Issue 870

News

Labor, Liberal and National MPs lined up to pass the Labor government's National Radioactive Waste Management Bill through the House of Representatives on February 23. Greens MP Adams Bandt and independents Andrew Wilke, Rob Oakeshott and Bob Katter did not support the bill. If passed in the senate, the bill will pave the way for the construction of a national nuclear waste dump at Muckaty, north of Tennant Creek in the Northern Territory. The legislation overrides NT legislation designed to ban nuclear waste dumps in the territory.
The national and state elections results for the Rail Tram and Bus union (RTBU) have been partially counted. In New South Wales, the incumbent right-wing Labor leadership team, called Unity, was challenged by Members Voice, a broad united front of those who advocate increased funding and staffing, and a clear strategy to reverse privatisation. This was the first challenge to the incumbents since the 1980s.
Popular uprisings in the Arab world have challenged a political landscape dominated by undemocratic regimes and fronted by dictators, a panel of academics and journalists said at a Sydney University forum on February 15. Speakers discussed the regional and international ramifications of the uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt as part of the forum on people's power and change in the Arab world.
Landlord and tow truck operator Frank Cassar owns rental properties and rooming houses around Fitzroy, Clifton Hill and Elsternwick. He has ignored dozens of fines and orders imposed by the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal and the Magistrate’s Court since 1999 for his flagrant violation of the Residential Tenancies Act 1997. Consumer Affairs Victoria, the government body with the power to prosecute, has vowed to take him on. But so far, there has been no action.
About 200 people rallied in Brisbane's King George Square on February 25 to show solidarity with the people of Libya resisting the oppressive regime of Muammar Gaddafi. A banner proclaiming "Free Libya" was fixed to a wall, together with photos of victims of the Libyan military and police. Placards carried by members of the Libyan community, many of them students, read "Stop using mercenaries to kill our people" and "Please help our country".
More than 300 people attended an “Experience Palestine” event organised by the Federation of Australian Muslim Students and Youth (FAMSY), at Coburg Town Hall on February 19. They were greeted by mock Israeli “border guards” and questioned about their identity and right to enter the premises. Once they had passed through the wood and wire “checkpoints”, visitors listened to guest speakers on Palestine and life under occupation before having a break to wander about the different exhibits.
The Refugee Action Coalition in Sydney has obtained a letter, reprinted below, which was written to the immigration department 40 days after the Christmas Island disaster, by survivors. RAC has welcomed the subsequent government decision to release Seena, the nine-year-old orphaned Iranian boy (and the family that is caring for him), and two other orphaned survivors, but says all survivors must be released. * * * In the Name of God the Compassionate, the Merciful
Tasmanian Greens leader and state corrections minister Nick McKim has come under fire from unions after he stood down 56 guards at Risdon prison without pay on February 21. McKim brought in police officers as scabs to replace the guards. The prison has been in partial lock-down due to the lack of staff. McKim said he stood down the guards because they were preparing to take industrial action.
NSW nurses have voted to accept the state government’s wages, conditions and ratios package. Anecdotal reports indicate that 90% of the branches voted in favour of the package, but the head office of the NSW Nurses Association (NSWNA) has not released official figures.
About 50 angry policyholders — victims of the huge floods that inundated large parts of Brisbane in January — protested outside the South Bank offices of insurance company CGU on February 18. The noisy protest presented a list of demands to the company, the February 19 Courier Mail said.
Killalea State Park again faces the threat of overdevelopment, says Peter Moran, the Greens candidate for Shellharbour in the NSW state elections. Community members organised in the Save Killalea Alliance (SKA) claimed a victory in May last year when a $35 million development proposal backed by investment firm Babcock and Brown was scrapped. The proposal would have allowed 106 accommodation lodges to be built on the pristine site. Developers had made an earlier proposal to build 202 residential lodges, pools, tennis courts, restaurants and a conference centre.
An angry group of about 20 protesters held a snap action for refugee rights on February 18 outside the Perth office of the Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC). During the protest, Refugee Rights Action Network (RRAN) members covered the DIAC sign with a new message that proclaimed it “the department of child abuse”. The protesters called for the Australian government to respect the human rights of refugees and put an end to mandatory detention of asylum seekers' children. Several activists held up signs saying “shame”.
About 200 members of the Libyan community and supporters held an angry protest at Sydney's Town Hall on February 22 to condemn the brutal massacres against pro-democracy protesters carried out by the regime of Muammar Gaddafi. Protesters chanted "Down, down Gaddafi!" and (in Arabic) "The people's voice must be heard!" The rally was told the death toll in the crackdown, which has included military airplanes attacking protesters, had killed at least 500 people and injured more than 3000.

Analysis

Under heavy public pressure, the South Australian government of Labor Premier Mike Rann appears to be wavering in its support for mining uranium in the Arkaroola wilderness in the state’s north. On February 18, the Adelaide Advertiser gave front-page headlines to reports that Arkaroola, a privately-held nature sanctuary and ecotourism site in the Flinders Ranges about 600 kilometres north of the state capital, could be declared a national park.
The article below is based on a December 16 speech by Canberra-based freelance historian Humphrey McQueen. McQueen spoke at a Canberra rally organised to defend WikiLeaks and its editor-in-chief Julian Assange. * * * By what right are we here today? Why are we confident that we can protest and not be shot at by the political police on the fringes of this crowd? We take it for granted that we won’t be arrested as we leave. We do not expect to lose our jobs by speaking out for WikiLeaks.
I met Ali (not his real name) on my third visit to the children’s detention centre at the Melbourne Immigration Transit Authority (MITA) in Broadmeadows. Ali is a 16-year-old artist from Afghanistan. He has been held in Australian detention for five months — three months on Christmas Island and two months in Broadmeadows.
In Australia, a society created on the basis of racial division and superiority, the ugly face of prejudice and discrimination is, unsurprisingly, still very evident today. Regardless of the often mentioned idea of a “multicultural” Australia, there seems to be a strong campaign to stigmatise, reject and isolate Muslims from mainstream values and norms. Through recent comments and initiatives taken by several Liberal and Labor party politicians, the overt nature of anti-Islamic discrimination in Australia is as obvious as it is disgraceful.
Below is the text of a speech by Pip Hinman, Socialist Alliance candidate for Marrickville in the NSW state elections, to the Newtown Neighbourhood Centre candidates meeting on February 23. *** I’d like to first acknowledge that we’re meeting on the land of the Gadigal and Wangal people of the Eora nation, and I pay my respects to their elders past and present. The two most important issues in this state election is to call a halt to the privatisations of our public assets and to immediately start a shift away from using polluting coal or gas for our energy needs.
Below is the text of a speech by Fremantle councillor and Socialist Alliance member Sam Wainwright to Green Left Weekly's 20th anniversary celebrations in Perth on February 12. See also: Greetings to Green Left from around Australia Greetings to Green Left from around the world Green Left turns 20! Green Left’s 20 years of independence * * *
I went down to Tasmania for the Southern Forests Convergence organised by activists at the Huon Valley Environment Centre (HVEC) over February 19 to 21. These folks are the heart and soul of ancient forest protection in Tassie and, as always, it was a great honour to work with them.
Don’t believe the hype. The carbon price deal announced by Labor and the Greens on February 24 is not a breakthrough and does not set Australia on a path to a zero-carbon future. Rather, it entrenches a framework that puts market forces at the heart of Australia’s response to the climate emergency. It’s a step in the wrong direction. The full details of the deal — including the price and compensation measures — are yet to be finalised. But the agreement made clear the scheme will begin by mid-2012 and become a fully-fledged emissions trading scheme three-to-five years later.

World

Stop the massacre in Libya! Power to the people A February 26 statement by the Socialist Alliance in solidarity with the people's uprisings in Libya and the Arab world * * * The Socialist Alliance extends its full solidarity to the people of Libya now being brutally repressed for demanding an end to the corrupt and unjust regime of dictator Colonel Muammar Gaddafi.
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange’s legal team have announced they will appeal after British magistrate Howard Riddle ruled on February 24 that Assange can be extradited to Sweden to face questioning on allegations of sexual assault. Assange denies the allegations. Assange’s British Attorney Mark Stephens told Democracy Now later that day that the defence team remains “very optimistic about our opportunities on appeal”.
WikiLeaks has announced it will pursue legal action against disgruntled former employee Daniel Domscheit-Berg, whose recently released book, Inside WikiLeaks, slams Julian Assange's leadership and character in a series of allegations. Some of the allegations appear serious. Others are hopelessly trivial.
Ahlem Belhadj is a Tunisian revolutionary socialist and member of the Ligue de la Gauche Ouvriers (Left Workers’ League). It is a part of the January 14 Front, which unites left-wing groups seeking to push Tunisia’s revolution forward by creating a new government free from members of the former ruling party, and supports policies reversing neoliberalism. Belhadj spoke with Green Left Weekly’s Tony Iltis on February 12 about the Tunisian revolution. * * *
In 1987, I visited Libya as a journalist for the left-wing newspaper Direct Action. I visited Gaddafi’s bombed-out home — attacked by the United States one year earlier. In the 1980s, the Gaddafi regime came under attack from the US government because it took an anti-imperialist line and gave financial and material aid to many national liberation movements at the time.
As the wave of popular uprisings has spread across the Arab world, a flurry of articles have appeared suggesting Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez could be the next “dictator” to be overthrown. Such arguments follow a pattern in the corporate media of slandering the Chavez government and the revolutionary process it leads. They aim to conceal the real threat that haunts imperialism: that the Arab world may follow the example of Venezuela and other countries in Latin America — and break away from Western hegemony.
On February 22, Muammar Gaddafi boasted on state TV that the Libyan people were with him and that he was the Libyan revolution. His comments came as his dwindling army of special guards and hired mercenaries tried to drown the popular revolution in blood. AlJazeera.net reported on February 21 that civilians were strafed and bombed from helicopters and planes. Snipers with high-powered rifles fired into unarmed crowds.
Iraq: Protesters met with bullets “Soldiers and riot police fired on citizens rallying for jobs, public services and clean government across occupied Iraq,” the British Morning Star said on February 25. The article said at least 13 civilians were killed and many more wounded. Thousands of workers took to the streets in Baghdad, Mosul, Ramadi, Basra, Fallujah and Tikrit despite a curfew.
Hidden beneath the spectacular street battles that forced Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak out of office was a trigger that exists in dozens of countries throughout the world — food. Or, more specifically, the lack of it. Commentators have focused on the corruption of the dictatorship, or the viral effects of the Tunisian uprising or what appears to be akin to an Arab political awakening. But the inability of the Egyptian regime to ensure a steady flow of food staples should also be viewed as a critical factor driving this seemingly spontaneous movement for freedom.
The New Anti-capitalist Party (NPA) held its congress in the Paris suburb of Montreuil over February 11-13. The congress adopted by a large majority a document, Our Responses to the Crisis, which analyses the multiple crises gripping capitalism: economic, social, food and climate, and outlined a vision of anti-capitalist, ecosocialist politics.
Forty-five pro-democracy activists, students and trade unionists were arrested in Harare on February 19 at a meeting to discuss the uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia. On February 23, the activists were charged with treason, which risks the death penalty. It is believed that security forces loyal to President Robert Mugabe’s ZANU-PF infiltrated the meeting at the Labour Law Centre in Harare, which was themed “Revolt in Egypt and Tunisia: What lessons can be learnt by Zimbabwe and Africa?”
More than 100,000 protesters packed Pearl Roundabout in Bahrain's capital, Manama, on February 22, demanding an end to the regime of King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa. Protester Muhammad Abdullah told The New York Times: “This is the first time in the history of Bahrain that the majority of people, of Bahraini people, got together with one message: this regime must fall.” If the Khalifa family — which has ruled the tiny island nation for 200 years — falls, it could have major implications for the region and world politics.
A huge battle of the right of public sector workers to organise has broken out in the state of Wisconsin. In response to a law pushed by Republican Governor Scott Walker, protesters have held a sit-in at the state legislature in Madison, Wisconsin’s capital, since February 14. The law would combine cuts to wages and conditions with a ban on collective bargaining for many public sector workers.
With revolts taking place in 15 countries across the Arab world, those with stakes in maintaining the status quo — especially the United States — are getting worried. From Morocco all the way to Iran, people are standing up for their long-denied rights. See also: Libya: Western-backed ruler turns on the people Libya: From nationalism to neoliberalism Bahrain: 'The regime must fall'
If you have consulted Karl Marx for an answer to the recent global economic crisis, you are not alone. Google has confirmed the popularity of Marx’s writings is booming as people around the world try to make sense of increasingly harsh economic conditions. The phenomenon was reported in an article posted at Time.com by Rana Foroohar, who said: “I consulted Google to see if the term ‘Marxism’ was trending upward. It was and has been ever since the end of December.”

Culture

Full Quarter Storms By Sonny Melencio 2010, Transform Asia Inc. transform.asia1@gmail.com Veteran Filipino socialist activist Sonny Melencio’s political autobiography, Full Quarter Storms, covers a lot of history. The book tells the story of the “First Quarter Storm”, the student uprising in 1970 (from which the book draws its title), and the driving of this powerful movement underground by the declaration of martial law by then-president Ferdinand Marcos in 1972.
A History of Now Asian Dub Foundation www.asiandubfoundation.com The artwork for A History of Now, the new album from Asian Dub Foundation (ADF), is a set of iPhone apps. But instead of Apple’s tame applications, the band of British-born Indian genre benders have invented their own parodies. A typical one, named “Instigator”, features a burning bottle and the instruction: “Stuck for a weapon while protesting against government cuts? Let ‘Instigator’ turn your phone into an instant Molotov cocktail!”

Fighting Fund

In the previous issue of Green Left Weekly, I wrote about how the federal Coalition had resurrected the ghost of Pauline Hanson with its cynical plan to exploit the racist fear of Australia’s Muslim minority communities. But since then, there has been a parade of political ghosts. The first to emerge was the former Victorian Liberal premier Jeff Kennett, who chose to give some public advice to aspiring NSW Liberal premier Barry O’Farrell.

Letters

Invasions don’t bring democracy It’s a pity the “coalition of the willing” invaded Iraq and Afghanistan. Maybe if they hadn't, the Iraqi and Afghan people would have been getting rid of Saddam Hussein and the Taliban themselves — right now. And building their own real organic democracies, step by step.

Resistance!

Refugees pose no threat. They are simply people seeking refuge from wars, poverty, exploitation and/or dangerous climate change. Many come for a better life, for themselves and their families. The rich countries, and the imperialist system of war and exploitation over which they preside, create refugees. Yet instead of helping those forced to seek asylum, they criminalise them.