Issue 882

News

About 5000 people walked across Commonwealth Bridge and rallied in front of Parliament House on June 5, calling for real action on climate change now. Speakers included former Liberals Leader John Hewson, Richard Dennis from the Australia Institute, 2010 Greens Senate candidate Lin Hatfield Dodds and Bishop Pat Power. Hewson said we needed to respond to climate change with a greater sense of urgency and in a way that recognised the magnitude of the problem.
Since the 1980s, Friends of the Earth's (FoE) annual Radioactive Exposure Tour has exposed thousands of people first-hand to the realities of “radioactive racism” and to the environmental impacts of the nuclear industry. The tour is a 10-day journey into the heart of the breathtaking semi-arid landscapes of South Australia and its atomic history and current uranium mining operations.
Three hundred teachers from across NSW rallied outside NSW Parliament House in Macquarie St on June 4. They were joined by members of the Public Service Association, the Fire Brigade Employees Union, the NSW Nurses Federation and other unionists. The teachers left a session of the New South Wales Teachers Federation (NSWTF) council to protest the Liberal government’s plan to strip away conditions and limit wage rises of public sector workers. At the rally, the NSWTF councillors declared their support for other public sector workers and the unions NSW campaign against the changes.
More than 40 people attended a meeting on May 22 in the Wollongong suburb of Corrimal titled, “The future of local government in Wollongong; can it be community driven and democratic”? Wollongong City Council has been under adminstration since March 2008 after the ALP-dominated council was sacked for systemic corruption. An election is scheduled for September 3 for all councillor positions, including Lord Mayor. Trade unionists, socialists, Greens and community activists attended the meeting, which was organised by Broad Left.
About 200 people gathered on the steps of Victorian parliament house on June 3 for a “Swear In” to protest against new laws that give police the power to fine people for swearing. Colleen Hartland, Greens member of the legislative council, spoke of the civil liberties implications while protesters chanted potty-mouth slogans in a show of defiance to police. The protest was organised through Facebook and was called on May 31. By June 3, the event invitation had been circulated to more than 10,000 people. This demonstrates just how unpopular the laws are.
“This is going to be the biggest environmental campaign this country has ever seen,” Drew Hutton, acting president of the Lock the Gate Alliance, told a rally of several hundred people outside the Sofitel Hotel on May 31. He was addressing the crowd outside a major conference of the coal seam gas (CSG) industry. “The coal seam gas sector and governments are hungry for cash, and are quite willing to tear up our countryside to get it. Every part of the country will be affected,” he said.
Members of climate action group NoPlanetB.org blocked the haulage of coal from Xstrata’s West Wallsend underground mine for several hours on May 30. A climber was suspended in a tunnel entrance on a haul road, used for transferring coal to the port of Newcastle. Others stood in front of trucks. The group sought to raise its concern about the demands from the coal industry, including Xstrata, that pollution from coalmines be exempt from the federal government’s proposed carbon tax.
Members of various activist groups joined a roadside anti-privatisation protest in Booragoon, Western Australia on June 3. The groups responded to the call by the “In Public Hands” campaign group to campaign for public ownership of the soon-to-be-built Fiona Stanley Hospital. Protesters held placards reading “Don’t privatise our hospitals” and “Honk if you support anti-privatisation”, which received plenty of responses from passers-by.
About 40 people joined a “flash mob” action in the Myer Centre, Queen Street Mall, on June 3 to protest Seacret, as an Israeli company operating in Australia. Seacret is a cosmetics firm that uses minerals from the Dead Sea, which is part of the Palestinian territory stolen by Israel over decades of invasion and oppression. Participants in the flash mob occupied tables in the food court at Myers and chanted a song, beginning with the refrain, “We will boycott Israel! We will boycott Israel!” They then trooped through the centre, chanting, “Free, free Palestine!”
Aboriginal community leader Sam Watson called a rally outside state parliament on June 1 to demand a new Royal Commission into Aboriginal deaths in custody. The rally also condemned the Queensland Police Union (QPU), who have demanded the Queensland government pay the legal costs incurred by Senior Sergeant Chris Hurley during his defence case about the 2004 death in custody of Palm Island man Mulrunji Domadgee. Watson told the rally: “We as taxpayers should not be paying for the legal costs of Hurley and the QPU.
More than 60 people rallied outside parliament house on June 2 in support of rights for homeless people. This was the largest of three protests organised since the issue was raised in state parliament in April in relation to the upcoming Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM). Police minister Rob Johnson said on April 7 that homeless people would have to “sleep somewhere else'', implying they would be swept from the streets during CHOGM.
Safe sex advertisements are being returned to the city's bus shelters after widespread protests forced a ban to be overturned. Adshel, one of Australia's largest outdoor advertising companies, had taken down the ads on May 31 after a concerted campaign of complaints by the Australian Christian Lobby. Adshel said it had been the target of “a co-ordinated Australian Christian Lobby campaign” to have the ads removed, the June 2 Courier-Mail reported.
More than 3000 people turned out to Austinmer beach in the Illawarra on May 29 to form a “STOP COAL SEAM GAS!” human sign. Three helicopters, each from a big 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: stop-csg-illawarra.org. A big team of more than 40 volunteers from Stop CSG Illawarra helped make the day such a success.
A Darwin-based asylum seeker support group today called on the Minister for Immigration, Chris Bowen, to honour his promise to remove children from detention by the end of June. In excess of 100 children remain in immigration detention in Darwin. Darwin Asylum Seeker Support and Advocacy Network (DASSAN) spokesperson Kevin Kadirgamar described the situation as "very concerning". "The fact that in excess of 100 children remain in detention in Darwin only weeks out from the Minister's deadline suggests that the government is not serious about its undertaking," he said on June 1.
Two men were taken to hospital and a third treated at the scene after being injured during a confrontation with police at a refugee rights protest at the Maribyrnong detention centre on May 29. The conflict took place during a pre-arranged peaceful protest organised by an alliance of refugee support groups and left-wing political groups. The protesters converged outside the Maribrynong detention centre armed with placards with slogans such as “Free the Refugees” and “Seeking Asylum is not a Crime”.

Analysis

This year marks the 10th anniversary of the Codrington wind farm in Victoria’s southwest, the state’s first. On May 18, planning minister Matthew Guy announced approval for the latest, the three-turbine Chepstowe wind farm near Ballarat. But Victoria’s wind industry is threatened by the policies of the state’s new Liberal government. The government came to power with promises to ensure no-go zones for wind farms in the Macedon ranges, Bellarine and Mornington peninsulas, and the Great Ocean Road. These are some of the best areas in the state for wind farms.
Green Left Weekly’s Timothy Lawson spoke to Jim Richardson, a member of Sydney Solidarity for Bradley Manning, about the group’s campaign work. * * * Can you tell me about the Sydney Solidarity for Bradley Manning group?
The Stop the War coalition Sydney released the statement below on June 2. * * * “We will be there seeing the mission through” — Australian troops will stay in Afghanistan until the “job” is done. This was the response of Prime Minister Julia Gillard to the May 23 death of Sergeant Brett Wood, aged 32. It is the standard response of Australian governments to casualties in the Afghanistan war. The same response was given following the deaths seven days later of Lieutenant Marcus Case, 27, and Lance Corporal Andrew Jones, 25.
A big ad campaign — “Australia says yes” — began this month to support the federal government’s proposed carbon tax. The campaign has been organised by a coalition of peak environment and social justice organisations including GetUp!, the Australian Conservation Foundation and the Australian Council of Trade Unions. One of the people featured in the advertisements is actor Cate Blanchett. Her presence attracted the ire of conservative politicians and commentators as soon as the commercials aired.
Toowoomba’s Catholic community expressed shock at the sacking of Bishop William Morris after a five-year Vatican investigation. But Father Peter Kennedy, of South Brisbane church St Mary’s in Exile, wasn’t surprised. Sacked from the church in 2009 for “unorthodox practices”, Father Kennedy continues to front his congregation at the Trades and Labour Council building courtesy of the Queensland Council of Unions. He, along with many others in the St Mary’s community, is responsible for Micah Projects, now one of Australia’s most respected homelessness projects.
Alice Springs is a town unlike any other and to an outsider its racial tensions are noticeable. Walking through the shopping centre one sees security guards tell Aboriginal people to move on when they are window shopping. Poverty and homelessness are visible — and visibly black. It has always been a town that has struggled with dealing with this visible poverty — and the less visible disadvantage of the communities in the town camps. It has been back in the spotlight with a rise in social problems caused by an influx of Aboriginal people from other places.
The deal to restructure the collapsing timber industry in Tasmania is struggling to make headway. Logging continues in old-growth forests at the same time as sawmills and woodchip mills close and more workers lose their jobs. Anti-logging protests are being held weekly outside the premier’s office in Hobart, and the talks between environment and industry groups continue despite a key player pulling out in frustration. The Wilderness Society (TWS) suspended its involvement in the Tasmanian Forest Agreement on May 18, citing a failure of leadership from state and federal governments.
In the land of desperate excuses, coal seam gas is king. The new boom industry of the Queensland and New South Wales hinterlands contaminates ground and surface waters, while taking rich farmland out of food production. But at least, its promoters argue, coal seam gas (CSG) is a weak hitter among sources of greenhouse pollution. When burnt in modern power plants, the story goes, CSG can be as much as 70% “cleaner” than coal.
The Australian government has received heavy criticism in recent weeks for its inhumane treatment of refugees, in particular its “swap” deal with Malaysia and its mandatory detention policy. Federal Greens MP Adam Bandt and independent MP Andrew Wilkie moved a parliamentary motion on May 30 condemning the plan to send 800 asylum seekers to Malaysia.
Forty years after the first equal pay test case, the gap between male and female wages continues to widen. Australian Bureau of Statistics figures, released on May 20, 2010, put the pay gap (as of February 2010) at 18%. Women on average now earn $239.30 a week less than men. The pay gap increased 0.5% over the past quarter (from 17.5%) and 1.5% over the past year (from 16.5%). The gap is now at its highest level since August 1994. This pay gap means, on average, Australian women have to work an extra 66 days to earn the same as men.
We chose Professor Noam Chomsky for the 2011 Sydney Peace Prize for inspiring the convictions of millions about ways to achieve those universal human rights, which bolster peace with justice. For more than 50 years he has been a world champion of freedom of speech, of the value of transparency in government and the need to challenge secrecy and censorship. In his study of the political economy of human rights, he exposed state crimes, induced by US foreign policy, across South America, the Middle East and South East Asia.

World

A subpoena from the Manhattan district attorney on June 3 has added to a growing list of official probes into investment bank and securities firm Goldman Sachs. Reuters said on June 3: “Goldman Sachs Group Inc now faces probes by several government authorities into derivatives trades it executed in late 2006 and 2007. “On Thursday, sources close to the matter said Goldman received a subpoena from the Manhattan district attorney, who joins the Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission in examining Goldman's actions.”
The German government announced on May 30 that Germany’s 17 nuclear power stations would all be permanently shut down by 2022. Germany’s seven oldest nuclear power stations ― temporarily switched off after public outcry following the Fukushima disaster ― will remain off-line and be permanently decommissioned. An eighth was already off line, and will stay so. Six of the remaining nine stations will be shut down in 2021 and the final three will be turned off in 2022.
“In all of the mainstream media analysis of WikiLeaks' recent release of Detainee Assessment Briefs (DABs) from Guantanamo, relating to almost all of the 779 prisoners who have been held at the prison over the last nine years and four months,” Andy Worthington wrote in a may 11 TruthOut.org article, “one group of prisoners has so far been overlooked: the Yemenis.”
It’s been a year since the “memorandum of understanding” between the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the Greek government was signed. It is now clear it has failed to deliver the country’s promised economic recovery. As confirmed by the treasury data, Greece’s debt has risen rather than fallen. At the same time, the impact on Greek people of the austerity measures demanded by the IMF has been devastating. Official unemployment has reached about 16% — an all-time high. There are 787,000 people unemployed — 181,000 more than last year.
In late April, the progressive Spanish daily Publico asked why there was so little resistance to the economic crisis, despite the country’s 5 million jobless and rising misery. The union and social movement leaders and left academics interviewed pointed to the numbing impact of mass unemployment, the casualisation of work, the bureaucratisation of organised labour, widespread scepticism that striking could achieve anything, and the economic cushion provided by Spain's extended families.
In a contribution to the magazine Viento Sur, Real Democracy Now! activist Nacho Álvarez looked at the challenges facing the Real Democracy Now! movement three weeks after May 15. Excerpts of the article are published below. * * * Collective reflection about what to do, how to channel people’s anger and how to structure a sustained and massive protest movement now grips the streets and squares of hundreds of Spanish cities.
The editor-in-chief of whistle-blowing website WikiLeaks, Julian Assange, told the Belfast Telegraph that the United States was working behind the scenes to put WikiLeaks and himself out of business. He said: “The United States has brought out to the public an extremely aggressive response. In private, it is also doing other things. “That response has been the most aggressive response to an international publisher ever.” See also:
As many as 1 million people gathered in Cairo's Tahrir Square and across Egypt on May 27 for a “Friday of Anger”. The huge march showed the revolution that ousted dictator Hosni Mubarak in February has reached a new stage. The demonstrations were called by left organisations in defiance of Egypt's military rulers — as well as the Muslim Brotherhood and liberal groups that were part of the mass protests against Mubarak in February.
Tunisia's first election since the downfall of dictator Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali may be delayed from July 24 to October 16, Kamel Jandoubi, president of the High Authority for the Elections, told a meeting of political parties on May 26. But days later, the interim government reaffirmed its commitment to the July 24 elections for a constituent assembly. Moez Sinaoui, spokesperson for the interim prime minister Beji Caid el Sebsi , told state news agency TAP on May 29 that the original date “is a roadmap and a position of principle to prepare this important political event”.
British Conservative PM David Cameron told a May 26 London press conference with US President Barack Obama that the world's biggest superpowers support the “Arab Spring” uprisings. He said the main task of the May 26-27 G8 meeting in Deauville, France the following day was promoting “democracy, freedom and prosperity” in the Middle East. Obama also expressed “solidarity” with the uprisings. “It will be years before these revolutions reach their conclusion, and there will be difficult days along the way”, he said. “Power rarely gives up without a fight.”
Media outlets from the Dawn Media Group, Pakistans leading media house, published the first set of WikiLeaks files relating to Pakistan on May 20. The leaked US cables revealed that the Pakistani military is complicit in US drone strikes in Pakistan's tribal areas, bordering Afghanistan. Each set of cables published by the group has had a ripple effect, with the leaked US cables widely reproduced. At first, embarrassed military spokespeople and politicians exposed by the leaks denied the contents. Later, they tried to ignore them.
Global greenhouse gas emissions rose faster than ever last year and the market-based schemes set up to bring emissions down are in trouble. That’s the bad news from two recent reports by the International Energy Agency (IEA) and the World Bank. The IEA said emissions in 2010 were 5% higher than 2008, the previous highest year. It estimated that about 44% of the emissions came from coal, 36% from oil and 20% from natural gas.
On a section of the apartheid wall in Occupied Palestine someone spray-painted a quote from Edward Said that says: "Since when does a militarily occupied people have the responsibility for a peace movement?" It is worth considering the wisdom of this statement. This month marks the 44th anniversary of Israel’s occupation of Gaza and the West Bank. Palestinians are coming face to face with their worst nightmare: there may never be a Palestinian state. 
The Scottish government announced on May 20 that it was aiming to use only  renewable energy  by 2020, EarthTimes.org said on May 22 — increasing its target from 80%. Scotland's First Minister Alex Salmond, from the Scottish National Party (SNP), said: “Because the pace of development has been so rapid, with our 2011 target already exceeded, we can now commit to generating the equivalent of 100% of Scotland's own electricity demand from renewable resources by 2020. “Offshore wind will play a key role in achieving our ambitions.”
Corporate media outlets claim Peru’s mining boom is doing wonders for the country’s economy, creating opportunities and making everybody richer. Quite a few Peruvians, mostly situated in the bubble-world of Lima’s wealthy areas, have been drinking the neoliberal kool-aid. Someone must have forgotten to tell those troublesome recalcitrants out in the provinces that the despoliation of their lands is good for them.
On June 1, formal Israeli festivities were held around the country to commemorate “Jerusalem Day”. One of the main events of the “Jerusalem Day" celebrations is the “Dance of Flags”. Tens of thousands of people, waving Israeli flags, march through Palestinian parts of the city. This year, the marchers chanted slogans such as “butcher the Arabs”, “burn their villages”, and “death to the leftists”. The marchers also surrounded a mosque, frantically chanting “Muhammad is dead” and “They are only Arabs, they are only fleas”.

Culture

Secret Genocide: Voices of the Karen of Burma Daniel Pedersen Maverick House, 272pp Aung San Suu Kyi, leader of Burma's national League for Democracy (NLD), might be relatively free, for now. There are many others in Burma, however, who are anything but free of the continual repression and brutality that is still being enacted by the nation’s military regime. For the people of the country’s various ethnic minorities, such as the Shan and the Karen, life is little more than the day-to-day endurance of a seemingly endless civil war.
Rebellion runs through pop music, but no performer has ever fused music and radical politics like Gil Scott-Heron, who died on May 27. In a series of early 1970s albums, Scott-Heron, collaborating with composer/arranger Brian Jackson, made militant funk and soul that remains unmatched. It exploded any idea that art and politics don’t mix, and has been hugely influential. Scott-Heron has become known as the godfather of rap not just because his spoken word over drumbeats prefigured the genre, but because he used the style to tell of ghetto life and urge resistance.

Fighting Fund

There's a huge anti-capitalist movement rocking Spain. If you're on Twitter the hashtag to follow is #spanishrevolution. We at Green Left Weekly have enthusiastically covered the events and the protesters known as “the indignants”. The movement has exploded into the streets; the central squares of cities and towns across the country have been taken over by a people crying out “the system is the problem”.

Letters

Reality check on climate target The Australian Climate Commission’s report The Critical Decade adopted a budget approach to cessation of greenhouse gas (GHG) pollution, stating that a 75% chance of the world avoiding a 2°C temperature rise (European Union policy) means progressive cessation of GHG pollution in 2010-2050 with emission of no more than 1 trillion tonnes more of CO2 (carbon dioxide).

Resistance!

The not-guilty verdict in October for a young woman and her partner put on trial for using the drug RU486 to induce an abortion came as a big relief to many. The Cairns jury took less than an hour to deliver long-awaited justice. Now the campaign has turned to smashing the anti-abortion laws that put the Cairns couple on trial in the first place. The case showed the urgent need to decriminalise abortion and realise that the right of women to control their fertility is a fundamental human right.