the success of this “acid rain market” as evidence that similar kinds of carbon trading schemes are the best way to tackle climate change. New York Times columnist Paul Krugman said on April 11 the scheme showed “that it is generally best to rely on a market-based approach”. But this poster child for emissions trading has now collapsed in a heap.
When police in Jamaica launched a bloody assault in May on poor neighbourhoods in the country’s capital city, news outlets in Canada responded with an ignorance and insensitivity that is all too common in their coverage of the Caribbean islands. As with Haiti, Jamaica is portrayed as incomprehensibly violent and not quite civilised.
The following is an August 3 statement by the US Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel. * * * The US Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (USACBI) endorses and supports the call for boycott of Arizona on account of its manifestly racist laws, SB 1070 and HB 2281. SB 1070 calls for police officers to require documentation from people to establish resident status. The law essentially requires police to engage in racial profiling and discrimination on the basis of appearance.
At the beginning of August the Israeli government announced it would cooperate with one out of two international United Nations-sponsored investigation commissions into the May 31 Gaza Freedom Flotilla massacre. UN General Secretary Ban Ki-moon claimed the move was “unprecedented”. The commission is composed of four people, one chosen by Turkey, one chosen by Israel and two chosen from a list provided by Israel. The latter two are former prime minister of New Zealand Geoffrey Palmer, who will be the chair, and outgoing Colombian President Alvaro Uribe, who will serve as vice-chair.
Mumia Abu-Jamal — on death row for more than 30 years in Pennsylvania for a murder he didn't commit — is an iconic figure. Yet while the struggle for his freedom continues, less attention is given to his role as a political leader. While Mumia has not, to my knowledge, used the term ecosocialist, his passionate message to the US Social Forum on June 22 had a clear ecosocialist content.
On August 4, California’s ban on same-sex marriages was ruled unconstitutional by federal judge Vaughn Walker. However, religious fundamentalist and anti-queer groups have indicated that they will appeal the ruling. On August 6, Walker granted a stay on the implementation of his ruling, meaning lesbian and gay couples are still unable to marry in California. Californian Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and Attorney General Jerry Brown have both argued against the stay and for the ruling to be implemented immediately.
Last month, I stood in the Guildhall Square in Derry and watched as the relatives of the 14 innocent victims of the British Parachute Regiment expressed their delight at the Saville report’s conclusion that the 14 were innocent victims. At the time of the killings the dead were labelled as terrorists by the British government. The British system and, to its shame, much of the British media, accused those who had been shot of being “gunmen” and “bombers”.
Preparations for the 2010 Commonwealth Games have turned Delhi into a swirl of mud, scaffolding and scandal. Government officials connected to the games appear confident that Delhi’s upturned streets and impassable traffic jams will soon turn into something spectacular. On the horizon is the transformation of India’s congested national capital into a “world class city”, worthy not only of hosting this high-prestige sporting event, but also of India’s growing reputation as the next Asian superpower.
On August 3, the Ecuadorian government signed a landmark deal to prevent drilling for oil in the ecologically unique Ishpingo-Tambococha-Tiputini areas of the Yasuni National Park (Yasuni-ITT). The agreement, signed by the government of left-wing President Rafael Correa and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), guarantees that the estimated 900 million barrels of oil that lie beneath the pristine Amazonian region will remain untouched, as will the forest above.
On August 3, following an international campaign of solidarity, Gerardo Hernandez was transferred from “the hole” — the punitive isolation unit at the maximum-security Victorville penitentiary in California — and returned to the general prison population. Arrested in 1998, Hernandez was sentenced in 2001 to two life terms plus 15 years on a legally dubious espionage conviction.

Culture

Review: The Imperial Controversy: Challenging the Empire Apologists By Andrew Murray, Foreword by George Galloway Manifesto Press, 152 pages, paperback £12.95 In the past decade or so, politicians, journalists and academics have attempted to rehabilitate the notions of empire and imperialism. For example, in 2009 then-British PM Gordon Brown told the Daily Mail newspaper: “The days of Britain having to apologise for its colonial history are over. We should move forward. We should celebrate much of our past rather than apologise for it.”
The Gaslight Anthem must be sick of the Springsteen references by now. Ever since bursting into international consciousness a few years back, there’s been no shortage of critics willing to draw the connections between them and the Boss.
In Fremont, Nebraska in the US mid-west, some of the biggest names in indie rock played a sold-out pro-immigrant benefit gig on July 31 titled “Concert for Equality”. Omaha.com said on August 2: “The theme of the day — and the reason for the show — was to fight Fremont’s recently passed immigration ordinance, which would fine employers and landlords who hire or rent to illegal immigrants.” All proceeds from the gig were offered to the American Liberties Civil Union to assist its fight against the law, Pollstar.com said on August 4.
Review: Vale Kwementyaye Ryder — a photo essay Bob Gosford, The Northern Myth

Fighting Fund

Ker-ching! Its half-year profit time and those poor, tax-oppressed, big mining companies are announcing huge profit increases. Rio Tinto announced a half-year net profit of $6.39 billion, up 260% from the same period last year. And this huge profit came even after the company reduced its net debt by a whopping $27 billion to $12 billion.

Letters

Outstanding service Fairfax columnist Gerald Henderson quotes Australian Workers’ Union leader Paul Howes concerning the family background of Greens Senate candidate Lee Rhiannon in the July 27 Sydney Morning Herald. I knew her parents, Bill and Freda Brown, since 1944, and I was privileged to be Bill’s campaign director when he stood for the federal parliament on several occasions.

Resistance!

Last month, thousands of people around the country marched in solidarity with Ark Tribe, the construction worker from Adelaide who faces six months’ jail for refusing to attend an interview with the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC). Adorned with emblems of union pride, rank and file union members, representatives from unions, political parties and the broader community, took to the streets to send a clear message to the government and the big construction bosses that “If Ark goes in, we'll go out''.
From August 9 to 12, high school students will be able to take part in a mock election thanks to the Google Student Voice initiative. Students aged 15 to 17 will be able to participate in the online poll. Google sent information packs to schools around Australia The vote will allow students to choose between the candidates standing in their electorates for the federal election. Results of the simulated election will be released on August 15.