Issue 873


Nine refugees held in the Northern Immigration Detention Centre in Darwin staged a protest on top of a building in the centre’s compound on March 15 after they witnessed Serco guards assault another detainee. The refugees — who are Rohingya people, an ethnic minority in western Burma — told refugee advocate Carl O’Connor on March 16 that the protest was sparked by a physical assault on another Rohingya detainee. “One man was refused rice in the mess room,” the refugees said. “Out of frustration he broke a glass. He was then chased down and tried to escape from two Serco guards.
It was ironic, but only supporters of Palestine were clapping after a majority of Marrickville councillors decided on March 15 in favour of hiring a venue to a newly-formed local Jewish group that is hosting an Australian Rules Peace Team with connections to Israel. Independent councillor Victor Macri, who had put the motion, did not look at all happy.
The NSW Greens announced their Solar Thermal Power Plant initiative on March 13: a policy to build three baseload solar thermal power plants in NSW and create new green jobs. At the official launch of the Greens' state election campaign at Balmain Town Hall, Greens MP and lead upper house candidate David Shoebridge announced: “The Greens will work in the next parliament to deliver three solar baseload thermal power stations with heat storage to be built in the state's central West, funded by green infrastructure bonds.
About 8000 people marched on the Western Australian parliament on March 15 to demand more local jobs from the resource export boom. The Construction Forestry Mining Energy Union, Australian Manufacturing Workers Union and Maritime Union of Australia all mobilised big contingents for the protest. Manufacturing employers also supported the rally. Local workshops are sitting idle while billions of dollars of infrastructure is being imported for the mining and offshore oil and gas industries.
More than 100 people attended a March 15 public forum in Hobart Town Hall about Tasmania’s logging moratorium. The forum was organised by The Wilderness Society (TWS) and the Huon Valley Environment Centre. TWS, the Australian Conservation Foundation and Environment Tasmania signed the forests “Statement of Principles” agreement with the Forest Industries Association of Tasmania, the Construction Forestry Mining Energy Union and Timber Communities Australia on October 14 last year. The groups have proclaimed the agreement as the beginning of the end of forest conflict in Tasmania.
About 100 protesters gathered in Brisbane Square on March 18 to protest the repression of pro-democracy protesters in the Gulf nation of Bahrain. Rallygoers chanted “Freedom for Bahrain! Stop the Saudi Arabian invasion. Yunes Ali, a representative of the Bahraini community in Brisbane, welcomed the support from all who attended the rally, and declared that the democracy movement in Bahrain could not be divided into religious categories. “No Shiites, no Sunnis. Only Bahrain,” he said.
"We all knew that this was going to happen, but now many people are going to be saddled with this gigantic debt," David White, president of Community Action for Sustainable Transport (CART) told Green Left Weekly on March 11. He was commenting on the move to place the Clem7, Brisbane’s first and only cross-river road tunnel, into financial administration the previous week.
Beyond Zero Emissions (BZE) launched its award-winning Zero Carbon Australia 2020 Stationary Energy Plan to a packed meeting at Perth Town Hall on March 14. BZE executive director Matthew Wright outlined the Western Australian aspects of the plan, which was developed to show how Australia could reduce its stationary energy greenhouse gas emissions to zero by 2020, using a mix of commercially available renewable energy sources, primarily concentrating solar thermal and wind.
Crime and Misconduct Comission (CMC) chair Martin Moynihan said on March 15 that the anti-corruption watchdog would take no further action against police accused of covering-up the death in custody of Palm Island Aboriginal man Mulrunji Doomadgee in November 2004. In response, Aboriginal community leader Sam Watson said: “The Queensland police service have blood on their hands. This result means that the CMC [Crime and Misconduct Commission] has blood on its hands too.”
On March 13, more than 100 people attended the first organising meeting of Stop CSG Illawarra, a residents’ group campaigning for a moratorium on coal seam gas mining (CSG). Concerned locals decided to establish the group a week earlier at a screening of Gasland, an Oscar-nominated film about coal seam gas mining in the United States. Fifteen CSG wells were recently approved for development in the northern Illawarra region under Part 3A of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act.
Late on March 12, a group of drunken men yelling abuse and threats of physical violence entered the site of the Aboriginal occupation of the planned Brighton Bypass in Tasmania. Trudy Maluga from the Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre described it as a “Ku Klux Klan-type” incident, the Hobart Mercury reported on March 17. “A group of Aborigines has been harassed and racially abused by a large group of drunken men and youths at the Kutalayna camp at Brighton,” Maluga said.
More than 100 protesters joined a March 14 blockade of the Queensland Gas Corporation (QGC) gasworks on the QGC-owned property “Kenya” near Tara, 300 kilometres west of Brisbane. The Kenya blockade, which received coverage on all major news networks, covered a number of entrances to the vast property. It was the first widely-publicised action of civil disobedience in the national “Lock The Gate” campaign. The “Lock The Gate” campaign — an alliance of farmers, landholders and environmentalists — is demanding a moratorium on coal seam gas (CSG) mining. See also:
Parramatta Climate Action Network hosted a presentation by Beyond Zero Emissions (BZE) at Parramatta Town Hall on March 14. About 30 people attended the forum. The presentation summarised the “Zero Carbon Australia 2020” stationary energy report, which details how Australia can transition to 100% renewable energy by 2020. In contrast to Australia, which has excellent renewable resources but is dominated by fossil fuel energy, Spain already has several large-scale solar thermal energy plants that provide baseload power.
Thousands of people packed into Sydney’s Town Hall on March 16 to hear journalist John Pilger, independent MP Andrew Wilkie and Julian Burnside QC speak out in support of WikiLeaks and its editor-in-chief Julian Assange. Assange fears he may be extradited to the US and face Guantanamo Bay-style incarceration for publishing leaked US embassy cables. Sydney Peace Foundation chairperson Mary Kostakidis presented the forum. She asked the audience to send a message to politicians in Canberra saying, “Hillary Clinton says WikiLeaks is a danger to the world … what do all of you think?”


While I agree with most of the sentiments expressed in Peter Boyle’s article on Libya in GLW #872, I think the Left must always be flexible and practical. Sometimes the progressive movement has to unite with people and governments we don’t often agree with out of necessity and momentarily shared aims, such as in World War Two and East Timor.
How have Australian scientists handled the difficult task of keeping us informed about the unfolding nuclear disaster in Japan? Only a few Australian scientists have featured repeatedly in the media. The most prominent have been Professor Aidan Byrne from the Australian National University, RMIT Chancellor Dr Ziggy Switkowski and Professor Barry Brook from the University of Adelaide. See also: Australia's role in Japan's nuclear fiasco
In a significant break through, a rank-and-file ticket — Members Voice (MV) — won the presidency in the NSW Rail Tram and Bus Union (RTBU) elections in February. Members Voice stood on a clear platform of opposition to privatisation. This was the first challenge to the ALP-controlled leadership since the 1980s. Green Left Weekly’s John Coleman spoke to incoming president Tony Clear about his vision for the union. Why did you decide to run in the elections?
There's every likelihood that radioactive by-products of Australian uranium have spewed into the atmosphere from the nuclear reactor plant at Fukushima in Japan. BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto export uranium from Australia to Japanese nuclear company TEPCO from the Olympic Dam and Ranger mines. Despite being a major uranium supplier to Japan, Australia has turned a blind eye to serious, protracted problems with Japan's nuclear industry. It is time for a more responsible approach.
The Socialist Alliance and the Communist Party of Australia have released the following joint statement of left organisations and individuals about the March 26 NSW elections. * * * The NSW Labor Party is facing a trouncing in the March 26 elections because of the problems that have arisen from the ALP’s corporate profits-first, "economic rationalist" agenda. In the process, it has carried out a privatisation spree, most recently selling off our state's retail electricity assets for next to nothing.
Pip Hinman, the Socialist Alliance candidate for the NSW seat of Marrickville, spoke at a March 14 election forum at St Peters Town Hall organised by Climate Action Newtown and Sydney Residents Against Coal Seam Gas. Hinman’s responses to the three questions put to her at the meeting appear below. * * * Will your party commit to not building any more coal or gas fired power stations in NSW?
Having now come across several leaflets, statements and interviews arguing that the NSW Greens have put former NSW Construction Forestry Mining Energy secretary Andrew Ferguson’s election at risk on March 26 and urging people to therefore vote 1 ALP, I feel compelled to write the following. Many people know Andrew as a committed campaigner for just causes. However, if Andrew is not elected on March 26, the blame will lie with the current right-wing, anti-worker ALP government. Worse, it will be Labor’s fault that after 16 years the Liberals could return to government.
The ability of real politics to focus debate is impressive. The climate movement has long debated what policy mechanisms can best combat climate change. Various market based mechanisms, emission trading schemes, regulation and direct government investment have been proposed. The answer is urgently needed. We know there is already too much carbon in the atmosphere to ensure a safe climate. What we do in the next 10 years is crucial. Heading down the wrong track for a couple of years is time wasted.
In the midst of widespread anger at the on-going privatisation agenda, blatant corruption and developer connections of the New South Wales Labor government, the Liberal/National Coalition appears set to romp home in the March 26 NSW elections. With a Coalition government likely to extend the privatisation agenda even further, including massive cuts to the public sector and public services, the NSW Greens’ have come under fire for failing to direct their preferences to Labor.
The argument for a carbon tax in Australia boils down to two key points. The first is that a carbon tax puts a price on pollution. Pollution has been officially free for industry up until now. The public purse pays for the environmental damage industry causes. Finally, big mining and other big polluters are being held accountable for some of their waste. It is a first step towards bringing down emissions. See also: Carbon price could delay real climate action
The article below is based on a speech by veteran feminist activist Eva Cox to the March 12 Sydney International Women’s Day protest. * * * I wore my 1973 T-shirt to the march today to remind myself of what we were hoping to do. It was printed by Canberra Women’s Liberation for the women who were short-listed for the first ever Prime Ministerial Women’s Adviser’s job with Gough Whitlam. It has the clenched fist women’s symbol on the front and the word superwoman on the back.
“We have intelligence that your government has been exchanging information with foreign powers about Australian citizens working for WikiLeaks,” Julian Assange told Prime Minister Julia Gillard in his video question as part of ABC's Q&A on March 14. Assange's question came after Gillard had said: “I can respect whistleblowing if your motivation is to right wrong.” But she said she did not see any “moral purpose ... at the centre of WikiLeaks”. Gillard said she didn't have a “great deal of respect” for Assange and described his motivation as “sort of anarchic”.
Through the eyes of many modern women, it seems difficult to comprehend that not so many decades ago women all around the Western world were fighting for the basic rights and freedoms they so rightly deserved. Amid an ongoing struggle, laws began to change and social ideals began to alter. A new sense of empowerment quickly emerged as women entered the workforce and marked their places in the political arena. Had gender equality finally been won? Or did certain stereotypes of women remain beneath the surface, waiting to be shaped by the norms of modern society and popular culture?
About 300 refugees at the maximum security Red Compound in Christmas Island’s detention centre were fired on with tear gas and modified shotgun rounds during protests over the weekend of March 12-13. One man was hospitalised with a broken leg. The incident prompted outrage from refugee advocates over the government’s use of force against people seeking Australia’s protection. See also: Refugee uprising caused by inhumane treatment
After waiting many months for a decision regarding their visas, several asylum seekers held on Christmas Island received rejection letters on March 16 from the Department of Immigration and Citizenship. In the early hours of the next day, between 50 and 150 asylum seekers broke through iron gates and escaped the detention centre. Though the private Serco guards immediately tried to catch the escaped detainees, they were largely unsuccessful.
Socialist Alliance candidate for the NSW seat of Parramatta Duncan Roden was born in Fiji and grew up in Sydney's west. He is a member of the socialist youth organisation Resistance and is an activist with the Parramatta Climate Action Network and Westies Welcome Refugees. Roden spoke to Tamil Aruvi about his views on the Tamil people’s struggle for self-determination. The interview is republished below. *** What do you know about Sri Lanka's treatment of Tamil people?


As the United States and Britain look for an excuse to invade another oil-rich Arab country, the hypocrisy is familiar. Libyan leader Colonel Muammar Gaddafi is “delusional” and “blood-drenched”, while the authors of an invasion that killed a million Iraqis, who have kidnapped and tortured in our name, are entirely sane, never blood-drenched and once again the arbiters of “stability”. But something has changed. Reality is no longer what the powerful say it is. Of all the spectacular revolts across the world, the most exciting is the insurrection of knowledge sparked by WikiLeaks.
Emboldened by the successes of Muammar Gaddafi’s forces in Libya, a number of Arab regimes have escalated crackdowns on pro-democracy protests while the world’s media was focused on the earthquake disaster in Japan. With the exceptions of Libya and Iran, the governments brutally cracking down on their citizens have received minimal criticism from the West. Calls for “restraint on both sides” obscure the fact that it is governments armed with weapons made in the West ruthlessly attacking mostly unarmed people.
Opinion polls are predicting that the likely winner of the April 10 Peruvian presidential election will be Alejandro Toledo. The candidate of Possible Peru, Toledo was the neoliberal president from 2001-06. After the narrow victory of the moderate left candidate Susana Villaran from Social Force in the Lima mayoral elections last year, it was predicted that the left’s prospects might improve nationally. So far this has failed to materialise, owing partly to a redoubled effort by the elite and its foreign backers to promote Toledo.
About 2000 mainly young Palestinians rallied in Gaza City on March 14. Waving Palestinian flags, they called on Palestinian factions Hamas and Fatah to end their divisions, for democratic elections for the Palestinian Authority (PA), and for the end to Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and siege on Gaza. Thousands more marching across Gaza the next day and 8000 people protested in Ramallah in the West Bank for the same demands.
Progressive Indonesian website Berdikari Online said in a March 14 editorial that the recent US diplomatic cables published by WikiLeaks exposing the corruption of the Indonesian government confirmed what most Indonesians already knew. However, it said the leaks have further delegitimised the government of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. In his two terms of government, the editorial said, Yudhoyono has imposed neoliberal policies and acted as a puppet of US imperialism.
Legal action was launched on March 16 against Wisconsin’s Republican lawmakers in an attempt to repeal the anti-union bill that was signed into law on March 11. The law bans collective bargaining for most public sector workers in Wisconsin. Associated Press reported on March 16 that a legal challenge was mounted by Dane County district attorney Ismael Ozanne. AP said: “Democrats in the Wisconsin Assembly had alleged that Republican leaders did not give enough public notice that a committee planned to meet to amend the bill.”
Facing public anger and concern over the nuclear meltdown unfolding in Japan, German Chancellor Angela Merkel announced temporary shutdown of several nuclear reactors. On March 12, more than 60,000 anti-nuclear protesters in the south-western state of Baden-Wuerttemberg formed a 45 kilometre human chain from Stuttgart to the Neckarwestheim 1 nuclear plant. Smaller protests took place in more than 450 towns and cities across Germany, anti-nuclear organisation Irradiated said. More protests are planned for March 26.
“Pakistan has demanded an apology and explanation from the United States over a drone strike in a tribal region, which officials said killed 35 people,” said on March 18. It said it was the seventh US drone strike in nine days. The article said it was the most lethal drone strike North Waziristan region since the US military escalated its bombing of Pakistani areas near the Afghan border in 2008. A Pakistani foreign ministry spokesperson Tehmina Janjua said: “The government of Pakistan strongly condemns the drone strike which has resulted in a large number of casualties …
The standard of living for the people of Greece has dropped dramatically since the signing of the first “memorandum” — the agreement signed by the Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) government with the IMF and European Union (EU) representatives last May. The agreement has meant — among other things — unprecedented salary cuts, a rise in the allowed number of dismissals and a reduction in termination pay, and a cut in the minimum wage for those entering the workforce.
On March 17, the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) “effectively authorized the use of force in Libya”, the UN News Center said that day. “Acting under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, which provides for the use of force if needed,” the report said, “the Council adopted a resolution by 10 votes to zero, with five abstentions, authorizing Member States ‘to take all necessary measures … to protect civilians and civilian populated areas under threat of attack in the Libyan Arab Jamhariya, including Benghazi, while excluding an occupation force.’”
Six activists arrested in Harare, along with 39 others, were finally granted bail on March 16 after a month in jail. The activists were arrested for attending a video screening of footage from the people’s uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia. However, the six need to raise US$12,000 to pay their bail — far more than they can afford. An appeal is being launched internationally to raise the funds needed to pay the activists’ bail (see below for details). The bail conditions require the six to surrender passports and travelling documents. They must report three times a week to the police.
The government of Bahrain unleashed a brutal crackdown and invited in foreign troops on March 14 in an attempt to end pro-democracy protests that have lasted for more than a month. One thousand troops from Saudi Arabia and 500 police from the United Arab Emirates have entered Bahrain, ABC’s Lateline said on March 15. The Bahraini government declared a three-month long “state of emergency” on March 15, the Washington Post said that day. A government statement said that “the nation’s armed forces chief is authorised to take all measures to stamp out protests”.
“Ridiculous, counterproductive and stupid” is how one US official described the treatment of alleged WikiLeaks whistleblower Bradley Manning. Manning, a private in the US army, has been held in solitary confinement for nine months at Quantico Marine Corps Brig while awaiting a pre-trial hearing. Breaking government ranks, spokesperson for the US State Department PJ Crowley criticized on March 10 the reported mistreatment of Manning. This mistreatment has included Manning being forced to strip and remain naked in his cell.
After ousting former President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and his supporters from office, the Tunisians have again hit the streets — this time, to demonstrate against the visit of US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. About 300 people demonstrated at Tunis’ central Avenue Bourguiba against her visit on March 16, Reuters said. The next day, Clinton met with President Foued Mebazaa and Prime Minister Beji Caid Essebsi. About 100 people protested, in the face of dozens of riot police, two military helicopters and a water cannon, Al Jazeera said.
Western Sahara is the last country in Africa awaiting decolonisation. Invaded by Spain in the late 19th century, mass mobilisations in the early 1970s heralded the birth of the modern independence movement. In 1973, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Saguia el-Hamra and Rio de Oro (Polisario Front) was established to wage an armed independence struggle. By 1975, Polisario had fought Spain to a standstill. Rather than grant independence, Spain made an agreement with neighbouring countries Morocco and Mauritania to occupy Western Sahara.


Australian tour Star Fucking Hipsters w/ AC4 April 7-14, Star Fucking Hipsters are a New York-based punk band. It was formed in 2005 by members from other punk acts, including Leftover Crack, Ensign and The Ergs! The band’s third album, From the Dumpster to the Grave, is due for release this year.
Wilhelm Furtwaengler — The Great EMI Recordings 21 CD set, EMI Furtwaengler the Legend Three CD set, EMI George Whitbread, a long-deceased left identity in Perth who once led a printer’s strike at The West Australian, was reputedly fond of saying that “Beethoven gives you strength”. Nor was “Whitty” (as he was called) alone in his sentiments. After World War II, many on the left — builders, grocers, teachers, homemakers — took an active interest in classical music.
I’ve never really bought the idea that 17-year-old Canadian-born pop star Justin Bieber is just some harmless, happy-go-lucky teen heart-throb. Anyone who saw the near-riot he inspired in Liverpool can attest to this. His most recent comments about abortion in an interview published by Rolling Stone on February 16, however, crosses a whole new line. “I really don’t believe in abortion,” Bieber told the music magazine. “It's like killing a baby?”


Liberal leader Tony Abbott is a climate change denier. He told a recent meeting in Perth that he still doubted the science of climate change and said: “Whether carbon dioxide is quite the environmental villain that some people make it out to be is not yet proven.” His party’s campaign against the carbon price deal struck between the Labor government, the Greens and independent MPs has one central aim: to undermine public support for strong government action to tackle climate change.

Fighting Fund

I am sure we all shared similar reactions to last week’s earthquake-tsunami tragedy in Japan. First, we blinked at reports of a big earthquake. Perhaps for a moment our response was dulled —worn down by the string of recent disasters: the Christchurch earthquake, the Queensland floods and cyclones. Anyway, this was Japan, a rich country and probably the most earthquake-prepared nation in the world.


Relations of production I agree completely with the article “How Socialism can be Won” (GLW #871). However, I urge Green Left Weekly readers not to forget the source of the socialist movement. This is the ideas formulated by Karl Marx and Frederick Engels and set out in The Communist Manifesto and many other works. There have been many attacks on Marxism over the years, a lot of them unfortunately coming from the political left. It has been suggested for instance that the computer has made Marxism obsolete.


Resistance supports the fight for equal marriage rights for Lesbian, Gay Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex and Queer (LGBTIQ) people. Resistance believes that the capitalist system has a vested interest in preventing people from uniting, and in continuing to repress queers. This oppression takes many forms, and includes laws that discriminate against LGBTIQ people. It is incredible that queer people in Australia still do not have the right to get married. This injustice has broad consequences for the whole LGBTIQ community.