Issue 852

News

A statement by Thai Red Australia Group for Democracy

Four years ago on the 19th September, the Thai people were concerned about a very damaging coup which toppled an elected government and resulted in the political and economic crisis that persists to today.

Susan Balog is a single mother and student who works in the retail industry for three hours, or sometimes four, on Sundays. Following Labor’s award modernisation process, she suddenly found herself worse off. Last week, she represented herself in Fair Work Australia and became the first worker to successfully get a “take home pay order” against her employer.
Journalist Jeff McMullen used his speech at the September 8 Building Bridges forum at Parramatta Town Hall to condemn ongoing government support for the NT intervention. He told the 50-strong forum: “The Northern Territory Intervention has been the most damaging policy inflicted on Aboriginal and Torres Strait islander people since the policies of the Stolen Generation.
By attacking the Gaza Freedom Flotilla (GFF) in international waters on May 31, Israel intended to deter people from attempting to break the siege of Gaza. However, since the attack, organisers have been inundated with calls and emails from people around the world wanting to join the next flotilla. Coordination for the next fleet has begun and GFF supporters in Australia want to raise $145,000 to send a contingent of 17 people from Australia and send aid as well. People will break the siege of Gaza, not governments.
Palestinian-Iraqi refugees are some of the forgotten victims of the Iraq war. In 1948, Palestinians were forced to flee from Palestine and became refugees. According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), around 34,000 Palestinian refugees were living in Iraq when the United States and its allies invaded in 2003. After the invasion, many Palestinians faced harassment, threats of deportation, death threats, abuse by the media, arbitrary detention, torture and murder.
On September 6, 35 people attended a meeting held by the Perth Refugee Rights Action Network to hear a reportback from participants of the RRAN “Compassion Caravan”. The Compassion Caravan involved 25 people traveling to the Leonora detention centre, in remote Western Australia, where 200 men, women and children refugees are detained. The caravan delivered toys and welcome notes to the refugees, written by Perth primary school children.
“This issue is deeper than sand-mining on Stradbroke Island”, Aboriginal community leader Dale Ruska told a group of protesters outside the Magistrates' Court on September 7. “It's also about justice for Aboriginal people. This mining company has stolen more than $80 million in illegal sand, and will probably be given a modest fine. “Meanwhile, Aboriginal people are being jailed for minor offences. We need justice for Indigenous people now.”
At a September 7 Green Left Weekly forum, Andrew Bartlett and Ewan Saunders spoke about the possibilities that have opened for the progressive movements since the election. Bartlett was Greens candidate for the seat of Brisbane in the recent federal elections. E Saunders contested the same seat for Socialist Alliance. Bartlett gained 21% of the primary vote, a swing of 10%. He gave an assessment of the voting results.
On September 8, race and discrimination commissioner Graeme Innes used a forum at the University of NSW Indigenous Law Centre on racism in sport to condemn the racist dog-whistling in the recent federal election. “You only have to look at the race to the bottom that you saw in the recent election on asylum seekers. Don't tell me there's not a racist part in that issue.
Workers at Megabolt in Melbourne’s northern suburb of Campbelfield have not had a pay rise for 10 years. This is despite working for a company that makes bolts for the rapidly expanding mining industry. The company’s production has increased by 25% in the past two years, but this hasn’t been reflected in wages. Australian Manufacturing Workers Union delegate Zelko Cimboro told Green Left Weekly that 75% of the workforce survives on the minimum wage of $15.04 an hour or $15.63 an hour.
An important campaign is emerging against the proposal to establish a coalmine in the iconic tourist and wine-making region of Margaret River in south-west Western Australia. The campaign has attracted support in the local community, reflected in a pre-election Walk Against Warming rally attended by hundreds of people and several successful community organising meetings.
Veterans peace group Stand Fast and the Peace Bus held a protest against the war in Afghanistan on September 9 at the gates of Enoggera Barracks. Enoggera is the home of the 7th Brigade and one of Australia's largest military bases. Also present were members of a local anti-war group who hold a vigil every Thursday against the war on the main road near the entrance to the barracks. Speakers at the protest included military veterans Hamish Chitts and Graeme Dunstan. Many motorists passing by, including some military personnel, waved their support or "honked for peace".
Opposition has grown to the Western Australian state government’s compulsory seizure of James Price Point, 60km north of Broome, for a $30 billion gas processing project in the Browse Basin. The Kimberly Land Council (KLC), the Greens and the Wilderness Society have all spoken out against the move. Frank Parriman, the co-chair of the KLC Traditional Owners negotiating committee, accused Woodside, the company that plans to build the project, of orchestrating the takeover.

Analysis

The Australian logging industry is seeking to cash in on a global surge in markets for forest biomass and wood-fired power. Proposals for new wood-burning power stations are popping up around the globe. The US alone has 102 new wood-fired power stations planned, the October 25, 2009 Independent said.

September 11, 2010 -- Ten years ago, thousands of Australian activists joined forces to blockade a meeting of the powerful World Economic Forum in Melbourne for three days, beginning September 11, 2000. Despite a massive show of police force and violence, the unity of the protesters prevailed.

One of Australia’s biggest carbon emitters, Bayswater coal-fired power station in the Hunter Valley of NSW, will be the target of this year’s Camp for Climate Action. Over December 1-5, the camp will bring people from around the country to a site near Bayswater, and will culminate in a mass protest against the proposed expansion of the power station.
The following speech was delivered by Jeff McMullen to a September 8 meeting in Parramatta, organised by Reconciliation for Western Sydney. * * * If you are out under the stars tonight, look up. We live in a world of wonder and this is our shimmering moment in the greater scheme of things. The Aboriginal ancestors who walked this land before us developed in their sophisticated knowledge system the concept of custodianship to keep life in balance. It is one of the keys to the strength and resilience of the world’s oldest continuous cultures.
A special film screening will take place in Petersham, Sydney on September 28 to celebrate the graduation of the first 18 East Timorese students through Cuba's medical training aid program, which began in East Timor in 2003. The event will be presented by Dr Tim Anderson of the University of Sydney, who has followed the journeys of these doctors from the start. He will present his films The Doctors of Tomorrow and The Pacific School of Medicine, as well as footage from the recent graduation ceremony.
Thankfully, no lives were lost in the September 5 earthquake that hit the city of Christchurch, New Zealand. But it has caused vast damage, up to half the buildings in the region need repairing. As I watched the evening news report about the disaster, I was struck by a comment a local resident made to reporters. Half jokingly, he said the good news was that the rebuilding effort would help pull New Zealand out of recession.
Hazara asylum seekers, who broke out of the Northern Immigration Detention Centre in Darwin on September 1 to hold a peaceful seven-hour protest, have been transferred to the WA Curtin detention centre. On September 3, Australian Association of Hazaras spokesperson Arif Fayazi told ABC radio he was concerned for their welfare. Fayazi said that when he was in detention in similar circumstances in 2000, many of his fellow detainees became so distressed they harmed themselves.
I am a committee member of the Human Rights Alliance and a trustee of the Deaths in Custody Watch Committee WA. Through my role in both during the past couple of years, I have been stunned by the fact that Australia has one of the world's worst deaths in custody records. There are more non-Aboriginal deaths in custody than Aboriginal deaths. But the rate of Aboriginal deaths in custody is higher than in South Africa during the peak of apartheid.
The Socialist Alliance national council meeting on September 5, involving 72 members from around the country, grappled with the new and intriguing political situation opened up by the August 21 federal election result. At the time, it was unknown who would form a minority government. But it was already clear that the result presented a challenge and opportunity for the progressive social movements to mobilise to demand a just, equitable and sustainable response to the big problems facing society.
Getting public housing was like a dream come true — an escape from the never-ending cycle of evictions and unscrupulous landlords stealing my bond money. My flat is in a reasonably middle-class suburb, in a building accommodating 13 tenants and a community garden. Unfortunately the dream turned sour.
Barangaroo is one of the last waterfront development sites in the City of Sydney. Its controversial redevelopment is starting a brushfire of protests because of the way it is being handled. Once the heart of the docklands, was the birthplace of the bubonic plague in the early 20th century Barangaroo, which led to the takeover of much of the area and its wharves by the government-appointed Sydney Harbour Trust.
Independent Andrew Wilkie won the Tasmanian seat of Denison at the recent federal elections. Previously, the seat had been held by Duncan Kerr for 23 years and was considered a safe Labor seat. Wilkie came to prominence in 2003 when he resigned from his job at the Office of National Assessments in public protest against the then Liberal/National Coalition government's decision to invade Iraq. The invasion was based on the claim Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, a claim that later proved false.

World

Pacific Rim Mining held its annual general meeting in downtown Vancouver on August 28. It was attended by a few directors and more than a dozen protesters. Most of the demonstrators were from the Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador (CISPES) in the US Pacific Northwest. They wore tags describing themselves as shareholders in democracy, human rights, access to clean water and “our future”.
More than 2.7 million workers joined protests across France on September 7. The strikes and protests marked the start of a parliamentary debate over the new pension bill that will dramatically cut workers’ pensions. The protests were called by coalition of six of France’s Union Confederations.
Venezuela’s decision to re-establish diplomatic, political and economic relations with Colombia on August 10 was only possible thanks to a range of circumstances and actions. Venezuela cut ties on July 22 in the face of allegations made by Colombia at the Organisation of American States (OAS) of alleged Venezuelan support for left-wing Colombian guerrillas. The Venezuelan government said the allegations were part of an attempt, backed by the US, to spark a war between the two nations.
Edward Bernays, the US nephew of Sigmund Freud, is said to have invented modern propaganda. During the World War I, he was one of a group of influential liberals who mounted a secret government campaign to persuade reluctant Americans to send an army to the bloodbath in Europe. In his 1928 book Propaganda, Bernays said the “intelligent manipulation of the organised habits and opinions of the masses was an important element in democratic society” and that the manipulators “constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power in our country“.
The deputy president of Swaziland’s People’s United Democratic Movement (Pudemo) Sikhumbuzo Phakathi was arrested on September 6 at the Phongola border post. The arrest came as Swazi police and soldiers were deporting a delegation of South African activists from the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) and the Swaziland Democracy Campaign (SDC). Pudemo president Mario Masuku was detained before the start of a protest march on September 7 to mark the global day for democracy in Swaziland. He was “escorted home” by police to prevent his participation.
In late August, Mexican authorities found the bodies of 72 migrants from Central and South America. They had been kidnapped on their way to the United States, brutally shot and left to die in a remote, abandoned ranch near a small town in northeastern Mexico. Eighteen-year-old Luis Freddy Lala Pomavilla was one of two survivors of the massacre who managed to escape and lead authorities to the crime scene. He claimed he and his fellow US-bound migrants were kidnapped by the Zetas drug cartel and told they would either have to pay a ransom or work as drug couriers and hit men.
US-NATO command and their puppets in Kabul are pushing ahead with lower house elections in Afghanistan on September 18. This is despite civilian casualties rising by 31% this year, a surge of occupying troop numbers and new evidence of widespread corruption emerging. A scandal surrounding the country’s largest commercial bank, Kabul Bank, has implicated one of Afghan President Hamid Kazai’s brothers. Mahmoud Karzai, when head of Kabul Bank, is said to have made millions from risky investments in the collapsing Dubai property market.
Peace talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority started on September 2. After the resumption of negotiations, Israel refrained from attacking Gaza for just two days. Then it ordered the bombing of two Rafah tunnels that connect the besieged Gaza Strip to Egypt, killing two workers, and leaving two severely injured.
Thousands of people mobilised across Honduras on September 7 as part of the “civic strike” called by the National Popular Resistance Front (FNRP) to “demand that the neoliberal offensive against the poor be halted”. The FNRP said rallies were held in the capital, Tegucigalpa and 10 other cities and towns.
The Australia Western Sahara Association has urged BHP-Billiton to suspend Canadian company PotashCorp’s trade in phosphate from Western Sahara if its takeover bid is successful. AWSA president Lyn Allison said in an August 25 statement: “If BHP cares anything for business ethics, social responsibility and international law, it will not allow the Canadian fertiliser corporation to buy further Western Saharan phosphate from Morocco.”
Up to 20,000 supporters of the pro-democracy Red Shirt movement rallied at a concert in the Thailand seaside resort city of Pattaya on September 4. It was one the biggest mobilisations since the military bloodily dispersed the Red Shirts’ mass protest camp in Bangkok in May, killing 91 and injuring thousands more. Red Shirt leader and Puea Thai party MP Jatuporn Prompan called on people to place red roses outside prisons around the country on September 17. Hundreds of Red Shirt leaders and activists continue to be detained.
Not long ago, a lot of socialists around the world had little to say about environmental issues. The environmental movement was focused on individual (change your light bulbs) and capitalist (create a market for emissions) solutions to the ecological crisis. In 2007, immediately after the founding of the Ecosocialist International Network (EIN), I wrote a Canadian Dimension article on the challenges facing ecosocialists. In it, I discussed two trends that seemed to indicate a new wave of anti-capitalist and pro-ecology action:
“Twelve American soldiers face charges over a secret ‘kill team’ that allegedly blew up and shot Afghan civilians at random and collected their fingers as trophies”, the September 9 Guardian said. “Five of the soldiers are charged with murdering three Afghan men who were allegedly killed for sport in separate attacks this year.” The other seven are charged with helping to cover up these atrocities and assaulting a soldier who exposed the murders, the Guardian said.
“BP PLC’s long-awaited internal investigation into the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig found that the British oil giant bears some responsibility for the disaster but laid most of the blame on its contractors”, the September 8 Wall Street Journal said.
For five centuries, Africa has suffered at the hands of the West. Starting with the slave trade, through the colonial era, to today’s neoliberal global economy, the development of industrial capitalism in the West has come at a terrible price paid by Africans. Food riots in Mozambique early this month and looming mass starvation in Niger after floods that were preceded by years of drought both reflect the ongoing economic exploitation. However, they also reflect another creation of the industrialised West adversely affecting Africa: climate change.
The Fabio Di Celmo Committee for the Five, (CFDCF) of Quebec-Cuba Solidarity, has been organising picket lines in front of the US Consulate in downtown Montreal the first Thursday of every month for more than three years in solidarity with the Cuban Five. The five are Rene Gonzalez, Antonio Guerrero, Gerardo Hernandez, and Ramón Labanino and Fernando Gonzalez. They were arrested 12 years ago on September 12, sentenced to long prison terms and held in terrible penitentiary conditions.
Reverend Lucius Walker was a veteran US activist involved in many campaigns in solidarity with liberation struggles in Latin America. Walker passed away on September 7 at the age of 80. Below is an obituary from the Committees in Solidarity with the Peoples of El Salvador. It is abridged from www.cipes.org. * * *

Culture

September 18 marks the 40th anniversary of the death of US musician Jimi Hendrix, widely regarded as one of the greatest rock guitarists of all time. Hendrix’s identification with progressive politics embodied the ferment of the late 1960s, with songs like “If Six Was Nine” (“I’m gonna wave my freak flag high”), “I Don’t Live Today” (about the plight of Native Americans) and the visceral anti-war tone poem “Machine Gun”.
Over the past decades, civil libertarians have warned that right-wing politicians were moving towards an all-embracing police state, using the media-generated panics of the “War on Drugs” and the “War on Terror” as their stalking horses. The Australian Crime Commission (ACC) is one of many police organisations set up after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in the US. Supposedly established to fight organised crime, the ACC seems to find this task too difficult, and its operations instead target drug enthusiasts and smaller criminal networks.
Black Like Me: How a White American Travelled Through the Segregated Deep South of the 1950s Disguised as a Black Man John Howard Griffin, Souvenir Press, 2009, 241 pages, $39.99 (pb) Review by Phil Shannon John Howard Griffin, a white Texan, was shocked in 1959 when he saw the face in the mirror, “the face and shoulders of a stranger — a fierce, bald, very dark Negro”, glaring back at him.

Fighting Fund

Letters

Free Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani I write to express my disgust at the appalling treatment of Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani by the Iranian government. I am a longtime friend and supporter of the Iranian people and their struggle. In the time of the Shah, I wrote letters and articles, spoke at meetings and joined many protests against his repressive regime and supported the resistance. Later, I defended the Iranian Revolution against the attacks of the US, Britain, Israel and other Western powers.

Resistance!

September 5-11 was National Body Image and Eating Disorders Awareness Week. “Awareness” about these serious and widespread issues is reasonably high these days. No young person can get through high school without being acutely aware of the pressures on physical appearance and personal image. The Mission Australia 2009 National Survey of Young Australians found that body image was the third-ranked issue of concern. A quarter of respondents (25.5%) said it was a major concern.

We kid you not

“Tony Blair's autobiography, A Journey, is being subversively moved to crime sections in book shops by members of a Facebook protest group. “Over 10,000 Facebook members have joined the group ‘Subversively move Tony Blair’s memoirs to the crime section in book shops’ and have been posting photos of them doing so … “The Facebook group description said: ‘Make book shops think twice about where they categorise our generation’s greatest war criminal.’” — September 8 Webusers.co.uk.
“Tony Blair today cancelled a second event scheduled to mark the launch of his memoirs after anti-war campaigners prepared to mount a protest against him … “The decision comes just days after Blair announced he was cancelling a signing session due to be held at the Waterstone's book store in London's Piccadilly this lunchtime, amid concerns over planned protests … “A book signing in Dublin a few days earlier had seen eggs and shoes hurled by protesters, with one individual attempting to make a citizen’s arrest.” — September 8 Guardian.
“Two American soldiers have been killed and nine wounded after a gunman in Iraqi army uniform attacked them at an Iraqi base, US officials said. “The soldiers were part of a security detail for a United States company commander who was meeting members of Iraq's security forces at a commando compound near the city of Tuz Khurmato, 170 kilometres north of Baghdad, US military said. “They were the first American soldiers killed since US forces formally ended combat operations in Iraq a week ago … [I]nsurgents continue to launch attacks daily, many targeting Iraqi soldiers and police.”