Issue 864

News

Carrying signs such as "Coal seam gas stinks", "Gas mining under Sydney Park - no fracking way!", and "Gutless government giving in to gas", over 400 local residents and supporters rallied on December 19 at Sydney Park to protest the NSW government's secretive approval for exploratory drilling for coal seam gas (CSG) mining in the inner-western suburb of St Peters.
On December 14 Marrickville Council adopted a resolution moved by Greens councillor Cathy Peters to become the first Australian local government to join the international boycott against Israeli apartheid. The inner west Sydney community has had a sister city relationship with the Palestinian city of Bethlehem since 2007. The resolution, supported by Greens, Labor and independent councillors, committed the council to:
Socialist Alliance statement The horrific boatwreck and deaths of more than 30 asylum seekers on December 15 on the rocks of Christmas Island reveals the inhumanity of the Gillard Labor government’s asylum seeker policy. This tragedy should be the trigger for the complete junking of the government’s current racist refugee policy. "We need a refugee policy based on human solidarity not one that encourages racism and xenophobia", said Sue Bolton a refugee rights activist and a member of the Socialist Alliance national executive.
At least 30 people are reported dead in the terrible tragedy of the refugee boat that sunk near Christmas Island on December 15. The media are reporting that those on the boats appear to be mainly from Iran and Iraq. The news comes as US diplomatic cables released by Wikileaks reveal the terrible cynicism with which both major parties have treated the asylum seeker issue.
Supporters of whistleblowing website Wikileaks rallied in Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide on December 14, as Wikileaks editor-in chief Julian Assange faced a bail hearing at Westminster magistrates court in London that day. Protesters opposed attempts by governments and corporations to shut down and harrass the site. About 800 people gathered in Sydney to call for Assange to be granted a fair trial and to defend Wikileaks. About 1000 marched in Melbourne and 300 in Adelaide.
Unionists and solidarity activists rallied outside the Colombian consulate in Sydney on December 13 to denounce the fact that Colombia remains the most dangerous place in the world for trade unionists. The protest, called to coincide with International Human Rights week, was organised by the Sydney branch of the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) and supported by Peace and Justice for Colombia (PJFC). The initiative for the protest came in the wake of the recent visit by Colombian trade unionist Parmenio Poveda.
Members from a variety of community and solidarity groups campaigning for human rights in Australia and overseas came together on December 11 to mark International Human Rights Day in Sydney.
The following introduction and open letter are reprinted from www.walkleys.com. * * * Australia’s most senior media professionals have written to Prime Minister Julia Gillard to express their support for WikiLeaks. The letter was initiated by the Walkley Foundation and signed by the ten members of the Walkley Advisory Board, as well as editors of major Australian newspapers and news websites and the news directors of the country’s three commercial TV networks and two public broadcasters.
Further rallies and meetings More than 1000 people rallied at Sydney’s Town Hall at 1pm on December 10 to show their support for Wikileaks and its founder Julian Assange. Rallies also occurred in Brisbane, Melbourne, Hobart, Adelaide and Perth. The rally, held to coincide with International Human Rights Day, highlighted the importance of freedom of information and the need for transparency in government.
National rally details Noam Chomsky, renowned academic, author and critic of US imperialism, has offered his support to protesters across Australia planning to take to the streets in defence of Wikileaks. In a message to the rallies, Chomsky said: “Julian Assange is performing his civic duties, courageously and honorably. Naturally, systems of power wish to protect themselves from citizens — while at the same time sparing no effort to intrude into private lives so as better to establish their control.
Statement released by organisers of the Sydney rally to defend Wikileaks on December 10, 1pm at Sydney Town Hall. For more information, visit http://www.rally4wikileaks.com or email rally4wikileaks.info@gmail.com . For full list of all national protests, see here. * * * John Pilger backs Wikileaks rally Renowned independent journalist and filmmaker John Pilger has offered his support for the protest organised by supporters of Wikileaks on Friday, December 10 at 1pm at Sydney Town Hall.
Melbourne Rally: Fri, Dec 17, 5:30pm at the State Library Lawns, Melbourne. Brisbane Rally: Sat, Dec 18, noon, Brisbane Square. Facebook page Canberra: Rally: Thursday, December 16, 5:30pm at Garema Place, Civic Facebook page Sydnet Rally: Sat, Jan 15, noon at Town Hall.
At its State Delegates Council meeting held on December 4 in Sydney, the NSW Greens unanimously endorsed the following proposal: That the Greens NSW call upon all Australians and the Australian government to boycott Israeli goods, trading and military arrangements, and sporting, cultural and academic events as a contribution to the struggle to end Israel's occupation and colonisation of Palestinian territory, the siege of Gaza and imprisonment of 1.5 million people, and Israel's institution of a system of apartheid, by endorsing the following actions:
Iniyan and Ravi (names have been changed to protect their identities) are Tamil asylum seekers currently imprisoned at Villawood detention centre. Both detainees use art to show the oppression of Tamils in their homeland of Sri Lanka. In May 2009, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam were defeated by the Sri Lankan army. Though the war is ended the persecution of Tamils continues. Iniyan and Ravi fled for their lives as they were being hunted by Sri Lankan government forces and paramilitaries, for suspicion of supporting the LTTE.
Despite efforts by teachers, the Australian Education Union (AEU) leadership prevented a motion in support of Melbourne’s only Aboriginal school from being put to the AEU state council. A speaker from the College was also denied the opportunity to address AEU Council. AEU councilor Mary Merkenich said she was disappointed that AEU councilors didn’t get a chance to hear that the Ballerrt Mooroop College in Glenroy is under threat and why its school community has been organising a community sit-in in the school gymnasium.
Laurel Walker and Vanna Lockwood, teachers at St Peters Community Preschool, are involved in the Independent Education Union's campaign for pay parity for early childhood teachers. Lockwood told Green Left Weekly: "Current scientific research on the development of the brain advocates the importance of a child's early years. Four-year university trained teachers are choosing not to work in early childhood because of the low pay and low status of the profession.
A magistrate at the Geelong Magistrates Court dismissed the charges against nine peace activists on November 29. The activists had blocked the road to Swan Island Defence Training Facility in Queenscliff on June 16. The activists — Jessica Morrison, Julie Moyle, Trent Hawkins, Mitch Cherry, Tom Beattie, Shane Anderson, Dave Fagg, Ellen McNaught, Leesl Wegner — were charged with hindering police and obstructing a road. On June 16, the court dismissed charges against four activists who entered the base in March and shut off equipment.
One of the most vital features of the Bolivarian revolution underway in Venezuela is the development by workers and their organisations of different forms of workers’ control in their workplaces and communities. The increasing participation and control by workers is taking place at the same time as hundreds of companies have been nationalised.
Latin America Social Forum (Sydney) co-founder and respected Latin American community activist Victor-Hugo Munoz was awarded a Diploma of Honour on December 4 by the Guatemala Network for Peace and Development. The award acknowledged Munoz’s tireless, decades-long work in defence of human rights in Guatemala.

Analysis

When it comes to rape, the left “still doesn’t get it”, so says Katha Pollitt writing recently in the London Guardian on the defence of Wikileaks editor-in-chief Julian Assange, who is currently being held in Britain facing allegations of sex crimes in Sweden.
The statement below was released by the Brisbane Socialist Alliance branch on January 11. See www.socialist-alliance.org for more information. Below the statement, there are also details of the Maritime Union of Australia's * * * 'Money for flood relief, not for war'
[The following speech was delivered at the Sydney rally in defence of Wikileaks on December 14 by rally co-organiser and Socialist Alliance activst Kiraz Janicke. Footage of the other speaks at the rally can be seen here.] * * * People ask me why, as a feminist, are you coming out in support of Julian Assange who is facing rape allegations in Sweden? But this rally is not about that.
The December 14 rally for Wikileaks in Sydney was a success, apart from the excessively brutal police force seemingly determined to not allow citizens the right to protest in the streets. Before the event itself, the Sydney Morning Herald reported under the misleading headline, “We’ll march anyway; Wikileaks protesters to defy police”.
December 8 statement by WL Central (Australia-based unofficial Wikileaks information resource. * * * On November 13th 2010, Burma’s most famous political prisoner, Aung San Suu Kyi, was released from house arrest. She had been confined to her house for almost 15 years.
The open letter below was originally published at ABC.net.au. * * * Dear Prime Minister, We note with concern the increasingly violent rhetoric directed towards Julian Assange of WikiLeaks. “We should treat Mr Assange the same way as other high-value terrorist targets: Kill him,” writes conservative columnist Jeffrey T Kuhner in the Washington Times.
Socialist Alliance statement, December 7. Defend Wikileaks and Julian Assange! Australia should break the military alliance with US! “The Australian government should defend and support Wikileaks and its founder Julian Assange, and their efforts to expose the lies, duplicities and outright crimes of the US government and its allies”, said Peter Boyle, national convener of the Socialist Alliance. “We condemn the Australian government for collaborating with the American government in hunting Julian Assange down.
John Pilger was interviewed by ABC Radio Australia on December 3 & 6. December 3 interview December 6 interview Pilger’s latest documentary The War You Don’T See, on the role of the media to be released soon, will also feature an interview with Assange. Visit www.johnpilger.com for more information.
Many liberal environmentalists say that people must sacrifice some luxuries to save the environment and/or help the world’s poor. A more equitable sharing of the world’s resources means some will have to give up a bit. For the well-off, sacrifice is like charity: giving up a few privileges to make themselves feel better. For such people, the idea of sacrifice tends to reinforce an elitist mentality. But for poorer, working-class people, sacrifice has a different connotation.
In the lead-up to the March NSW elections, the Socialist Alliance will campaign under the slogan: “NSW — not for sale! Community need not corporate greed.” It sums up the radical shift in priorities needed in the interest of environmental sustainability and social justice. Labor will get trashed in these elections. The Victorian election result confirms that. The Keneally Labor government is much more on the nose than the Victorian Brumby government was.
“Nature is our home and is the system of which we form a part, and therefore it has infinite value, but it does not have a price and is not for sale” said a November 3-5 meeting of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas (ALBA) nations of Venezuela, Bolivia, Cuba, Ecuador and Nicaragua. The meeting rejected the privatisation of nature, in which “nature is seen as ‘capital’ for producing tradable environmental goods and services … and assigned a price so that they can be commercialised with the purpose of obtaining profits”.
A new report from the Centre for Aboriginal Economic Policy Research (CAEPR) casts doubt on the ability of current government and corporate policy to meet its goal of “closing the gap” between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal unemployment. The CAEPR report looks at the goals and achievements of two private-sector initiatives: the Australian Employment Covenant and Generation One.
I do not support women being forced to wear the burqa. I see it as one manifestation of the myriad of ways women are oppressed in this patriarchal society. But I want to make it clear that I do not support a ban on the wearing of a burqa. Banning the wearing of a burqa would simply mean that the person who wears it — voluntarily or otherwise — is criminalised. It would not, as some female supporters of the ban argue, help women extricate themselves from patriarchal control over their lives.
November 20 was Trans Remembrance Day. Sally Goldner, spokesperson for TransGender Victoria, gave the following speech at the 3000-strong marriage equality rally held in Melbourne that day. * * * Trans Remembrance Day started to mark the violent death of Rita Hester, a transgender African American woman who was murdered in Boston on November 28, 1998. Prejudice against trans people comes from the same evil seed as any form of prejudice — and all manifestations are totally unacceptable.
Open letter to Prime Minister Julia Gillard, cc Julian Assange, Wikileaks Anti-war activists salute Wikileaks’ courage and determination in exposing the lies about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the ruthlessness with which the biggest imperial power — the US — seeks to maintain its global dominance. We believe that Julian Assange and his colleagues’ unremitting efforts in shedding light on the truth about these wars provides vital and valid documents for anti-war and human rights activists in Australia and across the globe in the struggle against unjust wars and occupations.
The launch of the community guide to the draft Murray Darling Basin Plan marks the latest step in the largely bipartisan process of water reform that started with the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) reforms of 1994. It also graphically displays the risks inherent in the increasingly centralised, Commonwealth-driven approach to water planning that developed under the Howard government and has intensified since.
The first Union and Community Summer School (UCSS) will take place at Melbourne Trades Hall over December 10-11. The UCSS will bring together a wide range of left, progressive and socialist organisations and unionists. It is an experiment in finding practical unity.

World

December 14, 2010 -- Julian Assange, a man known only to a very few in the world some months ago, is demonstrating that the most powerful empire to have existed in history can be challenged. The daring challenge did not come from a rival superpower; from a state with more than 100 nuclear weapons; from a country with millions of inhabitants; from a group of nations with vast natural resources which the United States could not do without; or from a revolutionary doctrine capable of shaking to its foundations the empire based on plunder and exploitation of the world.
Wikileaks is Democracy, a political and defense mobilization group that supports Julian Assange, WikiLeaks, democracy and transparency in government, is promoting an open letter printed below. The letter was started by Linda Schade and Kevin Zeese, past and current executive directors of Voters For Peace.
In the US Army manual on counterinsurgency, the American commander General David Petraeus describes Afghanistan as a “war of perception... conducted continuously using the news media”. What really matters is not so much the day-to-day battles against the Taliban as the way the adventure is sold in America where “the media directly influence the attitude of key audiences”. Reading this, I was reminded of the Venezuelan general who led a coup against the democratic government in 2002. “We had a secret weapon,” he boasted. “We had the media, especially TV. You got to have the media.”
In response to the U.S. State Department’s condemnation of the unauthorized release of more than 250,000 diplomatic cables by the website Wikileaks, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez praised the whistleblower site and called for the resignation of U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Bolivian Vice-President Alvaro Garcia Linera has posted all US diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks that pertain to Bolivia on his official website, the Associated Press said on December 8. Garcia Linera said he wanted people to know the “barbarities and insults” of what he called Washington's “interventionist infiltration”. The Bolivian government, headed by left-wing President Evo Morales, has faced US-backed attempts to overthrow it. In September 2008, Morales expelled the US ambassador.
See also: Philippines workers protest contract labour A successful 2010 Southeast Asia Socialism and Feminism conference was held at the University of the Philippines (UP) in Metro Manila over November 27 and 28. The conference, organised on the theme of “Capitalist Crisis, Socialist Alternatives”, was organised by the Party of the Labouring Masses and the feminist group Transform Asia. It was attended by 100 PLM delegates from Metro Manila, as well as representatives from other organisations.
Those who counselled against holding a national election in Haiti in the midst of a catastrophic humanitarian crisis will take no comfort in the debacle it became. Our thoughts rest squarely with the tens of thousands of people afflicted with cholera, or the hundreds of thousands of earthquake victims still without shelter, clean water and hope. How much suffering could have been alleviated with the tens of million of dollars spent on a wasted electoral exercise?
As indigenous peoples, we are extremely concerned that the principles agreed upon in the Cochabamba People’s Agreement have been unilaterally removed from the negotiating document [for the Cancun climate conference] that was released on November 24. Equally alarming is the misrepresentation of the Copenhagen Accord as a legitimate path forward, despite its widespread denouncement by civil society and its tepid reception last December in Denmark, when the United Nations merely “took note of” it.
See also: Philippines: regional conference discusses socialist solutions The streets of Ayala, Manila, were taken over by about 5000 people on November 25 in a protest against the growing use of contract labour. Philippine Airlines (PAL), owned by the Philippines second richest man, is the latest company to sack 2700 of his workers and rehire them as outsourced contractors. Contracting out workers allows bosses to pay lower wages and less benefits, and denies workers the security of a permanent job.
“Mum’s dead”. The gloomy faced Sujendran Gunesekaram greeted me, as we met in person for the first time. His mother died of a heart attack on September 5, after suffering for three years. Sujendran is a 27-year-old Sri Lankan Tamil originally from Muttur in Trincomalee, the war-hit town in the east. He was one of 254 asylum seekers on the Australia-bound boat Jeya Lestari that moored off at the port in Merak, Indonesia in October 2009.
The Republic of Ireland’s financial crisis, which has caused unemployment to rise from 4.3% in 2006 to 14.1% in October, has deep roots. The conditions of the European Central Bank (ECB)/International Monetary Fund (IMF) “bailout” package for the Irish government will total €85 billion — at a higher interest rate than that tied to the Greek bailout in May. It is tied to the Irish government carrying out huge government spending cuts, tax rises for workers and wage cuts for public sector employees. Irish workers are being told to pay for a crisis they did not cause.
About 100,000 people took over the streets of Dublin on November 27 to protest the Irish government’s “bailout package” from the International Monetary Fund and European Central Bank, and the savage austerity accompanying the loans, the Morning Star said on November 28. The government formalised the loans, worth €85 billion, on November 29. Loan conditions include the government spending cuts over four years to reduce its deficit. The 2011 budget will contain €4.7 billion in cuts and €1.5 billion in new taxes, the Morning Star said.
One of the features of advances in military technology is that an increasing proportion of those killed in wars are civilians, not combatants. During the 20th century, airstrikes became the preferred form of warfare by technologically well-resourced superpowers. This led to civilians becoming the majority of those killed in wars worldwide. In the first decade of the new century, new developments in military technology have raised the possibility for powerful countries of increasingly dispensing with combatants entirely.
Thousands gathered in Vienna and other cities across Austria on November 27 to oppose government cuts in education, heath care and family allowances, the Morning Star said on November 28. Students, trade unionists and pensioners carried placards reading: “Take it from the rich”, and “You want to prune the budget, we want to overturn you”. The government, a coalition between the Social Democrats and the conservative People’s Party, is seeking to reduce public spending by €1.6 billion next year.
The Venezuelan government released a statement accusing the United States of provoking the ongoing conflict between North and South Korea to further US interests in the region, Venezuelanalysis.com said November 26. The statement came amid escalating tensions, as the US and South Korea carried out military exercises in disputed waters North Korea claims as its own.
On November 22, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and Vice-President Elias Jaua headed a meeting including the regional vice presidents of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV — the mass party led by Chavez) as well as government vice-presidents. The two groups make up the Council of Vice-Presidents.
The United Nations global climate summit in Cancun, Mexico, looks set to repeat the failures of Copenhagen. The chances of Cancun producing a binding agreement that would avert climate disaster are next to zero. Many world leaders have not even bothered to attend the summit, which runs from November 29 to December 10. Leaders of rich nations and the media talked much about the “low expectations” of an agreement in the lead-up to the conference.
• The 251,287 leaked cables cover from December 28, 1966 to February 28 2010 and originate from 274 US embassies, consulates and diplomatic missions. • 15,652 are classified secret. • 101,748 are confidential. • 133,887 are unclassified. • Iraq was the most discussed country, named in 15,365 cables. • There are 8017 cables from the office of the US secretary of state Hillary Clinton.
The Cuban Communist Party has called its Sixth Congress for April. It has presented a document for discussion that proposes economic and political reforms to be implement over the next five years. The proposals are outlined in the “The Economic and Social Policy Development Project”, a 32-page pamphlet that establishes 291 “lines of action”. The document covers: the economic management model; macroeconomic and foreign economic policies; investment, agro-industrial and energy plans; and initiatives in the tourism, transport, construction and trade sectors.
Matt McCarten is the secretary of New Zealand’s fastest growing union, Unite. The union organises fast-food workers, cleaners, hotel, casino, security and part-time staff. It has a financial membership of 8000 members. The transient nature of these industries means Unite has an annual membership turnover of 66%. It recruits about 600 new members every month.
• A secret, US-backed operation had started to remove enriched uranium spent fuel from a Pakistani nuclear reactor research facility. • The US, Israel and several Middle East countries collaborated to isolate and threaten Iran, and several European countries were revealed to be holding US-owned nuclear weapons on their soil.

Culture

This year marks the 30th anniversary of rock star John Lennon’s assassination. Lennon was also an anti-war activist and, in the most radical period of his life in the early 1970s, an unashamed socialist. (You can read an interview given by Lennon and his partner Yoko Ono to British revolutionary socialist magazine Red Mole in 1971 here.)
The Socialist Alternative Michael Lebowitz Monthly Review Press, 2010 pp 192; US$15.95 The onset of the global economic crisis in mid 2008, symbolised by the collapse of some of Wall Street’s most iconic companies, led to soaring sales of Karl Marx’s seminal work Das Kapital, as many sought explanations to the tumultuous events unfolding. Although written more than 100 years ago, this devastating and insightful dissection of how capital functions is still a powerful tool for people looking to understand and change the world.
Manic Street Preachers Postcards From a Young Man (Sony, 2010) From its opening strains, the Manic Street Preachers’ 10th and latest album, Postcards From a Young Man, is clearly the successor not only to 2007’s Send Away The Tigers, but also to their critically acclaimed 1996 success Everything Must Go.
A common right-wing perception is that one either is, or is not, a member of David Hicks’ “cheer squad”. Chris Merritt, reviewing this book in the October 22 Australian, actually referred to a Hick’s “cheer squad”. Merritt lamented: “The whole appalling story of his treatment by the US military commission would be trotted out.” Trotted out? A clever way to admit that what Hick’s says is true, but at the same time trivialise the details. I am not sure what Hicks’ personal views have been on a number of issues, and not addressing them is perhaps a weakness of the book.
NOTE:: The previous ad on this page had incorrect details for Lowkey’s Australian tour. The new ad has the right details. London-based rapper Lowkey has worked with hip-hop acts Immortal Technique, Dead Prez and Canibus, and is touring Australia as part of his “Soundtrack to the Struggle” world tour. Lowkey is renowned for his overtly political songs, denouncing imperialism and corporate domination.

Editorial

Wikileaks and its founder Julian Assange have made some powerful enemies. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has accused Wikileaks of putting the world in danger and Australian PM Julia Gillard has said its activities are illegal. In the US, Wikileaks has been denounced as a terrorist organisation and there have been calls for Assange to be either prosecuted, kidnapped or simply assassinated.

Fighting Fund

It’s that time of the year again. It’s the festival of festivals to boost the profits of giant retail stores. The “Spirit of Christmas” demands to be fed with your maxed out credit card. There’s a new desperation to this seasonal message this year. The shoppers are not splurging like they should. A recent Westpac survey found that consumers would spend 34% less in 2010 than in 2009.

General

Green Left Weekly issue #864 will be our final issue for 2010 as we take a break in production of the hard copy of GLW over the holiday period. The next hard copy edition of GLW will be dated January 26. However, we aim to continue updating this site with news and analysis where possible and necessary over this period. We thank all our readers for your support and wish you the best for holiday season.

Letters

Bandt Afghan contribution too weak

Resistance!

Public displays of sexual desire, sex and agency are almost synonymous with the broad Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Intersex (LGBTI) rights movement. Positive displays of queer sexuality challenge narrow and dominant ideas about "acceptable" sex and sexuality. They play an important role in the struggle for democratic rights and against persecution; and in exploring sexual pleasure and desire. Sections of the women's liberation movement investigate and promote women's sexuality and sexual pleasure for similar reasons.
Sydney is the “sex capital” of Australia, said an article in the November 12 Daily Telegraph, which called the city the “Amsterdam of the South Pacific”. The article reported recent figures from the Government Interagency Brothels Taskforce that showed 271 legal brothels in the state, as well as claims that “the industry is being infiltrated by organised crime”. The figures, which were labelled “shocking”, were blamed on “dysfunctional planning laws and legislation” by one figure quoted.