Issue 876

News

Locals from Lake Tyers, a small Aboriginal community in East Gippsland, set up a roadblock leading into their township on March 8. The action was to protest against a Victorian government-imposed administrator and call for a return to democracy in their community. The only exceptions allowed through the blockade were health service employees and school buses.
One hundred and thirty people packed out a room in the Crowne Plaza hotel to hear traditional owners and nuclear experts call for the closure of the Ranger uranium mine in the world heritage-listed Kakadu national park. Yvonne Margarula condemned the mine for its presence on land that is sacred to her people — the Mirrar people. “The promises never last,” she said. “But the problems always do.”
Transport Workers Union national secretary, Tony Sheldon, has condemned Qantas’s training of overseas strikebreakers after the company’s chief executive, Alan Joyce, admitted to the practice in media reports. Sheldon said in an April 5 media release: “They really need to come clean on who they are training, who is doing the training and why it has to be done in secret in another country? Why are they hiding it around the other side of the world?
Nine Aboriginal people have sued Herald Sun columnist Andrew Bolt in Melbourne over four articles he wrote in 2009. The court has heard the articles questioned the motives of “light” or “white-skinned” people who identified as Aboriginal. The people taking the action under the Racial Vilification Act include activist Pat Eatock, former ATSIC chairperson Geoff Clark, artist Bindi Cole, academic Larissa Behrendt, author Anita Heiss, health worker Leeanne Enoch, native title expert Graham Atkinson, academic Wayne Atkinson and lawyer Mark McMillan.
Activists from the Huon Valley Environment Centre (HVEC) and Still Wild Still Threatened returned to the Picton Valley on April 7 to launch a 10-week campaign to protest the logging of Tasmania’s old growth forests. Police broke up a similar protest in the Picton Valley on February 18, in which two HVEC protesters were arrested. HVEC’s Jenny Weber said on April 7 that the groups’ campaign is “aimed at promoting the benefits to both the community and the environment that will be delivered when native forests are given full and formal legislated protection.
Tamil National Alliance (TNA) member of the Sri Lankan parliament M. A. Sumanthiran, addressed a meeting organised by the Australian Tamil Congress on March 26. He said that even though Tamils in Sri Lanka are a nation with the right to self-determination, the formation of a separate state is not a realistic option because of the opposition of the “international community”. Article 1 of the United Nations charter speaks of the right of self-determination of peoples. However, in the 1960s the UN General Assembly put some restrictions on this right.
Transport Workers Union national secretary, Tony Sheldon, has condemned Qantas’s training of overseas strikebreakers after the company’s chief executive, Alan Joyce, admitted to the practice. Sheldon said on April 5: “They really need to come clean on who they are training, who is doing the training and why it has to be done in secret in another country? Why are they hiding it around the other side of the world? “Qantas has said they forecast a 7 per cent increase in international capacity and 8 per cent in domestic – they have the capacity to pay their workforce a decent wage.
At an insurance public forum attended by more than 150 people in Ipswich on April 5, victims of the Brisbane floods of early January shouted, sobbed and pleaded for help from elected council and federal representatives, and the head of the Insurance Council of Australia, Rob Whelan. Despite promises of insurance industry reform from assistant federal treasurer Bill Shorten, residents were angry at the lack of response from many insurance companies to their claims, 11 weeks after the floods that devastated big areas of Ipswich and Brisbane.
Residents on Camp Road, Broadmeadows, were surprised to see 300 people marching down their street on April 2, calling for an end to the mandatory detention of asylum seekers. The march ended with a rally at the Broadmeadows detention centre, known as Melbourne Immigration Transit Accommodation. About 150 young asylum seekers between the ages of 13 and 17 are held in this centre. All of them are unaccompanied: meaning that they have no families with them.
Aboriginal transgender woman Veronica (Paris) Baxter was locked in Silverwater prison on March 14, 2009. She was found hanging from a bed sheet tied to the top bunk in her cell at 6am on March 16. Supporters waged a public campaign for two years calling for an inquiry into her death. The NSW coroner held the inquiry on April 4. The inquest was slated to last two days, but it was all over by 3.30pm.

Analysis

The suicide of Mohammed Asif Atay in Curtin detention centre on March 28 was “tragic news” to Prime Minister Julia Gillard. “I’m sure all Australians hearing this news would feel very sorry,” she said on March 29. He was the sixth known refugee to die in detention in the past seven months and one of hundreds of refugees suffering under the system of mandatory detention. Refugee advocates told Green Left Weekly that self-harm happened daily at the Curtin detention centre.
Below is an extract of a letter Archbishop Desmond Tutu sent to the student leaders at UC Berkeley in March 2010 regarding Berkeley’s decision to divest from Israel. * * * I am writing to tell you that, despite what detractors may allege, you are doing the right thing. You are doing the moral thing. You are doing that which is incumbent on you as humans who believe that all people have dignity and rights, and that all those being denied their dignity and rights deserve the solidarity of their fellow human beings.
I read an article by Greg Sheridan on multiculturalism in the April 2 Weekend Australian and there are a few points that need to be said. First of all, Sheridan says he sees no future to multiculturalism. He says it is a failure and that it doesn't work in Australia. Well, I believe that we live in a world where borders are less important than ever before.
While Palestinian, Israeli and international non-violent protesters who march against Israel’s policies in the Occupied Territories are literally showered in sewage, beaten, arbitrarily arrested and sometimes killed by Israeli forces, the battle against non-violent resistance has taken its own ugly form in Australia.
Below is a letter published in March by the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network that endorses the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel. The letter was issued in response to a February 15 statement by Zionist (pro-Israel) groups that said the BDS campaign was anti-Semitic and “antithetical to freedom of speech”. * * * Because academic, cultural and commercial boycotts, divestments and sanctions of Israel: • are being called for by Palestinian civil society in response to the occupation and colonisation of their land,
If you 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. — South African anti-apartheid campaigner and Nobel Peace Laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu, 1989
A poll by Roy Morgan Research several days into the Fukushima nuclear crisis found that 61% of Australians oppose the development of nuclear power in Australia, nearly double the 34% who support it. The growth in support for nuclear power over the past five years has been totally erased — and then some. There was undoubtedly growing support for nuclear power until Fukushima, but the issue had been the subject of a great deal of hype and spin.
Despite crisis levels of overcrowding, many urban Aboriginal communities have been denied federal funding for new housing. On March 18, ABC online said town camps around Darwin were not allocated any of the $1.5 billion in upgrades planned for Aboriginal communities.
For more than a week, Rupert Murdoch’s The Australian has been on the warpath against green and left “extremists”. It began by attacking the NSW Greens for supporting the global boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israeli apartheid. The Greens are organised in independent parties in each state, but the Murdoch flagship demanded that Australian Greens leader Bob Brown bring its most left-wing branch into line.
Matthew Cassel, assistant editor of Electronic Intifada, has recently been reporting from Egypt where he witnessed first hand the revolutionary upsurge that toppled the Mubarak dictatorship and continues to reshape the region. Cassel will be speaking at the Resistance Conference May 6th - 8th, Redfern Community Centre, Sydney. For more information or to register visit: www.resistance.org.au/conference2011. Resistance activist Patrick Harrison spoke to Cassel about his experiences and the revolutionary movements in the Middle East.
Love Andrew Bolt or loathe him, you’ve got to admit the right-wing Herald Sun columnist and radio shock jock is a master of the ambush interview. Add in Liberal Party leader Tony Abbott’s slipperiness with any kind of truth — scientific, political or otherwise — and you have a media product so toxic it deserves to be trucked off for incineration by people in respirator suits. Unfortunately, that’s the product that was all over the talkback airwaves and parliamentary reports for several days at the end of March.
ITEC Employment and its related entity Community Enterprises Australia (CEA) are preparing a submission to the federal government that will argue “the pendulum has swung too far in favour of the jobseeker”, in relation to changes to the Community Development Employment Projects (CDEP) on Aboriginal communities, The Australian said on April 2. CEA is the largest CDEP provider in Australia. You could be forgiven for thinking that the pendulum swinging “too far in favour of the jobseeker” meant, perhaps, that people were finding work.

World

“There’s no reason why technologically we can’t employ nuclear energy in a safe and effective way,” United States President Barack Obama told a group gathered at a town meeting in New Orleans in October 2009. “Japan does it and France does it, and it doesn't have greenhouse gas emissions, so it would be stupid for us not to do that in a much more effective way” You might think after the nuclear meltdown in Fukushima that Obama would have a reason to back off his support of nuclear energy as a new “clean” energy alternative.
“As Palestinians were preparing for their weekend this Thursday afternoon,” ElectronicIntifada.net said on April 7, “all of a sudden barrages of Israeli artillery fire and air raids by warplanes struck several regions of the Gaza Strip”. “Five Palestinians were killed and about thirty more injured. Israeli shells struck farm land, homes, a mosque and an ambulance.” Israel has threatened to escalate its military assault on the Gaza Strip. ElectronicIntifada.net said on April 4 that more than 20 Palestinians had been killed by Israeli attacks since the start of March.
The Israeli feminist organisation Coalition of Women for Peace released an open letter to Justice Richard Goldstone on April 6. It is published below. It is in response to Goldstone’s recent statements retracting some of the findings of the United Nations-commissioned Goldstone report into Israel’s 2008-09 war on Gaza that were critical of Israel. It is abridged from Coalitionofwomen.org. * * * Dear Justice Richard Goldstone,
More than 1000 Philippine Airlines (PAL) ground staff from the Philippine Airlines Employees Association (PALEA) staged a torch-lit rally on April 1 between terminals at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport. The protest was supported by several big labour federations. The union representing flight attendants has also pledged solidarity with PALEA. When police blocked the march, workers blocked a major road for several hours. This disrupted access to the airport and lead to flights being cancelled or delayed.
We now know what Washington’s model is for the Middle East, in its most attractive guise. In answer to Egypt’s Tahrir Square uprising, they have smoking craters filled with the charred remains of rebels, conscript soldiers, civilians and other blameless people who must have seen the joy in Egypt and Tunisia and wished it for themselves. In answer to the turbulent, democratic republic, with its tumult of leftist, Nasserist, Islamist and liberal currents, they offer a prolonged civil war at best, culminating in a settlement with Muammar Gaddafi’s son Saif and his sibling.
The disgusting and heartbreaking photos published in March by the media are finally bringing the grisly truth about the war in Afghanistan to a wider public. All the PR about this war being about democracy and human rights melts into thin air with these pictures of US soldiers posing with the dead and mutilated bodies of innocent Afghan civilians. I must report that Afghans do not believe this be a story of a few rogue soldiers. We that is part and parcel of the entire military occupation.
Three former members of the left-wing student group Capitalism Research Society (CRC) were taken into police custody on March 21. Among those arrested was the group’s former president Choi Ho-hyeon. They were charged under the National Security Act, a draconian anti-communist law that was enacted in 1948 during the height of bloody right-wing suppressions of popular grassroots democratic movements. The law has been repeatedly used to crack down on political opposition and progressive movements.
Cote D’Ivoire (Ivory Coast) has been caught up in an increasingly violent conflict after the West African nation’s November 28 elections ended with the incumbent Laurent Gbagbo and his main opponent Alassane Ouattara both claiming victory. Ivory Coast is wracked by an armed conflict between the Ivory Coast army and rebel forces allied to Ouattara. Both sides have been accused of human rights abuses.
The Moro people of the Philippines’ southern Mindanao Islands have never considered themselves Filipinos. The Spanish colonisers never succeeded in subjugating the Moro sultanates. However, when Spain ceded the Philippines to the US in 1898, the Moro homeland, Bangsamoro, was included. In the ensuing war, which lasted until 1913, 20,000 Moros — fighters and civilians — were killed.
The Egyptian army has violently cracked down on pro-democracy protesters in Cairo’s Tahrir Square on the night of April 8, BBC.co.uk said the next day. Medical sources said two protesters were killed and the health ministry said 71 were hurt. Protesters were demanding greater changes from the interim government that took over after dictator Hosni Mubarak was overthrown in February, including demands that Mubarak be made to stand trial. Protesters re-occupied Tahrir Square on April 9, BBC.co.uk said.
BP has asked United States regulators for permission to resume drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, the New York Times said on April 3. The request comes less than a year after the devastating oil spill in the gulf, caused by an explosion in BP’s Deepwater Horizon rig in which 11 workers died. The NYT said: “BP is seeking permission to continue drilling at 10 existing deepwater production and development wells in the region in July in exchange for adhering to stricter safety and supervisory rules, said one of the officials.
The Venezuelan government will begin a process of recovering 300,000 hectares of land during April that have been in the hands of an unnamed English company, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said in an interview during his trip to Uruguay. Chavez said the process of taking back or “recovering” land had been fundamental to the revolutionary process led by his government. He said this especially so that “worker control” could “prevent companies from exploiting the land and workers, and getting rich and taking the earnings overseas”.

Culture

The Potential Wedding Album www.thepotentialweddingalbum.org In the excellent film Milk Sean Penn, as gay rights campaigner Harvey Milk, said: “Two to one, they support us, two to one when they know one of us.” The ethicist Peter Singer has noted that while most people would have no qualms about ruining an expensive pair of shoes wading into a lake to save a drowning child, most people don’t donate the value of their shoes to save the life of a child in another country.
This was inspired by the “Collateral Murder” video released in April 2010 by WikiLeaks. * * * 1. Oh, come all you American teenagers Put away your video games And get some real shoot em-up-action Wasting folks with weird-sounding names Now how would you like to bear true faith By joining an Apache crew In trouble spots around the world There’s killing work to do Light them up Keep shooting Look at all Those dead bastards 2. Well, there’s so many features to tell you about Like the Boeing M230 chain gun With that Arab-slaying motherfucker
When Australian Football League player Nathan Lovett-Murray was growing up, his favourite record was “Black Boy” by Coloured Stone. “Black boy,” goes the song, “black boy/The colour of your skin is your pride and joy/Black boy/Black boy/Your life is not destroyed.” Lovett-Murray still marvels at its power. “So many Indigenous people could relate to that song and just feel proud about being an Indigenous person when they heard it,” he tells Green Left Weekly.

Fighting Fund

The Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu is reputed to have said: “If you do not change direction, you may end up where you are heading.” This sums up the problem we face from human-caused climate change. A “climate scoreboard” published by Climateinteractive.org calculates the impact of the current commitments by the world’s governments to cut carbon emissions. It estimates that if the promised emissions cuts are carried out in full, the earth would still warm by about 4°C by 2100 — far above the maximum warming of 1.5°C needed to maintain a safe planet.

General

Michael Arnold was born in country Victoria. He became politically active in Perth when he was 15. This was when he joined the socialist youth organisation Resistance and the Democratic Socialist Party. When he was in his twenties, Arnold became active in the Harm Reduction Movement. He set up Rave Safe in Melbourne in the 1990s and produced a magazine called Flying Frequencies for the Harm Reduction Movement. Arnold was also active in community radio, producing a program for Harm Reduction on 3CR Community Radio, and being a DJ on PBS.

Letters

The Australian’s pro Israel bias The letter below was sent to The Australian on March 8. How apt that The Australian (7/4/2011) has front page photos of placards demanding ‘Stop the massacre in Gaza’ and ‘Stop killing children’ and then Israel launched a new massacre (Operation Scorching Summer) of Palestinians in Gaza the next morning.