Issue 854

Australia

A protest by "anti-corporate pirates", organised by the Socialist Alliance, took place outside a global corporate CEO's conference organised by Forbes at the luxury Four Seasons Hotel in Sydney on September 29.

Corporate pirates were plundering and destroying the earth and exploiting the world's majority, said Pirate Paul Benedek. "Them scurvy corporate dogs be giving us grassroots pirates a bad name, arrrgh!"

Watch Channel Ten News coverage of the protest:

On May 31, Australian activists Ahmed Talib and Jerry Campbell were on board the Mavi Marmara, in international waters, en route to Gaza to deliver much needed aid to its besieged residents. Israeli commandos attacked the ship and shot dead nine solidarity activists. Talib was one of several activists shot and wounded. He and Campbell described the attack at a September 22 forum sponsored by Justice For Palestine.

Talib said: “The Israeli siege of Gaza had continued for three years, with world governments and international organisations not really doing anything against it.”

Leaked documents revealed by the September 23 Sydney Morning Herald show large coal companies colluded to begin coal-seam gas mining under Sydney’s drinking water catchment.

The documents show gas-drilling company Apex Energy NL agreed to help Peabody Energy distance itself from bad publicity arising out of a proposal to begin coal-seam gas mining at the Metropolitan Colliery.

Apex was to expand the colliery without mentioning the coal-seam gas aspect of the expansion, which had the potential to contaminate water supplies.

Local climate action group Safe Climate has planned a campaign calling on the Western Australian government to reverse approval for five new and refurbished coal-fired power stations.

The campaign will include: an ambitious goal to get 10,000 signatures on a petition opposing the new coal developments before the end of the year; a poster design campaign; and a rally in December.

Safe Climate is also discussing possible civil disobedience actions.

The campaign will be launched at an October 10 action, as part of the 350.org 10/10/10 Global Work Party day of action.

The Queensland Nurses Union (QNU) has decided to disaffiliate from the Labor Party from next year. The decision was originally taken by the union council in February and reported to the QNU annual conference in July.

The QNU, with 35,000 members, is the only branch of the Australian Nursing Federation (ANF) ever to be affiliated to the ALP. Disaffiliation will end its $80,000 annual donation to the ALP.

The National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) at the University of New South Wales (UNSW) is calling on professional, technical and general staff to reject a management offer of a new enterprise bargaining agreement (EBA). The union says it fails on salaries, job security and on respect.

The offer will be put to a ballot of all non-academic staff this week, following a deal between the Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) and university management. Both unions cover non-academic staff. The CPSU will be campaigning for a “yes” vote.

A dinner to celebrate 30 years since the start of the historic “Jobs for Women” campaign was held on September 18 in Figtree, Wollongong. Pictured are some of the original group of 34 test case complainants in the victorious action against the discriminatory employment practices of Australian Iron and Steel (a BHP subsidiary at the time).

Anti-corporate activists will target the second day of the $US8000-a-head Forbes Global CEO Conference, calling for the needs of people and the planet to be put ahead of the interests of the billionaires.

The “Billionaire Pirates” will make an appearance, targeting the conference's theme of “Full Sail Ahead”, and demanding entry alongside their corporate pirate mates.

Thirty people gathered at Sandon Point's Aboriginal Tent Embassy (SPATE) on September 23 in a show of opposition to the reported destruction of native bushland and Aboriginal artefacts over the past two weeks by developer Stockland.

Activists conducted a non-violent direct action workshop and hung banners on a highway bridge at the bottom of Bulli Pass.

Nineteen seventy nine was a very good year for the Western Australian ruling class. The corporate puppet masters had the ideal puppet in Premier Charles Court, and the most right wing, racist Liberal Party in Australia.

With a heavily gerrymandered parliament, Court rode roughshod over union rights, civil liberties, Aboriginal rights and Aboriginal land.

Enter the Kimberley Land Council (KLC) who had recently formed to represent the Aboriginal communities in the far north of WA. The KLC was determined to take a stand against the mining land grab.

On September 20, the Courier-Mail reported on its front page that the fire sale of Queensland’s public assets had “shifted into high gear” with the $7 billion float of QR National — Queensland Rail’s freight network.

On September 22, 20 people protested outside the Western Australian parliamentary hearing into the transportation of detained persons to call for an end to private companies transporting prisoners.

The protest was organised by the Western Australian Deaths in Custody Watch Committee (DICWC). The inquiry was held in light of the death of Aboriginal elder Mr Ward, who was cooked to death in the back of a private security company van in January 2008.

Members of DICWC and Daisy Ward, cousin of Mr Ward, gave evidence at the hearing and called for justice for Mr Ward and his family.

Tasmania's first Black Parliament was held on September 21 outside Parliament House. Convened with supporters observing, it discussed issues affecting Aboriginal people but ignored by the state government, such as the construction of the Brighton Bypass over Aboriginal artefacts; peaceful Aboriginal protesters being subjected to strip-searches while environmental protesters are not, and whether the state government should be allowed to use the Aboriginal flag without permission.

Speakers also raised the issue of having three seats for Aboriginals set aside in the Tasmanian parliament.

Eighty people attended a Unions NSW public forum, “NSW Not For Sale” on September 22. The forum examined the social impact of the sell-offs of NSW assets and services, the state of the campaign against privatisation, and the best way forward in the run-up to the March 2011 state election.

The June state council of the NSW Teachers Federation called for the forum, hoping it would lead to meetings of public sector union delegates to relaunch the fight against the bipartisan sell-off and downsizing of the NSW public sector.

World

Mérida, September 30th 2010 (Venezuelanalysis.com) – As a coup attempt takes place in Ecuador, Venezuela and regional organisations of Latin America have come out in solidarity with Ecuador, and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez called on the people and military of Ecuador to defend President Rafael Correa and their country’s democracy.

Ecuador is a close ally of Venezuela, and a fellow member of the progressive Bolivarian Alliance of the People of Our America (ALBA).

UPDATE October 1, 12.30 AEST: Troops loyal to Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa have freed him from the military hospital where he was previously held hostage by right-wing coup police. He is now addressing a large number of triumphant supporters gathered at the Plaza of Independence in Quito who are chanting: "El pueblo unido jamás será vencido!". See livestreamed coverage by Telesur below.

In the parliamentary elections on Sunday 26 September, the PSUV [United Socialist Party of Venezuela] won a volume and distribution of votes that gave it a simple majority of deputies in the National Assembly.

The triumph of socialist candidates preserves the political continuity of the democratic process led by President Hugo Chavez, and shows that the bulk of the population prefers the anti-capitalist and socialist path.

Protests against an attempt to stifle student participation in elections for representatives to faculty boards have triggered one of the most important student occupations seen in Central America in recent years.

The occupation, which began in August, has shut down Guatemala’s sole public university, the University of San Carlos (USC). It has become a direct challenge to the privatising agenda of successive governments and university administrations.

When I heard about the strike that was planned by Italian Football players in Serie A league on September 25 and 26 (but has been postponed), I wondered what familiar refrains would be used to attack it.

The inevitable “millionaires complaining about their conditions” line was put by Yahoo Sports football blogger Brooks Peck in a September 12 piece.

Peck’s article mocks the idea that the “rights” of “lavishly paid” players are being violated: “This is Cambodian sweatshop type stuff.”

More than three million people took part in strikes and protests across France on September 23. They were demanding the withdrawal of laws that will dramatically reduce the right of workers to access pensions. The protests, which had been called by a coalition of seven of France’s union confederations, showed that the passage of the Pension Bill through France’s lower house of parliament had done nothing to weaken opposition to the attack on pensions.

On September 19, tens of thousands of pro-democracy Red Shirts returned to the Ratchaprasong intersection in Bangkok to remember the military coup that took place four years ago, as well as the murder of about 90 unarmed demonstrators in April and May.

Then, many of the protesters were gunned down by army snipers near Ratchaprasong.

Since the brutal killings by the military-backed Abhisit Vejjajiva junta, there has been a climate of fear. Hundreds of political prisoners have been locked up and there is evidence of extrajudicial killings of Red Shirt activists.

The 2008 election of Barack Obama appeared to herald a new dawn for 12 million undocumented immigrants, many of them laboring in the US’s most exhausting and underpaid workplaces.

The president’s own aunt, 58-year-old Zeituni Onyango, was forced to live “without papers” in Boston when a judge rejected her original petition for asylum in 2004. So it seemed Obama would be sympathetic to the plight of immigrants at least.

However, mounting evidence indicates life is becoming increasingly miserable for the undocumented population in the US.

As if straight out of a Cold War era movie, US corporate media outlets such as the Miami Herald ran headlines on September 18 claiming scientists from Albuquerque “tried to sell classified nuclear data to Venezuela”.

Readers were no doubt shocked to read in the Miami Herald that “an elderly maverick scientist who battled the scientific community for decades over laser fusion was indicted Friday in New Mexico, charged with trying to sell classified nuclear weapons data to Venezuela”.

On September 19, about tens of thousands of protesters from Thailand’s resurgent Red Shirt movement (popular name for the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship), took to the streets of Bangkok to defy the regime.

Klaus Crimson, whose photographs of this historic rally can be seen at www.links.org.au, told Green Left Weekly: “It was truly an amazing experience. By 9am it was pretty clear to me that it might grow into something big.

The counting of votes in the September 19 Swedish parliamentary elections sent out shock waves.

The far right won its first parliamentary seats, and for the first time in modern Swedish political history, an incumbent non-Social Democrats government has been able to win a national election.

As such, the process of dismantling the Swedish welfare state is set to continue unabated.

The governing right-wing Alliance emerged as the largest bloc, but failed to keep its majority. With 173 seats, it is two seats short of controlling the assembly on its own.

The statement below was released on September 24 by the International Action Centre, IACentre.org

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We denounce the Federal Bureau of Investigation harassment of anti-war and solidarity activists in several states across the country.

The FBI began turning over six houses in Chicago and Minneapolis this morning, September 24, 2010, at 8am. The FBI handed subpoenas to testify before a federal grand jury to about a dozen activists in Illinois, Minnesota, and Michigan.

Ten years after the United Nations general assembly adopted the Millennium Development Goals, “the fulfillment of these goals are under serious threat”, Venezuelan ambassador to the United Nations Jorge Valero told the general assembly on September 21.

The goals include cutting world hunger and the number of people living in extreme poverty by half

Bolivian President Evo Morales said they would not be reached unless “we put an end to the unjust distribution of wealth”. He noted that 40% of the world’s poorest people own 5% of the wealth, while the richest 20% control 75%.

The year before England won the 1966 World Cup, I interviewed its captain, Bobby Moore. Having not long arrived in England from the antipodes, where “soccer” was a minority sport beloved by Italians and Croats, I did not have a clue about the game.

Nevertheless, I had been assigned to write a “human interest” piece on the West Ham star by the same convivial assistant editor who had hired me believing I could play cricket, because I was Australian, and so assist the Daily Mirror team in its grudge match against the Express.

A long running struggle to save a public park in the central Tokyo ward of Shibuya from private development by sporting goods company Nike intensified on September 15.

The Shibuya ward authorities sealed off the park and deployed police and private security guards to stop activists and homeless people who live in the park from re-entering. Activists had been occupying the park since March.

Situated in the centre of downtown Tokyo, Miyashita Park has long been an oasis of trees amid the high-rise buildings and expensive retail outlets of Shibuya.

The announcement by the Cuban Trade Union Confederation (CTC) on September 13 about plans to reduce the state sector workforce by half a million was greeted by jeering headlines from journalists outside the island.

Cuba is rarely of interest to the corporate press unless they believe there is some crisis to celebrate or that new measures can be interpreted as evidence of a shift from socialism to capitalism.

On September 14, the French Senate passed legislation that will make the wearing of either a burqa or niqab — Islamic dress worn by some Muslim women that covers the face — illegal in public.

The ban was motivated by President Nicolas Sarkozy as an important step in winning equality for women. Opponents of the ban labeled it racist, but, importantly, it is also fundamentally sexist.

The following open letter to US folk singer Peter Seeger was released on September 15 by the Palestinians Students’ Campaign for the Academic Boycott of Israel and 16 other organisations based in Gaza. It urges Seeger, a long-time supporter of social justice causes, to not break the global boycott, sanctions and divestment campaign by performing at an Israeli-organised “virtual rally”. It is reprinted from the website of the US Campaign for the Academic & Cultural Boycott of Israel, Usacbi.wordpress.com

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Dear Mr Seeger,

On September 18, elections were held in Afghanistan amid killings of civilians. The Taliban had said it would disrupt the vote by killing those taking part, but the elections’ sponsors — the US-led occupation forces — also killed civilians on polling day.

Afghan and international media reported election day deaths from Taliban attacks, US air strikes, and fighting between foreign troops and insurgents, as well as between supporters of rival candidates.

Eventually, the Conservative-Liberal Coalition will sell itself off, and the country will be run by low-cost airline Ryanair.

You realise this if you listen to one of their favourite thinkers, Mark Littlewood of the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA), which describes itself as a “free-market think-tank”.

On September 14, he suggested stopping libraries from receiving public funding, because he doesn’t use them. So, he asks, “Why should I pay?”

Analysis

The call to put "a price on carbon" has gained wide support in Australia. It has also gained new currency in the context of a minority Labor government formed with support from the Greens and three independents.

Support for a price on carbon has come from across the political spectrum — from the Liberal Party's Malcolm Turnbull through to grassroots climate activists.

Green Left Weekly’s Simon Butler asked five Australian climate activists if they thought a carbon price was good policy and should be supported by climate action movement.

Prominent Australian writer and climate action advocate Clive Hamilton will speak in a feature session at the October 2-3 Sydney Festival of Dangerous Ideas on the topic: “We are all climate change deniers.”

He spoke to Green Left Weekly’s Simon Butler about climate denial, carbon pricing, population levels, and that “Oh shit” moment about climate change.

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Campaigners for women’s reproductive rights are gearing up for a day of protest on October 9. A young woman and her partner from Cairns face charges under Queensland’s 19th century criminal code for procuring an abortion. The trial date is set for October 12. A National Day of Action (NDA) will be marked by protests around the country, demanding that all charges against the couple be dropped.

The NDA is the initiative of three organisations: the Pro-Choice Action Collective in Brisbane, the Women’s Abortion Action Campaign in Sydney and Radical Women in Melbourne.

The heading at the top of the Emily’s List website says: “When women support women, women win.” But not all women will be winners from Emily’s List.

If you’re an ALP candidate, the list wants you to win. It offers publicity, financial support, and networking to get you elected. Since it was set up in 1996, the political network dedicated to advancing progressive female candidates has donated $600,000 to election campaigns.

The approaching October 12 trial of a young Cairns couple on abortion-related criminal charges shows the need for repeal of the anti-abortion laws. In response, the campaign to decriminalise abortion is gaining strength.

A July 9 book launch with author Caroline de Costa attracted 90 people. Jo Wainer, a long-time campaigner for abortion rights, was a special guest speaker at the event.

Momentum is building in solidarity with a couple from Cairns who have been charged under Queensland’s anti-abortion laws (see article on page 12). The couple is to face court in Cairns on October 12, and the Pro-Choice Action collective, Women’s Abortion Action Campaign, and Radical Women have issued a call for a National Day of Action to be held on Saturday October 9. The rallies will demand the dropping of the charges, repealing of the anti-abortion laws and free, safe, accessible abortion on demand.

Rev. Fred Nile, leader of the Christian Democratic Party (CDP) and member of the NSW legislative council made the following comment on September 17: "I am very concerned that week by week the ALP is adopting the permissive agenda of the Green political party — first the Homosexual Relationship Register Bill, second the homosexual Same Sex Adoption Bill, then the proposed Surrogacy Same Sex Bill and now the Kings Cross injecting room."

Teachers around the country have criticised the introduction of a new national curriculum.

The states have agreed to implement the new curriculum by 2013. However, the Gillard and Rudd governments have consistently pushed for this to take place by 2011. Considering that draft versions of the first curriculum documents were only released for consultation in March 2010, this was bound to end up being impossible to meet.

Twenty-two-year-old Mitch Cherry has been preselected to run for the Socialist Alliance in the seat of Bellarine in the November 27 Victorian state elections.

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Being heard is one of the biggest challenges facing young people.

We're forced into the workforce early to learn “work ethics” and the value of money. At 15 or 16, we might be working full time as an apprentice, or flipping burgers, but we’re not allowed to vote. We pay taxes but have no representation.

It has been a dramatic week at Villawood detention centre, with a suicide sparking off a spate of rooftop protests. These events highlight the inhumane treatment of asylum seekers and the need to get rid of mandatory detention.

A September 24 Crikey.com.au article revealed: “Up to 27 deaths have occurred in immigration custody since 2000.”

Over September 28-29, Sydney was due to host the 10th Forbes Global CEO Conference. The official conference website said it would be attended by “over 400 global CEOs, tycoons, entrepreneurs, up-and-comers, capitalists and thought leaders”. The host sponsors? The New South Wales government and Australian federal government, of course.

The federal Labor government has ignored the rising humanitarian crisis in Australian detention centres, even after Fijian-born Josefa Rauluni jumped to his death inside Villawood on September 20.

Three days before the tragic event, newly appointed immigration minister Chris Bowen announced that $50 million would be spent on 1600 new detention spots for asylum seekers.

Six hundred beds would be added to Curtin detention centre in remote WA, and 100 places would be added for families and children inside Melbourne’s “Immigration Transit Accommodation”.

When the last of the Sri Lankan Tamil asylum seekers stepped off the Australian customs boat the Oceanic Viking on November 17, 2009, most Australians assumed that the issue was resolved.

The 78 Tamil asylum seekers were “intercepted” in mid-October and taken onboard the Oceanic Viking. They were then taken to Indonesia. The asylum seekers refused to get off the boat, fearing they would be deported back to Sri Lanka.

Voluntary euthanasia is back in the political spotlight. The Greens have used their stronger position in the new parliament to raise the issue of people’s right to choose how and when they die.

A 1995 Ray Morgan research poll said 78% of people supported voluntary euthanasia being made legal in Australia. In 2009, a Newspoll survey said 85% of Australians supported voluntary euthanasia laws.

Culture

“I want to make films with a social purpose”, Newcastle-based film maker and activist Simon Cunich told Green Left Weekly. “I think every one has got a responsibility to persuade people and to inspire activism.”

Cunich, a member of Socialist Alliance, is completing a certificate in Screen and Media.

Newcastle is the largest exporter of coal in the world and Cunich said this “environmental destruction” has led to a hub of activism in opposition.

Into the Woods: The Battle for Tasmania’s Forests
by Anna Krien, BlackInc, 2010, 304 pages, $29.95

REVIEW BY TIM DOBSON

“I was the premier of Tasmania but these bastards were infinitely more powerful than me. You’ve no idea how powerful they are. I couldn’t move. For God’s sake, keep fighting them. That’s why I’m ringing you, they have to be stopped.”

Two weeks before his death, former Tasmanian Labor premier Jim Bacon, said these words in a phone call to well-known anti-pulp mill campaigner and ABC TV’s Gardening Australia host Peter Cundall.