Issue 868

News

The fall of Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak sent waves of joy, jubilation and relief through Sydney's Egyptian community, who celebrated their country's newfound freedom outside Town Hall on February 12. Amnesty International hosted the celebrations. Socialist Alliance members, and members of other left groups, were also present as part of their ongoing campaign of solidarity with the Egyptian people. Chants of “Down, down Mubarak” from previous solidarity rallies were replaced with choruses of “Freedom for Muslims, Christians, Jews! Freedom for everyone!"
More than 60 people attended a public meeting in Russell Vale, north of Wollongong, on February 3 to oppose a massive coalmine expansion in their neighbourhood. The meeting was organised by Illawarra Residents for Responsible Mining (IRRM). Gujurat NRE, owner of No. 1 Colliery in Russell Vale, wants to expand the colliery's current output by 7.5 times — from 400,000 tonnes a year to 3 million tonnes.
A new report by the North East Forest Alliance (NEFA) has slammed government-owned Forests NSW for what it calls “illegal and blatantly unsustainable logging” in public lands near Coffs Harbour. Forests NSW’s timber has been accredited as ecological and sustainable by the government-appointed accreditation body Joint Accreditation System of Australia and New Zealand (JAS-ANZ) and the certification company NCS International.
In a humble local court in Newcastle on January 31, a major battle in the war on climate change began. A court is a theatrical space where we can overhear the clashing narratives around a central event. The defendants were six of the seven men and women from climate action group Rising Tide — dubbed the Rising Tide Seven. Posing as workers, they entered a Newcastle coal-loading facility before dawn on September 26 and locked themselves to the equipment 30 metres above ground. Work was brought to a halt.
Members of the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) at the University of New South Wales (UNSW) voted on January 13 to lift their ban on the transmission of student results. More than 40 staff members who took part in the lawful industrial action had been stood down without pay for nearly eight weeks. The decision to lift the ban followed concerns over attempts by university management to release unauthorised student results.
Socialist Alliance candidate for upper house in the coming NSW elections Bea Bleile expressed her continuing support for family of TJ Hickey, who are still fighting for justice following his death in 2004. TJ Hickey, a young Aboriginal man, was killed during a police chase. He was impaled on a spiked fence in Phillip St, Waterloo. In 2006, the NSW coroner exonerated the police involved from any wrongdoing. Yet a large amount of evidence was not included in the hearing. The family has called for the inquest to be reopened.
WikiLeaks has released secret US diplomatic cables that show secret Australian government negotiations to sell uranium to India, despite it not being a signature to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). Other cables show the government covered up details about its spy satellite program with the US. A leaked cable shows resources minister Martin Ferguson told US officials in 2009 that a deal to supply India with nuclear fuel could be reached within years, SMH.com.au said on February 10.
Across Australia, moves are afoot to pass bills to legalise same-sex marriage. The Tasmanian Greens were first to introduce such a bill in 2008. Greens leader Nick McKim introduced the bill again in November. The Tasmanian ALP was the first state Labor branch to announce its support for same-sex marriage, but this has not led it to support the Greens’ bill. ABC news reported on November 7 that former Tasmanian Labor premier David Bartlett said: “I have personally no opposition to same-sex marriage in Australia, but I see it as a purview of the federal parliament.”
More than 400 people attended a February 7 forum that condemned the federal government’s intervention into Aboriginal communities in the Northern Territory. The forum was organised by Concerned Australians. It coincided with the launch of a public statement addressed “to the people of Australia” by seven Indigenous elders. The statement asked for support to “help to put an end to the nightmare that Northern Territory people are experiencing on a daily basis”.

Analysis

Nine weeks after a boat carrying asylum seekers was smashed apart on the shores of Christmas Island on December 15, traumatised survivors remained locked up by the department of immigration. They are almost completely cut off from family and support. At least 48 people may have died in the devastating shipwreck. The wooden vessel, named SIEV221 by authorities, was thrown onto rocks in savage seas to the north of the island at about 5am.
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange delivered a pre-recorded video address to a public meeting at Melbourne’s Federation Square on February 4. Below is the transcript of Assange’s speech. ***** Thank you so much for coming to this rally. Your presence here and your support, in homes, workplaces, online and elsewhere is exactly what is needed to keep us strong.
WikiLeaks has launched the WikiLeaks roundtable series, in which founder and editor Julian Assange addresses, in a short video, questions that people put to the organisation. This forum aims to cut out “intermediaries” such as the mainstream corporate media, and instead allow the whistleblowing site to speak directly with people. The first video was published on February 6. “We are going to put everyone on a level playing field,” Assange said. “All members of the press and all members of the public.
Conservative Party chairperson and the first Muslim woman to attend the British cabinet, Sayeeda Warsi, said in January that Islamophobia and prejudice against Muslims has “passed the dinner table test” and is now widely accepted in Britain. The rise of Islamophobia within Western societies has grown more since the September 11, 2001 attacks in the US. A 2007 Zogby International study said 76% of Arab-American youth surveyed had been discriminated against.
For communities affected by Cyclone Yasi and the recent floods across Queensland, Western Australia, NSW, Victoria and Tasmania, it will be no comfort to hear that the Fair Work Act provides little protection for workers from unscrupulous employers. Many bosses will choose to stand workers down without pay if their business is affected by these natural disasters. At the height of the Queensland floods, state Workplace Rights Ombudsman Don Brown told ABC Online on January 21 that employers have the right to not pay workers for time off caused by the floods.
In the space of a few weeks, Australia and the world have been rocked by devastating weather events, from huge snowstorms across the US to flash flooding and cyclones in Australia. Many of these events have not just been catastrophic, but have set new records for weather. Let’s pause to list some of the recent extreme weather events in Australia: · Serious and long-lasting floods in Queensland around Rockhampton. · Unprecedented flash flooding in Toowoomba and the Lockyer Valley. · The biggest floods on record in western Victoria. · A 100-year record flood in Brisbane.
At a packed Leichhardt Town Hall candidates meeting on February 7, education minister Verity Firth all but conceded that the Labor state government would not be returned on March 26. Firth said she was looking forward to rebuilding the ALP from the opposition benches. She was unconvincing. Firth told the meeting she joined the ALP when she was a 15-year-old idealist. “Genuine lasting change is about more than slogans,” she said. “When you’re in government you cannot just issue a press release or organise a protest rally ... because governing is far more complex.”
It isn’t often that socialists, Greens, Liberals and NGOs agree on an issue. But that is the case regarding uranium exploration in the Arkaroola region in the Flinders Ranges, 700 kilometres north of Adelaide. Marathon Resources announced on February 7 that the South Australian Labor government had renewed the company's mining licence in Arkaroola. The Arkaroola area is a unique environment, unlike anywhere else on Earth. It has over 160 species of birds, is home to species of fauna found nowhere else in the world and is a sanctuary for the endangered yellow-footed rock wallaby.
Less than a week after Australians learned about the death of the 22nd Australian soldier killed in Afghanistan, Corporal Richard Atkinson, footage aired by Channel 7 on February 8 showed opposition leader Tony Abbott caught with his pants down. “Shit happens,” Abbott told a US general during an August visit to Afghanistan as they discussed the circumstances surrounding the death of another Australian soldier — Lance Corporal Jared MacKinney. MacKinney’s family had questioned whether the standard of the Australian Defence Force’s equipment contributed to his death.
I have thought for a long time that it is essential the Australian climate movement tune in more directly to the natural climate cycle, and thus popular consciousness of climate itself. We as a country have just experienced the traumas of floods, then the most intense cyclone in recorded history, and now devastating bushfires in Western Australia. Deadly bushfires swept the country a couple of summers before that, followed by another record heatwave in South Australia in 2010.

World

Venezuelan foreign ministry official statement The president and commander-in-chief of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, Hugo Chavez, in the name of the Venezuelan people, applauds the genuine lesson of political and democratic maturity that the courageous Egyptian people have brought before the eyes of the world.
“The situation in Egypt is different than the situation of Sudan,” Sudanese government spokesperson Rabie Atti insisted to reporters after January 30 anti-government protests. “We don’t have one small group that controls everything. Wealth is distributed equally. We’ve given power to the states.” Atti proves one similarity between Hosni Mubarak’s regime in Egypt and that of Sudanese President Omar al Bashir: both make ludicrous public statements that show no understanding of reality or the consciousness of their populations.
United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, speaking at the Munich Security Conference Plenary Session on February 5, said the US had always stood for the principle “free people govern themselves best”. This, she said, is “not simply a matter of idealism, it is a strategic necessity”. A cursory look at events — past and present — demonstrates the exact opposite to be true.
Bolivian President Evo Morales praised “the popular uprisings in Tunisia and in Egypt” in his speech to the opening ceremony of the World Social Forum in the west African nation of Senegal on February 6. Morales said the uprisings were part of the “rebellion by the peoples of the Arab countries against US imperialism”. “This struggle by the people is going to be unstoppable,” Morales said, “even though the US government provides millions and millions of dollars of financing to try and finish these social movements. “But this is not going to stop.”
A joyous night in Cairo on February 11. What bliss to be alive, to be an Egyptian and an Arab. In Tahrir Square, they chanted: “Egypt is free” and “We won!” The removal of Mubarak alone (and getting the bulk of his US$40 billion loot back for the national treasury), without any other reforms, would itself be experienced in the region and in Egypt as a huge political triumph. It will set new forces into motion. A nation that has witnessed miracles of mass mobilisations and a huge rise in popular political consciousness will not be easy to crush, as Tunisia demonstrates.
The attempt by Hosni Mubarak’s regime to stop anti-government protests by shutting down the internet and mobile phone services failed to stop the popular uprising that forced the dictator out on February 11. Tens of thousands of people took to the streets of Egypt on January 25 demanding political reform and an end to police brutality. When 24 hours passed and they hadn’t dispersed, Mubarak shut down access to media and telecommunications.
In a world-shaking event, after 18 days of constant street protests, the Egyptian people’s revolution won a huge victory when dictator Hosni Mubarak finally resigned on February 11. On that day, designated the “Day of Departure” by protesters, an estimated 20 million people (out of a population of about 80 million) were reported to have taken to the streets. They defied a regime that had tried to crush the movement in blood. More than 300 people have been killed by security forces or pro-regime thugs since the uprising broke out on January 25. More coverage:
US investigators have admitted their efforts to find grounds on which to prosecute WikiLeaks editor-in-chief Julian Assange over the whistleblowing website’s release of hundreds of thousands of classified US documents were in trouble. They have been forced to concede they have been unable to find evidence that Assange encouraged theft of secret documents, the Wall Street Journal said on February 9. The admission came as Assange faced an extradition hearing in London on February 7, 8 and 11 over allegations of sexual assault in Sweden. More coverage:
Over the decades that have marked the tenure of Egypt's “President for Life” Hosni Mubarak, there has been one consistent nexus for anger, organisation and practical experience in the ancient art of street fighting: the country's soccer clubs. During the current pro-democracy uprising, the most organised, militant fan clubs, also known as the “ultras”, have put those years of experience to ample use.
Venezuela marked the 12th anniversary of President Hugo Chavez’s first oath of office in February 1999 on February 2. Chavez won presidential elections in December 1998 on a pro-poor program that pledged to break the corrupt, two-party system that had dominated Venezuela since 1958. To commemorate the occasion, Chavez and supporters held four televised site visits in Caracas. The visits highlighted gains in education, food, health and people’s power that have occurred as part of the “Bolivarian revolution” the Chavez government is leading.
With the world beginning to feel the initial effects of changing weather patterns due to climate change, governments around the world are faced with immense challenges to ensure the safety of their citizens. The lack of action from most governments and key decision-makers reflects policies that put profitability ahead of human security. This blind and greedy agenda means the great majority of the world’s people are left defenceless. Venezuela stands in stark contrast to this norm.
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez expressed his support for workers in a dispute at a Venezuelan Coca-Cola plant conflict in a televised address on February 4. “If Coca-Cola doesn’t want to comply with the constitution and the law, well, we can live without Coca-Cola,” he said to cheers from the crowd. Chavez was speaking in Valencia, the capital of Carabobo state, where 1230 workers are striking in a bottling and distribution plant of Coca-Cola Femsa.
When the British Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government announced it would raise the maximum yearly tuition fee universities could charge students to £9000, thousands of students took to the streets of London in a series of protests. Highlights included occupying the Conservative Party headquarters in London and frightening Prince Charles. The tuition rise came after the release on October 12 of the Browne Review, a report into education funding chaired by former BP chief executive John Browne. The report recommended abolishing the cap on tuition fees.

Culture

When a Billion Chinese Jump — How China Will Save the World, or Destroy It By Jonathan Watts Faber & Faber, 2010 485 pages, $32.95 http://site.whenabillionchinesejump.com/ When Jonathan Watts was a child growing up in England, he used to pray that all the people in China would not jump at once, lest they send the earth spinning off its axis.

Green Left Weekly turns 20!

Send your own greetings and congratulations to weekly.greenleft@gmail.com * * * One of the despairs of our time is a corporate media that speaks for authority and power, rarely for its readers and viewers. One of the excitements of our time is the means by which we can now circumvent the old gatekeepers. WikiLeaks is a new creation, but Green Left Weekly has been a pathfinder for 20 years, no less. Congratulations! — John Pilger, renowned journalist and filmmaker.
Send your own greetings and congratulations to weekly.greenleft@gmail.com * * * Over the course of the past 20 years, Green Left Weekly has emerged as a focal point of the world green left movement, its leading weekly guide to theory and practice. Long may its flag fly! — John Bellamy Foster, editor, Monthly Review.
Greetings to Green Left from around Australia Greetings to Green Left from around the world Send your own greetings to weekly.greenleft@gmail.com . Twenty years ago, on Monday February 18, 1991, the first issue of Green Left Weekly was produced. Its full-colour poster-style cover expressed opposition to the Gulf War, the first US-led invasion of Iraq.

Resistance!

Youth are leading revolts in Egypt, Tunisia and the rest of the Arab world to overthrow US backed regimes. February 8 statement by Resistance, socialist youth organisation. Resistance stands in solidarity with people in Tunisia, Egypt and the Arab world to overthrow US backed regimes. Once again the youth in these countries are at the forefront of a popular revolt against dictatorship.