Issue 877

News

Forty activists travelled more than 30 hours on the road from Perth and arrived at the gates of the Curtin detention centre on Saturday April 23. We were greeted with legalistic warnings and numerous lies from the Serco guards, who imposed a roadblock outside the centre. More significantly, we have heard from detainees inside the centre that Serco guards have lied to them as well. Detainees had been told that the convergence bus has turned around and that activists no longer planned to visit.
About 200 people protested outside Victorian government offices on April 11 against a proposed new gas-fired power station in Victoria. Five protesters locked themselves to a stepladder inside the building. The company HRL is planning to build its power station in Victoria, and the state and federal governments have committed $150 million towards it. The rally came at the end of the National Grassroots Climate Summit in Melbourne. The protest called for funding to be put toward renewable energy instead.
Workers from the Australian Services Union (ASU) and the Australian Nurses Federation (ANF) stopped work for the second time in a week to protest outside Ballarat city hall. The second protest coincided with a visit from Victorian Premier Ted Baillieu on April 15. However, Baillieu did not turn up while the workers were protesting, delaying the scheduled event for 90 minutes. The ASU and the ANF have been locked in negotiations with the Ballarat City Council for more than 12 months for a new enterprise agreement and wage rises. Workers last received a pay rise in July 2009.
Australian refugee advocates have announced they will send a delegation to Dili in the second week of May to lobby against a proposal by Australian PM Julia Gillard to build a regional processing centre for refugees in East Timor. The announcement follows recent comments by East Timorese president Ramos Horta that such a centre “remains a possibility". The delegation was invited by the Timor Leste Forum of NGOs and the Student Front of Timor Leste and will meet with community groups, NGOs, unions and political parties to lobby against the Australian government's proposal.
Activists in Hobart have condemned the federal government’s plan to imprison 400 men in a new refugee detention centre in Pontville, Tasmania. Instead, the activists said, the government should use community-based processing and settlement alternatives that respect human rights. The activists said they were pleased to hear there are plans to house women and children in the community, but said the government should also treat the 400 men who will be imprisoned at Pontville in the same way.
Aboriginal rights and queer groups protested outside Glebe Coroner's Court in Sydney to demand an end to black deaths in custody and a new inquiry into the death of transgender Aboriginal woman Veronnica (Paris) Baxter on the 20th anniversary of the Royal Commission into Black Deaths in Custody, April 15. Indigenous Social Justice Association spokesperson Ray Jackson said: "There is one Aboriginal death in custody per month in Australia. The 339 recommendations of the Commission have not been properly implemented by the states — and so the deaths have not stopped."
Spokesperson for the Intervention Rollback Action Group in Alice Springs and resident of Mt Nancy Town camp, Barbara Shaw, has disputed claims by Bess Price on ABC Television's Q&A on April 10 about the “success” of the federal governments’ Northern Territory intervention. "It is outrageous that Bess Price can continue to go on national media and spread false information on the intervention while life in our town camps and communities gets harder and harder,” Shaw said on April 15.
Environmentalist Bob Irwin, father of the late “Crocodile Hunter” Steve Irwin, said he will continue to protest against the coal seam gas (CSG) industry despite his arrest at a protest on April 12. Police detained Irwin along with Queensland Greens spokesperson Libby Connors and Queensland Party MP Aiden McLindon at a protest organised by Lock the Gate at Tara, 300 kilometres west of Brisbane. They were charged with disobeying a police direction. They will appear in court in May.
“Of the 339 recommendations of the royal commission into black deaths in custody handed down in 1991, the first people to receive funding were the police and prisons,” Murri community leader Sam Watson told an April 15 rally to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the commission. “The big bucks went to the cops and the jails. Aboriginal legal services and other Indigenous organisations only got the crumbs. Instead of decreasing the rate of incarceration of Aboriginal people, that rate has increased over the past 20 years in Australia." The rally and march attracted about 100 protesters.
A dozen protesters gathered outside the April 13 annual general meeting of Energy Resources of Australia (ERA) to call for the Ranger uranium mine to be closed because a dam containing radioactive mine tailings is close to overflowing. Protesters dressed as clowns and set up a wading pool full of “nuclear waste” to highlight the risks of radioactive contamination that the “clowns” at ERA are ignoring. They said it was apt that the meeting was held at Darwin’s Sky City Casino because ERA was gambling with nuclear safety.
Twenty five people joined a demonstration organised by homeless people to protest plans by the Western Australian government to remove homeless people from the city during the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in October. on the street.” A parliamentary debate on April 7 revealed that homeless people would be directed away from CHOGM security areas in the city. Protesters were upset the government wanted to keep them out of sight during the CHOGM summit without doing anything to tackle homelessness.
The people of the Melbourne suburbs of Altona and Seaholme have begun a community revolt against train cuts to their area. The first public meeting on the issue attracted 250 people on March 3. A second meeting attracted 500 on March 29. The March 29 meeting set up the Altona Loop Action Group. The group held a protest outside the office of public transport minister Terry Mulder on April 12.
The question of refugees "is as fundamental a human rights issue as there is", former senator and refugee campaigner Andrew Bartlett told a rally of around 100 in Brisbane on April 9. The rally was organised by the Refugee Action Collective (RAC). Bartlett said refugees "are among the most vulnerable people on Earth. Forcing them to return home to danger is effectively sending them to their deaths.”
Opposition to the Brighton bypass bridge over the Jordan River in southern Tasmania escalated after the April 12 decision by the Tasmanian heritage minister Brian Wightman to give final approval for works to proceed. The bridge will destroy kutalayna, a site of 42,000 years of Aboriginal occupation. On April 14, protesters entered the site and stopped the works. On April 15, 21 people were arrested after protesters scaled the fence and entered the site in waves, stopping the work on several occasions.

Analysis

In December 2008, Israel launched an all-out military assault on the 1.4 million people in the Gaza Strip. Twenty-two days later, about 1400 Gazans were dead, including 300 children. In its 2009 report on the assault, titled Operation “Cast Lead”: 22 Days of Death and Destruction, Amnesty International said: “The scale and intensity of the attacks were unprecedented, even in the context of the increasingly lethal Israeli military campaigns in Gaza in previous years.
I know many Jews feel deeply threatened by the boycott, divestment sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel. It feels like a threat to eliminate Israel. For so many Jews, Israel is a guarantee of survival, so BDS is a threat to Jewish survival and ipso facto anti-Semitic.
Shortly after the end of World War I, Australian troops bloodily suppressed a popular independence revolution in Egypt. This overlooked episode in Australia’s military history has never prompted much national soul-searching — but it should. The war in which some 60,000 Australians died was supposedly fought for liberal democratic values and the right of peoples to pursue national “self-determination”. Episodes like the Egyptian revolt suggest that a squalid imperial reality underlay the noble rhetoric, which is why it has been relegated to obscurity.
The activists of the Still Fierce collective are angry, proud and determined to make change happen. The group is organising a protest outside the federal parliament in Canberra on May 11. It will be Australia’s first rally for the rights of intersex, sex and/or gender diverse (ISGD) people. On its website, Still Fierce says ISGD “includes people who may be intersex, transexed, transsexual, transgender, genderqueer, androgynous, without sex and/or gender identity, and people with sex and gender culturally specific differences”.
“Coal is really dirty. Gas is pretty dirty too. It's a bit cleaner than coal,” said City of Sydney CEO Monica Barone as she explained the plan to move to gas-powered energy production at a packed community meeting at St Peters Town Hall organised by Sydney Residents Against Coal Seam Gas (SRACGS) on April 13. Barone agreed that we need to move to a low carbon economy, but said moving to a zero carbon economy, such as the plan set out by Beyond Zero Emissions, would be “enormous”.
About three hundred and forty climate activists, from more than 100 community climate action groups, attended Australia's Climate Action Summit in Melbourne from April 9-11. Some of the key topics discussed were: a carbon price; fossil fuels such as coal, gas and coal seam gas; working with unions; building a people's power movement; renewable energy campaigns and; bridging the gap between science and politics.
Global warming deniers are a dime a dozen in comments posted on the web. From the ignorant to the willfully misleading, these deniers rarely manage to dent the confidence of someone with a good grasp of how the greenhouse effect works. But then, climate activists and scientists aren't their target. Global warming deniers scream about the supposed lack of scientific facts and “proof”, but evidence continues to mount for global warming and its effects.
A new magazine focused on Aboriginal rights, Tracker, was launched in Sydney by the New South Wales Aboriginal Land Council (NSWALC) on April 4. The monthly publication was co-founded and launched by former National Indigenous Times editor Chris Graham. It will feature analysis and investigation of land rights, Aboriginal issues and expose the challenges of institutional racism and discrimination across Australian society.
As the May federal budget approaches, Labor PM Julia Gillard and opposition leader Tony Abbott have gone on a welfare-recipient bashing spree. Exploiting the well-worn and reactionary “dole bludger” stereotype, they are softening us up for budget cuts to welfare and other social services. But this sadly predictable spectacle is not washing with most people, according to the findings of an April 11 Essential Report survey.
Sydney's Marrickville council is coming under increasing pressure to overturn a resolution it passed in December in support of the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel. NSW Liberal Premier Barry O’Farrell has threatened to use his powers under the Local Government Act to sack the council unless the resolution is overturned.
In the past few weeks, Rupert Murdoch’s News Ltd media have attacked Jewish-Australian journalist and author Antony Loewenstein over a March 30 article he wrote for the independent online news service New Matilda. The story examined to what degree the NSW Greens’ stance on Israel cost them lower house seats in the recent state election.
Below is an abridged version of a speech by NSW Greens MLC David Shoebridge in Sydney on April 10. The action was part of an international weekend of solidarity calling for an end to the persecution of alleged WikiLeaks whistleblower Bradley Manning. **** First, I'd like to acknowledge that this is Aboriginal land that we are standing on. It always has been, always will be Aboriginal land. And in fact sovereignty has never been ceded over this land that we are standing on here today.
Steel manufacturer BlueScope is exaggerating the impact of a carbon price said the April 9 Sydney Morning Herald. “Last month BlueScope said a carbon price of $25 a tonne would wipe $300 million to $400 million off its bottom line but analysts at Deutsche Bank quickly pointed out that ignored compensation," SMH journalist Paddy Manning said. “Based on BlueScope's 2009-10 emissions of 12.2 million tonnes, they calculated the company's carbon liability in 2012-13 would be about $30.5 million, or 7.4% of its forecasts for the company's net profit after tax."
With the 25th anniversary of Chernobyl falling on April 26, a debate is brewing over the estimated death toll from the nuclear disaster. The debate has erupted with a heated exchange between prominent British columnist George Monbiot and anti-nuclear campaigner Dr Helen Caldicott. Monbiot claims the “official death toll” from Chernobyl is 43. Caldicott puts the death toll at 985,000. Someone's wrong. Perhaps they both are.

World

The Euro-US attack on Libya has nothing to do with protecting anyone; only the terminally naive believe such nonsense. It is the West’s response to popular uprisings in strategic, resource-rich regions of the world and the beginning of a war of attrition against the new imperial rival, China. US President Barack Obama’s historical distinction is now guaranteed. He is the US’s first black president to invade Africa.
Richard Seymour (“Libya: Spring time for NATO”, GLW #876) has done an admirable job debunking justifications of “humanitarian” wars and its defenders. But his analysis of the internal dynamics of Libya leads him astray — so much so that bold assertions are taken as facts with nothing to back it up. He says the co-option of the Libyan revolution by NATO is a victory for reaction. Then he says it is no good hoping that the militias will shake themselves free of such constraints if they take power.
A federal budget containing the largest single-year spending cuts in US history was grudgingly passed by Congress on April 14. The cuts, amounting to US$38.5 billion, will be implemented until the end of the financial year on September 30, 2011. President Barack Obama hailed the budget agreement as a victory. He said: “This is an agreement to invest in our country’s future while making the largest annual spending cut in our history.”
Much of the hysteria surrounding the support of Sydney’s Marrickville Council for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel has focused on the comparison made by the global BDS campaign with the former apartheid system in South Africa. Pro-Israel politicians and propagandists are quite aware of the power of the comparison. By describing a system where one part of the population has democracy and another doesn’t, it takes away Israel’s claim to legitimacy as a “Jewish democracy”.
Wall Street has continued erecting monuments to its own greed. The British Guardian reported on April 12 that Goldman Sachs’ paid its top five directors almost US$70 million in 2010. The latest United States Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics report, released on 27 July 2010, said civilian workers’ median hourly wage was $16.55. Private industry workers received $15.70 and state and local government workers received $22.04. The top Goldman Sachs directors, on the other hand, earned an average $38,356 each day for 2010.
In the early morning of April 9, new battles broke out on the streets of Cairo. Protesters fought back against mass repression carried out by the army, leading to two deaths. In a fresh victory for people’s power in Egypt, protesters defeated the crackdown. Protesters were demanding former dictator Hosni Mubarak and all corrupt officials from his regime be charged. Protesters remained in Cairo’s Tahrir Square late into the night before the army moved in.
Haiti finds itself with a president-elect with ties to the extreme right — thanks to a concerted effort by foreign powers to continue thwarting the social justice aspirations of the Haitian people. President-elect Michel Martelly is closely associated with the forces that overthrew elected governments in 1991 and 2004. He told Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) Radio’s The Current on April 7 that Haiti has been “going in the wrong direction for the last 25 years”.
Pro-democracy protesters in Yemen have shown their determination for real change by rejecting a proposal that would allow hated President Ali Abdullah Saleh to leave power on his own terms and escape prosecution for his crimes. In the face of ongoing repression, the opposition rejected a proposal from the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and maintained their demand that Saleh leave immediately, Al Jazeera said on April 11.
“Bolivia is set to pass the world’s first laws granting all nature equal rights to humans,” the Guardian said on April 10. “The Law of Mother Earth, now agreed by politicians and grassroots social groups, redefines the country’s rich mineral deposits as ‘blessings’ and is expected to lead to radical new conservation and social measures to reduce pollution and control industry”, the article said.
Only days before Peru’s general elections on April 10, three protesters were killed and dozens injured by firearm-wielding police near the southern city of Arequipa. The protesters were taking part in a community uprising against the Tia Maria copper mine proposed by Mexican-based, US-funded Southern Copper. The company has one of the worst environmental track records of any mining company active in Peru. Fearing that the mine would irredeemably contaminate local water, the residents of Islay took to the streets, despite realising it would put their lives at risk.
Peruvians went to the polls to elect a new president on April 10. In a first round result reminiscent of the 2006 election, the electorate has sent the previously languishing “left-nationalist” candidate Ollanta Humala (of the Gana Peru alliance) through to the presidential runoff on June 5. As in 2006, Humala will face a candidate representing elite interests: Keiko Fujimori, the daughter of ex-president and architect of Peru’s neoliberal development model, Alberto Fujimori.
About 15,000 people attended the “No Nukes” protest in the central Tokyo district of Koenji on April 10. The rally called for assistance to those affected by the March earthquake and tsunami disaster, and for an end to nuclear power. Organisers said more than 1.23 million yen (A$14,000) had been raised for those affected by the disaster. About 2500 people joined a separate rally in another part of the city calling for the Hamaoka nuclear plant in Shizuoka to be switched off. The Hamaoka plant is on a fault line considered likely to be affected by future quakes.
The Venezuelan government has repeated its request to the United States government for the extradition of terrorist and ex-CIA agent Luis Posada Carriles. Posada Carriles was found not guilty by a Texas court on April 8 of charges of violating US immigration law. Posada Carriles is wanted by Venezuela for his role in blowing up a Cuban plane in 1976. The plane’s 73 passengers, all civilians, were killed. Posada Carriles escaped from a Venezuelan prison in 1985. Venezuela’s foreign ministry issued the statement abridged below on April 8. * * *
Two wars are being waged simultaneously in Libya. One has grown out of a revolutionary struggle for democracy. The other is an attempt by imperialism to strengthen its domination of the country. Both wars appear to share the goal of “regime change”, but they stand at opposite ends of the political spectrum. The regime change that the revolutionary struggle seeks to achieve is the overthrow of the Muammar Gaddafi dictatorship and the establishment of a system of democratic rule.
A life dedicated to creative non-violent resistance against the Israeli occupation of Palestine was cut short when Juliano Mer-Khamis was shot dead by unknown masked gunman in the West Bank town of Jenin on April 4. Mer-Khamis was an Israeli citizen, born to a Jewish mother and a Palestinian Christian father. In 2009, Mer-Khamis told Israeli army radio: “I am 100% Palestinian and 100% Jewish.” At the time of his death, Mer-Khamis was just 52-years-old. He was a father and a husband.
The Bahraini government has ordered the dissolution of two opposition political parties. The move is part of its crackdown against the pro-democracy movement that broke out in February. The al-Wefaq and al-Amal parties were ordered to dissolve for “threatening peace”. The order is in response to their involvement in the protests that called for the removal of the Khalifah royal family, which has ruled the country for more than 200 years, the April 14 Washington Post said.

Culture

Swedish author Stieg Larsson is world famous as a result of his “Millennium series” trilogy of crime novels, all published since his death in 2004. Less known is that Larsson was also a long-time activist and socialist, who worked as an editor for the anti-fascist Expo magazine. This history is sketched below by Hakan Blomqvist, editor of the Swedish revolutionary socialist paper Internationalen from 1979 to 1999. It is reprinted from US socialist magazine Against the Current.
Iranian news service PressTV reported on April 6 on the discovery of an ancient human burial in a suburb of the Czech capital Prague. The grave, belonging to the third millennium BCE Corded Ware cultural tradition of Europe, contained the skeletal remains of a person that the archaeologists who uncovered the burial designated as male. Without DNA testing, however, it is impossible to say for sure. The skeleton was buried in a position previously thought to be exclusively associated with females.

Fighting Fund

In his April 13 speech on his country’s $14.3 trillion government deficit, US President Barack Obama called on the US Congress to change the US tax system “so that the amount of taxes you pay isn’t determined by what kind of accountant you can afford.” He said: “In the last decade, the average income of the bottom 90% of all working Americans actually declined. The top 1% saw their income rise by an average of more than a quarter of a million dollars each. And that’s who needs to pay less taxes?

Letters

Supporting Palestine is not anti-Semitic With the NSW elections, we saw the ALP and Coalition stooping to the lowest common denominator attacking the Greens for supporting the boycott divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign in Marrickville Council. The anti-Greens campaign was also supported by the far right Australian Protectionist Party There was a filthy smear campaign with anonymous signs and graffiti slandering the Greens as anti-Semitic and Greens billboards were spray-painted with swastikas.

Resistance!

Global politics has taken a dramatic turn this year with the uprisings in the Arab world successfully overthrowing dictatorial regimes, and inspiring democracy movements in countries throughout the region. People who are fed up with corruption, repression and low living standards have stood up and fought for their rights and won many gains. What the movements in the Arab world have shown the people of the world is that no matter how strong governments are, people united in struggle can defeat them.