Issue 851

Australia

Local residents in Marrickville are opposing the proposed expansion of Marrickville Metro Shopping Centre. The Metro Watch group has developed a website, held information stalls, collected signatures on petitions, door-knocked the local area, and held protests.

The effectiveness of this local campaign was demonstrated by the fact that a full-page ad promoting the expansion appeared on the second page of the September 2 Inner West Courier.

A 2006 episode of the ABC’s Lateline program led directly to the greatest human rights abuse in the past half century, said founder and former editor of the National Indigenous Times Chris Graham, at a public forum of 150 people in Sydney on September 3.

On September 2, Western Australian Premier Colin Barnett began the takeover of land at James Price Point in the Kimberley so the company Woodside can build a gas-processing hub.

Barnett claims this is necessary, after two years of negotiating with the local Aboriginal community and the Kimberley Land Council (KLC). He said any further delays in the project will lose $30 billion after the $15 billion taxpayers have already spent.

A 21-year-old Tamil refugee has allegedly been the victim of an assault while in detention.

Leela Krishna was recognised as a refugee by the Department of Immigration and Citizenship in April this year, but is still held in Villawood detention centre.

He was waiting for security clearance from ASIO before release. But, on August 21, he was allegedly assaulted in an isolation unit by a former professional kick boxer.

The police are investigating the attack, and Serco — the private contractors who manage the centre — have placed Krishna in the “housing” component of Villawood.

A bill legalising same-sex adoption passed the lower house of NSW parliament on September 2. Western Australia and the Australian Capital Territory already have laws supporting same-sex adoption.

Put to a conscience vote, the bill passed with 46 votes in favour and 44 against. Labor Premier Kristina Keneally supported the bill, as did Liberal leader Barry O’Farrell.

Nationals leader Andrew Stoner voted against.

On August 31, Christian Democratic Party leader Fred Nile organised a rally against the bill. According to his press release, 300 people attended.

Prisoners detained without trial at the Northern Immigration Detention Centre in Darwin have staged dramatic protests. On August 29 and 30, about 120 Indonesian detainees, accused of (but not charged with) “people smuggling”, staged protests on the jail’s roof and set fire to garbage. On September 1, about 90 Afghan Hazara refugees broke out of the jail and held a peaceful protest on the Stuart Highway.

Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young told AAP on August 30 she believed the Indonesians were poor fisherpeople who had been conned into making the journey.

With the symptoms of social and environmental crisis all around us — runaway climate change, Third World poverty, seemingly endless wars — it is sometimes easy to feel discouraged about our ability to change “the way things are”. We can forget that millions of ordinary people have many times over said “enough is enough” and come together to take action to change history.

World

Thousands of Red Shirt supporters rallied at a concert in the Thailand seaside resort city of Pattaya on September 4, in what was one the biggest mobilisations since the military bloodily dispersed their mass protest camp in Bangkok on May 19, 2010, killing 91 and injuring thousands more.

The world of international cricket has been rocked by allegations of a betting scandal involving players in Pakistan’s national cricket team. British tabloid News of the World published allegations that Pakistan players had bowled “no-balls” at an exact moment in the game in return for money from bookmakers. The scandal has also raised speculation of Pakistan players being involved in match-fixing on behalf of bookmakers. Three Pakistani players have been suspended from international cricket and charged by the International Cricket Council over their alleged role in the scandal.

I have been a fan of many sports for a very long time. I have especially followed the game of cricket for more than 50 years and I have to confess to having spent more time watching, listening and reading about it than almost any other topic.

A multi-party conference in Lahore on August 29 has launched a campaign to cancel Pakistan's crippling foreign debt and to organise mass rallies in Lahore, Karachi and Islamabad. The first rally took place on September 2 in Islamabad.

The Labour Relief Campaign, in association with Oxfam Pakistan, called the conference to discuss the issue of debt repayment in the post-flood scenario. It was chaired by Aman Kariaper and Ammar Ali Jan.

Senator Hasil Bezinjo vowed to take the issue to Pakistan’s Senate and present a resolution to demand that government refuse to pay the foreign debt.

A series of problems and challenges are facing the Bolivian government of President Evo Morales, the country’s first indigenous head of state, and the process of change it leads has emerged. There has been a range of commentary on these challenges. Green Left Weekly publishes these two pieces as part of our ongoing coverage of the Latin American revolution. The article below is by Eduardo Paz Rada, editor of Bolivian-based magazine Patria Grande. It has been translated by Federico Fuentes.

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The Obama administration seems to believe that the president has the authority to order the assassination of anyone, including US citizens, if they meet certain as-yet-undisclosed criteria.

One US citizen, accused terrorist Anwar al-Awlaki, has been widely reported to be on a US government “kill list” — making him just one of several US citizens the government is reportedly trying to kill without charge or trial.

Many analysts have rushed to give their opinions regarding the “crisis of the MAS” and its consequences.

Yet, the Movement Towards Socialism (MAS — the party of President Evo Morales) has always been in crisis — if by crisis we mean internal disputes for power and the existence of personal interests.

Despite this permanent “crisis”, the MAS was able to cohere the majority of plebeian sectors through a kind of corporative alliance.

A huge transformation of agriculture is taking place in Venezuela, a transformation that has lessons for every other country in the world. I had the opportunity in July to visit the country and see the changes that are taking place first hand.

Venezuela’s Law of the Land and Agrarian Development, the Law of Food Sovereignty and Security, and the Law of Integrated Agricultural Health set out the agenda.

On July 21, the Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth published an interview with Donald Perera, Sri Lanka’s ambassador to Israel. Perera, the former Sri Lankan Air Force commander and Chief of Defence Staff, thanked Israel profusely for its support in the fight against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

Good and evil is back in vogue with the US far right.

Former president George W. Bush and the Republican Party attacked opponents of his invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan as aiding the “evil doers”. And such evil should be tackled by whatever means necessary, no matter what the US constitution or international law says.

This tactic sent the many liberals and Democratic Party politicians running to the corners and lining up behind the war mongers.

“We won. It’s over, America. We brought democracy to Iraq.” Those were the words of a soldier from the 4th Stryker Brigade, supposedly among the last US combat soldiers to leave Iraq, quoted in the August 20 www.DailyMail.co.uk two weeks ahead of President Barack Obama’s August 31 deadline for withdrawal.

The Obama administration is claiming the withdrawal of combat soldiers represents a new day for the country. “Politics, not war, has broken out in Iraq”, US Vice-President Joe Biden told an August 23 convention of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, www.CSMonitor.com said that day.

The Copenhagen City Court ruled on September 2 that climate activists Natasha Verco, a 32-year-old activist from Australia, and Noah Weiss, a US student, were innocent of the charges against them.

The two climate activists had been charged for organising “illegal activities” during the United Nations climate summit in Copenhagen in December 2009. Verco and Weiss had been accused of planning violence against police, disturbance of public order and vandalism.

The charges could have lead to several years of prison and deportation. But the charges didn’t stand up in court.

The scientific community has never been more united in its conviction that climate change is well on the way to rendering planet Earth a vastly less hospitable place for most species, including our own. Yet doubt about the gravity of the problem is, paradoxically, on the rise.

Recent polls in the US, Britain and Canada reveal that fewer people take the threat of climate change seriously than five years ago.

“An oil platform explosion on September 2 in the Gulf of Mexico forced the crew to jump into the sea and threatened further damage to waters still recovering from the BP disaster”, AFP said that day.

The explosion on the platform, owned by Houston-based Mariner Energy, comes in the aftermath of the BP-owned Deepwater Horizon rig explosion in the gulf in April, which killed 11 workers. Bloomberg.com said on August 20 that 4.9 million barrels of oil escaped from the leaking well.

In scenes reminiscent of the Nazi German occupation, French police rounded up almost 1000 Romani people (sometimes called Gypsies) in August and deported them to Romania and Bulgaria.

The mass deportations were foreshadowed by President Nicolas Sarkozy in July in a series of inflammatory speeches in which he accused Romani people of being in an “unacceptable situation of lawlessness” linked to “illicit trafficking, deeply unworthy living conditions and exploitation of children for begging, prostitution or crime”.

Analysis

The Socialist Alliance national office has produced its analysis of the August 21 federal election. It traces the precise mix by electorate of the increased Green, Coalition, independent and informal vote, produced as voters deserted Labor.

The differences among the seat-by-seat contests in an Australian federal election have never been so great. The general disillusionment with the two major parties expressed itself in quite different ways in different electorates and areas.

In 2007, federal election candidates made much of the seven vultures that were feeding on the carcass of the Howard government as it flailed around shifting further and further to the right.

Those seven vultures were:

• the denial of climate change;
• touting of the war in Iraq;
• Work Choices;
• policy failure on education spending;
• poor vision of infrastructure;
• destruction of research and development; and
• persecution of refugees with the Pacific Solution.

The United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) slammed the policies of the Northern Territory intervention in a report released on August 27.

The report said that despite Australia seeing itself as a country without racism, laws such as the NT intervention showed that racism had become “embedded” in Australian life.

The committee said the NT intervention “continued to discriminate on the basis of race as well as the use of so called special measures by [Australia]”.

On September 1, Luke Foley, the newest Labor member of the New South Wales Legislative Council, rose to make his inaugural speech to the chamber.

Foley began: “It is with pride and humility that I enter this place, Australia’s oldest Parliament, as a representative of Australia’s oldest, and greatest, political party — the Australian Labor Party.”

Oh dear. What a day for Foley to praise the ALP in NSW.

In the lead-up to the 2004 federal election, legislation was passed against marriage rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people. The 2004 marriage ban became the catalyst for the development of a powerful protest movement.

This movement has won a series of important victories. These include the repeal of 85 pieces of federal legislation discriminating against same-sex couples, but not the repeal of the discriminatory marriage ban. Recognition of civil unions has been won in the ACT, after a five-year struggle.

After a long hiatus, the Broad Left Collective has reformed in Wollongong.

Broad Left played a valuable role in circulating left and progressive news in the Illawarra community from its inception in 1987 until its dissolution over the course of 2002-3.

At a meeting held in June this year to discuss reforming the collective it was agreed that Broad Left could continue to play a valuable role in linking up left and progressive people and groups across the Illawarra.

A high court challenge to Australia's offshore processing, on behalf of two Tamil refugees whose asylum claims were refused, has questioned the legality of the refugee processing policy.

The case, heard in Canberra's High Court over August 24-26, occurred amid rising numbers of refugee claims being refused.

Australia imprisons refugees in offshore detention and denies them full right of appeal in Australian courts. Access to legal advice and fair processing is greatly restricted.

The lawyers acting on behalf of the Tamils labelled this practice unlawful and unconstitutional.

Undoubtedly the best thing about the election result was that people — everywhere — were talking about politics.

Some of the discussion was about the hung parliament where neither major party won majority support. Because the result wasn’t clear, it gave everybody an opening to form and express an opinion about what should happen next.

Other parts of the discussion surrounded the sudden emergence of political issues that had been completely ignored in the “boring” election campaign. The war in Afghanistan is the best example.

On September 13, construction worker Ark Tribe will face Adelaide Magistrates Court yet again.

He is facing six months’ jail for failing to attend an interrogation by the construction industry police — the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC), created by former Howard government as part of Work Choices, but left in place by the ALP.

It is a film that advocates peace, yet the head of the ABC decided it was too controversial to be viewed by the Australian public.

In May, the ABC pulled the plug on an independent film documenting daily life of Palestinians living under Israel’s military occupation in the West Bank.

Now, thanks to the power of public pressure, the ABC is reconsidering whether to broadcast Inka Stafrace’s documentary Hope in a Slingshot.

Letters are flying thick and fast to the ABC, asking the broadcaster to air Stafrace’s film.

Socialist Alternative’s Corey Oakley thinks many on the Australian left have got the federal election wrong.

There is nothing positive about the balance of power being held by four independent MPs and one Green, he wrote in an August 27 article on the Socialist Alternative website.

He said the left should be fearful of the independents, but some activists were wrongly celebrating the new role of these reactionary politicians.

Adam Bandt, the MP elect for the seat of Melbourne (long considered a “safe Labor seat”), and the Greens' first House of Representatives member to be elected in a general election has been very busy since August 21. He says he left the triumphant Greens' election night party at 11pm thinking that he would have to do some media the next day so should get a good night's sleep. He woke up the next morning and after a couple of hours having coffee and reading the paper, the situation sunk in.

Resistance!

The 2010 federal election campaign was notable as being one of the most tedious in the history of modern elections — at least the campaigns the two major parties dished up were.

The field of youth affairs was among the direst, with both the Coalition and ALP using young people as a political football to appeal to older and more conservative sections of the population.

Coalition leader Tony Abbott reconfirmed his status as an out-of-touch, patronising, old white man, encouraging young people to conform to conservative values.

Culture

Review by Mat Ward

Fit to Print: Misrepresenting the Middle East
By Joris Luyendijk
Scribe Publications, 250 pages, $29.95

If you've ever felt like shaking your fist in anger at some of the reporting that comes out of the Middle East, this very honest book by a disillusioned Middle East correspondent will make you shake your head in wonder.

Joris Luyendijk says he had no journalistic experience when he was hired by a newspaper in his native Netherlands to report on the Middle East. He was taken on solely because he could speak Arabic.

In recent weeks, media commentary on the use of illicit drugs by professional sports players has exploded again.

The first cause was the recently retired Australian rules football star and recovering drug addict Ben Cousin’s documentary Such is Life: The Troubled Times of Ben Cousins. It aired on Channel 7 on August 25 and 26.

The second was the overdose on GHB of Travis Tuck, a player for Australian Football League (AFL) club Hawthorn, on August 27.

Fighting Fund

Figures released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics on August 30 revealed mining company profits rose 62.7% to $25 billion in just the three months to June 30.

Hopefully, those who fell for the hard luck stories of the mining billionaires when they were howling and screaming about the new Resource Super Profits Tax (RSPT) proposed by the former Rudd Labor government are now realising they were suckered.

We kid you not

“A federal judge has blocked the Obama administration from funding human embryonic stem cell research, ruling that the support violates a federal law barring the use of taxpayer money for experiments that destroy human embryos …

“The ruling stunned scientists and other advocates of the research, which has been hailed as one of the most important advances in medicine in decades because of its potential to cure many diseases …

“An inquiry into the Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority, a corruption finding against a NSW Maritime lawyer and, to top it off, the resignation of a cabinet minister who admitted accessing adult and gambling websites on his parliamentary computer.

“Even by the standards of the eternally scandal-ridden Labor government, yesterday was a bad day for public administration in NSW.

NSW Christian Democrat Senator and right-wing Christian fundamentalist Fred Nile, who has built a career as a “moral crusader”, was caught in a NSW parliamentary audit that revealed his parliamentary computer had been used to access pornographic sites.

The September 2 Daily Telegraph said: “An audit of parliamentary computers conducted two months ago identified the Christian Democrat MP as one of the biggest viewers of adult content … up to 200,000 suspect hits have been recorded under Mr Nile's log-on, sources said.”

“The Iowa egg producer that federal officials say is at the center of a
salmonella outbreak and recalls of more than a half-billion eggs has
repeatedly paid fines and settled complaints over health and safety
violations and allegations ranging from maintaining a ‘sexually hostile’
work environment to abusing the hens that lay the eggs.

“In the past 20 years, according to the public record, the DeCoster
family operation, one of the 10 largest egg producers in the country,
has withstood a string of reprimands, penalties and complaints about its
performance in several states …