Issue 866

Australia

Officially Leonora is not a detention centre for refugees but an “alternative place of detention”. Between January 21-23, the Refugee Rights Action Network’s second “Caravan of Compassion” made the 1660km round trip from Perth to Leonora. Caravan participant and Resistance member Zebedee Parkes describes his weekend trip to the remotely located concentration camp.

* * *

List of protests in support of Egyptian democracy movement, against Western support for regime

Melbourne:
Friday February 4, 5.30pm
State Library to march to the Parliament House
Facebook page

Brisbane:
Friday February 4, 5pm
Brisbane Square (top of Queen St mall, outside Casino)
Facebook page

Adelaide:
Speakout: Friday February 4
2.30PM
Parliament House North Tce Adelaide

Rally: Saturday February 12, 11am

In 2005, the people of Bolivia, the poorest country in Latin America, elected the poor nation’s first Indigenous president: Evo Morales from the Movement for Socialism (MAS).

Since then, the people’s struggles to end multinational corporations’ plunder of Bolivia’s natural resources, and for forms of development and democracy that meet the needs of the majority, have captured the attention of oppressed people around the world.

The Australian Museum hosted a debate on January 23 on the topic: “Is the 26th of January the most appropriate date to celebrate our national identity?”

Sixty people attended the debate, which pitted historian and educator Nigel Parbury against Brisbane indigenous leader and Socialist Alliance member Sam Watson.

Parbury put the affirmative case and said that Australia Day had changed over the decades to better reflect the country's multicultural community. But he conceded that much more change was needed in future.

About 120 people marched in Melbourne on January 20 to commemorate the lives of two Aboriginal freedom fighters.

On January 20, 1842, Tunnerminnerwait and Maulboyheenner were led to the scaffold and killed before 5000 people in the first public judicial execution in Melbourne. Their bodies were taken to the Aboriginal cemetery that lies under the Victoria market.

Greens MP David Shoebridge joined members of climate action group Rising Tide Newcastle at a press conference on January 28 to condemn Port Waratah Coal Services (PWCS) “victim’s compensation” claim of $525,0000 against seven protesters.

PWCS is pursuing the claim in response to a peaceful protest organised in September 2010, which stopped coal loading in Newcastle port for almost 10 hours.

SYDNEY — "As we speak, Egypt is on fire," Arab community activist Omar Mostafa told about 50 people who attended a snap protest rally in support of the recent democracy protests in Egypt at Town Hall Square on January 29.

"People are burning police stations and offices of the ruling party," he said. "[Egyptian dictator] Hosni Mubarak will go; it's just a matter of when. Democracy will win in Egypt."

The crowd chanted: "Down, down Mubarak! Free Eqypt! Free, free the Arab world! Free Palestine! Free Iraq! Free Lebanon! Free Tunisia! Global Intifada! World Intifada!"

Reports that the WA state government is planning to give police "stop and search" powers during the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) later this year should concern all Western Australians.

Even more worrying — albeit unsurprising — is that the ALP has dropped its lukewarm opposition to the laws, at least for the duration of the summit.

Stop and search laws were rejected by the state upper house in November and the CHOGM summit is no excuse to bring them in by the back door.

In a move that took most people by surprise, Tasmanian Labor Premier David Bartlett resigned on January 23. Deputy premier Lara Giddings was sworn in the next day as the first female premier of the state.

Giddings will also keep her position as Treasurer.

Bartlett announced his decision with a message on his Facebook page that said: “To all my Facebook friends and contributors. I have decided to step down as premier and leader of the Labor Party.”

He said his reason was that he wanted more time to be a better father to his children.

About 40 people attended a ‘Hands off WikiLeaks’ rally held in Franklin Square, Hobart on January 29.

Speakers from the Greens, the Socialist Alliance, the Secular Party, Young Libertarians and unaligned individuals addressed the rally. They called on the Australian government to support Julian Assange, defend WikiLeaks and support the right to free speech and freedom of information.

About 250 protesters gathered outside Redfern Community Centre on January 26 to listen to Aboriginal leaders speak out against the Northern Territory intervention and ongoing attacks on Aboriginal self-determination.

The event was organised by the Stop the Intervention Collective Sydney (STICS).

Speakers included Valerie Martin Napaljarra, based in Kalkaringi in the Northern Territory; Greens councillor Irene Doutney; and Graham Merritt of STICS.

Forest campaigners have engaged in a series of actions on the New South Wales south coast, protesting against alleged illegal logging of old-growth forests in the area.

Lisa Stone, spokesperson for South East Forest Rescue, told AAP on January 21: "Recent audits have exposed illegal logging of rainforest, land registered on the National Estate, endangered ecological communities, a gazetted Aboriginal Place and rocky outcrops. We have proven systemic re-occurring breaches on the south coast that show a pattern of non-compliance to the law."

A group of 30 Perth-based activists from the Refugee Rights Action Network (RRAN) travelled to Leonora detention centre on January 21 in solidarity with the hunger strike at Curtin detention centre and to call for an end to mandatory detention.

The group, which included teachers, students, tradespeople, social workers, as well as teenagers and children, had requested to fly kites and play cricket with the 55 children held in Leonora detention centre.

Serco, the private company that runs the detention centre, denied the request.

World

All those scenes from Cairo of mass demonstrations look like the perfect expression of the big society.

So we can only assume British PM David Cameron wants us to try something similar here. It would certainly encourage more people to take an interest in politics.

Instead of complaining that kids show no interest in the political process when they are asked to study details of local government boundary changes, teachers could say: "Today we're going to find out how new governments are formed" and get the class to stand on a tank in Trafalgar Square.

* * *

After as many as 2 million people took over Tahrir Square and the streets of Cairo, with millions more across Egypt, on February 1 to demand on end to the US-backed dictatorship of Hosni Mubarak, the regime responded with a violent assault on protesters continuing to occupy the square.

Below are two eyewitness reports from US-based progressive media outlet Democracy Now! on the events.

List of rallies across Australia in support of Egyptian democracy movement

See also:

International Socialist Review editor Ahmed Shawki reports from Cairo on the latest mass protests against Hosni Mubarak--and what the future holds for Egypt's uprising. This was first posted on February 2 at www.socialistworker.org .

More coverage:
Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal
Al Jazeera live streaming from Egypt on the rising
Live blogging by the Angry Arab

AlJazeera.net reported on January 29 that new protests had erupted in the Middle Eastern nation of Yemen, which sits at the bottom of the Arab peninnsular, demanding an end to the regime of President Ali Abdullah Saleh.

The site reported on January 28 that thousands had also taken to the streets in anti-government protests in Jordan, with people angry over price rises and unemployment.

On January 29, AlJazeera.net wrote on Yemen:

“Haiti’s infamous dictator ‘Baby Doc’ Duvalier, returned to his country this week, while the country's first elected President, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, is kept out”, Mark Weisbrot wrote in the January 20 Huffington Post.

“These two facts really say everything about Washington’s policy toward Haiti, and our government's respect for democracy in that country and in the region.”

In the lead-up to the one-year anniversary of Haiti’s January 12, 2010 earthquake, a brutally frank account of the plight of its people was delivered by a highly placed diplomat.

Ricardo Seitenfus, the representative to Haiti of the Organization of American States, delivered a hard-hitting assessment of the foreign role in that country in an interview in the December 20 Swiss daily Le Temps.

Seitenfus, a Brazilian, was immediately recalled from his posting.

Sadaullah Wazir, a 17-year-old Pakistani man, is suing the CIA over an alleged US drone strike on his village of Machi Khe in September 2009, in which he lost his legs. Three of his relatives were killed in the attack, CBSNews.com said on December 23.

The article reported that Wazir said the drone strike hit a group of men chatting outdoors in the Wazir family compound as the day’s fasting for the Muslim holy month of Ramadan came to an end.

Anger has erupted in West Papua at the light sentences handed to three Indonesian soldiers responsible for torturing two West Papuans.

The soldiers received between eight and 10 months' jail for “insubordination” rather than the more serious charge of torture, The Australian said on January 24. They will be allowed to continue their military careers.

Thousands of people marched through the streets of Istanbul on January 19 to commemorate the fourth anniversary of the killing of journalist and human rights activist Hrant Dink.

Dink’s murder symbolises the rising wave of nationalism and chauvinism in Turkey in recent years.

Dink was an Armenian-Turkish journalist, human rights activist and a prominent member of his community. He was 51-years-old when he was murdered by a 17-year-old right-wing assassin on January 19, 2007 — gunned down outside the office of Agos, a bilingual newspaper that he edited in Istanbul.

Ongoing mass demonstrations, strikes and riots have rocked Egypt since January 25.

Tens of thousands of people took to the streets in national protests on January 25 to demand an end to the United States-backed dictatorship of Hosni Mubarak.

The regime has responded with brutality. By January 30, the media had reported at least 100 people had been killed.

The regime has responded to the unrest by shutting down the internet — a key organising tool of the protests — across the country.

On January 3, 170 cleaners and security guards at Hongik University in Seoul were sacked for forming a union and demanding better conditions.

The workers formed a union on December 1 and demanded decent working conditions. Since their sacking, the workers have held a sit-in protest at the university campus — eating and sleeping on the cold, hard floors of the Munheon Building.

Hongik University is South Korea’s most famous university for visual arts. Many graduates are showing their support for the workers through their art work.

The trials of the creator of WikiLeaks, Julian Assange, and of international terrorist Luis Posada Carriles began with less than a 24-hour difference on January 10 and 11.

One took place in London and the other in El Paso, Texas.

While the champion of freedom of information, Assange, was being accused by US officials of the very serious crime of terrorism, the confessed terrorist, Posada, was simply tried for immigration law violations.

Venezuela’s president Hugo Chavez has passed a series of laws to help people affected by floods, including big investment in new housing.

Venezuelanalysis.com said on January 20: “Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez issued a law-decree on Tuesday to address ‘rights and justice’ of the roughly 125,000 Venezuelans made homeless during last year’s record-setting rains and floods.”

Chavez said the “Law for Dignified Refuge” would serve to “institutionalise” the concept of a “dignified and human refuge” and establish the responsibilities of the government.

In his January 25 State of the Union address, US President Barack Obama called for a freeze on government spending and for lowering the corporate tax rate.

In response, Reuters reported on January 26, the US stock index figures rose.

Meanwhile, the situation for US workers and poor remains dire. A January 14 Socialist Project article explained that, “as of November the slump in U.S. housing prices had surpassed that of the 1930s. For 53 consecutive months American home prices have fallen.

A fair portion of the more than 1600 United States State Department documents WikiLeaks had published by mid-December referred to the ongoing US efforts to isolate and counter the left-wing, anti-imperialist Venezuelan government.

After Hugo Chavez was elected president in 1998, Washington engaged in numerous efforts to overthrow him. These have included a failed coup d’etat and an oil industry lock-out in 2002, worldwide media campaigns and various electoral interventions.

They are calling it Obama’s PATCO. US President Barack Obama is proposing a two-year wage freeze for 2 million federal workers.

When then-president Ronald Reagan fired 13,000 striking Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization (PATCO) members in August 1981, he sent a signal to other employers that it was open season on unions.

Now, local and state governments will use the president’s position to justify their own layoffs and wage freezes. Private industry will do the same.

The January 9-15 referendum on self-determination in south Sudan looks certain to result in the division of Sudan into two countries.

About 96% of the 3.9 million registered voters took part, well exceeding the required 60% turnout.

The final result will be announced in February. But with 80% of the vote counted, the South Sudan Referendum Commission reported a landslide vote of almost 99% in favour of independence.

The Republic of South Sudan is expected to be officially declared in July.

Support the Egyptian people solidarity protests:
Brisbane: Friday February 4, 5pm. Brisbane Square (top of Queen St mall, outside Casino)
Sydney:Saturday 5 February, 12-3pm at Town Hall. Called by Egyptian community.
See also:
US, Israel oppose Arab democracy
Tunisia: Mass protests to deepen revolution
Egypt: Uprising hits hated regime

Who says the corporate media do not care about the opinions of ordinary people? There have been lots of articles lately about what workers think, written by the people who study them the most — bosses.

As a vice president of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp and a Wall Street Journal columnist, William McGurn naturally has his finger on the pulse of the American working class.

See also: US, Israel oppose Arab democracy

Papers leaked to Al-Jazeera, as well as secret US cables published by WikiLeaks, have exposed how Israel and the United States have used the Middle East “peace process” to push total capitulation on the Palestinian side.

This merely confirms what many Palestinians already knew.

Of all the commentaries and interviews coinciding with the anniversary of Haiti’s earthquake, none are likely to exceed in significance the interview granted by OAS Representative to Haiti, Ricardo Seitenfus, to the Swiss daily Le Temps on December 20.

Analysis

Plans by the NSW Liberal/National coalition to cut $3.8 billion in state spending is yet more evidence that the Coalition is no alternative to the Labor Party in New South Wales.

If anything, opposition leader Barry O’Farrell’s plan to cut public sector jobs and services will make things even worse.

O’Farrell is hoping to romp in to government in the March state elections — not because people support his policies, but because people are so fed up with Labor.

NSW voters deserve to know what the Coalition actually stands for, but it has said very little so far about its real policies.

The recent Queensland and Victorian floods make it clear — Australia needs a comprehensive, national, public insurance scheme, to cover floods, bushfires and other major natural disasters.

The federal and state governments should combine to establish a national insurance scheme to protect the interests of working people and small businesses.

The January 21 Sydney Morning Herald reported on the abject failure of most private insurance companies to provide proper coverage to ordinary, working householders.

Margaret River, a town on the southwest coast of Australia, is an important agricultural area, supporting olive farms, dairies and livestock. It attracts tourists from all over the country eager to check out its famous beaches, forests, artists and wineries.

But residents were shocked when news surfaced in July that a proposed coalmine will be built just 15 kilometres from the town centre.

The councillors of Marrickville, in Sydney’s inner west, voted by a 10-2 majority on December 15 to support the Palestinian call for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel.

A month later, they have belatedly become the subjects of vilification in the Rupert Murdoch-owned media, and of death threats from Australia's lunatic fringe.

"What does the desert theocracy of Saudi Arabia have in common with Marrickville Council in Sydney's Inner West?" howled a January 13 article in Murdoch's Daily Telegraph, under a headline comparing the council to North Korea.

Up to 300 asylum seekers held in Western Australia’s remote Curtin detention centre ended a four-day hunger strike on January 21.

The protesting asylum seekers demanded the immigration department end the long delays in the processing of asylum claims. They agreed to end the hunger strike after the department agreed to speed up the claims process.

Many of the hunger strikers had fled from Afghanistan and fear they will be sent back to danger.

The NT government has failed to change its policy of "First Four Hours" of English in remote Aboriginal schools, despite the trial period expiring in January.

The policy was introduced in January 2009, supposedly as a way to improve English literacy for Aboriginal students. The policy mandated that schools teach only in English for the first four hours — the most productive hours — of school, leaving teaching in local language to the last two, least productive, hours of the day.

It effectively banned Aboriginal language in the classroom.

On January 3, when Donna Macklan went to visit a friend, two people viciously assaulted her, knocking her out of her wheelchair and hitting her with a shovel.

While they were doing this they screamed “you hermaphrodite” — she was beaten and abused in our community because of her gender identity.

This is completely and totally unacceptable. Or it should be.

We live in a community where lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and intersex (LBGTI) people have a well founded fear for their safety in public.

The world’s largest workforce is on call 24-hours-a-day and receives no wages.

Domestic workers and carers for children, ageing or ill members of society or those with disabilities are usually women living within family units. They are most often the partners, mothers or daughters of the people for whom they provide this care.

Most of these tasks are performed out of love for their family members. But female carers and domestic workers are often deprived of freedom of choice in their living and working conditions.

Newcastle and the Hunter region have a proud history of energy-related manufacturing. However, since the 1990s the sector has experienced a steady decline, born of decades of neoliberal, free trade policies that encouraged companies to move offshore.

Presently, only 10% of the Hunter workforce is employed in the manufacturing sector. But climate change and the need for clean energy alternatives are opening new doors.

Editorial

Climate change was a big factor in the devastating floods that swept through Queensland and other states in January. For decades, scientists have warned that carbon pollution will lead to more frequent weather disasters.

The floods are yet more evidence that we must quickly phase out fossil fuels and embrace 100% renewable energy.

As the flood crisis began to emerge, University of Melbourne climate scientist David Karoly told ABC News on December 31 that the extreme weather was not so unexpected.

Resistance!

The national secretary of the Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees Union (SDA), Joe De Bruyn, recently recommitted the SDA to a homophobic policy of opposition to equal marriage rights.

A member of the ALP national executive, De Bruyn said in November that were he in Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s position he would have “killed the issue off once and for all”, ABC online said.

In our society, the heterosexual nuclear family is portrayed as the only legitimate model for relationships.

Resistance is proud to announce that its 2011 national conference will be held over May 6 to 8 at Redfern Community Centre, Sydney.

All socialists and left activists are welcome to attend.

The initial conference agenda will soon be posted at Resistance.org.au. It will include panel presentations and workshop discussions on a wide range of the urgent issues confronting humanity today, including:
- Ecosocialism and the climate emergency;
- Justice for Indigenous people;
- Refugees and racism;
- The Latin American revolutions and socialism of the 21st century;

Culture

Based on Psalm 137

By the waterholes of Mother Country we slung down our yidakis, and cut our bodies and drugged our minds in grief, as we remembered the dreamtime.

And the settlers demanded from us a corroboree performance and a jail sentence, mutual obligation and a souvenir boomerang for the gift shop.

How could we dance and perform sacred traditions for their markets? We have become aliens and inmates, invisible in this eternal land.

Clients at the Casuarina Centrelink in Darwin were treated to a singing protest on January 27 against the Basics Card. As part of the federal government’s Northern Territory intervention, Indigenous people in the NT have half of their welfare payments restricted to a card that can be used to buy only food, clothing and medical supplies at specified stores.

Rob “Kris Pistofferson” Inder-Smith sang and played guitar, protesting against his payments recently being put on the Basics Card without an adequate explanation. The words are published below.

* * *

Edgar Rice Burroughs & Tarzan: A Biography
By Robert W. Fenton
McFarland & Co., 2010,
212 pages, $49.95 (pb)

Edgar Rice Burroughs was in illustrious company when his Tarzan books joined the works of Einstein, Freud, Marx, Zola, Upton Sinclair, H. G. Wells and Jack London in the Nazi book-burning bonfire in front of the University of Berlin in 1933, writes Robert Fenton in his biography of the US author.

Hopes & Prospects
By Noam Chomsky
Haymarket Books, 2010
US$16
www.hopesandprospects.org

Noam Chomsky requires little by way of introduction.

Eminent professor of linguistics and philosophy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Chomsky has been one of the world’s leading public intellectuals for the past 50 years. His advocacy and activism for countless causes, and his many books, have long been a source of courage and inspiration for those fighting for a more just, democratic and peaceful world.

Fighting Fund

Green Left Weekly is a cash-strapped, independent media outlet.

We’re committed to exposing the ills of the profits-first system and pointing to a democratic socialist alternative. We survive solely on the generosity of our supporters and subscribers.

One way to help support the work of GLW is to leave a gift or bequest in your will.

This would help us immeasurably in our efforts to support campaigns for social justice and ecological sustainability, and to continue giving a “voice to the voiceless”.