Issue 871

News

National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) members at Macquarie University in Sydney took rolling industrial action across four faculties during the first teaching week of semester. The industrial action was part of a campaign for a new collective agreement for academic staff. Three hundred staff and students rallied on March 3 to hear about the bargaining impasse. Issues of concern for staff include overcrowded classes, lack of facilities, workloads, budget cuts and job security.
The Greens candidate for Heathcote in the NSW elections, Phil Smith, has renewed his party’s call for a moratorium on coal seam gas mining in the state. He said gas extraction poses real risks for communities throughout the Heathcote electorate, a seat that spans from southern Sydney to the northern Illawarra. The Labor state government recently approved 15 coal seam gas wells in the northern Illawarra region. “The Greens are leading the call for an immediate moratorium,” Smith told Green Left Weekly.
A rally was held on February 28 to protest against the recent decision of a London court to extradite WikiLeaks editor-in-chief Julian Assange to Sweden to face questioning on allegations of sexual assault. Assange’s legal team announced it would appeal the decision. The rally was held under the themes "We deserve the truth!”, “Hands off WikiLeaks!” and “Free Julian Assange!"
HOBART — About 20 people attended an Aboriginal rights forum organised on February 24 by the Socialist Alliance. The forum heard from a panel of representatives from the Tasmanian Aboriginal community and explored a range of issues they are campaigning around, including the Brighton Bypass, heritage issues and the NT intervention.
ASIO has delayed the release of 900 refugees from immigration detention because it had not carried out security checks, a Senate estimate hearing on February 24 revealed.   Refugees can be held indefinitely after their visa approval until checks on their background, family networks and “risk” level are complete.   Lateline said on March 1 that it took an average of 66 days to process one person. But some refugees have been held for 12 months or longer.  
MELBOURNE — About 200 people marched against the NT intervention and for equal pay and jobs with justice for Aboriginal workers on March 4. The rally was organised by the Melbourne Anti-Intervention Collective. It demanded an end to the exploitation of Aboriginal workers in the Northern Territory.  The intervention, which quarantines the welfare payments of targeted people,  has meant that Aboriginal people are in effect working for rations cards while living in extreme poverty.
One hundred people, including many from the Latin American community, ex-ALP members, members of the Greens, plus members of Newcastle, Wollongong, and several Sydney branches of Socialist Alliance, helped launch the SA’s campaign in the NSW state election on February 26 at St Lukes Hall in Enmore. Hosted by lead SA Legislative Council candidates Peter Boyle and Jess Moore, the night featured music, theatre, political speeches and more. The night was also about people-powered culture, with performances from the Freedom Fighters and Newcastle-based band GRCO.
The conflict in Western Sahara, little known in Australia, is at last starting to get some prominence. Unionists held a protest outside the Moroccan embassy in Canberra on February 9. This coincided with a visit to the Western Saharan capital, El Aaiun, by eight European trade unions to investigate the attack on striking phosphate workers by Moroccan police in August 2010. A former Spanish colony, Western Sahara has been illegally occupied by Morocco since 1975, in defiance of international law and UN resolutions calling for a referendum on self-determination.
Insurance companies are collecting about $300,000 in interest every day they hold off paying the victims of Queensland’s flood disaster, said the February 28 Courier Mail. The floods swept through the state in January. Six weeks later, just 10% of claims had been paid. The insurance industry has raked in big profits in the past few years. The Courier Mail said “net profit for general insurers soared from $2.8 billion to $4.44 billion. Total assets jumped from $65 billion to $98 billion.”
A meeting of more than 40 activists on March 3 agreed to form the "CHOGM Action Network''. The meeting was called to plan protest actions during the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM), which will take place in Perth in October. Meeting participants decided to begin organising a peaceful mass rally on October 28. The protest will coincide with the opening day of the summit. The WA state government has declared the day a public holiday.
On February 26, more than 100 WikiLeaks supporters rallied in Murray Street Mall, in Perth’s CBD. After hearing from speakers, the rally marched to join another protest in solidarity with the people's uprising in Libya.
The secretaries of eight NSW unions have signed a letter to the NSW Greens urging them to “commit to an upper house preference swap with Labor” at the upcoming NSW state election. The unions represented include the Communications Electrical Plumbing (Telecommunications and Services Branch), the Construction Forestry Mining Energy union (Energy and Construction divisions), the Maritime Union of Australia national office, the Fire Brigade Employees Union, the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union, the Australian Services Union and the Liquor Hospitality and Miscellaneous Workers’ Union.
Hundreds of University of Melbourne students have been told they are no longer eligible for public transport concession fares. This is a result of the new "Melbourne Model" at the university, which now defines several courses (such as medicine and law) as postgraduate study. The March 2 Age said the changes made “the full-time students ineligible for student concession cards and forced to pay double their previous public transport costs".
About 100 maritime workers and community members rallied at Fremantle's Victoria Quay on March 4 to demand the federal and state government act in support of the human rights of the crew of the Bader III, a live sheep carrier. The workers on the Bader III and its sister ship, the Maysora, are owed about $400,000 in back pay. Their employer said it will only pay them out when they complete their contracts, which are typically nine to 12 months long.
More than 80 people attended an at-times heated meeting on March 3 organised by Illawarra Residents for Responsible Mining (IRRM) in Russellvale, north of Wollongong. The meeting was held across the road from the entrance of Gujarat NRE’s number 1 colliery. This meeting doubled as a meet-the-candidates event for the NSW state elections and a question and answer session about Gujarat NRE’s plans to expand coal production. Representatives of the mine attended the meeting.

Analysis

The federal government’s expansion of income management in the Northern Territory has created new barriers for Aboriginal people who want to get off its welfare control scheme.   The rollout has also affected hundreds — possibly thousands — of others, including residents of Darwin and Alice Springs and newly arrived refugees.  
Mining company BHP Billiton’s whopping $10.5 billion profit for the second half of 2010 highlights the shameless greed of those making a fortune out of Australia’s valuable resources. Remember the tantrum thrown by BHP, Rio Tinto and Xstrata less than a year ago after then-PM Kevin Rudd proposed the Resource Super Profits Tax (RSPT)? The RSPT wasn’t a radical proposal. Part of the revenue from the modest 40% tax would have been returned to the corporate sector, helping to fund a cut in the already low corporate tax rate and various subsidies to mining.
On March 8, women’s rights campaigners around the world will celebrate the 100th International Women’s Day (IWD). There could be no more fitting testament to the meaning of IWD than the words of one of the thousands of Egyptian women who joined the democracy protests in Tahrir Square in Cairo last month. The people’s struggle to be rid of dictator Hosni Mubarak, she said, is also a struggle for women’s rights: "[Before] we had nothing, now I guess we will take everything." IWD was born in a time of great social turbulence and huge struggles by ordinary people for a better life.
The underlying issue of racism in Australia has been a pervasive feature of national political life ever since the invasion of the First Fleet in 1788. It was used as an ideological justification for the dispossession of indigenous Australians. In 1975, the Racial Discrimination Act was implemented in order to enable all Australians, regardless of their racial and cultural background, to enjoy equal rights and to prohibit discriminative behaviour based on racial hatred.
Many millions of tonnes of coal have been exported since activists dubbed the Rising Tide Seven temporarily shut down coal loaders in Newcastle in September last year. They were convicted on January 31 of “remaining on enclosed lands”. Each was fined $300, plus $79 in court costs. However, on March 3, they were vindicated when magistrate Elaine Truscott rejected the Port Waratah Coal Services’ (PWCS) $525,000 “compensation” claim.
David Hicks was one of the first “war on terror” detainees to be sent to the US military prison at Guantanamo the day it opened in January 2002. In a February 16 article, Truth-out.org’s Jason Leopold introduced Hicks as “the Australian drifter who converted to Islam, changed his name to Muhammed Dawood and ended up at training camps in Afghanistan the US government said were linked to al-Qaeda, one of which was visited by Osama bin Laden several times.
“I am a black South African, and if I were to change the names, the description of what is happening in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank would be a description of what is happening in South Africa” - Archbishop Desmond Tutu, New York 1989. When Desmond Tutu made this comment, the South African apartheid regime was still in power. In 1994, after 45 years of racial segregation, the apartheid era was officially over.
With the betting agencies putting the Greens candidate ahead of Labor in Sydney's inner west seat of Marrickville, Labor is running scared. But rather than debate the issues, the ALP machine is doing its best to smear the Greens. At a 120-strong candidates' meeting hosted by the Newtown Neighbourhood Centre on February 23, Greens candidate and Marrickville Mayor Fiona Byrne was asked if she would agree to council “boycotting China” if asked to do so by a Tibetan constituent.
The Socialist Alliance released the statement below on February 26. ***   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. Their courageous struggle, launched on February 15, for democracy and economic and social justice, has resulted in hundreds, if not thousands, of people being killed.
Climate research group Beyond Zero Emissions (BZE) has released a briefing paper for the NSW elections. It outlines the proposals for NSW in the Zero Carbon Australia 2020 Stationary Energy Plan (ZCA2020) — a plan to transition Australia to 100% renewable energy within 10 years, using commercially available technologies.   ZCA2020 was launched last year around Australia, gaining widespread attention.   It showed that the transition to renewables is technologically possible. Further, it put a price of about 3% of GDP on the transition to 100% renewables in 10 years.  
The statement below was released by the Socialist Alliance on March 6. * * * The carbon price framework recently agreed to by the ALP and the Greens is a step in the wrong direction. This is not because, as the Coalition says, the economy — read the profits of big business — cannot afford to cut emissions. It’s because the framework will be counterproductive to real action on climate change. The highest prices now being discussed will simply stimulate a mass rollout of gas, extending Australia's commitment to fossil fuels at the expense of renewable energy.
The casual observer might easily conclude that there are just two clear sides in the parliamentary debate over the Labor/Greens carbon price deal. But there is a lot more to the debate than this. Clearly the Greens are in favour, and appear to have won over PM Julia Gillard’s government to an interim carbon tax. On the other hand, opposition leader Tony Abbott has promised a Tea Party-style uprising against it. Abbott will push to rouse a fascistic “people’s” movement to try to bury the deal.
Victorian Premier Ted Baillieu announced on March 1 that the government would push ahead with the unpopular plan to build Australia’s largest desalination plant in Wonthaggi. This is despite pre-election promises that he would re-examine the contract with Aquasure, the private consortium commissioned to build and operate the plant, which was approved under Labor premier John Brumby in 2007. According to the Age on March 1, the eventual price tag is "$24 billion that is expected to double household water bills over the next five years".

World

The article below is abridged from SocialistWorker.org. Protest messages to the Zimbabwe embassy in Australia can be sent to zimbabwe1@iimetro.com.au . * * * The resistance sweeping the Arab world and the repression against it has reached southern Africa, where more than 50 activists have been arrested by the Zimbabwean regime of President Robert Mugabe. Those arrested include former member of parliament Munyaradzi Gwisai and other members of the International Socialist Organization (ISO) in Zimbabwe.
Ireland’s governing Fianna Fáil (FF) party and its Green Party coalition partner were massacred in a general election revolt on February 26. The most successful establishment party in Western Europe for the past 80 years, FF was demolished – reduced from 77 to only 20 seats on the back of public outrage over austerity measures and social spending cuts. In Dublin, FF was reduced from 19 seats to one. The Greens — its partners in political crime — were wiped out entirely, failing to win a single seat in Dáil Éireann (Ireland’s parliament) and winning less than 2% of the vote.
Pro-democracy protests have escalated in Bahrain after the US threw its support behind the monarchy and tanks from Saudi Arabia were seen entering the country. Up to 200,000 people marched in the capital, Manama, on February 25, The New York Times said that day — a staggering size given Bahrain's population is only 1.2 million, and more than half of these are foreign guest workers. The protesters converged on Pearl Roundabout in two huge crowds.
When the Kyoto Protocol was being negotiated in 1997, the European Union opposed the United States’ proposal to introduce carbon trading and “offsetting” as a form of compliance with mandated greenhouse gas emissions reductions. Instead, the EU favoured coordinated policies and measures. But by 2001, when the US unilaterally abandoned climate negotiations, the EU had already reversed its position and enthusiastically supported delivering the fate of climate policy to a speculative market.
The US government says it wants “stability” in the Arab world. That sounds reasonable, right? However, as US author and political analyst Noam Chomsky explained to Press TV on February 24, for the US government, “stability” means something other than what most people would think. “You have to remember that stability is a cold code word,” Chomsky said. “Stability doesn't mean stability; it means obedience to US domination … [It] doesn't mean that things are calm and straightforward, [it] means they are under control. That of course it is inconsistent with democracy.
There was another win for “people’s power” in Egypt when interim prime minister Ahmed Shafiq resigned on March 3. Shafiq was sworn in by the overthrown dictator Hosni Mubarak and is closely associated with the old regime. He was replaced by former transport minister Essam Sharaf, who was asked by the military government to form a cabinet in the lead-up to elections scheduled for later this year.
The Youth for Change organisation has called for protests throughout Sudan on March 21. The February 28 Sudan Tribune reported that spokesperson Magdi Okasha said their aim is to overthrow the regime. The call follows a series of anti-government protests by youth and students, most notably on January 30, when thousands of students inspired by the revolts in Tunisia and Egypt were met with violence from security forces. Many activists arrested during and after the protests remain in jail without charge.
The self-immolation of Tunisian Mohamed Buazizi in December triggered off protests that brought down a 24-year-old dictatorship in that country and inspired similar protests in neighbouring countries. Buazizi, a 26-year-old computer science graduate and unemployed street vendor, carried out his drastic act in protest at having his only source of income — his produce — confiscated by police. This embodies just how much the combination of unemployment, spiralling food prices and brutal repression has become a potent cocktail of discontent that has exploded across the Arab world.
The regime of Muammar Gaddafi has escalated its violence against rebel forces seeking to bring it down. On March 6, opponents of the regime were reported to be in control of several cities, especially in Libya’s east. AlJazeera.net said on March 4 that anti-government protests in the capital, Tripoli, had been met with tear gas by security forces. Opponents said Az Zawiyah, a town just 40 kilometres from Tripoli that is home to an oil refinery, was mostly under rebel control.
The Wisconsin-based National Football League (NFL) team Green Bay Packers — the only fan-owned, non-profit franchise in major US sports — won the Super Bowl on February 6, bringing the Lombardi trophy back to Wisconsin. But now, past and present members of the “People’s Team” are girding up for one more fight, and this time, it’s against their own governor, Scott Walker.
A NATO airstrike killed nine children collecting firewood in eastern Afghanistan on March 2, Afghan officials have said. A March 2 WashingtonPost.com article said the deaths in Konar province “became the latest irritant in the tense relationship between President Hamid Karzai and the international force in the country”. The top NATO commander, US general David Petraeus, issued an apology for the error, which the occupying forces blamed on “faulty communication”.
The protests that began on February 14 in Madison, Wisconsin against an anti-union bill have continued to grow. On February 26, an estimated 100,000 people defied sub-zero temperatures to rally against the bill. Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s bill would outlaw collective bargaining for public sector workers, as well as slash pay and conditions. However, several events have combined to compound pressure on public sector workers and unions resisting the attacks. It remains to be seen whether this pressure will result in the proposed bill becoming law.
The US Army announced on March 2 that it has charged 22-year-old Private First Class Bradley Manning with a further 22 charges. Manning is being held on suspicion of having leaked classified information to WikiLeaks. One of the new charges is “aiding the enemy”. This means Manning could face the death penalty if convicted. So far, Pentagon and military officials have found no direct link between Manning and WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.
In a joint statement on February 25, indigenous communities that make up the Native Federation of Madre de Dios River and Tributaries in south-eastern Peru rejected a military crackdown on illegal mining on their lands. The statement said it was a “false solution to a problem that has social and economic roots”. Environment minister Antonio Bracks authorised the operation in mid February —involving about 1000 police and infantrymen — to destroy illegal mining equipment including bombing of dredges.
In the face of renewed protests in Tunisia's capital, Tunis, Tunisian prime minister Mohamed Ghannouchi resigned on February 27. This was one of the key demands of the popular movement, which has continued to push for democracy in the aftermath of the January 14 toppling of dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. In another concession to the mass movement, the interim government announced that elections for a constituent assembly to draft a new constitution would be held on July 24, AlJazeera.net said on March 4.
Tens of thousands of people have taken to the streets of Yemen in anti-government protests. Demonstrators have demanded an end to the long-running regime of President Ali Abdullah Saleh. Yemen’s coalition of political opposition parties, the Joint Meeting Parties (JMP), finally joined the protests in late February. This came after a speech in which Saleh, who has ruled Yemen for more than 30 years, blamed uprisings on a conspiracy by foreign governments — specifically the United States — to destabilise the nation.

Culture

The Global Economic Crisis: The Great Depression of the 21st Century Edited by Michael Chossudovsky & Andrew Gavin Marshall Global Research, 2010 The Centre for Research on Globalisation (CRG), based in Montreal, runs a website that publishes in-depth analysis of economic and strategic issues aimed at countering that offered by the mainstream media.
Folk music legend Pete Seeger has come out in support of the growing Palestinian movement for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel and in support of justice for Palestinians and a route to peace in the Middle East. Seeger, 92, took part in last November’s online virtual rally “With Earth and Each Other”, sponsored by the Arava Institute, an Israeli environmental organisation, and by the Friends of the Arava Institute.

Fighting Fund

Rupert Murdoch’s global media empire just got bigger after the British government approved his takeover of the British satellite pay TV group BSkyB on March 4. Not even evidence raised in the British parliament of his minions from the notorious rag News of the World hacking into the phones of politicians and other prominent figures (including members of the British royal family) slowed down this latest takeover.

Resistance!

To win socialism — a society democratically owned and run by and for the majority of people — we have to get rid of the capitalist system that stands in our way. But who is going to do this? The capitalists aren’t going to give up their privileges. It's those who are exploited and oppressed by the system that have an interest in changing it. Capitalism can't permanently satisfy the needs of the majority — the working class, farmers, women, ethnic and racial minorities and so on.
Picture this: you drive past armed guards at the gate; then park your car next to a four-metre-high fence topped with electric wire. As you enter the building you’re searched, your phone is confiscated, your details are noted, then you pass through metal detectors and are tagged with ultraviolet pens. Once inside you find small children playing, and their families and friends, who have broken no laws. Surveillance cameras are ever-present and guards patrol the grounds.

We kid you not

US-backed dictators have ‘moral scruples’ “[P]ro-American dictatorships have more moral scruples. The comparison is akin to what happened in the 1980s when U.S. allies led by authoritarians fell peacefully in the Philippines, South Korea and Taiwan, even as Communist regimes proved tougher.” — February 16 WSJ editorial. Supporting its dictators “The [Obama] administration has submitted a proposed budget for fiscal 2011 that included military assistance increases for Bahrain, Libya, Morocco, Oman and Yemen.”