Issue 861

News

Over 100 people, including Taser victim Kevin Spratt, attended a rally on November 13, which focused on the excessive use of Tasers by police. Most speakers, including Deaths in Custody chairperson Marianne Mackay, called for a complete end to the use of Tasers by police. However shadow attorney general John Quigley merely called on the government to release video footage of a second Taser attack on Spratt that it has kept secret.
There are renewable energy options for WA. This was the clear message of a forum hosted by Safe Climate Perth on November 13 as part of its campaign calling on the state government to cancel approval for five new or refurbished coal-fired power stations. Tim Barling from Sustainable Energy Now spoke about the range of options that are available and agricultural scientist Chris Johanson presented the Beyond Zero Emissions plan for 100% renewable stationary energy by 2020.
The last Aboriginal residents of the Redfern Block will be evicted on November 19 to make way for a new development by the Aboriginal Housing Corporation. Aboriginal Housing Corporation CEO Mick Mundine told ABC TV’s November 8 Lateline that the development involved commercial interests, which would put money back into the corporation to support affordable housing for local Aboriginal people.
Tasmanian Greens leader Nick McKim will introduce a bill into state parliament this week in a third attempt to have same-sex marriage legalised in Tasmania. Labor Premier David Bartlett said he would not support the bill, believing same-sex marriage is a federal rather than a state issue. The latest Galaxy opinion poll showed 62% of Australians support equal marriage rights.
The National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) at the University of New South Wales (UNSW) has voted for further industrial action, as vice-chancellor Fred Hilmer still refuses to negotiate in good faith on improvements to job security, pay and other conditions for staff. A November 10 NTEU meeting voted for an indefinite ban on processing student results at the end of the second semester. This is the second time staff have voted to carry out results bans this year. The dispute made headlines in July after management’s decision to stand down about 70 staff without pay.
Wollongong developer Frank Vellar has been charged with four offences under the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) Act. More than two years have passed since theICAC released the third of its reports into corruption in Wollongong City Council. In October 2008, the commission recommended charges be laid against 11 people for 139 criminal offences. Most of those named were either ALP members or political donors. Vellar was among them. At the time, ICAC commissioner Jerrold Cripps QC described the corruption found to be “without precedent”.
The Refugee Advocacy Network organised a rally against mandatory detention on November 7, in response to the federal Labor government’s huge expansion of the system. About 400 people attended the protest. A keynote speaker at the rally was visiting Afghan activist Malalai Joya. She drew the link between the occupation of her country (in which Australia takes part) and Afghans becoming refugees. “Afghans are leaving because of catastrophe in their country”, she said. “You can’t bring democracy with occupation.”
In response to an unprovoked and grotesque attack on the NSW Greens’ offices, discovered as staff arrived to work on November 8, the Socialist Alliance released the following statement. * * * The NSW Socialist Alliance condemns the cowardly attack, involving faeces, on the offices of the NSW Greens sometime over the night of November 7-8. Such actions have no place within a democratic society and should be rejected by all supporters of democracy.
At its national conference last week, the Australian Services Union (ASU) elected Brisbane delegate and Socialist Alliance member Margaret Gleeson as national “Delegate of the Year”. She received the award from Australian Council of Trade Unions president Ged Kearney at the National Conference dinner. "I was very proud to receive this award", she told Green Left Weekly, "but I see it most of all as a tribute to the ASU Queensland activists who through their hard work put gender pay equity on the political and industrial agenda in that state."
A High Court decision concerning the Refugee Status Assessment (RSA) process may undermine the government's offshore processing system. On November 11, the court upheld a case put by two Tamil asylum seekers, who'd had their claims for asylum rejected. Known as M61 and M69, the Tamils put the case that they had been denied the right to challenge their rejected claims in court. The current two-stage RSA "offshore" process discriminates between asylum seekers who arrive by boat, known as "irregular arrivals", and those who arrive by other means, such as by plane.
More than 100 people attended a Brunswick candidates’ forum about planning issues on November 11. The high attendance reflected anger at the many high-rise buildings planned for the inner-Melbourne area. Six state election candidates addressed the meeting. Socialist Alliance candidate Trent Hawkins said residents must be involved in decision-making. Planning minister Justin Madden has "called in" 230 projects so far this year, allowing him to overrule local council decisions. Hawkins said development decisions must involve the community.
Matthew Wright and Patrick Hearps from Beyond Zero Emissions outlined their plan to switch Australia to 100% renewable stationary energy by 2020 to 150 people in Hobart on November 11. Local speakers Todd Houstein from Sustainable Living Tasmania and Peter Rae from the International Renewable Energy Alliance, spoke about how the plan could apply to Tasmania.
A Union and Community Summer School, Winning Our Rights, will be held over December 10-11 at Melbourne Trades Hall. Most left political traditions will take part in the school, which aims to strengthen unity on issues for which there is agreement. The approach will be one of problem-solving. To usefully tackle the big challenges confronting the union movement — such as the fight against anti-union laws and the struggle for a sustainable economy — it begins by setting out the concrete questions these challenges pose to unions and labour movement activists.
West Papuans and their supporters staged protests worldwide to coincide with US President Barack Obama's visit to Indonesia. Large protests were held in West Papua. In Melbourne, about 50 activists protested at Federation Square on November 10, demanding action against the Indonesian government and its atrocities against West Papuans.
Seventy people from across New South Wales took part in the Socialist Alliance state conference on October 7 to discuss politics and political campaigns in NSW and plan for the March 2011 state elections. The conference decided to run a “red-green” election campaign based on the slogan “NSW not for sale, community need not corporate greed!”
Housing action group City is Ours organised a protest outside housing minister Richard Wynne’s office on November 12, to highlight Melboune’s growing housing crisis. City is Ours has also recently organised a public meeting and a protest against rooming house evictions outside Moreland Council’s offices.
For the second week in a row, nurses held lunchtime rallies outside their hospitals in support of the NSW Nurses Association campaign for a mandated minimum nurse to patient ratio of 1:4 in public hospitals. This ratio has been mandated in Victoria for 10 years but NSW lags behind. Lower ratios in NSW have meant poorer care for patients and have also placed nurses in danger.
Ivanhoe Girls Grammar School (IGS) has been attacked for its ban against same-sex couples at a school dance. Student Hannah Williams boycotted the event in protest because her school would not let her take her girlfriend Savannah. Hannah and Savannah have been dating for about four months, but they said when the school’s dinner dance was approaching, it was made clear that Hannah could attend only if she brought a male as her guest.
"The Queensland government yesterday completed the second sale in its asset privatisation program, offloading the Port of Brisbane for $2.3 billion to a group of local and offshore buyers”, the November 11 Courier-Mail said. The port was sold to a consortium called Q Port Holdings, one of only two bidders in the final race to buy the asset. Q Port Holdings will pay $2.1 billion for a 99-year lease on the port and $200 million for future upgrades of the port’s motorway.
Federal Liberal/National Coalition leader Tony Abbott left Normanton, in far north Queensland’s gulf country, on November 10, having failed to win Aboriginal elders' backing for his bill to repeal Queensland's Wild Rivers legislation. The existing Wild Rivers legislation aims to protect the wilderness rivers of the tropical north, and provide Aboriginal control of employment and economic development in the region.

Analysis

From the left and the right of Labor, progressive MPs, members, unions and voters within the party are fighting back against Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s homophobic views on marriage. At the same time, huge sections of Labor’s support have shifted toward the Greens, or toward more radical, anti-capitalist alternatives. On November 10, Paul Gibson became the 14th NSW Labor MP to announce he would not contest the March election. He said the ALP had abandoned its platform, and was simply driven by polls rather than principle.
ALP activist Craig Giddins was one of six members of the Port Curtis and Hinterland branch who recently resigned in protest against Queensland Premier Anna Bligh’s public assets sell-off, especially QR National. Giddins, also the president of the Gladstone branch of the Queensland Council of Unions and state organiser for the Electrical Trades Union (ETU), spoke to Dick Nichols, Socialist Alliance’s national trade union coordinator. Now that the QR National float is about to close, is the battle over?
The Mid Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook (MYEFO) released by treasurer Wayne Swann on November 9 shows that Labor is betting on the minerals boom continuing. While admitting that the global economy remains tenuous, and that the whole house of cards could collapse, it has no “plan B”. “The update forecasts strong growth, falling unemployment and a big pipeline of investment that’s gathering momentum”, Swann said.
If truth is the first casualty of war, it certainly sustains critical injuries in peace. In Victoria our state seems to be in information lockdown. Much of the media have remained subservient to the armies of spin doctors, minders, advisers, pollsters and other such wired and hired guns. We have a veritable Blackwater of outsourcing to inner sanctum PR consultants. Daily, ministers and department heads refuse to directly answer questions. They stonewall, obfuscate, and withold the truth. There is little transparency or public accountability.
The federal election result and the surging Green vote have livened up the Victorian election campaign. The latest Newspoll figures show 19% support for the Greens, the and major parties are struggling to work out whether to launch a full-frontal attack or whether that would deliver more votes to the Greens. The Greens are eating into Labor’s support base on the left and Labor is worried.
Climate deniers love banging on about media bias. It’s a favourite theme. They claim media outlets suppress the debate, peddle global warming hysteria and refuse to give deniers an equal hearing. Indeed, the evidence (always a knotty issue for deniers) shows that there is a glaring bias in the way the Australian media covers climate change. But it’s a bias for climate denier propaganda, not against it. Take the Rupert Murdoch-owned media empire: Australia’s largest. The editorial line of its flagship broadsheet, the Australian, is notorious for its climate denial.
Your article “What's behind the NT intervention” (GLW #843) outlines the government's goal of forced assimilation of Aboriginal communities. Under the intervention, millions of dollars worth of assets and housing has been seized from Aboriginal community councils and thousands of Aboriginal jobs have been lost as Community Development Employment Projects (CDEP) close down. Then prime minister John Howard declared in 2007 that: "Aboriginal people have no future outside the Australian mainstream.”
Having lived on the farm right next to the Northam army barracks since 1934, Eric Fox has seen a lot of people use the camp (and his farm) over the years. “The army used the farm extensively [in the early years of World War Two] as an extension of their training ground”, Fox told Green Left Weekly. “Later in the war, when the Italian prisoners of war were there, they weren’t very solidly interned — they walked over the farm as well. That didn’t worry us. They didn’t bother us.
If you relied on only mainstream media reports of the November 4 town hall meeting in Northam, you would conclude the Avon Valley town, one hour from Perth, is a seething hotbed of racism of the most vicious kind. The meeting was called to discuss the federal government’s plan to use the Northam army barracks as a detention centre for 1500 refugees seeking asylum. The reports showed women wearing shirts with the slogans “bomb their boats” and “sink their boats”.

World

“The whole process was a fake!”, said Khin Maung Swe, a 68-year-old leader of the National Democratic Force (NDF), a breakaway from the National League for Democracy (NLD) led by Aung San Suu Kyi. “We just won 16 seats [out of the 163 the NDF contested] because of the so-called advance votes.” Khin Maung Swe expressed outrage at the process of counting votes in Burma’s elections held on November 7 for the first time in 20 years. Opponents of the military junta said it rigged many “advance votes” — votes cast before the official date of the election — through threats and bribes.
When the United Nations Millennium Development Goals Summit took place in September, leaders from rich countries, as well as aid and research organisatons, met with Third World nations and “recommitted” to eight anti-poverty goals. The goals were set in the Millennium Declaration in 2000, to be met by 2015. “Donor” countries pledged financial and technical aid to halve extreme poverty and reduce hunger, disease and illiteracy across the global South.
“Rise like lions after slumber/In unvanquishable number!/Shake your chains to earth, like dew/Which in sleep had fall’n on you/Ye are many —they are few.” These days, the stirring lines of Percy Shelley’s “Mask of Anarchy” from 1819 may seem unattainable. I don’t think so. Shelley was both a Romantic and political truth-teller. His words resonate now because only one political course is left to those who are disenfranchised and whose ruin is announced on a British government spreadsheet.
More than 50,000 German anti-nuclear protesters defied 17,000 police over the weekend of November 6 and 7and blockaded a train carrying spent nuclear fuel rods from France to Germany. On November 8, the fuel rods finally reached the small north German village of Dannenberg. From there, they were trucked a further 20 kilometres to an interim nuclear storage facility in the town of Gorleben. Anti-nuclear activists drove more than 600 tractors, blockading roads and the railway in the largest ever demonstration over the transportation of spent nuclear fuel rods in Germany.
Hundreds of thousands of victims of the Mount Merapi volcano eruption in central Java face economic and social destruction unless the government carries out a comprehensive recovery plan to help them. By November 9, the Data Communications Centre from the health ministry has put the death toll from the October 26 eruption at 168 people, with 1105 injured and 279,779 evacuated. In solidarity with the victims, the Indonesian Poor People’s Union (SRMI) has set up disaster relief centres in eight districts: Mungkid, Salam, Ngluwar, Salaman, Muntilan, Mertoyu, Srumbung and Borobudur.
Demonstrators marched in Santa Cruz, the capital of Spanish-ruled Canary Islands just off the north-west African coast, on November 11 against the week-long assault on a protest camp in Moroccan-occupied Western Sahara. James Tweedie wrote on Ositorojo.blogspot.com that day that more than 1000 people, many Sahrawis but mostly Spanish Canarians, marched through the city centre to demand an end to the police and military operation.
Cuba and Venezuela condemned on November 11 the repression by Moroccan forces against Sahrawi people in El-Aaiun, the Venezuelan News Agency (AVN) said that day. Cuban and Venezuela’s ambassadors to Algeria, Hector Michel Mujica and Eumelio Caballero, condemned the attack by Morrocco, which is illegally occupying Western Sahara. The ambassadors are also the accredited diplomatic representatives of their nations to the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR), the independence of which is being denied by Morocco.
President Nicolas Sarkozy enacted a new law on November 10 that increases the retirement age of French workers. The move came just days after more than a million workers and students mobilised across France against the law. The November 6 protests were the eighth national strike and protests since September 7 against the bill — although it was the easily the smallest of the mobilisations.
At first glance, you might have mistaken London’s packed streets on November 10 for a Mardi Gras carnival. There young faces and large grins, combined with incessant whistle-blowing, trumpet-blasting and drum-beating. All mixed together to form the din of student protest. The noise took shape and all of a sudden burst from the centre of the crowd, picked up by everyone else: “No ifs, no buts, no education cuts” — the main chants of the 50,000 students marching forward from Westminster to the destination of the Milbank headquarters of the Conservative Party.
The US has stepped up flights by pilotless drones and increased the deployment of special forces and CIA operatives in the Middle Eastern nation of Yemen. The US military and CIA have been covertly operating in Yemen since at least 2002. The November 7 Washington Post quoted unnamed US officials as saying that drones operating over Yemen now included Hellfire missile-equipped Predators. The article said that “up to 100” extra US “Special Operations force trainers” and an unspecified number of “additional CIA teams” were being deployed.
Moroccan occupation forces brutally attacked and destroyed the Saharawi Gdeim Izik protest camp on November 8, which had grown to over 20,000 since being established on October 9. The camp, 15 kilometres outside the capital, El Aaiun, was established to protest lack of job opportunities for Saharawi under the Moroccan occupation and mistreatment of Saharawi by Moroccan authorities.
Malalai Joya is an Afghan feminist and anti-war activist who opposes the US-led occupation of her country. An opponent of both the Islamic fundamentalist Taliban and the equally fundamentalist and corrupt warlords in the US-backed regime of President Hamid Karzai, Joya was the youngest member elected to Afghan parliament in 2005. She was suspended after she said the parliament was full of warlords. Joya is touring Australia and will speak at UTS in Sydney on November 16 (see www.greenleft.org.au/calendar for details).
More than 5000 workers from across Venezuela marched to the Venezuelan National Assembly in Caracas on November 9. The rally was organised by the National Workers’ Union (UNT). The central demand of the rally was that a radical new labour law currently tabled in parliament, which would greatly benefit Venezuelan workers, be passed. The September 26 election resulted in the pro-revolutionary forces losing the required two-thirds majority required in parliament to pass entirely new (organic) laws, although they still have an overall majority.
A November 4 World Bank and International Finance Corporation report, Doing Business 2011: Making a Difference for Entrepreneurs, ranked Colombia as the 39th most “business friendly environment” in the world. Colombia’s “Doing Business” score, which measures how much the country has improved for business, showed Colombia as the best improving economy in the region. Missing from the report were the more than 500 unionists killed in Colombia over the past eight years, making up 60% of all unionists killed globally.
The easy view to adopt after the drubbing received by the Democrats in the November 2 midterm elections would be that we’re back to normal, and Americans are just mental. That is because the people leading the hatred of US President Barack Obama are characters such as Glenn Beck, spokesperson for the right-wing Tea Party. Beck hosts a TV show in which, during the last 18 months, he’s likened Obama to Hitler 349 times. Every night, he must tell viewers that Hitler started out with a healthcare plan, then things spun out of control so he invaded France.
In what Sky News described as one of the largest demonstrations to hit London streets in decades, tens of thousands of students, teachers, staff members and their supporters rallied on November 10 in opposition to the new Conservative-led government’s plan for tuition increases and cutbacks at Britain’s colleges. Organised by the National Union of Students (NUS) and the University and College Union (UCU), the demonstration drew students from across the country for a march through central London, during which students occupied the Conservative Party headquarters.

Culture

GasLand A film by director Josh Fox In Palace cinemas from November 18 www.GasLand.com.au In September 2006, theatre director and part-time banjo player Josh Fox received an unexpected letter in the mail: a natural gas company offering him $100,000 for permission to explore his family's upstate New York property, in the lush Delaware River Basin area.
US comics Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert held their “Rally for Sanity and/or Fear” in Washington DC on October 30, which drew about 200,000 to 300,000 people. Stewart, host of Comedy Central satirical news show The Daily Show, called a “Rally to Restore Sanity” on air. Colbert, former Daily Show member and now the “right-wing” host of Comedy Central show The Colbert Report, responded on his show, screened straight after Stewart’s, by calling for a “March to Keep Fear Alive”.
Johnny Ray’s Downtown Perry Keyes Laughing Outlaw Records Sydney singer songwriter Perry Keyes’ latest album, Johnny Ray’s Downtown, tells tales of life in the city’s inner-city suburbs. It has earned Keyes his first ARIA nomination, for best adult contemporary album.
The Last Englishman: The Double Life of Arthur Ransome by ROLAND CHAMBERS Faber & Faber, 2010, $24.99 390 pages, (pb) Arthur Ransome was a popular children's author in England who counted the offspring of A. A. Milne and J. R. R. Tolkien among his millions of devoted young readers.

Fighting Fund

Being a political activist can be fun. About 15 of us enjoyed throwing shoes in a Sydney Stop The War Coalition action on November 8 outside the US Consulate. We were protesting against the AUSMIN war talks with US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Melbourne. Protesters threw shoes at cardboard cutouts of Gates, Clinton, PM Julia Gillard and Kevin Rudd.

Letters

Let Vanunu go free In 1986, Mordechai Vanunu exposed Israel’s secret nuclear weapons arsenal to the world after becoming disillusioned with his work as a technician at Dimona Nuclear Research Centre in Israel. He revealed Israel had hundreds of advanced nuclear warheads. His brave actions led to him being kidnapped by Israeli agents in Italy and transported back to Israel where he was convicted of espionage and treason in a secret trial. His abduction violated Italian and international law.

Resistance!

"When I was 15, I remember going to parties and being really uncomfortable when someone put on porn. Porn told me how, as a woman, I needed to look, act and experience sex; and that people found women being treated this way funny or arousing rather than frightening." — Anonymous. Porn reflects ideas about what is considered explicit and arousing. But the meaning of "porn" is altered by historic, cultural and economic contexts.
The Anti-Porn Men Project was recently launched. Anti-Porn Men is a website providing men with information and a platform to explore anti-pornography views and arguments. Criticisms of porn from moralistic and religious standpoints are nothing new, but the Anti-Porn Men Project isn’t about moralistic preaching — it comes from a feminist and pro-sex perspective.