Issue 872

News

For every dollar the Australian government spends on cutting carbon pollution, it spends $11 encouraging it, new research from the Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) has revealed. ACF said on March 1 that its analysis showed: “The Australian government spends $11 billion more on subsidies that encourage greenhouse pollution than it does on programs to tackle climate change.”
About 150 people rallied in Sydney on March 6 to call for an end to the persecution of WikiLeaks. The protest was organised by the Support WikiLeaks Coalition. The rally also called for the release from jail of US private Bradley Manning. For nine months, Manning has been held in isolation in US military prisons for allegedly leaking more than 250,000 US diplomatic cables to WikiLeaks. On March 2, the US army laid new charges against Manning, including the capital offence of “aiding the enemy”. If convicted, Manning could face the death penalty.
Environment groups have criticised federal environment minister Tony Burke for ignoring a recommendation to make Tasmania’s Tarkine rainforest a protected heritage area. The Tarkine National Coalition has accused Burke of suppressing a report by the Australian Heritage Council, which said the government should create a Tarkine National Heritage Area. The report has since been leaked.
The following statement, initiated by the Illawarra Socialist Alliance, seeks to build a community consensus against racism and for solidarity and social justice. It has been signed by: Gordon Bradbery, independent candidate for the seat of Wollongong; Dr Munir Hussain, Chairman, Omar Mosque; Illawarra Greens; and Illawarra Socialist Alliance. *** Take a stand against racism We condemn the recent comments made by ministers and members of the Liberal Party, whose actions aim to divide the community based on racial and religious grounds.
Jewish Voices for Peace and Justice NSW released a “statement in support of the people of the Arab nations” on March 11. The statement said: “We at Jewish Voices for Peace and Justice are deeply inspired by the people of the Arab nations, in their struggle for democracy and freedom as they rise to decide their own future, defying regimes that have for too long subjugated them.
The Tasmanian environmental campaign group Still Wild Still Threatened has called on Tasmania’s Labor/Greens coalition government to back down on its plan to build the Brighton Bypass and agree to demands from Aboriginal activists to change the bypass route. Still Wild Still Threatened spokesperson Lily Leahy said on March 1 that the group “stands in solidarity with the Aboriginal community in opposing this plan as it will destroy the artefacts and unique values of a 40,000 year-old site.
Householders and small businesses who were victims of the floods that hit Brisbane in January are considering a legal challenge against insurance companies “using region-wide hydrology reports to deny thousands of flood-related claims”, the March 10 Courier Mail said. Insurers NRMA, CGU and Comminsure have used the reports to claim many policyholders were subject to riverine flooding, which is not covered by most insurance policies, rather than stormwater or flash-flooding.
This year’s Sydney Mardi Gras gave many people the opportunity to say something about the issues that concern lesbian, gay, bisexual, intersex and transgendered (LGTBI) people. Most floats in the parade voiced their support for same-sex marriage. Muslims Against Homophobia, a recently-formed support group for queer Muslims in Sydney, made a groundbreaking appearance in the parade. It said something equally important and urgent: “Queer Muslims need acceptance!”
The six-year campaign against Gunns’ proposed Tamar Valley pulp mill in northern Tasmania is entering a critical stage. Federal environment minister Tony Burke approved the three outstanding modules of the mill’s environmental management plan on March 10. However, pulp mill opponents remain staunchly against the project in whatever form and have vowed to organise ongoing protests and blockades to stop it going ahead. A mass protest has been called on the site for March 20.
About 2000 people attended the March 12 International Women’s Day rally in Sydney. The rally demanded equal pay for women workers — specifically better pay for community sector workers. In Adelaide, 150 women and male supporters gathered for International Women’s Day on the steps of the state Parliament House on March 10. The crowd heard from state ALP MP Steph Key and actor Eileen Darley. Darley detailed the working women’s history of International Women’s Day and led the crowd in singing the feminist anthem, “Bread and Roses”.
Two hundred people rallied outside the Queensland parliament on March 5 to oppose plans by coal seam gas company QGC to expand its operations near the town of Tara, 300 kilometres west of Brisbane. Friends of the Earth campaigner Drew Hutton chaired the rally. Other speakers included Tara resident Scott Collins as well as campaigners and farmers from the Lock The Gate Alliance — a national campaign to keep coal seam gas companies off private land.
About 6000 people rallied outside PM Julia Gillard’s Melbourne office on March 12 for an emergency action on climate change. The rally was organised by GetUp! Publicity for the rally did not explicitly refer to the proposed Labor/Greens carbon price. But at the rally itself, the organisers campaigned for the carbon price plan as the most effective way to deal with climate change. Many at the rally had concerns with the proposed carbon tax, but mobilised in spite of this to call for urgent climate action.
A dozen protesters gathered outside Darwin Magistrates Court on March 8 to call for an end to the detention of asylum seeker children. The protest was held outside the trial of six teenage asylum seekers, who faced charges with various offences resulting from a scuffle in Darwin immigration detention centre in February. Richard Davis from the Darwin Asylum Seeker Support and Advocacy Network told ABC Darwin that the youths should not have been charged.
"Women's rights are human rights!" was the theme of a rally and march held in Brisbane on March 5 to celebrate 100 years of International Women's Day (IWD). About 100 people rallied in Brisbane Square and later marched through city streets to Emma Miller Place for a concert. The rally also called for an end to mandatory detention of refugees, an end to the Northern Territory intervention, equal pay, equal marriage rights and the repeal of all anti-abortion laws.

Analysis

Why did Julian Assange receive an Interpol Red Notice, but Gaddafi only an Orange? Tess Lawrence investigates the murky world of Interpol exclusively for Independent Australia asking some troubling questions and uncovering some startling facts. Why was Julian Assange – who has not yet been charged — given the most severe Red Notice by Interpol, when brutal dictator Muammar Gaddafi only received an Orange Notice?
As it stands, the carbon tax proposed by the federal Labor government and the Greens is perfect material for a right-wing scare campaign. But it offers very little real action to cut emissions. The tax, which is designed to turn into a fully-fledged carbon trading scheme within six years, raises some dilemmas for climate action campaigners. Despite the policy's weaknesses, pressure is building on the climate movement to support the tax plan to counter the anti-tax campaign led by the Liberal party and the fossil fuel lobby. See also:
Victoria's alcohol and drug treatment services have failed to keep pace with the growing substance abuse epidemic after a decade of neglect, an Auditor General's report revealed on March 2. The report reviewed the Department of Health's $136 million alcohol and drug prevention efforts. It found the system is flawed and underfunded after the former state government failed to act on 31 internal reviews during its 10 years in office.
Media reports paint Alice Springs as being in the midst of an out-of-control crime wave. Action for Alice, a group of local business owners, has produced a commercial for Imparja television. The ad calls for a law and order push to end the alleged crime wave, which it blames on Aboriginal youth. The level of hysteria reached a new pitch in an article by Nicolas Rothwell in the February 19 Australian. Rothwell claimed that Alice Springs was plagued by rampaging young Aboriginal people, fuelled by alcohol.
Daicy Olaya, a resident of Fairfield for 18 years, explained why she decided to stand as a candidate for Socialist Alliance in the March 26 NSW elections. “Politicians from both major parties have failed miserably in representing the interests of migrants and women here in New South Wales,” she said. “That is why, as a woman migrant from Colombia, who has worked in the textile and cleaning industries, I have decided to stand as the Socialist Alliance candidate for Fairfield in the coming NSW state elections." See also:
Below is the resignation letter of two former members of the Labor party in NSW, Jairo Quintero and Edgar Pena (both formerly of the ALP Parramatta branch). This follows the February 17 resignations of Luis Ernesto Almario and Rosendo Duran. They have decided to support the Socialist Alliance in the March 26 NSW election. *** Attn: Kristina Keneally, NSW state premier CC: Michael Lee, NSW ALP president, Sam Dastyari, NSW ALP general Secretary, Pierre Esber, ALP candidate for the seat of Parramatta March 8, 2011
Andrew Ferguson, former NSW Secretary of the Construction Forestry Mining Energy Union (CFMEU), recently retired from that position and announced he would stand on the Australian Labor Party’s NSW Legislative Council ticket. Ferguson, who identifies as a socialist, is likely to get the sixth position on the ticket. The top two spots will go to NSW Treasurer Eric Roozendaal and Planning Minister Tony Kelly, both of whom are from the ALP Right faction. Peter Boyle interviewed Ferguson for Green Left Weekly. * * *
Peter Tatchell is an internationally renowned lesbian, gay, transgender, bisexual, intersex and queer (LGTBIQ) human rights activist based in England. He was one of eight “heroes” selected to take part in the lead float of the 2011 Sydney Mardi Gras. Tatchell spoke to Green Left Weekly’s Rachel Evans, Hannah Wykes and Farida Iqbal about his history of activism and the fight for equal marriage rights. *** When did you get involved in activist politics?
The Australian proclaimed a “war over the carbon tax” and the leader of federal Liberal party Tony Abbott called for a "people's revolt" against a price on carbon. What are they thinking denouncing such a positive step forward for action on climate change? What’s wrong with wanting to transition to renewable energy? Why would you want to try to divide people? Tim Badrick, in an article published in Independent Australia, believes that a carbon tax “con job” will do nothing to reduce environmental damage. I couldn't disagree more.
Since 2004, a mass mobilisation of popular support for marriage equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer (LGBTIQ) people has gained momentum, and now a possible victory is in sight. But sadly, marriage equality would not mean an end to homophobia or transphobia in Australia. Lurking behind Australia’s marriage ban is an even more sinister injustice clothed in the language of religious tolerance.
Federal immigration minister Chris Bowen announced plans for a new 1500-bed detention facility on March 3. It is to be located at Wickham Point, an industrial area 35 kilometres south-east of Darwin. The March 4 NT News said the Darwin Airport Lodge, which currently houses refugees, would also be expanded by 400 beds. This would bring Darwin’s total detention capacity to 2900, making the city the largest detention location on the mainland — larger even than the notoriously overcrowded Christmas Island facility.
In a July 2010 interview with WikiLeaks editor-in-chief Julian Assange, TED.com’s Chris Anderson said WikiLeaks had released in just a few years more classified state and military documents than every other media outlet combined. “It’s a worry isn’t it,” Assange said. “That the rest of the world’s media is doing such a bad job that a little group of activists is able to reveal more of that sort of information than the rest of the world’s media.”

World

This appeal is reprinted from the website of the Maritime Union of Australia. You can also support the appeal launched by Europe solidaire sans frontières (Europe in Solidarity Without Borders). * * * Japanese dockworkers, seafarers hit hard by tsunami March 15 Tens of thousands of people have been rocked by earthquake, engulfed by tsunami and now, in the port of Sendai, consumed by fire.
The desperate nuclear emergency at three Japanese nuclear reactors is growing worse by the day. One of the three stricken reactors at the Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear plant is now close to complete meltdown. Should this happen, molten uranium fuel may burn through the containment vessels, leading to a catastrophic release of radiation over the surrounding area.
Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker signed into law a bill that bans collective bargaining by most of the state’s public sector workers right on March 11. High school students in the capital, Madison, walked out of school in protest the same day — the second straight day of student strikes in the city. TheUptake.org said that day that students across the country walked out of classes in response to a call from Madison students for a national strike.
About 10,000 people marched on the Philippines Congress on March 8 to mark International Women’s Day (IWD) and demand passage of the Reproductive Health Bill before Congress. The bill would allow greater access to modern contraceptives and sex education. The bill proposes more maternal health services, raising the number of midwives to one for every 150 deliveries. Contraceptives would also be funded for poor women and would be included in the standard supplies of medicine in hospitals. Modern family planning methods would be provided in all accredited health facilities.
The much-feared secret police and intelligence service that protected the regime of former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak by arresting, torturing and even killing opponents has begun burning documents and evidence that could incriminate them. This comes as calls escalate to abolish the force altogether and bring its officers to justice. Hundreds of protesters surrounded the main office of Amn al-Dawla, the State Security Police, in 6th of October City, on May 5 to try to stop the burning of files. Protesters shouted: “Justice, justice for they fired bullets on us.”
Tunisian Prime Minister Beji Caid Essebsi announced on March 7 the dissolution of the country’s secret police arm, the British Guardian said that day. This step toward democracy is the most important taken by any Arab country for decades. Tunisia’s interim government also abolished the Ministry of Information, which had been in charge of censorship, allowing a free press to flourish, GlobalPost.com said on March 7.
The pro-democracy protests in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia have the potential to have a huge impact on world politics. The stakes are very high. In Bahrain, Saudi Arabia’s tiny island neighbour, protesters have mobilised in their hundreds of thousands for weeks to demand the Khalifah royal family be removed from power. Bahrain is of great strategic importance for the West. It hosts the US Navy's fifth fleet and a US airbase. This helps ensure US control of the oil-rich Persian Gulf region and the ability to maintain a constant threat against Iran.
The government in Yemen is becoming more desperate amid continuing protests across the country calling for the removal of President Ali Abdullah Saleh. Tensions came to a head when security forces fired on protesters at a university in the capital Sana'a, killing one person and wounding many others, AlJazeera.net said on March 9. Security forces also gassed the crowd with what is alleged to be nerve gas, SMH.com said on March 10. Despite the attack, thousands of protesters defied police and continued occupying the university square, AlJazeera.net said.
A cable from the US embassy in Buenos Aires, released by WikiLeaks, reveals pressure from the US government to halt a serious criminal investigation in Argentina. The US pressured an Argentine prosecutor to halt investigations into former Argentine president Carlos Menem and a number of other officials suspected of being involved in a cover-up over the bombing of a Jewish community centre in Buenos Aires in 1994, Argentine daily Pagina/12 reported on February 27.
From the cramped prison cell that has become his home, 23-year-old Army Private Bradley Manning is cut off from the world. He has had no opportunity to share his side of what could be the biggest whistleblowing story the world has seen. What we do know of the alleged US war crimes whistleblower comes from the authority of friends and family — or from Adrian Lamo, the man who reported Manning to US authorities for allegedly leaking classified military documents to WikiLeaks.
Squatters have taken over a mansion in London owned by the son of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, AFP said on March 8. The eight-bedroom house in Hampstead, north London, is owned by Seif al-Islam Gaddafi. The article said: “Members of a campaign group called ‘Topple the Tyrants’ said they had occupied the mansion and wanted it transferred to the people of Libya.” “The plush home, in a secluded, leafy close surrounded by some of Britain’s most expensive residential streets, boasts an indoor swimming pool, a sauna room and a cinema room.”
See also: Who is Bradley Manning? Corporate media smears WikiLeaks After months of investigation, the US Army has filed 22 new charges against US Army Private First Class Bradley Manning. The charges include “aiding the enemy” — a crime punishable by death. The prosecutors have said they will not recommend the death penalty in this case, but Manning still faces the possibility of spending the rest of his life in prison.
Thousands of protesters took to the streets across Iraq on March 4, defying a curfew and repression to demand democracy and economic justice, the March 5 Los Angeles Times said. The protests followed the February 25 “Day of Rage”, in which demonstrations occurred in at least 17 separate cities and towns. At least nine protests were killed by security forces, the February 26 Sydney Morning Herald said. See also:: Big stakes in Bahrain, Saudi protests
Saif al-Islam, the billionaire son of Muammar Gaddafi who was the neoliberal darling of Western governments until only recently, boasted in a March 10 interview with Reuters that forces loyal to his family were now on the offensive against rebel forces. NATO, for its part, has decided against military intervention — for the time being. However, France became the first government to recognise the rebel Interim Transitional National Council (ITNC) set up in Benghazi on March 5. AFP reported that French President Nicolas Sarkozy has also proposed “targeted air strikes” on Libya.
Two activists were arrested on February 20 at a demonstration outside the US Embassy in Tokyo. The activists were taking part in a demonstration against the construction of a United States military base in Okinawa. The activists were released from custody on March 5. Their supporters are campaigning for the charges against them to be completely dropped. The demonstrators had received police permission to rally. But on reaching the embassy, protesters were greeted by a wall of police.

Culture

Benji Marshall, one of the most high-profile players in rugby league, was charged with assault after an altercation in the early hours of March 5. Earlier that evening, he hosted a charity function on March 4 for the Children’s Cancer Institute of Australia at which about $250,000 was raised. Afterwards, the West Tigers player went out with his girlfriend for a few drinks, but was reported to not have been drunk. They later went to a Sydney McDonald’s store.
Roger Waters, best known as a member of British band Pink Floyd, released the statement below on February 25 — explaining his decision to support the international “boycott, divestment and sanctions” campaign targeting Israel. It is reprinted from Alternativenews.org. * * * In 1980, a song I wrote, “Another Brick in the Wall Part 2”, was banned by the government of South Africa because it was being used by Black South African children to advocate their right to equal education. That apartheid government imposed a cultural blockade, so to speak, on certain songs — including mine.
Sequences to freedom is a book of short poems written in February by Iranian poet Ali Abdolrezaei that has been translated into English by Abol Froushan. Abdolrezaei, from Gilan province, is now a refugee living in London. Abdolrezaei said: “I never thought that one day I would write purely political poetry, but the inhuman atrocity dealt by the Iranian regime nowadays is so beyond proportion that it is politics that is writing these poems.” Below are two of the translated poems published in Sequences to Freedom. * * *

Fighting Fund

Australia’s most famous racist and one-time MP Pauline Hanson won the attention of big business media at the March 10 ballot draw for the NSW Legislative Council elections. However, more significant than Hanson, is the attempt by conservative forces to replicate the right-wing populist US Tea Party movement in Australia. This push is headed by right-wing politicians and media shock jocks, and aims to mobilise people on a populist and racist agenda. Last August, a website called the TEA Party in Australia was launched. TEA stands for Taxed Enough Already, the website says.

Letters

Libya It is good to witness the expressions of concern and empathy for the Libyans by so many people and governments around the world. The Libyan people need our support against the regimes brutality. People should be urging diplomatic, political and economic action by the international community. Even some limited military action to carry out humanitarian or peacekeeping roles under the UN control or other appropriate alliance, with suitable Arab or other independent leadership would be okay. But this should be restricted and temporary.

Resistance!

The March 8 demonstrations commemorating 100 years of International Women’s Day in Cairo, Egypt — flowing on from the inspirational revolution that toppled dictator Hosni Mubarak on February 11 — have highlighted the ongoing struggle for women’s rights around the world. One hundred years ago, more than one million people in four European countries attended the first IWD protest. It was organised in support of the right to vote and equal pay for women.
One hundred people rallied in Wollongong on March 5 in solidarity with the peoples’ uprising against Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi. The rally heard from Libyan students who spoke of the brutality of Gaddafi's regime and the need for democracy. They urged the Australian government to pressure Gaddafi to step down.