Issue 880

News

About 500 people marched in Sydney on May 21 to demand equal marriage rights for all couples regardless of sexuality or gender. About 300 marched in Melbourne the same day, and hundreds also took the streets in Brisbane. In Brisbane, a tiny group of Christian fundamentalists tried to attack the protest, but demonstrators responded with angry chants of "fuck off haters!" Sydney
Thirty people marched from the Stirling Gardens to parliament house on May 17 to protest the state governments plans to remove homeless people from the city centre for three days during the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM). Protesters were angry about the fact that $9 million dollars had been earmarked for the refurbishment of Frasers Restaurant in Kings Park for a CHOGM leaders social function. In addition, tens of millions of dollars have been allocated to refurbish ministerial offices. Meanwhile, 55,000 people are on the Homeswest waiting list for public housing.
New Coalition premier of NSW, Barry O'Farrell, may be rethinking his decision to slash the electricity power rebate to solar power customers after some of his own Liberal Party MPs vowed to vote against it. About 1500 angry people rallied at the plaza of Sydney’s Customs House on May 18 to protest the slashing of the rebate from 60 cents a kilowatt hour to 40c. The rally had to be moved from an overflowing indoor location
Hundreds of Australian Tamils and supporters gathered for an evening vigil in Sydney’s Martin Place on May 18 to commemorate two years since the defeat of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). The LTTE had fought a 30-year-long battle for an independent Tamil homeland in the north-east of Sri Lanka. In April, a leaked United Nations report said the Sri Lankan government had committed serious war crimes as the war came to a close, which led to the deaths of tens of thousands of civilians.
Even though the US war on Vietnam ended nearly 40 years ago, the US’s saturation chemical bombing during that war is still wreaking havoc on the lives of at least 3 million people in Vietnam — including the newly born, making them third generation victims. Nobody knows when the congenital deformities, one of many horrific health consequences of the toxic chemicals, will end.
After planning an anti-migrant, anti-Muslim rally in 2010 and then failing to show up on the day, the racist Australian Defence League (ADL) staged a rally in Melbourne on May 15. After the Herald Sun said the rally was against Islam and immigrants, the ADL re-titled its protest to one of opposition to sharia law, hoping to disguise its racism and win more support. About 20 to 30 ADL supporters turned up at the protest with big Australian flags. Some members covered themselves with big black sheets to impersonate women who wear the burqa.
The Illawarra community plans to take action on May 29 to press their case for a moratorium on coal seam gas mining in the area. A mass human sign to spell the words “Stop Coal Seam Gas!” is organised at 11am that day on Austinmer beach, north of Wollongong. The organiser, Stop CSG Illawarra, is confident of a large turnout. The group’s regular organising meetings have attracted 100 or more people. The group has letterboxed 30,000 leaflets publicising the event and outlining the dangers of coal seam gas.
“No trade with apartheid Israel” was the main theme of a protest outside the “Water Solutions for the Coal Seam Gas Industry Breakfast”, held at Brisbane's Sofitel Hotel on May 18. A trade delegation from Israel was hosted at the breakfast, sponsored by the Australian Israel Chamber of Commerce and the Chamber of Commerce and Industry Queensland. The protest, organised by Justice for Palestine Brisbane, attracted about 20 people who held placards supporting Palestinian rights and calling for Australia to impose economic sanctions against Israel.
Dressed mainly in black, with black flags and banners to show the death of democracy in Tasmania, 6000 people took to Launceston’s streets on May 14 to oppose Gunns’ proposed $2.3 billion pulp mill, to be built on the banks of the Tamar River. The rally was told that democracy died when the state parliament passed the Pulp Mill Assessment Act in March 2007, which, in the words of Tasmanian Greens MP Kim Booth, had “imposed a ... monster on your valley”.
NEWCASTLE — Four activists from Newcastle climate action group Rising Tide scaled the roof of climate change minister Greg Combet's office on May 16. They attached solar panels to the roof and unfurled a banner that read: “Make polluters pay, fund renewable energy.” Rising Tide spokesperson Naomi Hogan said: “We have put these solar panels up on Minister Combet’s office to highlight the potential of renewable energy to power the nation.
The Darwin Asylum Seeker Support and Advocacy Network released this below statement on May 20. Visit http://dassan.wordpress.com/ * * * Members of the Darwin Asylum Seeker Support and Advocacy Network have learnt that two asylum seekers at the Northern Immigration Detention Centre in Darwin attempted suicide on Wednesday May 18. The men cut their wrists and one was taken to Royal Darwin Hospital for treatment.
In a decision handed down on May 16, Fair Work Australia (FWA) acknowledged the gender-based undervaluation of the vital work of social and community sector (SACS) workers. This is a preliminary decision in the historic equal remuneration case led by the Australian Services Union (ASU). The case was launched in March 2010 and followed a successful pay equity case in the Queensland Industrial Relations Commission (QIRC) in 2009. See also: Women workers are sick of waiting: equal pay now
The local residents’ action group "Hands off Glebe" held a protest on May 18 to stop the demolition of public housing in Cowper St, Glebe. The 15 buildings on the Cowper St site have the capacity to house 289 people but the former NSW Labor government decided to sell most of the land to private developers, with the remnant being earmarked for new public and so called affordable housing. The newly-elected Greens MP for Balmain, Jamie Parker, joined and addressed the protest. Workers on the site stopped work for the day in support.

Analysis

In 2007, it was all about Kevin Rudd. Well … not so much the man, but the campaign slogan. Kevin07 was streamed from the rooftops, plastered on ALP propaganda and adorned the T-shirts of young and old alike. It was a brilliant, fresh campaign. But the joy was not to last. Three years later, the bandwagon that everyone had so merrily jumped upon had lost its wheels, its driver demoted and dejected. The campaign was just that, a campaign. Right for the time, but ultimately short on distance.
Despite some targeted increases in funding in the area of health and disability, the Labor government’s 2011 budget leaves Australians worse off. The increased funding for mental health has been widely welcomed and is a result of a long, concerted public campaign. Over five years, $2.2 billion in mental health spending was identified with a focus on early intervention programs, as well as social and employment participation strategies. Multicultural organisations, however, have criticised the absence of funding for the multicultural community.
The illegal eavesdropping on famous people by the Rupert Murdoch-owned British tabloid News of the World is said to be Murdoch’s Watergate. But is it the crime by which Murdoch ought to be known? In his native land, Australia, Murdoch controls 70% of the capital city press. Australia is the world’s first “murdochracy”, in which smear by media is power. The most enduring and insidious Murdoch campaign has been against the Aboriginal people, who were dispossessed by the arrival of the British in the late 18th century and have never been allowed to recover.
In its point-scoring endeavour to restore the budget to a surplus by 2012-13, Julia Gillard’s Labor government has decided to target the most vulnerable and needy in society. Instead of targeting the high end of town and the corporate elite a punitive approach was chosen. The budget deficit for 2011-12 is estimated to be $22.6 billion or 1.5% of gross domestic product. This compares with an estimated $49.4 billion deficit in this financial year, 2010-11. The budget is expected to return to surplus by $3.5 bilion in 2012-13.
Yes, I am a feminist and I will be joining the Melbourne “SlutWalk” on May 28, and I hope you will too! And, yes, I still cringe every time I mention the infamous word SlutWalk and my desire of wanting to be there, right in the middle of it. “Slut”, “bitch”, “whore”, “cunt” — how many women have had one or maybe all of the above words hurled at them in a terrorising fit of anger and aggression, at least once in her lifetime? Or maybe the word(s) was uttered silently, barely audible but with no less intent of humiliation, degradation and hurt?
Three Australian activists will take part in the Freedom Flotilla 2, the successor to the first Freedom Flotilla to Gaza in May 2010 that was brutally attacked in international waters by Israeli commandos. Green Left Weekly’s Pip Hinman asked former NSW Greens parliamentarian Sylvia Hale why she has joined the Australian contingent on the flotilla. * * *
The Socialist Party of Malaysia (PSM) and the Socialist Alliance issued the joint statement below on May 19. * * The Socialist Party of Malaysia (PSM) and the Socialist Alliance in Australia denounce the recent agreement made between the governments of Malaysia and Australia, whereby Australia will send 800 asylum seekers who have been detained by Australian authorities to Malaysia in exchange for 4000 refugees currently in Malaysia.
The activity of British-based transnational conglomerate Serco in Australia has remained relatively unknown since it began taking government contracts in 1990. That is until the refugees locked up in its detention centres — under a $756 million government contract — started speaking out. Horrific suicides, hunger strikes, self-harm, riotous protests, burning buildings and under-trained staff have finally put Serco in the headlines.
Right wing media commentator Andrew Bolt launched his new interview show The Bolt Report on Channel 10 on May 8 with a classic display of the use of phony statistics. Interviewing Afghan refugee Riz Wakil, Bolt claimed that a five-year long survey of Afghan migrants showed “something like 94% are on Centrelink benefits, only 9% actually are employed”.
With the federal government blatantly refusing to even utter the words “equal pay”, the need for grassroots initiative and action is vital in achieving these reforms for women workers. Pay Justice Action is a collective focused on campaigning for equal pay for women, as well as demanding the abolition of youth wages and the scrapping of the basics card, which was part of the NT Intervention. See also: Court says yes to equal pay, but fight not over
Below is the transcript of Julian Assange’s acceptance speech of the Sydney Peace Foundation Gold Medal at the Frontline Club in London on May 10. *** Thank you Professor Rees and Mary Kostakidis. I think Professor Rees has stolen all my good lines and Mary’s stolen all my jokes, so I’m not sure that I have much left.

World

The streets of Cairo have been the frontier for a range of demonstrations over the past two weeks. A Day of National Unity between Christians and Muslims was held on May 13. More than 200,000 people lined the streets of downtown Cairo to celebrate. Egypt has previously been home to harmonious relations between Christians and Muslims. However, sectarian tensions have been increasing – spurred by the burning of two Coptic Christian churches by Salafist groups on May 6. See also:
Eritreans around the world will mark the country’s national day on May 24. After an epic three-decades-long liberation struggle, in 1991 the liberation forces wrested control of their capital, Asmara, from the occupying Ethiopian army. Two years later, a new, independent Eritrea was formally established. But the following years have proved a bitter disappointment for the people of this small (population five million) former Italian colony on the Red Sea.
May 17 at Plaza del Sol in Madrid. People talk about freedom, democracy and the fight on the streets of Spain. Mostly Spanish-language.
The incumbent Conservative Party sailed to victory in Canada’s federal election on May 2 with the first majority government in the federal Parliament since the 2000 election. There was celebration in the boardrooms across the country. The victory caps a decades-long drive by much of Canada’s business elite to fashion a strong national government around a hard-right agenda.
The historian William Cronon has been in the news recently in the US because of assaults on his civil liberties and academic freedom by the Wisconsin Republican Party. This story is likely to be of interest to Green Left Weekly readers because of the collision between university research and powerful corporate interests.   However, Cronon's work as an environmental historian since the 1970s means that he deserves to be read by all those who take an interest in environmental issues and ecosocialist politics.  
Having arrived back in Caracas after more than two weeks visiting various rural communities, leaders from the National Campesino Front Ezequiel Zamora (FNCEZ) told us that the bodies of two of their comrades, missing since April 12, had been found. Jose Joel Torres Leves and Agustin Gamboa Duran were leading land reform activists in the Comunal City Antonio Jose de Sucre, in Barinas state.
Palestinians have upped the stakes in their struggle for freedom and justice on the anniversary of al-Nakba (“The Castrophe”), as Palestinains refer to the ethnic cleansing that accompnied the founding of Israel in 1948). Israel responded with lethal repression.
When I asked Alfredo, a dairy farmer and president of the Prolesa milk processing co-operative in Tachira state, what food sovereignty meant to him, he said: “Food sovereignty is not only about being able to produce enough food to feed ourselves, it also means getting to a point where we can export food to other countries. “There’s a global food crisis, and each day more and more people are going hungry. As Venezuelan campesinos [peasants] we need to realise that we have an obligation to the people of the world.” See also:
Tunisia's interim government has again been rocked by protests calling for greater democracy, transparency and for a “new revolution” to defend the gains of the protest movement that overthrew dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali on January 14. The protests began on May 5 after Farhat Rajhi, a former interior minister in the post-Ben Ali government, claimed that military and political elites from Ben Ali's regime would carry out a coup d'etat if Islamist parties win a majority in the July 24 constituent assembly elections.
Colombian daily El Espectador reported on May 18 that the Colombian Supreme Court of Justice ruled the infamous “FARC files” as inadmissible evidence in court, as they were obtained illegally. The ruling refers to supposed documents acquired from the laptops of Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) leader Raul Reyes who was killed in the March 2008 Colombian military bombing raid of a guerrilla camp in Ecuador.
The United States' gross domestic product (GDP) has returned to its pre-financial crisis levels of about US$14.3 trillion. However, this figure obscures a grim social reality. Fareed Zakaria reported in a May 19 Time.com article that while the economy is “producing the same amount of goods and services as in 2007”, it is doing so “with 7 million fewer workers”. Zakaria said: “Usually, productivity gains translate into higher economic output, higher incomes and thus rising employment. That was the experience in the 1990s.
“More African American men are in prison or jail, on probation or parole than were enslaved in 1850, before the Civil War began," Michelle Alexander told a packed meeting at the Pasadena Main Library in California on April 13. Alexander, a law professor at Ohio State, was discussing her bestseller, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness.
The following statement was released by the Socialist Alliance in Australia. For more information, visit www.socialist-alliance.org . * * *
When the 548 delegates to the Seventh National Convention of Portugal’s Left Bloc came together in a vast sports hall in Lisbon onver May 7-8, they had two big questions to answer. The first was what alternative should they propose at the June 5 Portuguese elections to the €78 billion (about $103 billion) “rescue package” negotiated between the European Union, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund (the “troika”) and the Socialist Party (PS) government of prime minister Jose Socrates?
The death of KG Kannabiran (1929-2010) on December 30 came as an anti-climax to an eventful and often turbulent life; in accordance with his wishes his family conducted a private, secular cremation within an hour of his death. For four decades, KG Kannabiran was the most prominent public face in the struggle for human rights, both as a lawyer and activist ― in his home state of Andhra Pradesh and across India.
Spanish people have taken to the streets in huge numbers, with public squares occupied by protesters opposed to anti-worker austerity measures and calling for real democracy. See also Spain eyewitness: The people demand to be heard! Messages of solidarity to the Spanish people from Egypt VIDEO: Spanish revolution -- Testify (largely Spanish-language)
“There are many Joses here, I’m not sure if its my turn or another Jose,” saidJose, a middle-aged man standing on the outer rim of a grupo de trabajo (work group) called at midnight on an adjacent street to Sol, the plaza known as point zero, in the heart of Madrid. The plaza has been occupied, as have dozens around Spain, since the huge protests on May 15 that brought hundreds of thousands of people onto the streets to demand “real democracy now!” and an end to austerity measures. See also
The melting of the Arctic ice cap is the surest sign that dangerous climate change is already upon us. But some of the world’s most powerful governments are not worrying about what to do about it, they’re scrambling to profit from it.   WikiLeaks released a series of leaked US diplomatic cables on May 12 that confirmed the race is on to carve up the Arctic region for previously inaccessible oil, gas and mineral deposits.
Al Jazeera journalist Dorothy Parvaz, who had been missing for nineteen days was released by the Iranian government on May 18. Parvaz left Doha on April 29 to cover the escalating anti-government protests in Syria. Upon arrival in Damascus, she was immediately detained by an unidentified security service. Until May 4, the Syrian government did not acknowledge that she was in their custody. But on May 10, it released a statement stating that it had deported Parvaz to the Iranian consule in Tehran.

Culture

Nothin’ To Lose Zennith www.zennithboyz.com.au If the Red Hot Chili Peppers had injected themselves with a few litres of truth serum instead of enough smack to kill a blue whale, they could well have ended up sounding like largely Indigenous Australian band Zennith. Both build righteous rap and rock on reggae foundations, but Zennith swap the Chilis' dreamy, stoner poetry for clear-eyed political consciousness.
Locked Out Directed by Joan Sekler www.lockedout2010.org Locked Out, a film by Joan Sekler, documents the struggle of workers at the Borax mine in Boron, California, against the mine's multinational owner, Rio Tinto. The mine is integral to the towns economy, employing 570 workers ― about a quarter of the population of Boron. In September 2009, Rio Tinto revealed it intended on scrapping the workers' contract. The pay, benefits, and conditions set out in the contract had been negotiated for with workers over the past 40 years.
Live at Babeville Ani DiFranco www.righteousbaberecords.com In recent times, there’s been some conjecture over the quality of US singer-songwriter Ani DiFranco’s music. The much acclaimed, fiercely political folk singer and poet appeared to some to have “mellowed” in topic and tone of her work after having a baby and getting married. The singer’s latest DVD, Live at Babeville, puts those qualms to rest.
Blue King Brown Worldwize Part 1-North & South Australian tour May/June www.bluekingbrown.com Blue King Brown are a Melbourne-based roots band whose second album, Worldwize Part 1-North & South, was released last August. An Australia-wide tour to promote the album began in Canberra on May 12 and ends with a show in Sydney at The Metro on June 4. Green Left Weekly's Annie Ross spoke to lead singer and guitarist Natalie Pa'apa'a. * * *

Fighting Fund

Our society is heading in the wrong direction. According to a new “Australia’s Electricity Generation Mix 1960-2009” report commissioned by Environment Victoria, the proportion of Australia’s electricity generated by renewable energy has fallen from 19% in 1960 to 7% in 2008. Because Australia today generates 10 times the amount of electricity as it did in 1960, coal-fired electricity generation has increased by more than 1200%.

Letters

Price on carbon crude, wasteful The illusion of the necessity of capital is one of the most difficult to shake. Capital appears to contribute something in the production process so to the worker appears as indispensable. This illusion manifests in such beliefs as workers must not ask for too much or the business will go bust and jobs will be lost, jobs will not be created unless capitalists have a free rein, and that the super-profits of the mining companies can't be touched or the companies will take their capital elsewhere and Australia's prosperity will suffer.

Resistance!

Below is the Resistance Action Plan, which was adopted by delegates at the Resistance national conference held in Sydney over May 6-8. * * * Resistance is Australia’s only socialist, feminist, social justice, environmental, revolutionary youth organisation. We seek to organise young people to fight the injustices we see in the world, from war and poverty, to environmental destruction and discrimination against minority groups.