Issue 884

News

An emergency phone tree on June 6 mobilised the extra support needed to stop workers coming on-site to begin demolishing part of Melbourne’s only Aboriginal school, Ballerrt Mooroop College (BMC). The workers from the demolition company, ADCO ,decided, as long as there were people staffing the picket line, not to cross it. The Building Industry Group of unions, including the Construction Forestry Mining Energy Union, the Electrical Trades Union, the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union and the Plumbers Union are considering banning work on the site.
Three Australian activists joining the Freedom Flotilla 2 were given a heartfelt sendoff by Green Left Weekly at the Resistance Centre on June 15. The three will soon join activists from 50 countries taking part in this latest international action to pressure Israel to lift the illegal blockade on Gaza. They have partnered with a Canadian organisation and their boat Tahrir (Liberation) will carry about 50 passengers and crew. See also:
SlutWalk has become a global phenomenon since Canadian policeman Constable Michael Sanguinett told a campus safety meeting “women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimised”. Big SlutWalk rallies have retaliated against this victim-blaming that police, courts, and governments perpetuate. People have protested in Canada, Mexico, London, Amsterdam, the US, London and Australia. Homemade placards denouncing sexual violence, supporting consensual sex and rejecting victim blaming were displayed at all the rallies.
A magistrate dismissed charges against 49 climate activists on June 16. The protesters had committed non-violent civil disobedience at a climate camp against a new coal-fired power station being built in the Hunter Valley. The charges related to an action on December 6 at the NSW climate camp near the Bayswater Power Station in the Hunter Valley — Australia’s single largest source of carbon pollution. The ruling means they have no conviction recorded, no criminal record and their fines dropped.
Chanting “refugees — freedom now, don’t treat people worse than cows”, 50 refugee rights protesters confronted immigration minister Chris Bowen at a refugee conference on June 17. The protest, which was called by the Refugee Action Coalition, marched into the University of NSW lecture theatre in which Bowen was addressing the conference, before police and security ejected the activists. Many of those inside the conference, which was organised by the Centre for Refugee Research, supported the protest. About half the room turned their backs on Bowen.
At a public debate on June 16, Icelandic journalist and WikiLeaks spokesperson Kristinn Hrafnsson said WikiLeaks has strengthened democracy and revealed wrongdoings. Most of the 600-strong crowd said they agreed. At the end of this year’s second IQ² debate, 58.2% of the audience voted for the proposition: “WikiLeaks is a force for good”. Just 32.2% said they disagreed while 8.8% were undecided. The debate did sway some people, however. Polled before the debate, only 6.3% of attendees said they disagreed and 30.7% said they were undecided.
Ninety-one percent of Australians think the government should take more action to roll out renewable energy and create green jobs and 86% say the government should develop a plan to get to 100% renewables. These were some of the outcomes of one of Australia’s biggest ever polls on climate change and climate policy, which was released by the 100% Renewable Energy Campaign on June 14.
Australian Taxation Office management has announced it will put its draft enterprise agreement to a vote of all ATO staff during a seven-day period starting on June 24, after negotiations with the unions ended in disagreement. From June 15 to June 17 the Community and Public Sector Union held a ballot of its ATO members to decide the union's attitude to management's proposal.
About 50 people rallied on June 16 under the slogan, “Don’t derail Altona. Save our trains.” The rally was called to protest the Victorian government’s cuts to rail services on the Werribee line’s Altona Loop. The service cuts mean the Altona Loop will lose direct access to the city loop and all of its express trains. Services will be cut from 20 to 22-minute intervals during peak periods. Outside peak periods the service will be cut to a train shuttle from Laverton to Newport so most passengers will have to change trains.
About 3000 people rallied outside Tasmania’s parliament house on June 16 to protest a harsh budget handed down by the ALP-Greens coalition government. Up to 1700 public sector workers will lose their jobs and 20 schools will close under the government’s plans.
About 500 people took part in a June 11 march to demand an end to victim blaming in sexual assault. This was followed by a screening of the film War Zone in the Adelaide Activist Centre. About 30 people attended. The film screening was jointly hosted by the Socialist Alliance and the Femment Feminist Collective. It was followed by a discussion on the politics of Slutwalk and the future of feminism. From the discussion the South Australian Feminist Collective (SAFC) was founded. All in attendance joined the contact list.
Sungai Siput, Malaysia - "It is definitely not on for Australia to outsource their refugee problem to Malaysia - and for Malaysia to agree to it", the Socialist Party of Malaysia (PSM) member of parliament Dr Jeyakumar Devaraj told Green Left Weekly at the PSM's 13th Congress held in this town, which is the population centre of his electorate. "Australia is sending refugees to a country that hasn't ratified the refugee convention.

Analysis

WikiLeaks released the statement below on June 16 to mark six months since its editor-in-chief Julian Assange was placed under house arrest in Britain. * * * Today, June 16 2011, Julian Assange will have spent six months under house arrest. He has not been charged with a crime in any country. The conditions of his detention are excessive and dehumanising. A Swedish prosecutor, Marianne Ny submitted a European Arrest Warrant for questioning in relation to a preliminary investigation regarding allegations of sexual misconduct in Sweden.
Young Indonesians aged 15 and 16, alleged to be crewmembers on boats giving passage for refugees to Australia, are being held in Australian adult prisons. They are charged under harsh people smuggling laws that carry minimum mandatory sentences of five years. At least four young men under 18 are known to be held in maximum security prisons in Western Australia and Queensland. This was revealed after human rights lawyers told media of three young men kidnapped from their village on Roti Island to work for a “people smuggling” racket.
On Friday June 3, NSW Greens mining spokesperson Jeremy Buckingham launched a bill in state parliament that would place a 12-month moratorium on the coal seam gas (CSG) industry in NSW and prohibit CSG mining in the Sydney metropolitan area. Speaking at the bill launch, Buckingham pointed out the risks associated with CSG extraction, including wastewater, fugitive emissions, land impact and depletion of aquifers.
The Pilliga State Forest in northern NSW will be turned into a gas field if the government approves Eastern Star Gas's (ESG) mining proposal for the region. The proposal set out by ESG seeks to develop the Pilliga into the state's largest coal seam gas (CSG) project. The development would include the drilling of more than 1000 gas wells and the clearing of vast stretches of native bushland to make way for gas pipelines and other associated infrastructure, such as a water treatment facility and access roads.
About 150 representatives engaged in the campaign against coal and coal seam gas mining attended the inaugural annual general meeting of the Lock the Gate Alliance, held in Murwillumbah, NSW, over June 11 and 12. Lock the Gate (LTG) is a national body that represents more than 90 community groups and hundreds of individuals concerned about the impacts of coal and coal seam gas mining. The meeting elected four office bearers and five committee members, including Sarah Moles as secretary and Sean Gough as treasurer. See also::
It wouldn’t be okay for Amnesty to take donations from military dictators or for Animal Liberation to accept abattoir-owners as sponsors. Such scenarios are so unlikely they just sound bizarre. So why should we accept that it’s okay for Australian environmental groups to take money from fossil fuel corporations? Surely it’s the ultimate conflict of interest. How can groups set up to stop climate change accept cash from companies that make millions from polluting the planet?
Again. Yes. Again. Another again to join a conga-line of agains going back decades. Again, another victim of the callousness of the NSW Department of Corrective Services. In this case, the unnecessary and useless death of 33-year-old Adam Grant le Marseny, also known as Adam Grant Morrison, who died in the corrective services cells of the Sydney police centre on, I believe, the night of May 28, 2011.
Multinational gas company Dart Energy met with residents from St Peters on June 6 to discuss the company’s plans to carry out exploratory coal seam gas (CSG) drilling in Sydney’s inner-west before the end of the year. Dart have plans to drill at a now vacant industrial site in St Peters close to residential properties and Sydney Park. The exploration licence held by Dart covers not only St Peters but an area of 2392 square kilometeres, encompassing most of metropolitan and suburban Sydney.
Western Australia has always been proud of its natural resources and mining industries. Criticise it, and you bare the wrath of not only the elitism of rich investors and industrialists, but pretty much 80 to 90% of the population. Woodside is considered one of the pride. When meeting its representatives in 2003, as one of the 40 of so school students attending the “Australian Student Mineral Venture”, we were told in loud volumes about how they employed Aborigines too … obviously the only tick box needed to be ethical, or so they thought.
In the first week of June, the Baillieu state government introduced new laws that give Victorian police the power to issue on-the-spot fines of up to $240 for using offensive language. Victorian police already had the power to charge people with indecent language offences, but they had to do this through the court system. This meant that people had the opportunity to defend their behaviour through the judicial system and were more likely to get a fair hearing.
In April and May, while in South America as part of solidarity brigades to Venezuela and Bolivia, I met some people who have risked everything to make their communities and their countries better places to live. I became so used to people passionately fighting for things they believed in that when I returned to Australia I received a sharp shock. Suddenly I was back among people who, in general, did not care much or want to know about issues of inequality or other problems in our society. It is for these people that this is written.
The Greens’ attempt to challenge Australia’s Afghan war policy in parliament last year has, by and large, sunk without trace. In spite of recent polls showing overwhelming public opposition, Australia’s Afghan commitment rolls on, with the recent deaths of more Australian soldiers. And the war continues to claim the lives of Afghan civilians.
The president of the Pacific island nation of Nauru told Australian opposition leader Tony Abbott that it would move to sign the United Nations Convention on the Status of Refugees though it has not taken formal steps to do so. Abbott said on June 13 this meant Prime Minister Julia Gillard had “run out of excuses” not to reopen the centre and send refugees to the small, poor nation about 4000 kilometres from Australia.
If you are a cow destined for someone’s dinner plate, the federal Labor government won’t send you to Indonesia without a guarantee you will be treated humanely. But if you are an asylum seeker risking your life to reach Australia by boat in a desperate attempt to escape war, poverty and persecution, the government will send you to Malaysia with little regard for your welfare.

World

The United States media remain enthralled by Congress’s partisan battles over the national debt ceiling, while the assault on public sector workers across the US intensifies. On June 14, Wisconsin’s state supreme court overturned an earlier legal challenge to the state’s anti-union “budget-repair” bill. The bill will ban collective bargaining for most of the state’s public sector workers. The bill sparked sustained mass protests in Wisconsin in February and March, including the occupation of the Capitol building in Madison.
Trade union leaders have rejected government claims that human rights and trade unionist protection has improved. The rejection denigrates symbolic gestures aimed at securing a free trade agreement (FTA) with the United States. The trade union leaders say the FTA will help multinational companies over Colombian workers.
Tens of thousands of striking trade unionists and their allies flooded Syntagma Square outside parliament on June 15 to try to stop MPs from approving the latest bill imposing more cuts and privatisations, the MorningStarOnline.co.uk said the next day. Prime Minister George Papandreou, seeking to defy the rising tide of protests, said he had initiated power-sharing talks in a bid to shore up his position. But the article said the talks quickly collapsed and two prominent MPs from Papandreou's PASOK party resigned.
The British government continues to license millions of pounds in arms to the Sri Lankan regime despite suggestions that they may have been used in war crimes, the Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) said on June 15. New evidence of alleged atrocities committed by the Sri Lankan state in 2009 in its purge of a stronghold of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in 2009 emerged this week in a Channel 4 documentary screened in Britain on June 14. For more than two decades, until its defeat in 2009, the LTTE fought for an independent Tamil state in Sri Lanka's north-east.
Swiss women and a major Swiss union held a national day of action on June 14 for wage equality for women and for a minimum wage of US$4000 a month for all workers. The minimum wage that the union and women are seeking would be the equivalent of $48,000 a year. The minimum wage is now $3000 a month, which was won in the 1980s. Switzerland has one of the highest costs of living in the world.
More than 40 Palestinian civil society organisations released a statement on June 12 calling for international support for the Freedom Flotilla 2, which aims to break the siege of Gaza. The first freedom flotilla bringing humanitarian aid to Gaza was violently attacked in May, 2010. Israeli commandoes killed nine Turkish volunteers aboard the Mavi Marmara, the flotilla’s lead ship. Israeli troops boarded the ship at night and used live ammunition against unarmed activists. The attack occurred in international waters in violation of international law.
“Power never gives up without a fight.” These words of United States civil rights leader Martin Luther King were quoted by US President Barack Obama in his May 19 policy speech on the Middle East. The quote is certainly a true description of the response of the region's regimes to the Arab democratic upsurge. But Obama failed to mention that the biggest power in the Middle East is the US.
Three months after the earthquake and tsunami that triggered a nuclear disaster in Japan, new radiation "hot spots" may require the evacuation of more areas further from the damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power facility. Japan’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency has now admitted for the first time that full nuclear meltdowns occurred at three of the plant’s reactors, and more than doubled its estimate for the amount of radiation that leaked from the plant in the first week of the disaster in March. See also:
More than 3000 riot police were sent to the Yoosung piston head factory in Asan on May 24 to break up a factory occupation and sit in protest over a company lockout. Yoosung is a manufacturing company that has a near monopoly over the production of piston rings with an 80% share of the domestic market. It is a major supplier for Kia and Hyundai motors.
More than 65,000 people in cities and towns all over Japan marched on June 11 to mark three months since Fukushima nuclear disaster. Marchers called for an end to nuclear power. In Tokyo, separate marches took off from different routes through the city before assembling in front of Shinjuku station. The largest action, a “sound-demo” called by the Shiroto no Ran (“Amateur Riot”) network attracted thousands of young people. They marched through the city accompanied by sound-trucks plying a variety of musical styles, from punk to folk to techno.
With Italy being the latest European country to reject nuclear power in a June 12-13 referendum, a coalition of anti-nuclear groups in Britain has announced plans to hold a mass non-violent blockade of Hinkley Point nuclear power station on October 3. The plant, near Bridgwater in Somerset, is expected to be the site of the first new nuclear power station. Hundreds of campaigners are expected to take part in Gandhi-style civil disobedience, risking arrest by blockading the access road to the site in protest over the threat posed by nuclear power.
Disaster capitalists flocked to Haiti in a “gold rush” for contracts to rebuild the country after the January 12, 2010 earthquake, wrote the current US ambassador Kenneth Merten in a secret Febuary 1, 2010 cable obtained by WikiLeaks and reviewed by Haiti Liberte. “THE GOLD RUSH IS ON!” Merten headlined a section of his 6pm situation report ― or Sitrep ― back to Washington.
US officials in Haiti warned that the Haitian government would be unable to handle a catastrophic earthquake five years before a devastating tremor ended up destroying large swathes of the Haitian capital and surrounding towns, killing tens of thousands and destroying hundreds of buildings. The information was revealed in a secret US cable obtained by the media organisation WikiLeaks.
Public opposition to a plan by an Australian mining company, Lynas, to build a rare earth refinery in Pahang, Malaysia, was on show at a protest outside Australian High Commission in Kuala Lumpur on May 20. Lynas plans to ship ore from its Mount Weld mine in Western Australia, through the port of Fremantle, to Malaysia. There it will be refined to extract rare earths, which are widely used in the manufacture of computers and electronics.
The British government continues to license millions of pounds in arms to the Sri Lankan regime despite suggestions that they may have been used in war crimes, the Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) said on June 15. New evidence of alleged atrocities committed by the Sri Lankan state in 2009 in its purge of a stronghold of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in 2009 emerged this week in a Channel 4 documentary screened in Britain on June 14. For more than two decades, until its defeat in 2009, the LTTE fought for an independent Tamil state in Sri Lanka's north-east.

Culture

Rapper Ozi Batla has long been known for speaking out on social issues. His band The Herd are well known for tracks such as “77%” ― which features the line “77% of Aussies are racist”, in response to an opinion poll result on the treatment of refugees during the Howard years. The Herd's “Burn Down the Parliament” caused controversy when it was coincidentally released the same week as the 2003 Canberra bush fires.
They’re a part of the human race Searching for a safe place To rise from their despair To be part of the world that seems fair Without wars Famines Or destruction That stops all means of production So they begin to flee Unwilling to live amongst the debris Where they lost friends Without any warnings Where they lost family Indefinitely… When they arrive Freedom is limited in order to survive Due to a lack of understanding With the government demanding Brief medical attention A lack of food and mental exhaustion A place we like to call mandatory detention
Soccer is the great global game: the closest thing we have to a connective cultural tissue that binds our species across national and cultural borders. But only in a world so upside down could “the Beautiful Game” be run by an organisation as corrupt as FIFA and by a man as rotten to the core as FIFA President Sepp Blatter. Only Blatter, whose reputation for degeneracy approaches legend, would hire a war criminal such as former United States secretary of state Henry Kissinger to head “a committee of wise persons” aimed at “rooting out corruption” in his organisation.
Marcel Khalife, born in 1950 in Amchit, Lebanon, has injected new life into the music produced by the oud (the Arabic lute) ― helping revive an important part of Arabic culture. Khalife studied the oud at the Beirut National Conservatory of Music and graduated in 1971. From 1972 to 1975, Khalife taught at the Beirut National Conservatory of Music, public universities and local private music institutions. During that period, he toured the Middle East, North Africa, Europe and the United States giving solo performances on the oud.

Fighting Fund

Green Left Weekly is moving to a new office. Ever since it was founded in 1991, GLW has been produced in Sydney in our Chippendale office, on Abercrombie St. For years before that, GLW’s predecessor, Direct Action, was also produced in the Chippendale building. But the space no longer suits our needs and we are moving to an exciting new building on Mountain Street, Ultimo — just minutes from Abercrombie St.

Letters

Gaddafi has record of slaughter Tony Iltis [GLW #882] perceptively takes apart the double-dealing of the major Western powers as they have responded to the Arab revolts. But he is on shakier ground when he argues in relation to Libya that “there is no evidence that the (NATO) intervention saved thousands of lives”. As reported by Reuters on March 17, Muammar Gaddafi in a radio broadcast threatened the people of the rebel city of Benghazi in these terms: “We will come … house by house, room by room … We will have no mercy and no pity.”

We kid you not

US: Activists arrested for feeding homeless “Orlando [Florida] police arrested five more activists from behind a makeshift buffet table at  Lake Eola Park  on Wednesday evening, bringing to a dozen the number charged in the past week with violating city restrictions on feeding the homeless.