Issue 855

News

Community activists in the Illawarra have again condemned the use of Taser guns and renewed calls for a ban on the controversial weapon. This calls comes just days after a man in Sydney's west died after being struck by a Taser in the chest by police. A video from 2008 has also emerged of an Aboriginal man with a mental illness being Tasered 13 times by police officers in West Australia.
On September 24, Australia took another step backwards. Hadi Ahmadi, 35, was sentenced in a Perth court to a maximum of seven and a half years for assisting 562 asylum seekers to reach Australia on two boats in 2001. He was originally charged with “smuggling” 900 people on four boats, but this number was reduced during the course of the trial. Ahmadi had been recognised as a refugee by the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR). After twice failing to reach Australia by boat, he turned to helping others attempt the journey.
Over October 29-31, Palestinian solidarity activists from around Australia and the world will meet for the first national boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) conference. The call for a global boycott campaign against Israel was first launched in July 2005. It has become a big part of the movement against the occupation of Palestine.
The following is abridged from a September 29 statement issued by a delegation of north Queensland Indigenous traditional owners in Canberra. They went to meet Opposition leader Tony Abbott to ask him to drop his move to overturn Queensland’s Wild Rivers legislation. After the delegation's visit, the federal government referred the issue a parliamentary committee to report back no later than next March. * * *
Chanting “Free chickens, caged workers”, on September 24 more than 100 community members and trade unionists protested against the treatment of Sudanese immigrant Anyuon Mabior. Anyuon was sacked by Lilydale Free Range Chicken, in Wingfield, for complaining about a racist email. The National Union of Workers (NUW) has lodged an unfair dismissal claim through Fair Work Australia on Anyuon’s behalf, and will also seek a time and wages inspection.
On October 10, the international day of climate action, climate activists will converge on Hazelwood, Australia’s dirtiest power station. Each year, Hazelwood burns 17 million tonnes of brown coal and consumes 27 million litres of water (the equivalent of using one month’s worth of Melbourne’s water supply every day). It accounts for 15% of Victoria’s emissions and 3% of Australia’s emissions.
After 23 months of struggle, Tahmoor mineworkers have achieved a new enterprise agreement with their employer, Xstrata. On September 24, 142 voted for the company’s latest offer and 50 voted against. Until then, attempts by the workers to negotiate were thwarted repeatedly because Xstrata refused to budge, even during mediated talks. Workers have been locked out twice and have taken industrial action on several occasions.
Twenty people attended a September 28 Indigenous Social Justice Association (ISJA) meeting to hear Bruce Campbell, from the WA Deaths in Custody Watch Committe, discuss the campaign for justice for Mr Ward. On Invasion Day (January 26) 2008, Mr Ward, a respected Aboriginal elder, was arrested and died of heat stroke in the back of a prison van the next day while being taken 360km in 42°C heat.
About 6000 Queensland health workers walked off the job from October 1 across the state demanding better wages and conditions. "The Queensland Public Sector Union [QPSU] said the Government was unfairly targeting its own workers to cut costs to make up for the nurses' payroll debacle”, the September 30 Courier-Mail said. The workers are demanding an increase of 4.5%, 4% and 4% over three years, with allowances and extra leave protected. The government has refused to increase its offer of 2.5% a year over three years.
“After the election: What now for refugee rights?” was the theme of a September 29 Refugee Action Collective forum. Wesley Widlend, from National Labor Students, condemned federal Labor’s “disgraceful display” on asylum seeker policy. “Many members of the Labor Party consider the party policies inhumane”, he said. An immediate aim of the refugee rights movement should be “community processing of asylum seekers”. The Greens’ Elissa Jenkins said it was “time for the Greens to listen to people's ideas” on the goals of the refugee rights movement and for a “real campaign plan”.
South Australian Treasurer Kevin Foley’s September 16 budget faces widespread opposition. The budget would slash $2 billion from public spending over four years. A leak to the September 15 Adelaide Advertiser of the Sustainable Budget Commission's report showed recommendations for wide-ranging spending cuts and the closure of schools, hospitals and police stations. Not all of the recommendations will be implemented, but 35 of the Commission’s 43 general recommendations will be acted on.
Amnesty International’s Demand Dignity and Eora College art exhibition opened at the Boomalli Aboriginal Arts Gallery on September 22 to a crowd of 50 people. The exhibition was based on the theme of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The artworks were produced by talented students from the Eora TAFE College. The Demand Dignity campaign aims to eradicate poverty by making human rights law. As part of the campaign, Amnesty International has criticised Australia’s NT intervention policy, which was launched by the Coalition government of John Howard in 2007.
In the lead-up to the November 27 Victorian state elections, the Council of Single Mothers Action Group has expressed its concern about the right of religious institutions to legally discriminate against gays, lesbians and single parents. Until amended last year, Victorian Equal Opportunities legislation granted religious bodies many exemptions. This meant they could discriminate against many groups of people in employment and service provision. The amendments did not remove the right to discriminate against gays, lesbians and single parents.
Wollongong's satirical Billionaires for Coal rallied in Sydney on September 29 in defence of the Forbes CEO conference, which brought together billionaires from across Australia and the globe. The three billionaires faced off against a group of activists dressed as pirates, who were protesting against the system of global inequality epitomised by the conference.

Analysis

Statement from the Socialist Alliance National Executive October 8, 2010 On October 17, 2001 the Howard Coalition government deployed Australian troops to Afghanistan, just nine days after the US had begun bombing one of the most poverty stricken and war weary nations on earth. The then newly-formed Socialist Alliance responded to this attack and its reputed catalyst, the terrorist bombings on New York and Washington some weeks earlier, by noting the US' hypocrisy and pledging to campaign against Bush's “war without end”.
Refugee Action Coalition NSW media release A year ago, then prime Minister Kevin Rudd called Indonesian President Yudhoyono requesting that the Indonesian navy intercept a boat carrying 254 Tamil asylum seekers to Australia. The boat was the subject of international attention after the asylum seekers refused to disembark at Merak in Indonesia. In April 2010, the asylum seekers were forcibly removed to Tanjung Pinang detention centre. Except for two families shifted to detention in Medan, all the Tamils remain in appalling conditions in Tanjung Pinang.
Housing was barely mentioned during the August 21 federal election, despite being a huge social issue. The Victorian state election is looming, and it is crucial that more is done to protect and win back our housing rights. People from all walks of life are affected by the housing crisis. Sole parent families, youth, Indigenous people, migrants, people exiting prison, and pensioners are some of the hardest hit, but hundreds of thousands of Victorians are also struggling due to rental and mortgage stress.
On September 27, the Australian Director of Military Prosecutions announced that charges were being laid against three soldiers from Australia’s Special Operations Task Group in Afghanistan. The charges were over the February 12, 2009, killing of two adults and four children near the village of Sarmorghab in Oruzgan province.
On September 26, protesters from climate change activist group Rising Tide shut down the world’s largest coal port at Newcastle. Green Left Weekly’s Zane Alcorn interviewed Rising Tide member Annika Dean. * * * What happened at the protest?
A “people's assembly for refugees” met in front of Parliament House on September 28 to call on the government to introduce humane policies and stop using refugees as political footballs. More than 160 people from Victoria, the ACT and NSW were joined by Greens parliamentarians Sarah Hanson-Young and Adam Bandt, and independent MP Andrew Wilkie. The rally was called by the Refugee Advocacy Network, a Melbourne-based coalition of refugee activist, advocacy and support groups. It was endorsed by 48 groups from across Australia.
We’re told that Australia is an egalitarian country. Our prime minister is a working-class migrant girl made good, while her predecessor was raised in regional Queensland by a single mother after the early death of his father. Anything is possible; our origins need not hold us back. A new report, linking health outcomes with social status, casts doubt on this. It concludes that those born poor are more likely to live in poor health during adulthood, and to die younger.
Efforts to pass laws banning full veils, burqa or chador, in some European countries — particularly France — have put the issue firmly on the agenda in many other Western countries. Left and feminist positions are being challenged. The dilemma is whether to defend the right for Muslim women to choose to dress as they like (for whatever reason) or to impose the Western perspective that, due to its oppressive nature, such dress should be suppressed.
On the surface, Labor PM Julia Gillard appears to have done an about-face on climate change in the weeks since Labor scraped back into government. Immediate action on climate change — especially setting a carbon price — is back on the agenda, she says. The Labor minority government has given in to a Greens demand for a new parliamentary committee on climate change. In doing so, Labor appears to be backing away from its pre-election promise to delay new climate legislation until 2013.
Green Left Weekly’s Angela Walker spoke to Carole Ford, a founding member of Pro Choice Cairns, about the upcoming trial of a young Cairns couple. The couple have been charged under Queensland’s 19th century abortion-procurement laws. How has the Cairns community responded to this case? With overwhelming disbelief. I'm sure when most Queenslanders first heard of the charges, they felt as if they had regressed in time.
On October 8, the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA), Queensland branch of the Electrical Trades Union and the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union will sign a “social compact” with the North Queensland Lands Council (NQLC). The compact will mark a new stage in collaboration between trade unions and Indigenous organisations, especially in those regions targeted in the mining and resources boom.
During recent protests in Villawood Detention Centre that followed the September 20 suicide of detained Fijian exile Josefa Rauluni, detainees who tried to help rooftop protesters with water and blankets were stopped by security. One man was bashed.
“I believe in capitalism. Capitalism to me is a spiritual concept. Democracy just gets in the way. Democracy is annoying. Let them buy stuff and eat cake. Where I come from, if you don't believe in capitalism you're going to hell.” A “Yes Men” parody? No, these serious words of US billionaire investor Ken Fisher give an insight into the Forbes Global CEO Conference held in Sydney on September 28 and 29.

World

According to a report in Prachatai, a popular Thai newspaper, a woman was arrested at freedom bike ride by United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship supporters (popularly known as the Red Shirts) in Thailand’s historic city of Ayutthaya for selling slippers with Thailand’s military-installed Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva’s face on them. The slippers were printed with the message, “People died at Ratchaprasong” – referring to the May 19 military massacre against the Red Shirts’ mass protest camp in Bangkok.
Secret documents disclosed in Britain’s High Court revealed former British prime minister Tony Blair was warned in the weeks after US forces began rounding up terrorism suspects that British nationals held by the US in Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay were being tortured, the Guardian said on September 30. A January 22, 2002 note from Blair in which he expressed concern about the treatment of British citizens being held by the US appeared, among heavily censored MI5 and foreign office documents, in court hearings in which British citizens are suing the government, MI5 and MI6.
The 2006 Jana Andolan (“People’s Movement”), which shut down Nepal and overthrew the 240-year-old Shah monarchy, was widely hailed as the birth of a new era of democracy. For the first time, the people of Nepal were able to elect a constituent assembly in 2008, giving the mass of Nepalis an unprecedented say in the future of their country.
In a qualitative escalation, the government of President Barack Obama has for the first time used the “war on terror” against socialists in the United States. On September 24, the FBI conducted a series of coordinated early-morning raids at homes and offices in Minneapolis, Chicago, Michigan and North Carolina. The political police seized computers, passports, books, documents, cell phones, photos, financial records, diaries, maps and other materials. In one case, children’s artwork was confiscated.
The abridged statement below was released by the South African Palestine Solidarity Committee (PSC) on September 29. * * * After a huge mobilisation by South African academics, the senate of the University of Johannesburg (UJ) voted today “not to continue a long-standing relationship with Ben Gurion University (BGU) in Israel in its present form and has set conditions for the relationship to continue”.
More than 10 million workers staged a general strike in Spain on September 29 in response to vicious government attacks on their rights and pensions. The huge mobilisation, organised by the Confederacion Sindical de Comisiones Obreras (CCOO) and Sindicato Union General de Trabajadores (UGT) labour unions, produced a 75% turnout of members, sending a strong message of opposition to the austerity measures. UGT secretary for organisation and communication Jose Javier Cubillo said that in some sectors of the economy, such as steel and energy, support for the strike was close to 100%.
Palestinian activists in the occupied West Bank have called for the boycott of the popular Rami Levy Israeli supermarket chain. The chain has several stores inside Israel’s illegal settlements. Activists say they will call on fellow Palestinians to “avoid supporting the occupation and settlements’ economy by boycotting Israeli goods and settlement stores”. A vigil was held on September 23 outside the Rami Levy store inside the Sha’ar Binyamin settlement south of Bethlehem.
On September 30, Ecuador descended into chaos as a protest by sections of the police force and army turned into a potentially bloody coup against left-wing President Rafael Correa. At about 8am, sections of the Ecuadorian Armed Forces and the national police went on strike, occupying police stations and barracks in the capital Quito, in Guayaquil and in at least four other cities. They set up road blocks with burning tyres, cutting off access to the capital.
The fight against the dumping of toxic waste off the coast of Madang in Papua New Guinea suffered a setback when a court injunction against the Ramu nickel mine, which is building a pipe to dump its waste into the ocean, was reversed. The injunction was dropped after the three remaining plaintiffs pulled out of the case against the US$1.4 billion Chinese-owned mine, the September 24 Sydney Morning Herald said.
On September 5, the Basque armed group Euskadi Ta Askatasuna (Basque Homeland and Freedom, ETA), which has fought an armed struggle for Basque freedom for decades, released a video declaring that several months ago it had decided to stop armed actions, and announced a ceasefire. In its statement, ETA said: “In recent times, the Basque country has been at an important crossroads. The political struggle has opened up new conditions... “The time has come to build a democratic framework for the Basque country respecting the wishes of the majority of the Basque people...
On September 27, the repressive police apparatus of the Spanish state was brought to bear on the Askapena, the internationalist organisation of the Basque pro-independence left. Seven members were arrested across the Basque Country. Among those arrested was Walter Wendelin, who does a lot of solidarity work with Latin America. Many of the reports in the Spanish media make clear that the police operation is trying to target the relationships of the Basque pro-independence left with Latin America.
Pakistan blocked a vital supply route for US-led troops in Afghanistan on September 30. The move was in apparent retaliation for an alleged cross-border NATO helicopter strike that killed three Pakistani frontier troops, The British Morning Star said that day. The blockade appeared to be a big escalation in tensions between Pakistan and the United States. A permanent stoppage of supply lorries would place huge strains on NATO and damage the already faltering counter-insurgency campaign in Afghanistan.
On September 28, a British Guardian reporter who interviewed me by phone published an article on the September 26 Venezuelan National Assembly elections titled “Opposition Gains Loosen Chavez’s Grip on Power.” According to the article, I said the electoral results “suggested the government should try to modify its radical discourse and accommodate the opposition, as long as it accepted the government’s legitimacy”.
Venezuela’s September 26 National Assembly elections gave an interesting insight into the state of class struggle in a country sharply polarised by the revolutionary changes led by the government of President Hugo Chavez. The significance lies in the vote occurring after 11 years of the Chavez-led Bolivarian revolution, which has resulted in big improvements in the living standards of the poor majority.
Britain is said to be approaching its Berlusconi Moment. That is to say, if Rupert Murdoch wins control of Sky, he will command half Britain’s television and newspaper market and threaten what is known as public service broadcasting. Although the alarm is ringing, it is unlikely that any government will stop him while his court is packed with politicians of all parties. The problem with this and other Murdoch scares is that, while one cannot doubt their gravity, they deflect from an unrecognised and more insidious threat to honest information.

Culture

The Mountain City Murders By John Tognolini Ginninderra Press, Port Adelaide, 2010 The Mountain City Murders is a tale of crime, corruption and politics. Set in 2008 in the fictional New South Wales town of Mountain City (about 120km west of Sydney), the novel tells a story critical of criminal and capitalist greed.
One of the greatest living exponents of Peruvian musica criolla (creole music), Eva Ayllon, performed at the Sydney Opera House on September 25. Finding my seat, I felt as if I’d walked into an exuberant family gathering full of animated conversation, laughter, waving and group photography.

Editorial

On September 15, France’s Senate passed a bill banning women from wearing full Islamic face veils such as the burqa and niqab. Similar laws are being considered in other European countries. In the New South Wales Legislative Council, Christian fundamentalist MLC Fred Nile has introduced a private member’s bill seeking to ban wearing the burqa. Neither major party supporta the bill, so it is expected to fail.

Fighting Fund

We have just three months left to raise $135,228 if we are to make our 2010 fighting fund target of $300,000. This may seem like an impossible task but it isn't. Our supporters have raised $164,772 this year. We know we have the support out there to raise the rest. Of course, these amounts are just spare change to the corporate fat cats who were partying at the Forbes Global CEO Conference in Sydney last week, but Green Left Weekly readers and supporters have had to work hard to raise that amount for the fighting fund.

Letters

More deaths Deaths in custody in Australia continue and are also not limited to prison and police custodial jurisdictions. There were 2043 Australian deaths in custody from 1980 to 2007; 72 deaths in custody per year from 1980 to 2000; 75 deaths per year from 2000 to 2007. Eighteen percent are Aboriginal. We have one of the world's worst deaths in custody records.

Resistance!

A University of Newcastle student group, the Fairtrade Club, has had a win: a campus cafe has agreed to serve Fairtrade-certified coffee. The club formed earlier this year. It campaigns for shops and cafes at the university to sell fair trade products like coffee and chocolate. It also organises awareness-raising events, like “Fairtrade Fortnight”.