Issue 860

News

Close to 5000 protesters took to the streets on November 6, demanding the next state government replace the Hazelwood power station with genuinely clean energy during the next term of office. Victoria goes to the polls on November 27. Rally organisers said Hazelwood was the biggest emitter of greenhouse gases per unit of electricity of any power station in Australia. It is responsible for 3% of the nation’s entire carbon emissions. It’s also the nation’s largest emitter of dioxin, the most toxic known chemical compound.
See a photo slilde show of the rally here. Hundreds of people took to the streets of Perth for the fourth time this year to protest against the federal government’s same-sex marriage ban. The November 6 rally heard from speakers including Kitty Hawkins representing GALE (Gay and Lesbian Equality), Rebecca Leighton from the Greens and a representative from the State School Teachers' Union.
The Cyprus Club was packed out at a special “Viva Cuba” solidarity dinner on October 31. About 180 people welcomed the new Cuban ambassador to Australia Pedro Monzon Barata, the new Cuban consul general Reinaldo Garcia Perera and new Cuban consul Maribel Espinosa Begueri. Tim Anderson, senior lecturer in political economy at the University of Sydney, gave a sneak preview of his new documentary about Cuban medical and education projects in East Timor. Cuba is training more than 900 doctors as part of the programs.
Sixty people gathered at City Farm, East Perth, for an update on the opening up of WA to uranium mining and the growing campaign to stop it. The night was hosted by the newly-formed WA Nuclear Free Alliance (WANFA), which groups together about 60 Aboriginal people from communities around the state.
Touring Colombian unionist Parmenio Poveda Salazar, an official with the National Unitarian Federation of Agrarian Unions (Fensuagro), has called for increased international solidarity with unionists and human rights activists in Colombia. Parmenio said: "Many leaders of Colombian unions have been assassinated, and others have been forced into exile" by the policies of former president Alvaro Uribe. These same policies are continuing under new president Manuel Santos with at least 22 unionists and social justice activists being killed in the first 75 days of Santos’ presidency.
Helensburgh is not renowned for climate activism. A coalmining town, Helensburgh was established around the Metropolitan colliery, Australia's oldest continually operating coal mine, in the 1880s. The coal transnational Peabody Energy, which owns the Metropolitan, sponsors local activities such as school sporting teams and community fairs. However, 35 people attended a climate-focused public meeting in the NSW south coast town on November 2.
Federal government plans to convert vacant army housing at Inverbrackie, near the Adelaide Hills town of Woodside, for 400 asylum seekers in family groups have divided the local community. On November 3, opposition leader Tony Abbott met with about 150 local residents, most of whom were opposed to the government plans. Abbott told those gathered that Woodside “is an open and welcoming community”.
More than 100 Palestine solidarity activists gathered in Melbourne over October 29-31 for Australia's first national BDS conference. Palestinian civil society groups called for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel five years ago. The BDS campaign demands an end to the Israeli occupation of Palestine, the dismantlement of the separation wall in the West Bank, equal rights for Palestinian citizens of Israel, and the right of return for Palestinian refugees.
Construction workers marched through the Sydney CBD on November 3 to call on the state government to protect pay entitlements and safety standards on the $6 billion Barangaroo development on Sydney’s former wharves. Construction Forestry Mining Energy Union (CFMEU) state secretary Mal Tulloch told the rally that the development could play a critical role in turning around the NSW building industry’s race to the bottom in safety standards and decent working conditions.
“The coal seam gas industry is facing a rural revolt with farmers yesterday threatening to risk arrest and lock their gates to drilling companies”, the November 2 Brisbane Courier Mail said. “A massive expansion of the industry was ignited on the weekend when BG Group-owned Queensland Gas gave the go-ahead for a $15 billion liquefied natural gas plant at Gladstone that will be fuelled by coal seam gas from the Surat Basin. Santos, Origin and Shell are all trying to firm up their own massive LNG projects.”
The annual Latin America Solidarity Fiesta was a success, raising much needed money for social projects in Latin America and maintaining Green Left Weekly’s coverage on the progressive developments unfolding in the region. Organised by the Latin America Social Forum (Sydney), the October 31 fiesta was held at the Great Hall in the Addison Road Community Centre. Pocho Man, Danny Sanchez, DJ Av El Cubano and Jorge Martinez provided music on the night.
More than 15,000 Community and Public Sector Union members from almost every Australian Public Service agency have voted on the CPSU's APS-wide bargaining claim. The final outcome was 14,665 (97.5%) in favour. The claim included an APS-wide pay rise of 4%, payable from July 1, 2011, and a further 4% payable from July 1, 2012. It also included additional measures to gradually increase pay in lower paid areas. There are currently large differences in pay between different agencies.
When a newly established group, Australians for Tamil Rights, began advertising a protest titled “Sri Lanka: Massacre of Tamils is just not cricket”, anti-Tamil Sinhalese went wild on Facebook with a campaign of vitriolic abuse. Most of the abusers denied that there had ever been a massacre of Tamils in Sri Lanka. Despite the internet campaign against the November 3 protest, it went ahead outside the Melbourne Cricket Ground where Sri Lanka and Australia played a 20-20 cricket match. One of the Sri Lankan cricketers, Ajantha Mendis, is a former artillery gunner in the Sri Lankan army.
The NSW government has decided to cut the solar photovoltaic feed-in tariff from 60 cents per kilowatt hour (kW/h) to 20 cents per kW/h. The October 27 announcement came after the tariff received a strong uptake, particularly in Sydney’s western suburbs and rural NSW. The total capacity once remaining orders are connected will be around 193 megawatts (MW). The Greens and the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union (AMWU) slammed the decision to axe the tariff.
Campaign group Safe Climate Perth reached the milestone of 2000 signatures on its no new coal petition on October 30. The petition calls for WA's parliament to stop to expansion of coal-fired power stations, mines and related infrastructure, and to fund a roll-out of renewable energy with priority access to the new jobs, with equivalent conditions, given to coal communities. The petition was launched on October 10, and Safe Climate Perth has embarked on an energetic effort to reach 10,000 signatures by Human Rights Day.

Analysis

The Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) released a report on the Christmas Island detention centre on October 29, and again called for an end to mandatory detention and offshore processing. The 75-page report detailed the hostile conditions faced by asylum seekers, including the island’s remote location and limited access to essential services such as legal help, health care, torture and trauma counselling and religious support. The report said Australia’s detention system breaches fundamental human rights.
As a former refugee, I can understand and share the concerns of the many Afghan asylum seekers currently facing deportation back to Afghanistan, the very country they had to flee from. This would send them into the hands of the very people responsible for much of the insecurity and threats to the lives and livelihoods of these asylum seekers. It is unbelievable and preposterous.
One of Australia’s richest men, mining magnate Andrew “Twiggy” Forrest, used Australian television on October 24 to send an address to the nation about his “Generation One” campaign, which aims to “close the gap” between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians. I don’t have any air-time, but I do have page space. This is my address to Twiggy. * * * Dear Mr Forrest, I think we have something in common (yes, I’m surprised too).
Melbourne Catholic Archbishop Denis Hart is at it again. In 2004, he told a woman who had been sexually abused by a priest to “go to hell, bitch”. In 2009, he unsuccessfully attempted to pressure Father Bob Maguire, a progressive Melbourne icon, to retire from his local parish.
Westpac was the last of the big four banks in Australia to announce its annual profit. It made the biggest — a whopping $6.3 billion, 84% higher than 2008-09. The Commonwealth Bank made the second biggest profit this year, $6.1 billion (up 42%). It was also the first bank to announce it would raise its interest rates for home mortgages more than the latest Reserve Bank interest rate rise. ANZ made $5 billion (up 53%) and NAB $4.6 billion (up 63%). The big four made a total profit of $23 billion.
Socialist Alliance released a statement on South Australia’s budget cuts on November 3. * * * The Socialist Alliance opposes the public service cuts in South Australia. The effects of the global financial crisis have hit South Australia with this budget. But who will pay for it? The bankers and corporate heads that caused it? No, Premier Mike Rann and deputy premier Kevin Foley want the working people of South Australia to pay for the crisis they did not create.
Resistance’s Ben Peterson spoke to Mitch Cherry, a member of the Geelong Resistance branch and the Socialist Alliance candidate for Bellarine in the November 27 Victorian state election. Why are you running in the election? What does it mean to be a youth candidate?
Phil Golby was the president of the Port Curtis and Hinterland branch of the ALP until October 20. Then, along with five leading members, he publicly resigned to protest against the Queensland Labor government’s proposal to sell off public assets despite mass opposition from rank-and-file ALP members. Until October, Golby was also the president of the Gladstone branch of the Queensland Council of Unions (QCU). He is a state organiser with the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union, working out of the union’s Gladstone office.
Prime Minister Julia Gillard used a series of meetings with Asian leaders at the UN Regional Summit on October 30 to lobby for her government’s proposal to build a “regional” detention centre for refugees in East Timor. She met with Vietnamese President Nguyen Minh Triet, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Prime Minister Bouasone Bouphavanh of Laos and President Benigno Aquino of the Philippines, the October 30 Australian reported. She also met with United Nations secretary general Ban Ki-Moon, who “noted” her proposal — the only outcome reported.
Divisions about a carbon price are hardening among Australia’s big businesses. Two distinct positions seem to have emerged in the corporate boardrooms. Some corporate groups are backing the federal government’s call for a price on carbon because they say it will allow for a more certain environment for investment. Nine CEOs of big Australian fund managers and superannuation companies linked to the Investor Group on Climate Change have formed a new panel to lobby the government for a carbon price.
Murray Darling Basin Authority chief executive Rob Freeman recently proposed extending the consultation process on the draft Murray Darling Basin plan until 2012. This follows mobilisations by both farmers and environmentalists pushing competing claims. Renowned anthropologist Diane Bell, chair of the River, Lakes and Coorong Action Group, spoke to Green Left Weekly’s Gemma Weedall about the Murray Darling debate. * * *
Almost daily protests have been organised by unions and community groups since the ALP state government handed down its budget on September 16. It slashed community infrastructure, cut 3743 jobs from the public service and altered the Public Services Act to do away with workers' leave loading and long service leave entitlements. The largest protest was a 10,000-strong march organised by the Public Service Association (PSA) that marched along King William Street on its way to parliament.
Mining magnate Andrew “Twiggy” Forrest had an opportunity on ABC’s November 1 screening of Q&A to defend his record on Aboriginal employment. He didn’t do very well. “You can see that through Generation One, a real challenge to fill those jobs, because we've proven for all time that corporate Australia — in fact every Australian — isn't racist”, Forrest said. “We do love our first Australians. We do want to help them as much as we can but we can do it without just throwing money, and I believe I could do more.”

World

Unless the Indonesian government carries out a comprehensive recovery, hundreds of thousands of Merapi volcano eruption victims are certain to face economic and social destruction. “One of the worst impacts of the eruption is the destruction of people’s livelihood; the land cannot be used to grow plants and economic activity virtually stops,” said Agus Priyono after visiting disaster relief centres set up by the Poor People’s Union (SRMI) in Magelang municipality.
At least five Vodafone stores were closed in central London on October 30 by protests, TheGabber.org said that day. The protests were against the British government’s alleged decision to give companies, such as Vodafone, huge tax breaks of about £6 billion at a time when ordinary people are having their benefits cut or taken away.
The battle for the planet’s dwindling resources has taken a further trade war twist with China’s recent decision to place limits on the export of the 17 chemical elements collectively known as “rare earths”. These elements, found near the bottom of the periodic table, are crucial for manufacture of a wide range of modern technology products.
The National Popular Resistance Front of Honduras (FNRP) received the annual International Herbert Anaya Human Rights Prize in El Salvador, awarded by human rights organisations. The FNRP struggles against the US-backed Honduran dictatorship that came to power in a military coup last year. Gloria Anaya, the oldest daughter of the slain human rights activist for whom the award is named, told Prensa Latina the award ceremony took place during the closing of the Seventh International Congress on Human Rights at the University of El Salvador.
Republicans are trumpeting their big gains in the November 2 midterm elections as a mandate to turn the country sharply to the right. Don’t buy it. Mainstream media commentary on the election was largely set before a single vote was cast. Voters would correct President Barack Obama’s supposed leftward course in his first two years in office by sending a cabal of right-wingers to Congress. The scale of the Republican victories — especially in House of Representative races, where the party now holds a comfortable majority — cemented the media’s impressions.
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez announced on October 31 the expropriation of steel company Siderurgica del Turbio (Sidetur). The company is a major producer of steel used in the building of homes, bridges and other infrastructure and public works. Chavez also announced government interventions in six large housing developments being built and eight others that are ready for residents to move in. Government oversight has been increased in a further 19 privately-run housing projects.
A Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas (ALBA) meeting was planned in La Paz, Bolivia on November 10, for ALBA’s Latin American nation members to advocate for a common position on the defence of the rights of Mother Earth. ALBA is an anti-imperialist bloc of eight nations led by Cuba, Venezuela and Bolivia. Bolivian environment minister Maria Esther Udaeta said the meeting would discuss the position of ALBA nations at the next United Nations climate summit at Cancun in December.
NUMSA supports the decision taken by Mine Line workers to take-over and run the company since it was long placed under curatorship. The Mine Line company is based in Doornkop, and produces valves for mining machines. Out of fear of paying workers decent wages, its owner Waynerd Mulder declared the company bankrupt in August after reaping the profits generated through the sweat and blood of workers. As a result of this melodrama by Mulder, workers were hardest hit by the company’s non-operation and lost their earnings in the midst of the escalating cost of living in our country.
On November 2, the Venezuelan government expropriated the Caracas shopping centre Sambil La Candelaria, Venezuelanalysis.com said on November 4. The government decree said the shopping complex and large parking area would be “transformed into a meeting space for Venezuelans within the framework of a sustainable economy and permitting the development of the exchange of goods and services as well as the development of cultural expression”.
The Conservative Party, or Tories, has never really forgiven the British working class for demanding and winning the creation of the “welfare state”. Gains won included such things as free health care, council homes at affordable rents, and care for the elderly and vulnerable. From the Tories’ point of view, these are all things individuals should sort out for themselves. The modern state should provide the same level of social protection as was available to Queen Victoria’s subjects in the 19th century.
The Venezuelan government said its “Smile Mission” social program has provided more than 96,000 adults with free dental care, including 34,600 with dentures, since its creation in 2006, Venezuelanalysis.com said on October 29. Health minister Eugenia Sader said the dentures provided by the mission are primarily for people from the poorest sectors. “The Smile Mission helps recover the self-esteem of our patients and of the Venezuelan people”, Sader said. “This is quality free dental attention that the revolutionary government offers to our people in order to guarantee health to them.”
British rail unions branded Transport for London (TfL) “barefaced liars" after its management attempted to claim minimum disruption during a 24-hour strike on November 3. London Underground services were crippled by strike action called by the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT) and Transport Salaried Staffs' Association (TSSA) over safety-critical job cuts. All 11 of the London’s Tube lines were hit by the walkout. The action was the latest in a series of strikes over plans to axe up to 2000 jobs, including 800 station staff.
Frank Mugisha, chair of the NGO Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMU), is no stranger to receiving threats because of his sexual orientation, a November 5 Amnesty International statement said. “But when a Ugandan tabloid published his personal details in October and called for him and others to be hanged for ‘recruiting children’”, the statement posted on Amnesty.org continued, “he knew there would be a struggle ahead — on the streets and in the courts”.
The government of Papua New Guinea has been awarded Greenpeace’s “Golden Chainsaw” award in response to its corrupt, anti-environment forestry policies. In a report released on October 25, the environmental advocacy organisation said PNG should not be allowed to take part in the controversial Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD) carbon trading program until “safeguards for biodiversity and indigenous and landowners’ rights and ending the corruption and illegal logging” are in place.
Matiullah Khan is reportedly illiterate, but he is a very wealthy man. A warlord accused of mass murder, rape and abduction, the June 5 New York Times reported that Matiullah earned US$2.5 million a month through highway robbery, drug trafficking and extortion. The news that members of his private army were training in Australia — revealed by the Sydney Morning Herald on October 29 — exposes the reality Australia’s “nation building” project in Afghanistan by putting a spotlight on a key local partner.
World renowned novelist and global justice activist Arundhati Roy is facing escalating threats of violence in India because of her support for justice in Kashmir — the disputed region partitioned between India and Pakistan and occupied by military forces in the area India controls. Roy faced sedition charges for comments she made about Kashmir at a public meeting in October. The government has since indicated it would not pursue the charge.
Men in uniform, mainly young soldiers holding AK 47 rifles, are seen all around northern Sri Lanka, from Mannar in north-west to Mullaitivu, the last battlefield in the north-east. In Mullaitivu, there are said to be more soldiers than civilians. This is the situation in the largely Tamil north of the island one-and-a-half-years after the end of the Sri Lankan Army’s war against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). Tens of thousands of Tamil civilians were killed by the SLA in the last months of the conflict.
BBC services were severely disrupted after a 48-hour walkout on November 5 and 6 by thousands of media workers. MorningStarOnline.co.uk said on November 5 the workers were fighting the corporation’s “pensions robbery”, which would result in payouts being dramatically reduced. The corporation’s director general Mark Thompson claimed the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) strike had no impact, but viewers and listeners tuned into BBC radio and TV channels to find the flagship program off air.
The Irish Republic’s government said on November 4 that it wants to slash 6 billion euros from its 2011 deficit, MorningStarOnline.co.uk said the following day. The cuts were announced despite the government admitting it would lead to lower economic growth. Ireland’s deficit is set to reach an astronomical 32%, MorningStarOnline.co.uk said, mainly because the government’s bailout of the banks with public funds cost 31 billion euros. The country has already endured two years of recession driven by the bail-out costs and a doubling of unemployment to 13.6%.
A large number of BP’s pipelines on Alaska’s North Slope are severely corroded and in danger of rupturing, an internal BP maintenance report obtained by investigative journalism group ProPublica, revealed on November 2. The news comes less than two months after oil ceased gushing into the ocean from BP’s Deepwater Horizon rig in the Gulf of Mexico. The report said at least 148 BP pipelines in the region have been given an “F-rank” by company inspectors — a grading given when more than 80% of a pipe is corroded. The pipes transport oil, gas and other toxic substances.
About 25,000 students took to the streets of Dublin on November 3 in protest at plans to increase college registration fees, MorningStarOnline.co.uk said. Many protesters wore T-shirts calling for “Education, not emigration”, referring to a recent surge of young people leaving Ireland with its double-digit unemployment for opportunities abroad, from Canada to Australia.
Rome’s Sapienza University is one of Italy’s most prestigious universities and Europe’s biggest with more than 140,000 enrolled students. But this northern autumn, despite the cold weather outside, Sapienza University — like many others in Italy — is at boiling point. The heat is in response to funding cuts to Italy’s public education system. Further cuts are in store if the university reform package proposed by Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s centre-right government is passed.
Two-year-old Gavin Tillman of Pass Christian, Mississippi, has been diagnosed with severe infections. His temperature has reached more than 39°C since September 15, and his health continues to worsen. His parents, some doctors and environmental consultants believe the symptoms are linked to exposure to chemicals spilt by BP during its Gulf of Mexico oil disaster. Gavin’s father, mother and cousin also have serious health problems. Many others living along the coast of the Gulf of Mexico have experienced their symptoms.

Culture

Made in Dagenham Directed by Nigel Cole Starring Rosamund Pike, Bob Hoskins, Miranda Richardson In cinemas nationally Review by Jeff Sawtell Given the advance publicity, I was looking forward to Made in Dagenham. It is based on the 1968 strike of women sewing machinists at Ford Motors, which was supposed to have inspired the 1970 Equal Pay Act.
King Brown Country: The Betrayal of Papunya by Russell Skelton 260 pages Allen & Unwin $35 REVIEW BY MAT WARD The Northern Territory community of Papunya is known worldwide for its Aboriginal art. But this book by Melbourne Age reporter Russell Skelton paints a very different picture of it. Papunya, says Skelton, is "a metaphor for all that has gone wrong with Indigenous policy since the 1970s". He says former prime minister Gough Whitlam's policy of self-determination for Aboriginal communities in the 1970s was "unworkable and unsustainable".
How to Cool the Planet: Geo-engineering & the Audacious Quest to Fix Earth's Climate By Jeff Goodell Scribe, 2010 262 pages, $35 (pb) Grandiose schemes to launch sulphate particles into the stratosphere, to dump iron into the oceans and to brighten clouds in order to moderate global warming are, says Jeff Goodell in How to Cool the Planet, maturing from the dodgy geo-engineering dreams of mad scientists to mainstream policy options.

Fighting Fund

Readership of the Green Left website had a 13.3% rise in October compared to September. This perhaps reflects the interesting developments in Australian politics since the failure of the big parties to win a parliamentary majority in the August 21 federal election. The site had 104,719 unique visitors over the month. The most-read article published last month was Kiraz Janicke's "The burqa: reject the fake 'feminism' of the right", which had more than 3000 readers.

Letters

McKillop’s real miracle For those of us in solidarity with East Timor, now Timor Leste, the real miracle is the work of Mary McKillop East Timor, with its people, notably Sr Josephine Mitchell and Sr Susan Conelly. They and others in MMET have done miracles in literacy in Timor, honouring the indigenous Tetum language.

Resistance!

Climate change is the biggest threat to our future, and coal is the biggest cause of climate change, yet right now there are plans for 12 new coal or gas-fired power stations around Australia. In this context, the Camp for Climate Action is taking place over December 1-5 at Liddell recreation area in the Hunter Valley, a little over an hour inland from Newcastle. The camp will take place near Liddell and Bayswater coal-fired power stations and in the sprawling moonscape of massive coalmines in the area.

Sam's Freo report

Fremantle Council is grappling with the rights and conditions of the workers who it expects to implement the city’s projects. I’ve proposed a policy called “Employment Values for the City of Fremantle”. For supporters of workers’ rights, the policy is straightforward and modest. It seeks to entrench the following principles: 1. Respecting the right of workers to union organisation and representation. 2. Limiting the use of fixed-term contracts and creating a guaranteed path to permanency. 3. Remunerating employees on the basis of equal pay and conditions for work of equal value.