Elections in the Rail Tram and Bus Union (RTBU) are being held throughout Australia in the National and State branches in February. There are two main tickets contesting the national and NSW elections. In NSW, the incumbent right-wing Labor leadership team is called Unity. It has failed to defend conditions and jobs against the unpopular Labor government's cuts and privatisations. The Members Voice (MV) ticket is a broad united front of those who oppose the current leadership and advocate increased funding and staffing, and a clear strategy to reverse privatisation.
Activists from the Refugee Action Coalition (RAC) confronted Immigration Minister Chris Bowen and opposition Immigration spokesperson Scott Morrison at a Harmony Day event in Sydney on February 17. "You've forgotten to tell us what you did this morning," RAC's Paul Benedek called out to Bowen after his speech. That morning, Bowen had overseen the forced return of 22 survivors of the Christmas Island tragedy (including Seena, a nine-year-old boy orphaned in the incident) back to detention on the island after a short stay in Sydney to bury their dead relatives.
Friends of Cuba in Australia are invited to take part in the sixth International Brigade of Volunteer Work and Solidarity with Cuba, which will run from April 25 to May 7, 2011. The tour, which is organised by the Cuban Institute of Friendship with the Peoples (ICAP), will coincide with the 50th anniversary of Cuba’s defeat of the US invasion at the Bay of Pigs (Playa Giron) in the Matanzas province.
Activists fighting to defend Sandon Point won an important victory in the Land and Environment Court in early February, opening the way for ongoing legal challenges to Stockland’s development at the site. Stockland has been clearing the site to build the McCauley's Beach residential development. It is the last green strip from the escarpment to the coast in the northern Illawarra. A community campaign against the development has been going for over 10 years. In late 2009, then-planning minister Kristina Keneally approved the development under Part 3A planning laws.
The Socialist Alliance has called for changes to the federal Labor government’s proposed flood levy to reduce the burden on workers and make Australia’s wealthiest corporations pay more. Socialist Alliance national convener Peter Boyle said on February 18: "The government should start with at least a 1.5% levy on the profits of corporations employing more than 20 people. “Corporations profiting from high carbon emitting industries could be levied an extra 0.5% as their actions are contributing to climate change.
Two long-time ALP members, Luis Ernesto Almario and Rosendo Duran, announced their resignation from the ALP on February 17. Both will stand as Socialist Alliance (SA) candidates for the Legislative Council in the March NSW state elections. Almario and Duran are both political exiles from Colombia, forced to leave because of political persecution. Arriving in Australia in the mid-’80s, Almario joined his local branch of the ALP in Blacktown, and was later active in the ALP Parramatta branch.
In the lead up to the NSW state elections, several organisations and individuals have joined forces to demand the incoming NSW parliament pass a bill for equal marriage rights. Activists representing Community Action Against Homophobia, Australian Marriage Equality, the Metropolitan Community Church Crave, Organisation Intersex International, The Greens and the Socialist Alliance gathered for a joint press conference outside state parliament on February 18. Below is a video of the press conference by Liz Duck-Chong:
Climate action groups from across Australia will assemble in Melbourne over April 9 to 11 for the third Climate Action Summit. Organised by the Community Climate Network, which involves more than 100 grassroots climate action groups, the summit will provide an opportunity for activists to share information and discuss ways to build a stronger movement for real action on climate change. The 2011 summit will build on the successes of the previous two events, both of which took place in Canberra and involved between 300 and 500 climate activists.
Father S.J. Emmanuel, president of the Global Tamil Forum, spoke at a Melbourne meeting of about 400 people on February 13. He said that while the civil war waged by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) was over, the struggle for the rights of Tamils living in Sri Lanka continues in a new way. The war officially ended in May 2009 with the military defeat of the LTTE by the Sri Lankan army. But the Sri Lankan government is now carrying out what Emmanuel described as a policy of "genocide", attempting to wipeout any trace of Tamil existence in Sri Lanka.
Three years ago then-prime minister Kevin Rudd promised to release children from immigration detention. Instead, his legacy left more children in detention centres than under the conservative Howard government — 1003 at last count. In October 2010, Prime Minister Julia Gillard said locking up children was not "the Australian way". Community housing was the solution and all children would be out by June 2011, she said.
The statement below was released by Tangentyere Council on February 11 in response to Prime Minister Julia Gillard's Closing the Gap 2011 address. *** The intervention in the Northern Territory has created a number of alarming issues. To a large extent the Aboriginal population in the Central Australian Region has become disengaged from any development process with growing signs of increasing despair and family breakdowns.
Below is a eulogy to Mark Fordham, an Aboriginal activist and Liquor, Hospitality and Miscellaneous Union member from the Northern Territory, released by: Stop the Intervention Collective Sydney; Brisbane Aboriginal Rights Coalition; UQ Students for Indigenous Rights; and Sydney University Anti-Racism Collective. ****
Prime Minister Julia Gillard delivered the federal government’s third “closing the gap” report on February 9. The report is an annual review of national efforts to address the mortality gap between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Australians. In an outrageous denial of the government’s failure, Gillard called for Aboriginal people to accept the blame for critical crises in health, education, employment and housing and chronic community breakdown.
Peter Boyle, the Socialist Alliance upper house lead candidate in the March NSW elections, spoke at an election forum on climate change hosted by Climate Action Central Coast on February 9. The chief speaker was Beyond Zero Emissions (BZE) executive director Matthew Wright. Candidates for the NSW seat of Gosford, Peter Freewater (Greens) and Chris Holstein (Liberal), also spoke. Labor candidate Katie Smith was invited, but did not attend. The article below is based on Boyle’s presentation. * * *
On February 14, I went to the seventh "Remember TJ Hickey" rally at Redfern. TJ Hickey was a 17-year-old Aboriginal boy who was killed in a dangerous police pursuit in 2004. The state government and the NSW police moved to cover up their role in TJ's death. A coronial inquest exonerated the police involved. But the inquest ignored important evidence, including witness accounts that said police had chased TJ moments before his death.
Australian illusions about Labor are likely to have more serious consequences in the very near future. Unable to charter any real alternatives to the neoliberal formula of war, privatisation and social exclusion, Labor’s pseudo-social democracy will fail, delivering us to neo-fascist regimes and multiple global crises. The Labor government of Julia Gillard will be replaced by as ugly a bunch of thugs as we have ever seen; just as Obama will be replaced by the same neo-fascists that drew us into a series of bloody wars.
The Business Council of Australia (BCA), which represents Australia's 100 biggest companies, said on February 14 that the federal government should consider cutting the disability pension as an alternative to the Queensland flood levy. How low can these grubs go? Only days later, BCA’s biggest member, BHP-Billiton, posted a record $10.5 billion half-year profit.
Below is Jess Moore's speech to the “Stop the sell-off” rally in Wollongong on February 6. Moore is a Socialist Alliance candidate for the Legislative Council in the NSW elections. She addressed the rally on behalf of the Wollongong Climate Action Network (WCAN). *** We all know that privatisation means increased prices, we know that it means less reliable services, we know that it means job cuts to the public sector, and it means disregard for the environment.
In December last year, Kojonup organic grain farmer Steve Marsh found genetically modified (GM) canola plants from a neighbouring farm had contaminated 293 hectares — 63% — of his property. The farm in Western Australia’s Great Southern region is Australia’s first known case of GM canola contamination. Marsh has had his organic certification revoked as a result. The Monsanto Round-Up Ready Canola was being grown on a neighbouring farm after a moratorium on growing GM crops was lifted a year ago by the WA Liberal government.
When the first issue of Green Left Weekly came out on February 18, 1991, it was a dark time for the left. The collapse of Stalinist regimes in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe had capitalism’s mouthpieces loudly proclaiming the “end of history”. But GLW saw it very differently. It was launched by members of the Democratic Socialist Party (DSP — which has now merged into the Socialist Alliance) to help regroup progressive forces to keep pushing for a pro-people alternative.
During the Christmas/New Year holiday period, prior to the tragedy of floods and fires, Prime Minister Julia Gillard chose to feed out some media announcements about local school autonomy. Her proposal was to give schools the right to “hire and fire” teachers. The model would give school principals and local parent representatives control of staffing, replacing the current statewide system of appointments. Many states have a variation of this localised system to some extent. However, NSW and Queensland, which are still under state-based employment relations, do not.
Sudan’s National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) is still holding dozens of protesters arrested during and after the January 30 protests against Omar al Bashir’s government. The protests were inspired by the Egyptian revolution. The protesters are being held without charge. There are reports that many have suffered torture, including electrocution and sleep deprivation. Women detainees have been threatened with rape.
Disgraced Tunisian foreign minister Ahmed Ounaies resigned on February 13 from the interim government set up after dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali resigned on January 14 in the face of huge protests. The government has introduced fresh reforms as protests for democracy and economic justice continue in the north African country. Ounaies, a former diplomat whose appointment to the interim government was announced on January 27, described French foreign minister Michelle Alliot-Marie as “above all a friend of Tunisia”.
The Egyptian people’s revolution has entered a new phase after the fall of dictator Hosni Mubarak on February 11. The first reaction to Mubarak’s resignation after 18 days of continuous protests was one of celebration. Cairo’s Tahrir Square, the centre of the uprising, turned into the scene of a giant party for days afterwards in celebration of the exit of Mubarak, who had ruled Egypt for three decades. Undoubtedly, the widespread feeling was that it was time to begin building a “new Egypt”.
Climate change could lead to the disappearance of up to two-thirds of the world’s permafrost by the end of the century, the US National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) said on February 16. Should the Earth’s permafrost (or permanently frozen soil) thaw out to this extent, it would release huge amounts of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere — and make climate change even worse. NSIDC scientist Kevin Schaefer said the carbon released would be “equivalent to half the amount of carbon that has been released into the atmosphere since the dawn of the industrial age”.
A rebellion is developing across Britain in the face of huge spending cuts by the Conservative Party-Liberal Democrat coalition government. The scale of the cuts is huge. The government is seeking to privatise huge swathes of the economy and hundreds of thousands of public sector jobs are under threat. They have also cut corporation tax, but sharply increased the goods and services VAT tax from 17.5% to 20%, which hits those on lower incomes hardest. By changing the inflation measure used to determine benefits and pensions, the government is plunging more people into poverty.
On November 10, tens of thousands of students marched through London against education cuts and fee hikes. This was an indication of the revival of a militant student movement in Britain. Clare Solomon, president of the University of London Union, told Green Left Weekly: “That demonstration was absolutely electric, especially when we occupied the Millbank Tory party headquarters. “There were thousands and thousands of 14, 15 and 16-year-old students, dancing, singing, hugging. It really was like a carnival of the oppressed.”
Leaked emails have revealed a plot by private internet security firms to bring down WikiLeaks. The plot was allegedly created on behalf of the Bank of America — the largest bank in the US. WikiLeaks editor-in-chief Julian Assange has said Bank of America will be the subject of future leaks. Computer-hacker group Anonymous revealed the plot after stealing 50,000 internal emails from internet security company HBGary Federal.
An Ecuadorian court handed down a landmark verdict in an 18-year case against international oil-giant Chevron on February 14. The company was fined US$8.6 billion for polluting the Amazonian basin, and $900 million in costs. The case — perhaps the biggest environmental case in history — was filed on behalf of around 30,000 peasants, farmers, and indigenous Ecuadorians who have suffered the ill-effects of Chevron’s toxic legacy.
The recent rebellion in the Arab world has not just shaken the foundations of authoritarian regimes across the north of Africa to the Arabian Peninsula. It has also shattered many of the myths and prejudiced stereotypes propagated by the corporate media and right-wing politicians about Arab peoples.
If you intended to remedy the global collapse of fishing stocks, the last thing you would do is book a date with Japanese whalers at an upmarket seafood restaurant. Similarly, if you were writing a book on human rights, asking Kim Jong Il to write a chapter might undermine its credibility. By the same logic, inviting the world’s corporate and political elites to a ski resort in the Swiss Alps to discuss the growing disparity between the world’s rich and poor is distasteful and ludicrous.
Following revelations that The New York Times liaised with the White House before publishing information supplied to it by WikiLeaks, the website’s editor-in-chief, Julian Assange, has revealed the British Guardian edited out “all sorts” of information before publishing US diplomatic cables. Assange told SBS’s Dateline on February 13 how WikiLeaks’ relationship with the two papers, with which it had worked, had soured.
For the past eight years, Kinetic Energy Theatre Company has been conducting a radical theatre-in-eduction program with a focus on social justice. It is called Village Space, which is an umbrella name for a series of theatre projects zooming in on themes ranging from poverty and inequality, displaced people and refugees, civil wars and non-violent direct action, and the environment and climate change.
Stalin Ate My Homework By Alexei Sayle Sceptre, 2010, 304 pages, $35 (pb) Even at primary school in Liverpool in the 1950s, Alexei Sayle, was a “mouthy little bastard”. So the British comedian, whose stand-up career began at the London Comedy Store in 1979 and became well-known for his role in TV shows The Young Ones and
, writes in his memoir Stalin Ate My Homework.
Your Skirt’s Too Short — Sex, Power, Choice By Emily Maguire 2010, The Text Publishing Company “Does your boyfriend or brother spend a lot of money on skin and hair care products?” “Do the majority of fathers you know spend most of their time at home washing, cleaning, cooking and taking care of their kids? Do you often hear mothers refer to looking after their own kids as ‘babysitting’?” “Are you sick of hearing men go on about how hard it is to balance work and parenthood?”
The cat is well and truly out of the bag. The February 17 Sydney Morning Herald reported that Liberal immigration spokesperson Scott Morrison had “urged the shadow cabinet to capitalise on the electorate’s growing concerns about ‘Muslim immigration’, ‘Muslims in Australia’ and the ‘inability’ of Muslim migrants to integrate”. Morrison argued in a December shadow cabinet meeting that the Coalition should ramp up its questioning of “multiculturalism” and appeal to what he said was deep voter concerns about Muslim immigration.
West props up dictators The US only gave up supporting the oppressive Hosni Mubarak regime in Egypt when it became absolutely apparent he and his ruling elite couldn’t continue to hold power. Mubarak’s brutal regime was able to maintain control through mass terror, coercion and the help of massive military and political aid from the US and its western allies as well as Saudi Arabia and Israel.
A lot of my mates tell me that they're just not that into politics. However, I think what they really mean is that they're not into politicians. And too right, almost all of our politicians are decidedly uninspiring. But these uninspiring politicians also are condemning, imprisoning and killing innocent people. And they are doing it in our name. This makes politics something we can't afford not to be interested in.