Issue 863

Australia

The Melbourne Immigration Transit Accommodation (MITA) refugee centre in Broadmeadows has beds for 50 people. It housed 46 unaccompanied refugee teenagers until the government expanded the facility to detain more refugees.

The centre now detains 132 boys, all aged under 17. The youngest is 13 or 14. Most of the boys are unclear about their own ages, and many don’t carry any form of ID, passports or birth certificates.

After the arrival of 98 new people, there was a “riot” on November 13. Forty were injured and seven hospitalised.

National rallies on November 20 and 27 were held in support of equal marriage rights for lesbian, gay, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) couples.

November 20 was also Transgender Day of Remembrance. The day started in 1999 to remember those who were killed by anti-transgender hatred or prejudice.

Across the country, trans activists addressed equal marriage rights. A minute's silence was held to remember those killed by transphobic violence.

Mulrunji Doomadgee died in police custody on Palm Island in November 2004. Despite reviewing findings highly critical of police by coroner Brian Hine at the third Coronial Inquest in May, on November 23 the Queensland Criminal Justice Commission (CMC) found there was insufficient evidence to prosecute the officers involved.

About 150 members of the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) at the University of New South Wales and Macquarie University have been stood down after taking part in lawful and protected industrial action.

The union put a ban on the transmission of student results after more than two years of negotiations failed to make progress on improving job security, pay and other conditions for staff. A key sticking point in the negotiations is management’s unregulated use of fixed-term contracts and casual employment.

"You can't come in”, Friends of the Earth (FOE) organiser Drew Hutton told mining companies on behalf of a coalition of farming groups from South-West Queensland, outside State Parliament on November 22.

The farmers launched the campaign in opposition to mining companies’ plans for up to 40,000 coal seam gas wells and massive new coal mines on the farming land of the Darling Downs.

"All the laws are weighted in favour of the mining interests and against farmers”, Hutton said.

The Independent Education Union (IEU) has launched a campaign for pay equity for early childhood teachers. In the months leading up to the NSW elections in March 2011, the campaign will include rallies, postcards and an email bombardment of the Labor and Liberal parties.

Early childhood teachers working in community-based preschools and childcare centres earn up to 20% less than teachers working in state government preschools and independent and Catholic primary schools.

A full-time early childhood teacher can earn $14,000 a year less than other teachers.

Prominent queer rights and climate activist, Paola Harvey, will stand for the Socialist Alliance in the seat of Keira in the March 2011 NSW elections.

Harvey, a resident of Mount Keira and part-time student, is a founding member of Equal Love Wollongong, the organisation leading the struggle for marriage equality, and is a member of the Wollongong Climate Action Network (WCAN).

Also a member of Resistance, socialist youth organisation, she is involved in campaigns for youth rights, education and employment.

Four thousand nurses and midwives met at Sydney Olympic Park on November 24 to protest against the state government's refusal to fund safe nurse-to patient-ratios.

It was the first state-wide nurses’ strike since 2001 and 170 hospitals were affected.

The action was supported by 180 branches of the NSW Nurses Association (NSWNA). The Industrial Relations Commission (IRC) said the strike must be called off, but the nurses were defiant.

A community sit-in defending Melbourne’s only Indigenous school, Ballerrt Mooroop College in Glenroy, began on November 24.

The state Labor government planned to shift the Glenroy Specialist School (GSS) onto the site, which would push the Koori school into portable classrooms in a tiny area. The government provided $18 million to GSS to relocate, but the Koori school received just $750,000.

The Socialist Alliance’s Socialist Ideas Conference on November 20 featured informative presentations and spirited discussion. It reviewed the political situation in Australia and globally.

One of the speakers was Greens MLC Mark Parnell. The most animated discussion was about the Greens' political perspectives and relation to community campaigns and grassroots activism.

This followed an online debate before the event, about whether a Greens parliamentarian — particularly from the right of the party — should have been invited to speak at a conference promoting socialist ideas.

About 100 people attended a “Save Gleniffer Brae” meeting on November 15 as part of a campaign to keep the historic, heritage-listed manor house in public hands.

Organised by Reclaim Our City, the meeting demanded, “no action leading to the sale of public land at Gleniffer Brae and this precinct be taken by Wollongong City Council and its non-elected administrators”.

The meeting welcomed a recent commitment by the council to hold off on any discussion of the matter until 2011. It demanded community consultation before any attempts to sell the land were made.

The latest appeal against Stockland's Sandon Point development was dismissed on November 25, clearing the way for development.

The case has been in the Land and Environment Court since August.

The appeal was launched by the Sandon Point Aboriginal Tent Embassy (SPATE), which has been campaigning against the development for 10 years.

The community campaign has opposed the Sandon Point development because of impacts on the environment and Indigenous cultural heritage, as well as a lack of transparency and democracy in the approval process.

The Aboriginal Rights Coalition (ARC) held the "Deadly Dance 4 Justice" on November 19, which drew 100 people to the Globe Theatre for a night of live music, poetry and spoken-word performance, and raised more than $1500 for campaigns.

Headlining was Byron Bay act Fyah Walk, accompanied by "Didgtronica" artist Tjupurru, and local acts Kindling, Homeless Yellow and Joss.

4zzz-fm hosted the night and punters enjoyed an incredible vegan feast courtesy of Food Not Bombs.

To get involved in the ARC, email Ewan at ewanbris@gmail.com or phone 0401 234 610.

World

Haiti's November 28 election was marred by widespread fraud. Despite the call of all the leading candidates but one to cancel the exercise, officials with the UN Security Council mission as well as the United States, Canada and Europe are voicing satisfaction with the result and urging the country’s electoral commission to press ahead with a second-round runoff vote in January.

Sombat Boonngamanong is a long-time NGO activist in Thailand and has been of great help to renewing public Red Shirt activity following the bloody April-May military crackdown.

Lee Yu Kyung spoke to him about the prospects for the democracy movement in Thailand.

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The streets of Ayala, the old financial capital of Manila, were taken over by about 5000 people on November 25 in a protest against the growing use of contract labour. Philippine Airlines, owned by the Philippines second richest man, is the latest company to sack its workforce and rehire them as contract workers – with lower wages and without the benefits and security guaranteed to formal, permanent workers.

Chilean activist Manuel Olate Cespedes was arrested in Santiago on October 29 after the Colombian government alleged he is linked to left-wing guerilla group the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).

Below is an abridged statement issued by the Latin America Social Forum (LASF) Sydney that calls for Cespedes’ release and opposes plans to extradite him to Colombia.

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The LASF (Sydney) wishes to express its opposition to the arrest and detention of Manuel Olate Cespedes.

We also express our grave concern regarding Colombia’s request to extradite Cespedes.

The 2011 UN climate conference in Cancun, Mexico, is not expected to agree to sharp cuts in greenhouse gas emissions. But the UN and rich nations will push for the conference to endorse a carbon trading scheme to protect forests, known as Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation (REDD).

Below is an “open letter to the indigenous peoples of the world” from Bolivian President Evo Morales. Released in September, the letter calls for the protection of the world’s forests, and also for opposition to REDD and other carbon trading schemes.

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The public finances of Ireland will, for the next three years at least, be subject to “regular reviews” by external monitors working on behalf of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the European Union (EU) and the British and Swedish governments.

On November 21, the Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Brian Cowen and minister for finance Brian Lenihan, after a week of shocking lies and deceit, said they would accept the IMF/EU bailout.

It later emerged that the G7, made up of the seven most powerful countries in the world, had met to give its approval to the deal.

Irish socialist republican party eirigi chairperson Brian Leeson has labelled the Dublin government’s four-year fiscal adjustment plan “a criminal charter for the wrecking of working class communities”.

Among the measures contained within the plan are:
• A €2.8 billion cut in the social welfare budget.
• The gradual increase of the pension age to 68 by 2028 and the reduction of the pension rate for retired public sector workers.
• The reduction of the minimum wage to €7.65 an hour.
• The raising of university registration fees to €2000.

The sixth plenum of the Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist — UCPN(M)) began on November 20 in Gorka District. It was the largest meeting in the party’s history; more then 7000 local members are taking part in discussions.

The Nepalese revolution is in a state of limbo. The current government resigned in May, but continues in a caretaker fashion, as no alternative has come forward.

Irish election officials said on November 26 that Sinn Fein candidate Pearse Doherty had won a long-awaited by-election in Donegal with an overwhelming 40% of the vote.

The election was blocked for months before it was forced on Prime Minister Brian Cowen by the Irish courts.

Cowen faces a struggle to win votes on raising taxes and cutting spending when the 2011 budget is unveiled in parliament on December 7.

Maire Leadbeater is a spokesperson for the Indonesia Human Rights Committee (Auckland). She recently returned from West Papua, a nation that has faced repression since its occupation by Indonesia in 1963. She spoke to Green Left Weekly's Ash Pemberton.

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Can you give your impressions of West Papuan society under Indonesian occupation?

Portugal's working class brought the country to a standstill on November 24 to press the Socialist Party government to scrap its regressive cuts program.

The general strike against European Union-mandated austerity, the first to be organised jointly by Portugal's two main unions since 1988, is the country's largest ever stoppage.

Trains and buses did not run, planes were grounded and banking services halted.

Representatives of 76 indigenous peoples said they reject market-based mechanisms as a false solution to the climate crisis at a recent international conference.

They said UN-backed carbon trading schemes such as Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation (REDD), “are offered as solutions but have negative impacts and cause divisions among indigenous peoples, whose access and control of forest resources are eroded”.

Media fanfare has subsided around the October rescue of 33 miners from the San Jose mine in Chile — an event watched by an estimated 1 billion people across the globe.

But could this event at least help bring about change for miners’ rights and conditions?

Unfortunately, if we look behind all the commotion and government rhetoric about making big changes for the lives of miners in Chile, the answer seems to be no.

On November 7, two miners were killed in an accident in the Los Reyes mine near Copiapo, close to where the San Jose mine accident took place.

A rising tide of homophobic aggression in Uganda has divided religious leaders. At the root of the problem, Western missionaries have been spreading anti-gay sentiment and dividing the community.

Homosexuality has been illegal in Uganda since British colonisation in the late 19th century. However, many Ugandans trace the current crisis to March 5, 2009, when right-wing evangelical missionaries from the US held a three-day conference at the Triangle Hotel in Kampala.

The Israeli government agreed “in principle” on November 17 to withdraw from the northern part of Ghajar, a village in the occupied Golan Heights. The village was conquered by Israel in 1967, during the six-day war.

In 2000, Ghajar was split in two. The northern part was to be controlled by Lebanon, the southern part by Israel. The southern part of Ghajar was deemed by the United Nations (UN) to be a part of the Golan Heights, Syrian territory occupied by Israel since 1967.

The 190th Annual Meeting of Southern Baptists, held on November 16 in Columbia, South Carolina, approved a resolution calling its pastors to preach against homosexuality — “to uphold the biblical standard of human sexuality against all onslaughts” — but also to “love and show compassion toward homosexuals and transgendered persons”.

Mixed in with this “hate is love” doublespeak is a great deal of defensiveness about the loss of social status by the US religious right.

Pope Benedict XVI has told a German journalist that condom use can be justified in some cases to help stop the spread of AIDS.

News of the Pope’s historic new stance was first posted online on November 20 in L’Osservatore Romano, the Vatican’s newspaper.

Tough talk by the warmongers at the November 20-21 NATO conference in Lisbon, Portugal, obscured the growing opposition in the US and Europe to the nine-year occupation of Afghanistan.

Ten thousand people took to the streets of London on November 20 to protest the war. Angry at the British government’s recent cuts to services and pensions, many carried “Cut war not welfare” placards.

Despite pledges at the recent Millennium Development Goals (MDG) summit to combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases, there has been a constant battle across the global South for access to vital antiretroviral HIV/AIDS treatments and antibiotics for malaria and tuberculosis (TB).

One of the greatest challenges in accessing high-quality and affordable medicines is the collusion between rich governments and pharmaceutical giants.

The 2005 Naivasha Agreement ended the civil war between the Sudanese government and the Sudanese Peoples Liberation Movement (SPLM), based in South Sudan.

About 2 million people were killed in the 1983-2005 conflict. A further 500,000 people were killed in the 1955-1972 civil war, also fought between the government and rebels in the south.

Under the agreement, a referendum on independence will be held in the south in January 2011. The SPLM leadership recently endorsed independence for the South, while prior to the peace process it been committed to a united, democratic, federal Sudan.

Analysis

A Socialist Alliance statement on the ‘Tasmanian Forests Statement of Principles’

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Since its inception in 2001, the Socialist Alliance has been actively involved in campaigns to protect high conservation native forests from being logged and we support an end to the forestry conflict in Tasmania.

On October 23, the Age reported that increased alcohol prices are driving many young people to switch to the party drug ecstasy, according to drug researchers, nightclub owners and young people themselves.

“It is cheaper and convenient to use pills”, said Professor Jake Najman, director of the University of Queensland’s Alcohol and Drug Research and Education Centre. “A lot of young people are making that choice to switch between alcohol and ecstasy. Pills can be cheaper, there is no question.”

Workers with disabilities are speaking out against the Supported Wage System (SWS), which encourages employers to legally underpay workers with disabilities.

The federal government’s Job Access program markets SWS as a progressive innovation by burying it among more egalitarian policies such as funding improvements to workplace accessibility.

The Job Access website says the SWS is “a process that allows employers to pay less than the award wage by matching a person's productivity with a fair wage”.

The federal Labor government of Prime Minister Julia Gillard filed a submission to Fair Work Australia (FWA) on November18, which backed away from its year-long commitment to support the Australian Services Union (ASU) application for an Equal Remuneration Order for social and community sector and disability workers.

The government said it supported the principle of pay equity, and agreed community sector workers were underpaid, but its submission argued against granting equal pay to this historically exploited section of the workforce because of budget constraints.

The gas industry is rapidly increasing its scope in the Australian energy market as, state and federal government approve drilling sites across the nation with little community consultation and relaxed environmental safeguards.

Natural gas will account for 33% of Australia's primary energy consumption by 2030, compared with 8% from renewables, according to the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics (ABARE).

An Iraqi Kurd in his 30s who had been in detention at Christmas Island for about 12 months, attempted suicide, the Australian said on November 23. This came just a week after the second suicide in two months at Villawood detention centre.

About 20 fellow asylum seekers resorted to sewing their lips shut and 230 other detainees went on hunger strike in protest as “people felt that the Gillard government was ignoring their cases”.

All around the Western world, far-right groups (some with neo-Nazi links), are gaining political ground through an orchestrated campaign against Muslim communities. These groups are spreading fear and hatred against recent immigrant communities from Muslim countries, and tap into well-resourced post-9/11 war propaganda initiated by rulers of the world’s richest and most powerful states.

Max Watts, a well-known personality on the left in Australia, particularly in Sydney, died on November 23.

Max was a left-wing freelance journalist, an occasional contributor to Green Left Weekly and its discussion e-list, and a solidarity activist with many national liberation struggles, including in Palestine, Kanaky, West Papua and Bougainville.

In the 1960s, he was a central activist in Europe working with soldier resistance to the Vietnam War within the US armed forces. Resistance inside the army (RITA) was one of his great political passions.

The success of Greens MP Adam Bandt's marriage equality motion in federal parliament, which called on MPs to take the issue back to their electorates, shows how successful our grassroots movement has been.

We've forced the Gillard Labor government to back away from its ridiculous discriminatory policy of denying equal marriage rights.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard now says the official ALP policy, which says marriage can only be between a man and a woman, should be looked at again at Labor’s next national conference. She wants to bring the conference forward to December 2011.

“Winning Our Rights” is the theme of the December 10-11 Union and Community Summer School, which will be held at Melbourne Trades Hall. The conference will discuss the 30-year-long retreat of the Australian union movement and also victories over that period.

“Winning Our Rights” will feature unionists leading important struggles. They will share their experiences and discuss how to turn the tide.

Attending will be Tom Buckley from New Zealand’s Unite union. Unite has won the rights of restaurant and other retail workers by organising in a heavily casualised industry.

The letter below was written by Socialist Alliance member Justine Kamprad. She wrote it to federal member for Fremantle Melissa Parke after South Australian rigger Ark Tribe was found not guilty on November 24 of refusing to attend an interview with the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC).

Dear Melissa Parke,

As blue-collar workers, my partner and I have been involved with our unions over the past decade. In that time I have seen our unions fight for safety, dignity and a better life for our family.

The third annual camp for climate action will happen in the Hunter Valley from December 1-5, between the Liddell and Bayswater power stations. The camp will bring will be an important forum for diverse groups to build stronger links with one another.

Tamil asylum seeker Mugeeb Rahuman Mohaideen is detained in Maribynong Detention Centre.

He came to Australia on November 7.

He told Green Left Weekly that he ran a clothes-making store in the war-torn Tamil Eelam province of Sri Lanka.

Mohaideen's customers included the Sri Lankan Army. He said the SLA took a large order in August 2009 and didn't pay. When Mohaideen asked for payment, they came for him.

Ark Tribe walked out of Adelaide Magistrates Court a free man on November 24, after he was finally found “not guilty” of failing to attend an Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC) interview in 2008.

As Tribe, a rigger and Construction Forestry Mining Energy Union (CFMEU) member left the court house, he was greeted by cheers from more than 1000 workers and officials from different unions. The victory was celebrated as a win for all workers.

Letters

Morning Star clarification

We were pleased to see Green Left Weekly’s reprint from the Morning Star of Jeff Sawtell's review of the Made in Dagenham film (GLW #860).

Just one quibble. You have expanded Jeff's reference to the Morning Star to the “Communist Party of Britain’s newspaper, Morning Star”, which is inaccurate.

For the record, since 1945, the Morning Star and its forerunner, the Daily Worker, have been owned by a readers' co-operative, the People's Press Printing Society Ltd (PPPS).

Resistance!

The debate around the Murray Darling Basin crisis has brought to public attention the need to rethink agriculture in Australia.

Today, sustainable food production is relegated to niche status — squeezed out by methods of farming that are seen to be more efficient. However, the efficiency of the dominant mode of agriculture relies heavily on chemical inputs for fertilisers, pesticides and herbicides.

This agriculture degrades soils, pollutes waterways and contributes heavily to climate change.

Hannah Williams, a year 11 student, was recently told by her school, Ivanhoe Girls Grammar, that she couldn’t take her girlfriend Savannah Supski to the school formal.

Angered, the two refused to attend the formal and will transfer to another school next year, where they would be allowed to attend formals together.

They caught up with Resistance’s Chris Peterson.

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You took your high school to the Equal Opportunities board; what was the outcome?

Culture

The Rise of the Green Left: Inside the Worldwide Ecosocialist Movement
By Derek Wall
Pluto Press, 190 pages, paperback
www.plutobooks.com/display.asp?K=9780745330365&

Review by Mat Ward

As the threat of climate catastrophe looms ever larger, Derek Wall has written what he calls "an explicit call to non-violent arms".

It should come as no surprise that Latin America, a region converted into a laboratory for ongoing experiments in social change, has increasingly become the topic of discussion and debate among the broader left.

Latin America has not only dealt blows to imperialism but also raised the banner of socialism on a global scale. It is of strategic importance for those fighting for a better world, especially at a time when capitalism is in systemic crisis.

Sam's Freo report

In early November, I attended the Wesfarmers AGM at the Perth Convention Centre. Yes, that Wesfarmers, the one that owns Coles, Bunnings, Officeworks, coal mines and plenty more. Not my usual sort of haunt, but I was there holding proxy votes for members of the Australia Western Sahara Association.

Western Sahara was a Spanish colony until 1975, when Morocco invaded the country before a vote of self-determination could be held.