Issue 849

Australia

About 500 people rallied in Melbourne on August 13 to put the Liberal and Labor parties on notice that the refugee rights movement is rebuilding, and a growing number of people are willing to stand up for refugees.

The Refugee Action Collective organised the protest under the slogan of “Stand up for Refugees” in a bid to have the treatment of asylum seekers recognized as a human rights issue.

There were contingents of Greens, socialists and the Community Public Sector Union. Protesters chanted, “East Timor no solution, let the refugees in”.

More than 1000 people packed into Sydney Town Hall on August 12 for the Sydney launch of the Zero Carbon Australia (ZCA) Stationary Energy Plan. The plan outlines how Australia could meet all its energy needs from renewables within 10 years.

The successful event followed the well-attended Melbourne launch, which attracted about 700 people in July.

The plan is the product of a collaboration between the University of Melbourne Energy Research Institute and the non-profit climate advocacy group Beyond Zero Emissions (BZE).

The Liberal Party has pulled controversial Google advertisements after criticism and complaints from candidates standing against them. When Google users searched for the names of many candidates running in lower-house seats — including Socialist Alliance candidate for Cunningham, Jess Moore, who raised the issue in the national media — the first link to appear was a sponsored link to a Liberal Party website.

BRISBANE — Quien Dijo Miedo (“We are not afraid”), an film about the popular resistance to the military coup that took place in June last year in the Central American country of Honduras, was shown at the Queensland Council of Unions building on August 6.

The screening was sponsored by organisations including the Communist Party of Australia, the Revolutionary Socialist Party, the Socialist Alliance, Guatemalan group URNG-MAIZ Australia, the Australia-Venezuela Solidarity Network, and the El Salvadoran FMLN.

The Green Left website has once again been ranked by Hitwise in the top10 most visited Australian websites in the category Lifestyle — Politics.

Hitwise ranked the website number eight for the six-month period to June 2010. Green Left was also in the top 10 in the previous six months, and has won several such awards in the past.

The interest in, and dire need for, independent, alternative news is obvious. But it doesn’t come cheap. If you are an online reader, please consider taking out an e-subscription to ensure this important publication continues.

BRISBANE — The annual Hiroshima Day rally and march took place on August 7, commemorating 65 years since the US dropped an atomic bomb on the Japanese city, killing about 100,000 people. The event was organised by the Rally for Peace and Nuclear Disarmament with the theme: “Join us on the road to nuclear disarmament”.

BRISBANE — Several hundred farmers from the Darling Downs and environmentalists rallied outside State Parliament on August 4 to protest the expansion of the coal and coal seam gas industries in rural Queensland. The rally was sponsored by Friends of the Earth, Save Our Darling Downs, Community Climate Network Queensland, Friends of Felton and the Queensland Conservation Council.

Most Melbourne people wouldn’t know that there is a refugee detention centre, called the Melbourne Immigration Transit Accommodation, in Broadmeadows. It is hidden away behind the Maygar army barracks on Camp Road with no sign to indicate it is there.

The Socialist Alliance organised a protest outside the centre on August 11 to publicise its existence. When the local media was notified about the protest, none of the journalists approached had heard of it.

Thousands of people took to the streets on August 14 in support of legalising same-sex marriage and against the discriminatory policies of both major parties.

In Sydney, Peter Boyle said about 3000 people rallied at Town Hall before marching to Taylor Square. Comedian and host of ABC’s Gruen Transfer Wil Anderson chaired the event.

More than 400 people marched on August 14 in protest against plans to demolish residences in the heritage-listed Pines Estate Heritage Conservation Area in the inner-west suburb of Newtown.

RailCorp is considering a proposal to compulsorily takeover and demolish all the houses on Newtown’s Leamington Avenue, and others on Holdsworth and Pine Streets, to build a railway tunnel.

PERTH — ‘We are running because the Labor and Liberal parties do not represent the interests of ordinary people’, said Socialist Alliance candidate for Perth Alex Bainbridge at the launch of SA’s campaign.

‘We're struggling to build a movement that can more effectively represent the interests of ordinary people on some of the big issues that we face. These issues include climate change, workers’ rights, the shameful policies that governments are taking towards refugees and towards Aboriginal people.’

SYDNEY — In the final weeks before the federal election, federal transport minister Anthony Albanese has announced the proposed extension of the M5 roadway is to be scrapped.

The proposed road was to be a 50-foot-high motorway, cutting through soccer fields and regenerated bushland in Tempe. It would have passed through Sydenham, and ended at St Peters — a short distance from the already congested south King St in Newtown.

PERTH — Members of the Perth Burmese community held a commemoration on August 8 for the democratic uprising that took place in Burma exactly 22 years before.

Speakers at the commemoration called for a restoration of democracy in Burma, including freedom for pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, and for stronger action in support of democracy from the Australian government. A solidarity dinner for the Burmese struggle was also held on August 7.

BRISBANE — A meeting of about 150 members of the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) at the University of Queensland on August 5 passed a motion of no-confidence in UQ vice-chancellor Paul Greenfield.

The meeting voted to start rolling stop-works within two weeks if they do not receive an improved pay offer from university management.

UQ staff are due to receive only a 3.1% pay increase for 2010. An NTEU leaflet said that, by comparison, the vice-chancellor’s salary rose by $110,000 in 2009 to $989,999, an increase of 12.5%.

World

The cover of the August 9 edition edition of Time magazine featured a shocking picture of Bibi Aisha, a young woman whose nose and ears had been cut off. The photo was accompanied by the headline: “What happens if we leave Afghanistan”. However, what happened to Aisha took place in Afghanistan under Western occupation.

In return for allowing Time to publish her photo, Aisha was flown to the US for reconstructive surgery. However, although Time ensured her mutilated face was seen worldwide, they appear less keen for her voice to be heard.

Tony Blair must be prosecuted, not indulged like his mentor Peter Mandelson. Both have produced self-serving memoirs for which they have been paid fortunes. Blair’s will appear next month and earn him £4.6 million.

If you are not at least a little bit scared about the Russian heatwave or the huge floods in Pakistan, then you really should be. Extreme and dangerous weather events will be far more common in a warmer world.

These devastating fires and floods are a taste of our future climate — unless we can force a political breakthrough on climate change and cut greenhouse gas emissions sharply.

The disasters of the past few weeks sound an unmistakable warning: we’ve emitted so many greenhouse gases already that we are losing a safe climate.

As Colombia launched its new offensive against Venezuela, an emergency summit of Central American presidents on July 20 restored Honduras to “its rightful” status. That status was lost internationally when former president Manuel Zelaya was overthrown in a military coup in June 2009.

Using the pretext of the relaunch of the Central American Integration System (SICA), the presidents of Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala and Panama agreed to reincorporate Honduras into the regional bloc and encouraged the Organisation of American States (OAS) to do the same.

West Papuan independence leaders have threatened a "total intifada" (uprising) against Indonesian occupying forces, following the failure of the August 4-5 Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) to discuss West Papua's demands for independence, the Sydney Morning Herald said on August 7.

On August 12, members of the Unite trade union employed at six airports by the privatised British Airports Authority voted to strike by a margin of three to one, rejecting a one percent pay rise offered by BAA. The 6185 Unite members at the six affected airports — firefighters, security staff, engineers and support staff — accepted a pay freeze in 2009.

BAA also withdrew a proposed £450 bonus for the airport workers and informed all staff that they would lose out on their annual airport incentive payment of £700 for 2010.

New Zealand’s National Party-led government announced on July 18 a law that would allow bosses to fire new workers at will, restrict access to unions, cut workers’ entitlements to sick leave and holidays, and remove the right to appeal against unfair sackings. On August 21, unions will respond with rallies across the country.

The two most significant aspects of the government’s plans are the extension of 90-day “trial period” and a requirement for union organisers to gain permission from employers before visiting union members or potential recruits on the job.

An August 10 summit between recently inaugurated Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has lowered tensions in a region that some believe was on the brink of armed confrontation.

The situation reached boiling point after Colombia’s July 22 claims in the US-dominated Organisation of American States that Venezuela was “harbouring terrorists”.

Thousands of people took part in a demonstration and formed a human chain in the main avenues and plazas of Caracas on August 7. This action, initiated and promoted by the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV), was a show of support for peace in the Latin American region and friendly relations between the peoples of Colombia and Venezuela.

On August 13, nine leading British medical experts wrote an open letter to the Times calling for an inquiry into the alleged suicide of whistleblower Dr David Kelly in July 2003.

The 59-year-old scientist, the world’s leading expert in biological and chemical weapons, died shortly after being exposed as the source of a leak to the BBC suggesting that the British government had deliberately “sexed up” military intelligence about Iraq’s alleged weapons of mass destruction.

The Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela is the focal point of a political shift to the left that has affected most of the Latin American continent for just over a decade. For several years this has been met with denunciations of the nation and its president, Hugo Chavez, from TV personalities like Glenn Beck and Pat Robertson to establishment figures like George W. Bush and Barack Obama, all of whom liken the nation to a military dictatorship.

Recent scenes of roadblocks, strikes and even the dynamiting of a vice-minister’s home in the Bolivian department (administrative district) of Potosi, reminiscent of the days of previous neoliberal governments, have left many asking themselves what is really going on in the “new” Bolivia of indigenous President Evo Morales.

Since July 29, the city of Potosi, which has 160,000 inhabitants, has ground to a halt. Locals are up in arms over what they perceive to be a lack of support for regional development on the part of the national government.

On July 28, the UN General Assembly passed a Bolivian resolution to make water and sanitation a human right. No country voted against the resolution, but 41 abstained. The following text is abridged from the speech to the General Assembly motivating the resolution by Pablo Solon, Bolivia’s ambassador to the UN.

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By August 12, more than 20 million people had been affected by the floods in Pakistan. Waters remained at dangerous levels in several parts of the country, with more torrential rains forecast by the weather department.

This has been one of the most devastating floods in world history. The UN has once again appealed for donations for Pakistan. But the international response has been slow.

Forty-one countries abstained in the July 28 UN General Assembly vote on Bolivia’s resolution to recognise access to water and sanitation as basic human rights.

Rather than honestly vote “no”, they abstained to avoid being labelled as opponents of access to water, but many made statements that revealed their hostility to the very idea of recognising water as a human right.

Australia “had reservations about declaring new human rights in a General Assembly resolution”.

The article is abridged from an August 11 Palestinian Centre for Human Rights report.

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The signs which dot the beach along the Gaza City waterfront read: "This beach is polluted.” Yet they serve only as obstacles for children running to the sea, rather than warnings of the serious health risks.

One need only stroll north along the beach for a couple hundred metres to see raw sewage being pumped directly into the Mediterranean Sea from one of the 16 discharge sites along the coast.

Yet thousands of people fill Gaza's beaches.

On July 29, our Labour Relief Committee team found Pir Sabaq, Khyber-Pakhtoonkhwa province, with a population of more than 34,000, completely destroyed by the flood.

A tent city of more than 1000 tents has been established but most of the people are still forced to live in partially destroyed homes. This could lead to a major building collapsing at any time, with further loss of lives.

In addition to losing their homes, most people have found their household items have been swept away. They have lost their cattle and goats as well. People are without anything to eat, drink or wear.

During the last three decades, Afghan people have had to leave their homeland due to civil war and foreign invasions. They began to live in camps set up for them near Peshawar.

During the recent floods in the province of Khyber-Pakhtoonkhwa, the refugee camps in Charsada and Nowsherhra have been completely washed away. The Azakhel refugee camp that housed more than 3000 people has been annihilated by the floods.

Analysis

Greens candidate for Mackellar Dr Jonathan King is a blue-blooded radical. King gained national prominence in 1988 when he staged an $11 million recreation of the First Fleet's voyage. The historian and former journalist became, in his own words, “political hot property,” courted by both major parties.

He declined their overtures. Politics “was in [his] blood”, King said, but he was “too radical” for the major parties.

Following the bicentennial voyage, King found his “next big project, and that was helping the environment”.

Sick of the manipulative, increasingly policy-free barrage of major party negative advertising in the race to the August 21 Australian federal election? Here are some antidotes:

First, check out the table below comparing the policies of Socialist Alliance with that of the Greens, ALP and Liberals: Policy comparison from Left to Right compiled by Dick Nichols.

Second, have a look at the independent Vote Climate survey on which parties the best policy on on climate change.

On August 16, Darwin was the venue for a screening of Our Generation, a landmark new documentary about the plight of Aboriginal people in the Northern Territory living under the repressive NT intervention.

The film focuses on the effects of the intervention on the Yolngu people of East Arnhem Land, which coincided with a move by the NT Labor government to move people off traditional homelands and into larger towns (the “hub town” policy).

In Australia, the question of environmental protection has increasingly been linked to the need to reduce or contain the nation’s population level size. This is often tied to the argument that the high level of consumption in First World countries is unsustainable.

For many union leaders afraid of a Coalition victory on August 21, campaigning against Tony Abbott in the federal election simply means campaigning for Julia Gillard.

With a conservative win on the cards, unions have escalated their pro-ALP campaigning. The Australian Manufacturing Workers Union (AMWU) — which has filled Labor’s coffers with more than $340,000 for the election campaign — has enlisted officials for ring-arounds in marginal seats.

On August 12, candidates from the Greens, Socialist Alliance (SA) and newly formed First Nations Political Party (FNPP) spoke to a group of 50 people at La Tropicana cafe in Fremantle.

The forum was organised by SA to highlight environmental and social policies ignored by the major parties in the federal election campaign.

The event was chaired by Fremantle councillor and Western Australian SA co-convenor Sam Wainwright
Kate Davis, Greens candidate for Fremantle, said: “The Greens have a renewable energy target of 100% by 2030.

Immigration officials accept about 99% of claims for refugee status by people who have arrived by boats in Australia. But this hasn’t stopped mainstream politicians from punishing those seeking asylum in this way.

In April, the government announced it would temporarily freeze visa applications from newly arrived Sri Lankan and Afghan asylum seekers. In June, about 70% of Afghan (mostly Hazara) claims were rejected, according to the Refugee Action Coalition (RAC). Such rejection figures have never been seen before.

After a successful strike and picket line on August 8, Victoria University’s (VU) vice chancellor, Liz Harman, agreed to negotiate on pay and conditions.

Until then, senior management had demanded that promised pay rises this year be in return for abandoning regulation of workloads in the current enterprise bargaining round. The National Tertiary Education Union Branch (NTEU) has now suspended its bans on releasing results. Stood down union members have been reinstated.

“In the end, capitalism is the only viable system we have for organising our economy”, said Lucy Turnbull, business person, former mayor of Sydney and partner of former Coalition leader Malcolm Turnbull at the iQ2 debate in Sydney on August 10 on the topic “Only capitalism can save the planet”. Turnbull was the only politician to make the Business Review Weekly's 2010 Rich 200 list this year.

Well, she would think that, wouldn't she?

The Greens could have more power in the Australian parliament than ever before, after the federal election on August 21. Achieving the balance of power in the Senate is within reach for the Greens, meaning that the government would have to negotiate an agreement with either the opposition party or the Greens to pass legislation.

The Greens currently share balance of power with Family First Senator Steve Fielding and independent Nick Xenophon.

“We have shown a responsibility that the Coalition has shunned”, said Bob Brown, leader of the Australian Greens.

“Lunchtime midweek in Campbelltown’s main street in the heart of western Sydney is a slow-moving affair”, the Australian’s Jennifer Hewett wrote on July 23.

“Cars drive in and out of the one-way street at a leisurely pace. Business is not exactly booming in most of the small, tired-looking shops. There’s plenty of room on the footpath for pedestrians.”

Whichever major party wins the August 21 elections, the real job of fighting for progressive change will remain.

Not just because Labor and the Liberal-National Coalition have made this election campaign an ugly race to the right, but also because real change never comes simply through a vote.

Even an election that registered real victory, such as the defeat of the hated John Howard Coalition government in November 2007, came on the back of sustained political action by millions of ordinary people focused primarily around the campaign against Work Choices.

“Businesses like making profits”, said Labor leader Julia Gillard on ABC’s Q&A on August 9. She was explaining why Labor opposed the Coalition’s proposal to raise the company tax rate by 1.5%. “If they’ve got to pay more tax and that’s going to cut into their profits, then they’ll think of a way of adding a bit more profit.

“What’s the best way of adding a bit more profit in? They put up prices.

“It, you know, just stands to common sense reason, doesn’t it?”

The Greens lead NSW senate candidate Lee Rhiannon agrees.

In his influential 1985 book Abandon Affluence, radical Australian sociologist Ted Trainer made the argument that the capitalist economies of the rich world, and the wasteful consumer culture they spawned, were unsustainable and the ecological limits of capitalist growth were fast approaching.

If imitation is the greatest form of flattery, Friends of Palestine (WA — FOPWA) must be doing something right: Friends of Israel (WA) was launched on August 8.

The group’s website is a mix of nationalism and barely concealed racism. “Israel is in the front lines of the global battle between those who love life and those who glorify death”, it says.
The launch took place at the Victory Life Centre, a fundamentalist Christian church, in Osborne Park, Perth.

Equality of access and outcomes in Indigenous education was a key demand at the 2010 Garma Festival, held over August 6-10. Up to 1200 visitors from around Australia and the world joined 2-3000 Yolngu people for the famous festival in north-east Arnhem Land.

Each afternoon, clan groups from across Arnhem Land, Kunnunurra, Groote Eylandt and Central Australia performed traditional song and dance. Evenings featured Aboriginal bands from across the Top End, and films by and about Aboriginal issues. The mornings were dedicated to forums and workshops.

A dozen women filled the public gallery of Whittlesea City Council chamber on July 27 to oppose an ALP council back-down on the appointment of a part-time women’s policy officer.

The women were mostly part of the council-sponsored “Women Matter Two” network, which seeks to enhance women’s participation in public life and politics in Melbourne’s working-class, outer-north suburbs.

In June, council voted almost unanimously to set aside $50,000 in the council’s annual budget to create this part-time position: 2010 is the Year of Women in Local Government.

Lesser evilism — whereby one votes for a party defensively, because at least they are not as bad as the alternative — is a three-card trick that the Labor Party is very skilled at using.

In this election campaign, the very real threat of a Tony Abbott Coalition government is allowing Labor to establish the framework of a very harsh second term while scaring voters with the warning that the alternative would be even worse.

Amnesty International has launched a campaign to revoke the Northern Territory intervention that discriminates against Indigenous communities, as the Australian government tries to justify its continuation to the United Nations (UN).

On August 5, Amnesty said: “Over three years, the Northern Territory Emergency Response has taken away many rights from Aboriginal communities.”

It urged people to email the leaders of Australia’s major political parties to “demand that, regardless of the election outcome, the Australian Government must respect the rights of Indigenous people”.

General

GLW is taking a break. Our next printed edition will be dated September 1 (and published online on the evening of August 29).

However, the Green Left website will be updated after August 21 with news and analysis of the federal election outcome.

Visit Green Left and please consider taking out an e-subscription so we can continue to bring you an independent voice.

The article “Aboriginal embassy to appeal decision” (GLW #848) included the sentence: “The developer [Stockland] refused to consult the Aboriginal community about the development [at Sandon Point near Wollongong Illawarra], although it was a requirement in the preparation of the Sandon Point Environmental Assessment Report.”

Australia role in Israel’s demolition?

Culture

Review: Plastic Beach
Gorillaz, EMI
Escape to the Plastic Beach Tour
December 6-19, on sale now
Bookings via Ticketek,
Premierticketek.com.au, 132 849

“If you watch MTV for too long, it’s a bit like hell — there’s nothing of substance there”, said Jamie Hewlett, graphic artist and co-creator of “virtual band” Gorillaz, in 2005 . “So we got this idea for a cartoon band, something that would be a comment on that.”

The Decline are a punk band from Western Australia that formed in 2006. They “deliver catchy, melodic speedy punk rock, with humorous and socially aware lyrics”, TheDecline.com.au says. They have opened for groups such as Frenzal Rhomb, No Fun at All and the Flatliners.

The Decline released their first full-length album, I’m Not Gonna Lie To You, in September 2009. Green Left Weekly’s Chris Peterson spoke to The Decline about the album. You can find out more, and buy the album, at their website.

Outlaw
Directed by James Adler, written by Michael Healy
Studio 2, Northcote Town Hall, Melbourne
August 20 — September 3
Bookings: Eaglenest.eventix.com.au, (03) 9384 6900

“A tyre slasher in Berlin — radical green politics or someone just blowing a gasket?”, reads the blurb for new play Outlaw. “The friends of Tilman Hessel — the local Green's party leader — think it might be him ...”

This open letter to Elton John was released on July 30 by Alexander Billet. It is reprinted from Sociarts.com. Billet’s blog on popular music can be read at Rebelfrequencies.blogspot.com.

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Dear Elton,

First of all, I hope you don’t mind that I refuse to call you “Sir”. Knights swing swords and ride horses. You play a piano.