Issue 881

Australia

More than 3000 people turned out to Austinmer Beach in the Illawarra on May 29 to form the "STOP COAL SEAM GAS!" human sign.

Three helicopters, each from a major media outlet, circled above the cheering and waving crowd to film the historic event.

Check out all the pictures and media coverage by visiting Stop CSG Illawarra's website.

A big team of more than 40 volunteers from Stop CSG Illawarra helped make the day such a success.

Releasing the Mid Year Financial Report in February, Tasmanian Premier Lara Giddings said savings required over the next three years would be the equivalent of 2300 jobs. She said she couldn’t rule out forced redundancies in the public service or cuts to frontline services.

On May 26, Giddings released a statement to parliament that said: “We have now lost a total of around $1.5 billion in expected GST revenue and state taxes.”

It took Arrow Energy more than 24 hours to cap a major gas well blow-out. The well sprayed water and methane up to 90 metres in the air on a farming property west of Dalby in Queensland.

The leak took place on May 22 when the well was being prepared for production.

The leak was not reported to authorities until two hours after it occurred, and it took the gas company a further four hours to inform property owner Tom O'Connor.

Child beauty pageants, such as the ones featured on the reality TV show Toddlers and Tiaras, are big business in the United States. The industry is so big that it is expanding overseas. One of the biggest pageant companies, United Royalty plans to stage pageants in all states in Australia.

Parents who wish to enter their children in the pageants have to pay $295 just to enter the pageant, plus thousands of dollars on expensive dresses, hairstyles and cosmetics

From the very young age of seven or eight, Lyndall Barnett exhibited signs of concern about animals, the environment, social justice and women’s role in society.

Lyndall also had a rebellious streak from an early age, the sort of rebellious streak that is needed to stand up against social injustice and help change the world.

When Lyndall was a teenager, she took action on all these issues. This led Lyndall and a group of high school friends to join Resistance, the socialist youth organisation in the early 1990s, and then the Democratic Socialist Party.

An estimated 3500 building workers walked off the job and rallied in Brisbane’s CBD on May 24 to protest sham contracts being imposed by unscrupulous contractors in the construction industry.

Building workers from the Gold Coast joined the protest after coming up to Brisbane in a convoy of cars and trucks.

Construction unions have shut down the Gold Coast University Hospital site over the issue of "sham contracts, where employers avoid paying entitlements by forcing workers who are legally employees into contracts," the May 25 Courier-Mail said.

Members of Defend WikiLeaks Perth organised a series of banner drops across the city on May 26 to call for the release from prison of US private Bradley Manning. The day marked one year since Manning was imprisoned in the US for allegedly leaking information to WikiLeaks.

Film by Zeb Parkes.

When the Tasmanian state government forced a bridge through the kutalyana site as part of the Brighton bypass, the Aboriginal community responded by placing a ban on conducting Aboriginal heritage assessments.

These bans are being upheld by all Aboriginal Heritage Officers and the archeologists who work with them. They are intended to remain in place until the legislation that protects Aboriginal heritage is improved.

The first major project to be affected by this is the proposed asylum seeker detention centre at Pontville, near Brighton.

Melbourne’s only Indigenous specialist school, Ballerrt Mooroop College (BMC), is again under threat from the state government.

The Baillieu Liberal government plans to shift the Glenroy Specialist School (GSS) onto the site, which would push the BMC onto one third of the land it has occupied since 1995.

The government provided $18 million to GSS to relocate, but the BMC received just $750,000 to upgrade existing buildings.

It is clear that the Baillieu government is pitting disadvantaged schools against each other.

Sydney Stop the War coalition released the statement below on May 26.

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The death of Sergeant Brett Wood in Afghanistan on May 24 should trigger a radical rethink of this failed war, said Stop the War Coalition today.

Instead, PM Julia Gillard and opposition leader Tony Abbott continue to peddle the myth that the West's military intervention into Afghanistan still has merit.

“EPA: Extreme Pollution A-OK” read a banner held up by protesters outside Victoria’s Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) as it announced on May 20 a partial approval for the HRL Dual Gas project, which will use brown coal for electricity generation.

With a record 4000 submissions to the EPA opposing the project, the Stop HRL campaign group reacted with a spot protest outside the EPA during the announcement and a further protest of over 300 outside state parliament on May 24.

More than 100 people attended a meeting to commemorate Mulivaikal Remembrance Day on May 22 — the second anniversary of the day the Sri Lankan military crushed the Tamil Eelam struggle in northern Sri Lanka in 2009.

The gathering, which included guest speakers, multi-religious prayers and children's cultural performances, was organised by the Australian Tamil Congress.

Chairperson Maree Klemm noted two particular aspects of the Sri Lankan civil war — the attack by government forces on the civilian Tamil populaton, and the lack of international intervention to stop the violence.

The Leichhardt Friends of Hebron group in Sydney’s inner west has been awarded a small grant. The grant is designed to enable grassroots community participation in events during Refugee Week and encourage Australians to think about the reasons refugees flee their homelands.

Such grants are made possible through the support of the NSW Community Relations Commission.

The axing of 82 full-time jobs from the Fairfax Media group has prompted protests by angry Fairfax employees in Sydney and Melbourne.

Sub-editors, designers and artists will be outsourced from The Age and the Sydney Morning Herald to Pagemasters.

Furious journalists and other workers from the Fairfax media organisations vented their anger at stopwork meetings in Sydney and Melbourne on May 12 and then again at public rallies on May 19.

With a clearly nervous David Hicks in front of a packed audience of 1000 people at the Sydney Writers' Festival on May 22, his interviewer Donna Mulhearn did a great job in breaking the ice. “Is it true that Channel 7,” she said, as we were all waiting for the hard political question, “asked you to go on ‘Dancing with the Stars’?”

Apparently it is true.

World

Pictures of Madrid's central plaza known as Puerta del Sol bear an uncanny resemblance to Tahrir Square in Cairo following more than a week of demonstrations and an ongoing encampment in protest of the devastating effects of the economic crisis and the Spanish state's collaboration with bankers and business interests to impose austerity.

The debate over the Western military intervention into Libya that has swept sections of the world’s left since it began in March were concentrated into one passionate session at the annual congress of Denmark’s Red-Green Alliance (RGA), held in Copenhagen over May 20-22.

The 300 congress delegates, representing 5900 members, were asked by a majority of the RGA’s National Board to endorse the March 18 vote of its four MPs in support of the “no-fly zone” imposed on Libya by NATO powers including Denmark ― acting in the name of United Nations resolution 1973.

The home of Nabeel Rajab, president of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights (BCHR) was attacked on May 21, CNN.com said that day. It was the second attack on Rajab's house in a month.

The BCHR said the attack occurred in the early hours of the morning while Rajab and his family were sleeping. It said the attackers launched teargas grenades into the house, breaking the window of Rajab's brother, the group said.

In Spain’s local elections on May 22, a tsunami of popular rage against the Spanish Socialist Workers Party (PSOE) government of Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero spread across this country of five million jobless.

The punishment came amid widespread suffering caused by the economic crisis, worsened by the austerity imposed by Zapatero's government to pay for the billions of euros spent bailing out big banks.

PSOE bastions since the fall of the Franco dictatorship were swept away.

The response of the British Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government to the economic crisis, which has been to implement billions of pounds worth of public spending cuts, is intensifying the effects of the crisis on the British people.

Austerity measures are worsening mass unemployment. Chief British and European economist at forecasting company IHS Global Insight Howard Archer has predicted unemployment will reach 2.67 million people by the end of 2011.

About 20,000 people took part in Switzerland's biggest anti-nuclear march in 25 years on May 22, Swissinfo.ch said that day.

“Chanting and waving placards, anti-nuclear protesters marched in two groups to the site of Beznau, Switzerland’s oldest nuclear power plant which is located in canton Aargau,” the article said.

Organisers said about 150 political parties and environmental organisations joined the march.

May 22 elections in the German city-state of Bremen marked yet another disastrous result for the parties of Germany’s ruling coalition, the centre-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and the big-business Free Democrats (FDP).

Unsurprisingly, for the traditional working-class stronghold, the centre-left Social-Democratic Party (SPD) won 38.1% ― retaining government of the state in coalition with the Greens.

For the first time in history, the Greens leapfrogged German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s CDU to take second place, winning 23% of the vote – an increase of 6%.
 

Honduran President Porfirio Lobo Sosa and former president Manuel Zelaya Rosales signed an agreement on May 22: “For National Reconciliation and the Consolidation of the Democratic System in the Republic of Honduras”.

Lobo was elected in November 2009 in a rigged vote. The poll was organised by the regime installed by the June 28, 2009 military coup that overthrew Zelaya.

Protests across Bahrain that began on February 14 have rocked the US-backed Khalifa royal family, mobilising hundreds of thousands of people against the regime's repressive rule.

As part of the struggle for democracy, protesters have also opposed policies by the regime, which is dominated by the Sunni Muslim minority, that discriminate against the Shia Muslim majority.

Since March 15, the pro-democracy movement has faced brutal repression from the Bahrain government and occupying troops from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

See also:

On May 26, the one year anniversary of the arrest of US soldier Bradley Manning, who is accused of leaking classified US government documents released by WikiLeaks, the Bradley Manning Support Network released an appeal for support in the campaign for his freedom. It is abridged below from www.bradleybanning.org -- where you can find out how to help the campaign.

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One year ago, the US government quietly arrested a humble young US intelligence analyst in Iraq and imprisoned him in a military camp in Kuwait. Across the world, people stepped forward to help defend him.

The statement below was released on May 18 by the Committee to Stop FBI Repression. The FBI documents can be viewed at www.stopFBI.net .

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FBI agents, who raided the Minneapolis home of anti-war and international solidarity activists Mick Kelly and Linden Gawboy in September 2010, took with them thousands of pages of documents and books, along with computers, cell phones and a passport.

By mistake, they also left something behind; the operation plans for the raid, “interview questions” for anti-war and international solidarity activists and duplicate evidence collection forms.

The central plazas of dozens of cities and towns across Spain bear an uncanny resemblance to Tahrir Square in Cairo. They have been taken over by thousands of demonstrators demanding a "new system". As of May 29, dozens of other central plazas in Spanish cities and towns look the same — taken over by thousands of ordinary people demanding “a new system”.

The movement, known as "#spanishrevolution" after the Twitter hashtag used to spread news, pictures and footage of the revolt, began with an internet call for a May 15 protest to demand “Real Democracy Now!”.

Media reports suggested that US President Barack Obama's May 19 Washington DC speech on the Middle East and North Africa contained a new proposal for peace between Israel and the Palestinians. A look at the content shows this is false.

The May 20 New York Times declared: “President Obama, seeking to capture a moment of epochal change in the Arab world, began a new effort [in his speech] to break the stalemate in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, setting out a new starting point for negotiations on the region's most intractable problem.”

What are some examples of highly offensive words that must be censored from radio? For British state broadcaster BBC, they are not all of the four-letter variety.

The BBC appears to find not just the phrase “Free Palestine” but even the geographical entity of the Gaza Strip itself unutterable on a cultural show.

A controversy has broken out over the BBC's anti-Palestinian bias after its digital radio channel BBC 1xtra, which largely plays hip hop, grime and other “urban music” genres, censored on air references to Palestine.

The statement below was released on May 28 by the Australia-Venezuela Solidarity Network. For more information on the AVSN, visit www.venezuelasolidarity.org .

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On May 24, the United States’ State Department unilaterally imposed sanctions against Venezuela’s state-owned oil company, Petroleos de Venezuela, S.A. (PDVSA). The State Department accused PDVSA of undermining the US sanctions against Iran by sending two cargo ships delivering US$50 million worth of reformate ― a gasoline blending component used to improve the quality of gasoline.

The formation of the Mana Party in April marked a “major step forward for a genuine working-class political voice” in New Zealand, the national director of the Unite Union and Mana party member Mike Treen told Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal.

The Mana Party was formed at a 500-strong conference on April 30. It was called by Hone Harawira, MP for the Maori electorate of Te Tai Tokerau.

At the conference, Harawira announced his resignation from the Maori Party and his re-election campaign as a member of the Mana Party in a by-election.

“To continue this revolution, Egypt must go to Palestine.”

These were the words of Akram Ismalii, a student from Cairo University who marched along side his classmates in downtown Cairo for the Third Palestine Intifada rally on May 15. The day marks al-Nakba ("the catastrophe"), as Palestinians call the anniversary of the expulsion of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians from their homes and land in 1948.

It was rumored it would be a 1 million-person march, but the protests led by pro-Palestine demonstrators may have disappointed in size, but delivered in passion.

Analysis

The Australian media, collectively, does a dismal job of telling the story of our silent apartheid, the space between black and white Australians.

The new assimilation, well underway in the Northern Territory, has the same intent as government policies of past eras, still aiming to change Aboriginal people, restrict the importance of their law, language and cultural practice, and move many from their ancestral lands into new housing estates that, we are promised, will materialise magically in great little Aussie growth towns.

As part of its attempts to turn back the clock in the Catholic Church, the Vatican drew 1.5 million of the devout to Rome on May 1 for the beatification ceremony of Karol Wojtyla, Pope John Paul II. He may become the fastest declared saint in history.

The Vatican is also pushing the canonisation of Pius XII, who was pope during World War II.

While attention has been drawn to John Paul II’s woeful record on the issue of sexual abuse within the church, little has been said about the reasons for the rush to beatification and sainthood.

Save the Children recently released its annual “State of the World’s Mothers” report, which, using a wide range of statistics from 164 countries, ranks the best and worst places on earth to be a mother, a woman and a child.

For more than five long and horrendous years, David Hicks was locked up in the US prison camp at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba where he was subject to countless inhumane forms of torture.

Hicks was captured by the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan in December 2001 and was transferred to Camp X Ray at Guantanamo Bay in January 2002.

It was not until December 2003 that he saw a military lawyer.

See also:
Crowd gives Hicks ovation at Sydney Writers' Festival

The Western Australia Liberal government recently said its lucrative prisoner transport contract with private security firm G4S would end in July. Another private company, the British-based conglomerate Serco, will take over.

The move came after a long campaign against G4S and the WA department of corrective services over the death of Aboriginal man Mr Ward, who died of heat stroke in a G4S van during a 360 kilometre trip in January 2008.

The state coroner said G4S was directly responsible for Mr Ward’s awful death.

Riz Wakil, an Afghan refugee, arrived on Ashmore Reef in 1999 and was held in Curtin detention centre for nine months. Now a permanent Australian resident, he runs a printery.

In June 2010, GetUp! won a charity auction prize — a surfing lesson with opposition leader Tony Abbott — and donated it to Wakil. Abbott and Wakil finally met for the surf lesson on May 8.

Green Left Weekly’s Rachel Evans spoke to Wakil about the encounter and Australia’s refugee system.

What did Abbott say during the lesson?

The proposal for a carbon tax raises the issues of tax equity and political strategy. Yet despite their inter-relatedness, we need to disentangle these issues to focus on the original question.

As a mean of addressing climate change, the carbon tax proposal comes in the context of difficult global negotiations, where almost any proposal has been seen as a breakthrough, and where (after the last financial derivatives bubble) there is justified suspicion of emissions trading schemes.

The newly-elected Barry O’Farrell Coalition government in NSW has introduced a bill that gives it unprecedented power over pay and conditions for the state's 400,000 public servants —gutting the NSW Industrial Relations Commission’s (IRC) role.

Sixty-two percent of Australians support equal marriage rights. This support has risen from the 33% who backed same-sex marriage in 2004 — the year gay marriage was banned.

This rise in support has been a result of the grassroots campaign waged by activists with rallies, politician visits, media stunts, Mardi Gras floats, petitions and others mobilisations.

In Sydney, Community Action Against Homophobia (CAAH) has organised rallies since June 2004.

Climate scientist Will Steffen told reporters at the May 23 launch of The Critical Decade — the first report from the federal government-appointed Climate Commission — that “we don’t have the luxury anymore of climate denialism” and “need to get beyond this fruitless, phoney debate in the media”.

And straight away, the Coalition began a fruitless, phoney debate about the report in the media.

Bob Gould was a veteran of the labour left in Australia. He died on May 22, at the age of 74, of injuries suffered after a fall in his well-known bookshop, Gould's Book Arcade, in Newtown, Sydney.

He had been unwell for some time, but his accidental death was untimely.

Gould was a member of the early Australian Trotskyist group active in the 1950s and 1960s, along with Nick Origlass and others, who fought for socialist politics within the Australian Labor Party and against the Stalinism of the Communist Party of Australia.

The crowd at Harry Black’s funeral, on May 23, filled the South Chapel in Rookwood Garden Cemetery, the overflow room and the upstairs gallery. Family, comrades, wharfies, seafarers and even a few old fellow soldiers from World War II were there to say goodbye.

It was a fitting reflection on the life of a treasured comrade.

Harry was born in Rylstone, NSW, the son of a butcher in a small rural town, said Jim Donovan, the president of the Retired Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) Members, in his eulogy at the funeral.

Many people have heard of the mess the government & Lend Lease are up to at Barangaroo, but little has yet to be made public on a similar development for the Gosford Waterfront Landing.

The General Manager of the Central Coast Regional Development Corporation Brett Phillips says the “CCRDC is indicating high end uses for the site along the lines of commercial office space, high end tourism and business related facilities and performing arts”.

Editorial

The worst thing about the Labor government’s proposed carbon price scheme is that it’s a diversion from real action on climate change.

Few of its supporters say it will deliver significant renewable energy or emissions cuts any more — only that it will “start the process” and complement other measures.

See also: Green illusions and the carbon tax
Critical Decade report understates climate threat

Letters

Gaza flotilla needs our support

In a few weeks time, a flotilla will be going to Gaza carrying medical supplies, food and building materials to assist the Palestinian people who have suffered grievously from the Zionist policies of the Israeli government.

Green Left Weekly, since its inception, has done a splendid job supporting the Palestinians and exposing and condemning the evil that has been inflicted on them since the Balfour Declaration of 1917.

Resistance!

For 25 years, the gay youth of Adelaide have had just one place to find group support from people who understand.

Each fortnight, the “Evolve” project for women and the “Inside Out” project for men at the state-run Second Story Youth Health Centre have provided safe, confidential drop-in groups for gay and queer young people.

These projects have been free, well-attended and of great support for Adelaide’s young gay community.

The effectiveness and popularity of these projects have meant that Adelaide has had no need for other drop-in groups for gay youth.

Resistance held its 40th national conference on the weekend of May 6 -8. One-hundred-and-fifty people came over the three days and took part in diverse workshops and panel sessions.

One major session featured Matthew Cassel, former assistant editor of Electronic Intifada and an independent journalist, gave an eyewitness account of the overthrow of Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak.

He said: “Something common among dictatorships in the Arab world and so-called democracies in the West and elsewhere is the lack of accurate information available to most people through the mainstream media.

Culture

The annual Sydney Writers' Festival brings together a diverse range of acclaimed writers from around Australia and the world.

This year's theme “Words. To Live By” engaged readers and writers in a week long festival of ideas ranging from discussions about the future of media to the ongoing revolutions in the Arab World.

Some of the highlights of this year's May 16-22 festival include:

Songs of Blood and Sword

Springtime: The New Student Rebellions
Edited by Claire Solomon and Tania Palmieri
Verso 2011 283 pages,
paperback, £9.99

In years to come, when people look back at 2010-11 and try to identify the moment the fightback against the British Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition really got under way, many will select the huge March 26 TUC-sponsored demonstration in London.

Magnificent and inspiring as March 26 was, however, November 10, 2010 has perhaps a greater claim to be recorded as the moment the fightback began in earnest.

On June 27, 1985, four anti apartheid activists were brutally murdered on behalf of the South African government. Twenty five years later, their killers still walk free.

The murders of these four men illustrate one of the darkest passages of South Africa’s history.

South African filmmaker David Forbes has directed, edited and produced the film The Cradock Four to tell the story of these four extraordinary men.

The “Big Four” record companies, already responsible for more than 80% of album sales on the planet, may be on the verge of becoming the “Big Three”.

On May 6, Warner Music Group was sold to Ukrainian-American tycoon Leonard Blavatnik.

Warner is the world's third largest record company. Blavatnik ― the world's 80th richest man ― is also rumored to have his sights set on number four EMI.

If that sale comes to pass, it will create the largest music label in history.

Fighting Fund

The richest person in Australia this year, according to the 2011 BRW Rich List, is mining magnate Gina Rhinehart.

Her wealth, estimated at $10.3 billion, is more than twice the amount put shopping centre tycoon Frank Lowy in the top spot in last year’s BRW Rich List.

Rhinehart’s wealth rose $5.55 billion from 2010.