Issue 875

Australia

About 2000 people rallied in Melbourne on March 26 to support equal marriage rights.

Speakers included Sally Goeldner from Trans Victoria, comedian Joel Creasey and James Campbell from the Melbourne-based gay and lesbian underage group and Minus-18.

Protesters marched to the Marriage Registry at Treasury Place.

For more information on the campaign, visit www.equallove.info

About 8000 people demonstrated for urgent action on climate change in Sydney's Belmore Park on April 2 in a powerful counter-mobilisation to a 2000-strong climate deniers rally led by right-wing radio shock jocks Alan Jones and Chris Smith from Radio 2GB held in Hyde Park.

The climate deniers rally was a repeat of a similar-sized rally held in Canberra a week earlier and is part of an attempt to build a right-wing populist Tea Party-style movement as exists in the US.

The climate change activists rally was organised by the internet-based group GetUp!

Residents of Queensland’s Western Downs and their supporters have witnessed arrests, police harassment and some exciting victories over the past week in their fight to prevent coal seam gas expansion on the Tara estate, near Chinchilla.

During a protest organised by Lock the Gate Alliance on March 29 Friends of the Earth campaigner and Queensland Greens co-founder Drew Hutton was arrested and charged with impeding the construction of a coal seam gas pipeline.

Mr Hutton refused bail conditions and faced 30 days prison, but was soon released on unconditional bail.

On March 29, pro-choice protestors gave Melbourne City Council (MCC) a clear message: don’t mess with our free speech rights!

Councillor Cathy Oke tabled a bulky tome — nearly 600 statements signed by individuals and organisations, telling the council to uphold the right to protest and stop using local laws against pro-choicers defending the Fertility Control Clinic in East Melbourne against anti-abortion harassment.

From the public gallery, placards demanding “Make Melbourne a free speech city!” underscored the message.

The Australian government recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the government of Afghanistan and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

It permitted the forcible deportation of Afghan refugees — including children separated from their families — from Australia back to Afghanistan.

Refugee advocates have sharply criticised the MOU. They say it does not guarantee the safety of returned asylum seekers and point out that the Afghanistan puppet government is illegitimate and corrupt.

More than 100 people rallied outside the South Australian Parliament on March 25 in solidarity with the people of the Middle East.

The focus of the rally was the attacks on protesters by snipers in Yemen, the invasion of Bahrain by Saudi troops and the ongoing civil war and bombing in Libya.

People from various Middle Eastern communities waved flags and placards demanding an end to the military crackdowns.

More than 200 people took to Adelaide’s streets on March 26 in the first March for Survival.

Organised by the Climate Emergency Action Network (CLEAN) the protest called on people to support victims of the recent floods, cyclones and bushfires and to demand serious emission cuts (60% of 1990 levels by 2020) and 100% renewable energy by 2020.

CLEAN’s John Rice introduced the rally. “For me the enduring image of these disasters is that of the Lockyer Valley and the foundation slab of a house which was swept away, taking the entire family inside,” he said.

Former ABC journalist Jeff McMullen attacked the federal government’s intervention into Northern Territory Aboriginal communities as racist and harmful in a March 21 letter to indigenous affairs minister Jenny Macklin.

McMullen said Macklin had “not responded to the calls by an overwhelming majority of the Aboriginal leaders in … occupied communities to end the Intervention now”.

McMullen wrote in response to a letter Macklin sent him on March 2 that defended the intervention.

“Peace is not just the absence of violence; but the presence of justice,” Samah Sabawi, Palestinian-Australian writer, and co-author of Journey to Peace In Palestine, told an audience of about 80 people at the University of Queensland on March 31.

She was commenting after a showing of Michael Weatherhead’s excellent documentary Return to Gaza. The documentary is based on the journey of her brother, Fetah Sabawi, who returned to Gaza with his wife and child in 2006 to visit family members and set up a music school for young Palestinian refugees.

About 30 people attended a rally in King George Square on April 1 to call on Western powers to stop the bombing of Libya. Adrian Skerritt, from the Stop the War Collective, told the rally: “The main reason for intervention by the US and its allies in Libya is that the West cannot handle being sidelined by the popular revolutions which have swept the Arab world in recent months.

“Yet, the US has acted against Gaddafi because he is isolated in the region. They haven't intervened in Yemen or Bahrain, where the repression is just as severe, because they are client states of Saudi Arabia.

The Australian Nursing Federation (ANF) issued a statement on March 29 calling for the immediate release of five West Papuan nurses who have been arrested and jailed by the Indonesian government for taking part in industrial action.

Eight nurses and midwives were detained on March 20 by the criminal investigation unit of the Papuan police in Jayapura, ANF acting federal secretary Yvonne Chaperon said. Five remain in jail.

World

The bad news for Ohio’s 350,000 public workers is that a new law bans them from striking — the good news is at least they will no longer risk jail for doing so.

A March 30 Reuters article said: “Ohio’s legislature on Wednesday passed a Republican measure to curb the collective bargaining rights of about 350,000 state employees, and Governor John Kasich said he will sign it into law.”

The new law will ban unions from striking in support of public workers and limit workers’ ability to collectively bargain.

Secret US diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks on March 15 show that former US ambassador to Nepal, James Moriarty, actively sought to destabilise Nepal’s peace process in order to prevent a Maoist rise to power.

The Maoist-led People’s Liberation Army waged a decade-long “people’s war” against Nepal’s centuries-old feudal monarchy. A people’s uprising in 2006 brought the monarchy down, opening the way for an elected constituent assembly in 2008.

A popular rebellion is shaking the regime of Syrian ruler Bashar al-Assad — and highlighting the hypocrisy of US policy in the region.

The protests of recent weeks spread further following Friday prayers on March 25. The Syrian regime responded with vicious repression that left at least 61 people dead, and with a belated promise of reform.

US coal giant Drummond paid right-wing paramilitaries accused of murder and human rights abuses for protection of its Colombian operations, Colombiareports.com said on March 16.

The article said the information was revealed in secret diplomatic cables sent between 2006-2010 released by WikiLeaks to the Colombian paper El Espectador,

The US-NATO intervention in Libya, with United Nations Security Council cover, is part of an orchestrated response to show support for the movement against one dictator in particular.

In doing so, it aims to bring the Arab rebellions to an end by asserting Western control, confiscating their impetus and spontaneity and trying to restore the status quo.

It is absurd to think that the reasons for bombing Tripoli or for the French airforce’s “turkey shoot” (the bombing of fleeing Libyan soldiers) outside Benghazi are designed to protect civilians.

Ireland’s new Fine Gael (FG)-Labour Party (LP) coalition government has set out an agenda of continuing the savage austerity and spending cuts of the Fianna Fail (FF)-Greens coalition ii has replaced.

The cuts are enforced by the International Monetary Fund-European Union bailout of the Irish government.

In the February 26 elections, FF and the Greens were thrashed in a backlash against the bail-out and the anti-worker austerity that goes with it. The Greens failed to win a seat in the Dail (Irish parliament) and FF slumped from 77 seats to 20.

The pro-democracy movement in Bahrain has been severely weakened by the brutal wave of repression that began on March 15.

Attempts to reignite pro-democracy protests have been broken up by government security forces and strikes have been called off.

Troops from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates entered Bahrain on March 14 to help the Bahraini government “restore order” by attacking thousands of pro-democracy protesters.

Hundreds of thousands of protesters rallied across Yemen on April 1 in the largest mobilisation so far calling for the removal of President Ali Abdulla Saleh, Associated Press said that day.
Protests took place in at least 14 provinces.

Saleh’s unwillingness to stand down has claimed m ore lives. Protesters have blamed Saleh for an explosion in an ammunition factory that killed about 150 people on March 28.

Protesters said Saleh’s government allowed the factory to be overrun by supposed al-Qaeda members who left the factory open for looters, Voanews.com said on March 30.

Israeli forces have sealed the occupied West Bank village of Beit Ommar since March 24 for an indefinite time.

Soldiers continue to arrest young Palestinian residents and hold them in Israeli detention centres.

In a move akin to the four-year-long economic blockade against the Gaza Strip, Israeli soldiers have closed the six entrances to the village of 17,000 inhabitants.

It has imposed a widespread prohibition policy against all major imports and exports from the village. This includes gasoline, produce, raw industrial materials and basic supplies.

Leonard Weinglass, a leading left-wing lawyer in the United States with an international perspective, died in the early evening on March 23, 2011.

Len, who died on his 78th birthday, fell ill in late January while in Cuba. In the first days of February, exploratory surgery at Montefiore Hospital discovered that he had inoperable cancer of the pancreas.

Lenny, a 1958 graduate of Yale Law School, became active in the US left lawyers’ organisation, the National Lawyers Guild, in the course of the civil rights movements of the 1960s.

The largest anti-nuclear protests in German history were held on March 26. About 250,000 people marched in Germany’s four largest cities.

Under the slogan “Fukushima Warns: Pull the Plug on all Nuclear Power Plants”, more than 120,000 took to the streets of Berlin, 50,000 in Hamburg, 40,000 in Koeln and upward of 40,000 marched in Muenchen.

In state elections held the next day, the German Greens won a historic victory in Baden-Wuerttemberg. They will form Germany’s first-ever Green-led government.

They also tripled their vote in elections in Rheinland-Pfalz.

About 500,000 people marched in London on March 26 against the British government’s program of huge spending cuts.

Called by the Trade Union Congress (TUC), the march drew people from every part of Britain — a splendid cross section of the country with numbers dominated by the working class.

Thousands also marched in Belfast against the spending cuts. The Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU) said 6000 people took part in the rally in front of City Hall.

The hypocrisy, double standards and selectivity displayed in the Western military action in Libya defy enumeration.

In Yemen and Bahrain, Western-backed regimes are violently repressing the democracy movement the West claims to back in Libya.

In Iraq, a US-sponsored regime protected by 47,000 US troops is trying to do the same —shooting demonstrators, detaining thousands and subjecting many to torture.

Economists warned on March 31 that the British government’s public-sector cuts will leave a shortfall of more than half a million jobs.

The New Economics Foundation (NEF) also warned that nowhere in the budget or “plan for growth“ was there “any evidence that the business tax cuts, regulatory tweaks and relatively minor changes to public-sector investment that are promised will deliver major economic transformation”.

Trade Union Congress general secretary Brendan Barber said the findings showed that “in recent years, the market has become the master, not the servant, of society”.

Analysis

The online journal Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal is hosting a series of commentaries from left-wing groups and commentators from around the world on the crucial question of whether or not to support the US-NATO military intervention in Libya.

Rob Stary, an Australian lawyer representing WikiLeaks editor-in-chief Julian Assange, spoke to the WikiLeaks Australian Citizens Alliance on February 4.

In the interview below, Stary discusses the persecution of WikiLeaks and the failure of the Australian government to uphold Assange’s rights.

If the last federal election promised the beginnings of a break from the two-parties-for-capitalism electoral system that has plagued Australian politics for the last century, the March 26 NSW election seems to be a lurch in the other direction.

The Liberal-National Coalition won dominance of the Legislative Assembly and (with small right-wing parties) control of the Legislative Council because a large number of working-class voters punished the Labor party with a 13.5% swing in primary votes.

A vicious smear campaign against the Greens candidate for Marrickville Fiona Byrne in the NSW state election reveals just how worried the powers-that-be are about the prospect of the NSW Greens winning a lower house seat.

This smear campaign focused almost exclusively on the Greens pro-Palestine stand, in particular their support (along with ALP councillors) for Marrickville council’s decision to sign on to the global boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel.

Things haven’t been going well for the Israeli occupation over the past few years. Numerous Israeli atrocities, such as the invasion and blockade of Gaza and the killings of civilians on the aid flotilla, have made many people aware of the truly oppressive situation facing the occupied Palestinians.

Lately, Israel has hardened its repression against the Palestinians even further in response to the popular revolts breaking out in the surrounding Arab countries and the loss of its ally, the Mubarak regime in Egypt.

Manufacturer BlueScope Steel has been at the forefront of the campaign against the carbon price proposed by Labor and the Greens.

Chief Executive Paul O'Malley has argued it could spell “the end of steel manufacturing in Australia”; something the Opposition Leader Tony Abbott agreed with during a recent tour of BlueScope's steelworks in Port Kembla.

Both have said that a price on carbon would threaten the company's profitability and therefore force operations offshore in search of cheaper labour.

Five revolutions in postwar Latin America have seen illiteracy as a neocolonial battleground.

Salvador Allende’s Chile — birthplace of How to Read Donald Duck, an iconic attack on cultural imperialism — reduced illiteracy from 15.2% to 6.3% in under two years (1971-73), triple the rate of any regime before or since.

In Nicaragua, the Sandinistas slashed the Somoza dictatorship legacy of 50% illiteracy to just 13% before the end of its first full year in power (1980), catapulting women to cultural and political prominence in the process.

Environment Tasmania (ET), the Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) and The Wilderness Society (TWS) launched television and radio advertisements on March 30 that call for an end to logging in native forests.

The ads feature University of Tasmania biologist Peter McQuillan, who says: “We need government to implement the agreed forest solution”.

If there were an Olympics for climate amorality, Australia’s capitalists would be hauling in the medals.

Just consider this quote from Queensland coal baron Clive Palmer in the December 15 Australian: “The Galilee Basin overall has got 100 billion tonnes of thermal coal, so it’s a great reservoir for Queensland in the future, so you’d be crazy not to develop it.”

And it’s not just coal, but any greenhouse-polluting fuel that can be can be dug or drilled from the landscape or seabed. Take Australia’s natural gas industry, poised now for a vast expansion.

Writing in the aftermath of the several high profile WikiLeaks publications including the Collateral Murder video and the Afghanistan and Iraq War Logs, News Corporation journalist Brad Norington set out on a crusade against online media, and more specifically, against WikiLeaks and its founder Julian Assange.

At the Bali Process summit held on March 30, immigration minister Chris Bowen and foreign affairs minister Kevin Rudd signed a “regional framework to prevent people smuggling” with 41 nations.

But they failed to bully East Timor into agreeing to an Australian detention centre on its soil.

Rudd said the agreement — ultimately intended to stop asylum seekers reaching Australia — “represents a significant win” for Australia. Bowen said it “lays a framework for further bilateral discussions” with East Timor.

Two days before a March 23 rally against the government’s proposed carbon price took place in Canberra, Liberal MP Dennis Jensen told reporters gathered outside parliament house why he opposed the policy.

He held up a piece of charcoal and dropped it to the ground. “Does anyone know what that is? Charcoal, also known as carbon,” he said. “If you notice when I let it go, it doesn't float into the air.”

Editorial

Climate change is often called the greatest environment threat facing humanity.

The threat is very real. Unless we cut carbon pollution fast, runaway climate change will worsen existing environmental and social problems, and create new ones of its own.

But it’s no longer enough to simply refer to the climate crisis. Climate change is one part of a broader ecological disaster, brought about by an economic system that relies on constant growth, endless accumulation and ever-deepening human alienation.

Letters

Modern ALP is a joke

I’m writing to comment on the interview with Andrew Ferguson in GLW #872. Was this a joke or fair dinkum?

Ferguson (and the dynasty he comes from) seems to me to represent everything that is wrong with the ALP.

Another union boss who never worked in the industry in which he was supposed to represent construction workers (three weeks or something as a stonemasons’ labourer ain’t what I call experience in everyday battling to survive).

Resistance!

For many years, competitions granting prizes have been a successful tool used by marketers to try to promote their cause or business.

However, there should be great concern when the prize up for grabs represents sexist ideas and targets women who feel inadequate about their appearance.

Last month, Sin City Nightclub on the Gold Coast promoted breast enhancement surgery “worth $10,000” as a competition prize.

Every election time, a fraction of the population turn up to a polling place, muttering under their breath, and give withering looks to the volunteers offering them “How to Vote” cards.

They wait in line to get their name marked off. With their obligations completed for another few years, they hastily scribble a “1” next to the name of whichever candidate happens to come first on the page, and, still muttering, march off home.

Culture

US progressive journalist and author Joe Bageant died on March 26. Bageant is best known for his 2007 book Deer Hunting with Jesus: Dispatches from America’s Class War, in which he writes about his home town of Winchester, Virginia.

In the book, Bageant investigated how the betrayal of poor whites by the Democrats led to many supporting the Republican Party, despite it being against their interests. He also wrote many articles and essays. His last book, published in September 2010, was Rainbows: A Redneck memoir.

See the activist calendar for details of screenings in your city.

John Pilger’s latest film, The War You Don’t See, looks at the power wielded by journalists reporting conflict. It examines the responsibility of the media in justifying and supporting the wars our governments wage.

Pilger asks: “What is the role of the media in rapacious wars like Iraq and Afghanistan and how are the crimes of war reported and justified?

“Those whose job it is to keep the record straight ought to be the voice of people, not power.”

AC4 are a hardcore punk band from Sweden who are touring Australia in April with US punk group Star Fucking Hipsters. Green Left Weekly’s Chris Peterson spoke to AC4 lead singer , also of The (International) Noise Conspiracy, who toured Australia last year.

See also:
Music can give 'voice to the voicless': Star Fucking Hipsters interview

* * *

Good politicians are few and far between, but British health secretary Andrew Lansley is among the worst.

In 2008, he was forced to apologise after saying recessions brought "good things" such as people being able to spend more time with their families.

In Britain’s parliamentary expenses scandal in 2009, he was accused of claiming for the renovation of a rural cottage, selling it, then “flipping” his second home designation to a London flat and claiming thousands of pounds for furniture. He said his claims were "within the rules".

Fighting Fund

I was having a conversation about the likely outcome of the NSW elections on Radio SkidRow, a Sydney community radio station, just days before the March 26 election.

“We know what is going to happen after [the Liberals'] Barry O’Farrell wins the election, don’t we?” I said. “He’ll wait a couple of weeks then he will announce that Labor has left the cupboard bare so they’ll have to bring in an emergency budget.