Issue 886

Australia

More than 300 refugee rights protesters descended on Broadmeadows Detention Centre, in Melbourne’s inner north, on July 9.

The activists present were determined to have their voices heard, and make it known that ALP immigration minister Chris Bowen has backflipped on his promise to have all children out of detention by July.

The centre, which accommodates only asylum seekers under the age of 18, is indeed still open and running. And it doesn’t look like closing its razor wire gates any time soon.

About 100 people rallied in Brisbaen’s King George Square on July 9 as part of an International Day of Action against the Israeli Apartheid wall in the West Bank. Demands of the rally were: Tear down the wall, End the occupation of Palestine, Equal rights for Palestinians, and Right of return for Palestinian refugees!

The rally featured a large banner depicting the wall, along with a series of placards describing the impact the wall has on Palestinian communities.

Martin Ferris, a TD (MP) from Irish republican party Sinn Fein, will address audiences in Australia in late July on the ongoing struggle for Irish reunification and independence.

Ferris will address audiences in Perth, Melbourne and Sydney on the topic of “Uniting Ireland”.

The tour is part of an international campaign by Sinn Fein to gather support for ending British rule over the six counties in Ireland's north.

About 50 people attended a forum on July 8 titled "Rebuilding from the Ground Up: alternatives to the failed NT Intervention".

The meeting heard from Valerie Martin, a Yuendumu resident in the Northern Territory, which is one of the "hub towns" under the government’s Northern Territory Intervention.

She took part in the Prescribed Area People's Alliance conference in Darwin in June, which launched the “Rebuilding from the Ground Up” document.

More than 500 Malaysians and their supporters gathered in Melbourne's Federation Square on July 9 to call for free and fair elections in Malaysia. They were decked out in yellow shirts and held banners and placards.

The rally, called in solidarity with the Bersih 2.0 democracy movement in Malaysia, chanted slogans in Malay and English, ranging from "Bersih bersih" (Clean, clean) to "change is possible".

Thirty five people attended a forum on June 25 entitled “100% Equality” hosted by WA Greens MLC and spokesperson for diversity, gender and sexuality, Lynn Maclaren.

The forum discussed the campaign for marriage equality and other issues facing the lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and intersex community.

The fight to stop the James Price Point gas hub in the Kimberly in Western Australia's north reached a critical point on July 4 as police arrested dozens of people. The arrests were an attempt to break the spirit of the community protesters who have blockaded the site for a month.

Woodside Petroleum is the lead company in a consortium that is planning to build a $30 billion gas-processing hub that would destroy pristine environment and result in up to 39 million tonnes of greenhouse gas pollution a year.

Under an agreement endorsed by the federal court, the Quandamooka Aboriginal people of North Stradbroke Island, 22 kilometres off the Brisbane coast, have gained partial native title over the island. Speaking at a July 4 handover ceremony, Queensland Premier Anna Bligh said the agreement opens the way for settlements of other native title claims in the Brisbane region, the July 5 Australian reported.

Eastern Star Gas were forced to halt coal seam gas workat a site in the Pilliga state forest on July 5 after an activist scaled a 25-metre high rig dropping a banner that read “No Pilliga CSG”.

The activist, Warrick Jordan, was on the rig for almost 16 hours as part of a protest against ESG's proposal for 1100 coal seam gas wells and their associated infrastructure in the Pilliga.

At the protest, about 20 people, mostly residents of nearby Coonabarabran, staged a peaceful day-long blockade of the gates of the Eastern Star Gas site.

Community Voice — a united grassroots ticket to contest Wollongong City Council elections — was officially launched on July 8 at Wollongong Town Hall.

The ticket is an exciting development for the Illawarra community. It will contest all positions in the September 3 election, including Lord Mayor.

Community Voice has developed a platform based on community democracy, social justice, job creation and sustainable development.

It will preselect candidates for councillors on July 24 and for Lord Mayor on July 31.

The NSW Roads and Traffic Authority (RTA) is continuing to build the Bulahdelah bypass, north of Newcastle, despite a community campaign to halt the project.

The bypass road was first proposed in 2000. Three main routes were canvassed: one to the west of the town, passing through several flat paddocks; another to the east, cutting through the foot of the Alum mountain; and an option that involved widening the existing road.

The safer, more geologically stable and slightly western route was ditched in favour of the mountain route.

Sixty people, representing a broad cross section of the activist left and progressive movement, met on July 5 to discuss the implications of the vicious police assault demonstrators protesting outside Israeli-owned chocolate company Max Brenner on July 1.

The key issue debated was whether to set up a broader civil liberties campaign or whether to keep the focus on the 19 people who had been arrested at an action as part of the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel.

A small but spirited group of protesters braved driving wind and rain outside Fremantle’s Notre Dame University on the evening of June 30 to express their opposition to the university playing host to British climate change denier Christopher Monckton.

Earlier that day, Perth's daily newspaper The West Australian had obligingly provided free publicity for Monckton’s impending speech in an article occupying most of its front page.

The NSW Nature Conservation Council released the statement below on July 5.

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In a first for NSW, peaceful protesters have this morning stopped a coal seam gas exploration rig in the Pilliga Forest, south of Narrabri. One protester in climbing gear is suspended high above the ground at the top of a 25 metre rig at an Eastern Star Gas operation, with another group of protesters on site.

The 12,000 who rallied outside parliament house against NSW Premier Barry O'Farrell’s “worse than WorkChoices” laws on June 15 showed how much anger there is about his attack on public sector workers.

A continued campaign of protests and industrial action can make it impossible for him to use these laws.

It's not good enough to simply focus on the hope of voting out O'Farrell at the next election — which is four years away.

More than 100 Victorian police viciously attacked a peaceful protest in support of Palestine on July 1. People were peacefully protesting outside the 100% Israeli-owned Max Brenner Chocolates store when police charged the demonstration.

At first, the police targeted people who were leading the protest and holding megaphones.
After picking off protest leaders, the police charged sections of the crowd to separate those who had linked arms.

Later, the police charged two lines of people who had linked arms outside the Max Brenner store.

World

Robert Meeropol is the son of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, who were executed in 1953 in an infamous case of US judicial murder as alleged Soviet spies. The government case depended on the perjured evidence of David Greenglass, Ethel Rosenberg’s brother, who saved himself from by lying.

Meeropol now directs the Rosenberg Fund for Children, which supports the children of imprisoned US political activists. He posted the statement below on the Rosenberg Fund’s website on June 30.

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The results of Thailand's July 3 general election are a slap in the face for the dictatorship.

They prove without any doubt that most people have rejected the military, the Democrat Party (PP) and the royalist elites.

Pheu Thai Party (PTP), the party closely allied to the Red Shirt pro-democracy movement, won a clear majority. The result is all the more remarkable, given the election was held under conditions of severe censorship and intimidation of the Red Shirt democracy movement by the military and the military-installed PP government of Abhisit Vejjajiva.

Protests at Cairo's Tahrir Square and other cities across Egypt on July 8 drew hundreds of thousands back to the streets to "save the revolution".

The protests are part of the ongoing struggle to press for democracy in the aftermath of the popular uprising that overthrew dictator Hosni Mubarak in February.

The protests, labelled “Friday of Justice for Revolution Martyrs” by the Facebook group We are all Khaled Said, has also been dubbed “Persistence Friday” in the media.

Dr Jeyakumar Deveraj, a federal member of parliament in Malaysia, was one of 30 activists of the Socialist Party of Malaysia (PSM) detained without trial on June 25.

The activists were arrested as they were travelling the country campaigning against the repressive and corrupt Barisan Nasional government headed by PM Najib Razak.

Before they could have a face-to-face meeting with the Australian mining company company Lynas Corporation, a dozen resident activists from Kuantan, Malaysia, took a journey all the way to Sydney to launch a protest outside Lynas headquarters on July 5.
 
Lynas is building a radioactive waste-producing rare earth refinery in their coastal city of 500,000 people. Some 700,000 people live within a 30km radius of the Lynas refinery site.
 

A British TV documentary and a United Nations-commissioned report have confirmed long-standing Tamil allegations that the Sri Lankan Army (SLA) committed large-scale war crimes in the course of its May 2009 victory over the pro-independence Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

The message below from Dr Jeyakumar Devaraj, MP for Sg Siput, was dictated to Edmund Bon and Mohd Redzuan Yusoff on July 5 at Jinjang police station.
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I would like to thank everyone who is supporting us by their letters, prayers and urgent appeals, etc.

The six of us being detained under the emergency ordinance have not broken any laws and our crime is that we are socialists, and we are attempting to put the issues affecting the poorer 60% of Malaysians on the national agenda. For example, issues of hospital privatisation, and decent and minimum wages.

In the final days of Alan Garcia’s rancid presidency, crimes against the Peruvian people are still being committed.

The department of Puno, bordering Bolivia in the country’s south-east, has now been added to a long list of locations where anti-mining protesters have been gunned down by security forces.

On June 25, six indigenous activists were reportedly killed and dozens more wounded when Peruvian police opened fire on a 4000-strong crowd occupying the Manco Capac airport in the city of Juliaca.

No sooner had information come out that Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez was undergoing surgery in Cuba than the international media was full of speculation and rumours regarding his imminent demise.

Projecting their hopes that an illness could succeed in removing Chavez where military coups and assassination attempts had failed, the right-wing Venezuelan opposition went into overdrive.

They demanded the president step down and hand over power to the vice president.

Vivienne Porzsolt, a member of Jews Against the Occupation and the Socialist Alliance, is one of four Australians on the Canadian boat Tahrir, part of the Freedom Flotilla attempting to break Israel's starvation siege on Gaza. She reports on what happened when Greek authorities acted to stop the boats from sailing on July 4. A protest was held outside the Greek consulate in Sydney on July 7.

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In June, four Australian set sail as part of the second Freedom Flotilla to Gaza with the aim of highlighting the suffering of its people at the hands of Israel’s illegal blockade.

The flotilla, involving a dozen boats with hundreds of activists from more than 50 countries, aims to deliver humanitarian aid to the besieged Palestinian territory.

The convoy coincides with the deep process of revolt occurring across the Arab world — against regimes that often collaborate with Israel.

The campaign of repression, slander and sabotage against the Freedom Flotilla II in its efforts to break the blockade of Gaza shows how desperately Israel and its supporters wish to keep the conditions in the besieged Palestinian enclave out of the world's view.

The illegal Israeli blockade, in place since 2007, has crippled the Gazan economy and brought widespread misery to Gaza's 1.5 million people. A secret US diplomatic cable from October 2008, released by WikiLeaks in January, revealed the situation was intentionally created by Israel.

See also:

The Greek parliament defied huge popular opposition, including a 48-hour general strike, to pass the latest set of extreme austerity measures demanded by the “troika” (the European Union, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund) in return for fresh loans.

However, many commentators have pointed out it is one thing to vote up the measures and another to force them on an increasingly discontented populace.

“US computer giant Apple has culled a Palestinian application from its iPhone offerings at the request of Israel,” a June 27 IOL.co.za article said.

“The Arabic-language app ThirdIntifada, released by Apple just days ago, provides users with details of upcoming anti-Israel protests, access to news articles and editorials, and links to Palestinian nationalist material.”

Pro-Palestinian demonstrators pointed out the term intifada, which means mass uprising, did not refer to violence.

Analysis

An impoverished Indonesian mother, in front of an Australian journalist, lies on a cement floor clutching a photograph of her 16-year-old son who is now in an Australian adult prison and whom she hasn't seen since he was 14.

Abject and acute poverty ravages Indonesia, a country where only 10% of the population has a refrigerator, where most people do not have electricity let alone a television, where many people live half lives working in sulphur mines and where most folk will never rise out of the shanty towns and villages they are born to die in.

Plans to give refugees deported from Australia a “special barcode” when they arrive in Malaysia were revealed by the June 29 Daily Telegraph. A final refugee swap deal between Australia and Malaysia is likely to be announced this month.

More than 340 refugees have arrived since Prime Minister Julia Gillard announced the plan on May 7 to “swap” 800 asylum seekers in Australia for 4000 “processed refugees” in Malaysia. The refugees affected by the deal are being held in various stages of isolation on Christmas Island.

The 28th Australian soldier to die in Afghanistan was killed on July 4. In what is becoming a routine, Prime Minister Julia Gillard used the occasion of giving the nation’s condolences on July 6 to harangue an increasingly sceptical public about the necessity for the occupation to continue.

The Afghan war’s self-evident failure to achieve any of its shifting official objectives has meant questioning the war has become unavoidable.

It’s been a fascinating few weeks in Tasmanian politics.

On June 16, the Labor-Greens government handed down a shocking budget that cut funding to public health, education, police and other services.

Thousands of public service workers gathered on parliament lawns that day to condemn the plan, saying that services were already struggling to meet demand.

The education cuts included a plan to close 20 schools. Education minister and Greens leader Nick McKim started a process of “consultation” with affected school communities around the state.

Joint international solidarity statement

On June 19, a campaign titled Bersih 2.0 was called by the Malaysian people for free and fair elections as the 13th General Election is around the corner.

Bersih 2.0 also called for a gathering on July 9. On June 24, the Parti Sosialis Malaysia (Socialist Party of Malaysia) launched a Udahlah BN, Bersaralah (Enough BN, Retire Now) campaign.

The Socialist Party of Malaysia campaign aimed to expose the corruption of the Barisan Nasional (BN) government and also to drum up support for the Bersih 2.0 rally.

A report prepared for the Australian Coal Association titled Impact of Proposed Carbon Tax on Black Coal mining claims that the government’s proposed carbon tax is going to cause eight coal mines to close prematurely and will cost thousands of jobs between now and 2021.

The report claimed 4700 jobs would be lost from existing coalmines due to the carbon price

Ever spent time in Dubai airport, on the shores of the Persian Gulf? You might have reflected that human beings can live quite well when temperatures exceed 50°C. All they need to do is stay behind plate glass, with the air conditioning on maximum.

No doubt you looked out through the glass at the dust and sand. If you’re unusually reflective, you might then have asked yourself: if this is what global warming has in store for huge stretches of the Earth, what’s everyone going to eat?

See also:

The federal government said on June 29 it had met its “commitment” to move child refugees out of detention and into community-based accommodation.

In October last year, 738 children were held in detention. Widespread public fears for the mental and physical damage caused by long-term detention forced the government to act.

The immigration department said it would “begin moving significant numbers of children and vulnerable family groups out of immigration detention” into community detention.

Three Tamil asylum seekers from Sri Lanka detained in Maribyrnong detention centre have agreed to share their experiences with Green Left Weekly. They are terrified that talking to journalists may cause their applications for refugee status to be impeded or denied. Due to this fear, these three men have agreed to share their experiences on the condition of anonymity.

Feminism is experiencing a revival in Adelaide with the formation of a new activist group, the South Australian Feminist Collective.

The group emerged from a feminist forum jointly hosted by Socialist Alliance and Femment, which followed the recent Adelaide “SlutWalk” march against sexual assault and victim-blaming. The forum explored the politics of this event and the relevance of feminism today.

About 30 people attended the collective’s first meeting on June 25.

The meeting began discussion about how the group would be run, its aims and values.

Several months after the Fukushima nuclear disaster, we’re beginning to get a sense of the likely long-term impacts.

Radiation has spread across much of the northern hemisphere and parts of the southern hemisphere, including northern Australia.

Japan’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency estimates the radioactive release at 770,000 terabecquerels in the first week of the crisis.

Total radiation releases will probably fall somewhere between 10-40% of those from the 1986 Chernobyl disaster. Radiation releases have not been stopped and will continue for some months.

The City of Sydney has voted to replace the words “European arrival” in the official record with “invasion”.

The deputy lord mayor, Marcelle Hoff, says it is intellectually dishonest to use any other word in describing how Aboriginal Australia was dispossessed by the British.

“We were invaded,” said Paul Morris, an Aboriginal adviser to the council. “It is the truth and it shouldn’t be watered down. We wouldn’t expect Jewish people to accept a watered-down version of the Holocaust, so why should we?”

The Socialist Alliance adopted a coal seam gas policy at its June 26 National Council meeting. The policy appears below.

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The gas industry is rapidly increasing its scope in the Australian energy market. Gas is talked up by some as a clean energy source, or as a “transition fuel”, while we develop renewable energies. But gas is a fossil fuel. Burning it creates carbon emissions.

For a safe climate, we need to cut net emissions almost totally within the next decade. In fact, we then have to move below zero net emissions: to draw down more carbon than we produce.

Editorial

It’s the best news on climate change for years, and you’ve probably not heard about it.

Spain’s new Gemasolar power plant produced uninterrupted clean energy all day and all night for the first time on July 3. That’s 24 hours of zero emissions power, here and now.

Gemasolar is a concentrated solar thermal power plant. It uses a field of mirrors to concentrate solar radiation in a central tower.

What’s new about Gemasolar is that the plant can store solar energy for up to 15 hours. That’s baseload renewable energy, supplied all through the night.

Resistance!

The family of Rex Bellotti Junior have called a rally for July 23 in Albany where Aboriginal youth Bellotti, then 15 years old, was run over by police driving on the wrong side of the road in March 2009.

The family organised the protest to call for a public inquiry into alleged police misconduct and the failure of the state government and the Western Australian police to provide adequate compensation and support for Bellotti and his family. State politicians and legal bodies have left the family to fend for themselves.

The Perth community has witnessed in past weeks an inspiring mobilisation of people affected by homelessness or as they like to be called, the “streeties”.

It started as a small rally to protest against the treatment of those living on the streets during the Commonwealth Heads Of Government Meeting (CHOGM), and against insensitive comments made by Liberal police minister Rob Johnson. Now it has broadened to challenge the government on homelessness.

Resistance organised a visit to Villawood detention centre on July 3. Twenty people came to show solidarity with the asylum seekers inside.

We visited four different sections that house families and single people from many countries including Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Iran and Iraq.

I spoke with a family who live in Villawood with their three young children. The youngest two had never known life outside detention.

They live in their own small house, and once a week a member of the family is allowed to go shopping, with guards, so the family can cook for themselves.

Resistance members in Perth took part in a protest outside the office of Melissa Parke organised by the Refugee Rights Action Network on July 1 to demand an end to mandatory detention and the immediate release of 16-year-old Indonesian Hadi Kurniawan from the Hakea adult prison.

Culture

Realm of Suppression
An exhibition by Didotklasta Harimurti
Free Range Gallery
399 Wellington St Perth
July 22-26 July

Didotklasta Harimurti, an Indonesian social activist, visual artist, theatre director and writer, will hold an exhibition of his drawings at the Free Range Gallery in Perth in July.

Titled Realm of Suppression, this will be his first solo exhibition in Australia.

When the multi-award-winning journalist John Pilger needed researchers for his latest film,  The War You Don’t See, he turned to David Edwards and David Cromwell. The pair run media-analysing website Media Lens, which turned 10 years old on July 9.

Here, they answer some of the “more interesting” questions posed by their readers, plus a couple from Green Left Weekly’s  Mat  Ward.

Why did you start Media Lens?

When the multi-award-winning journalist John Pilger needed researchers for his latest film, The War You Don’t See, he turned to David Edwards and David Cromwell. The pair run media-analysing website Media Lens, which is set to turn 10 years old on July 9.

Here, they answer some of the “more interesting” questions posed by their readers, plus a couple from Green Left Weekly’s Mat Ward.

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Why did you start Media Lens?

Fighting Fund

If you are reading this column, then Green Left Weekly has successfully completed its move to its new home in Sydney.

In the process, we have missed only a week of publication thanks to the volunteers who joined the ant army that carried all we needed down those flights of stairs in our old home, loaded the hire truck and emptied it into the new office — over and over again.

Our sparkling new premises is wheelchair friendly and accessible through a lift. So moving in was a lot easier than moving out — and the latter is far from over.