Issue 887

Australia

The leader of the National Party, Senator Barnaby Joyce, held and anti-carbon tax rally at Wollongong’s Crown St Mall on July 13. The self-professed climate change denier drew quite a crowd, but not the kind he was hoping for.

A small number of his supporters, perhaps 30, were present. But more than half the crowd noisily protested against Joyce.

They included Socialist Alliance activists, several Greens members and people from various trade unions. The placards of Greens, Socialist Alliance and unionists visually dominated the scene.

Pro-choice campaigners and activists will assemble outside a fertility control clinic in East Melbourne on July 23 for several reasons.

The clinic is under constant harassment from far-right Christian groups, including Right to Life and the Helpers of God’s Precious Infants. These groups rally outside the clinic every fourth Saturday of the month, and sometimes on weekdays too.

These groups mobilise their members to harass not only women using the clinic, but also women who just happen to walk past.

More public servants have voted against proposed enterprise agreements put forward by the management of various federal government agencies.

Places where staff have voted “no” include the departments of agriculture, fisheries and forestry; immigration and citizenship; defence; and customs.

Staff in the Australian Taxation Office, the Productivity Commission, Comcare, the Australian Communications and Media Authority, and the Attorney Generals Department have also voted no.

Workers are unhappy with the 3% a year limit on pay rises — less than the expected rise in the cost of living.

Members of the Textiles Clothing and Footwear Union Australia (TCFUA), rallied outside boutique called Scanlan and Theodore against job cuts on July 15. The workers were employees of a company called Blossom Road, which made products for the high-end fashion label.

They were protesting because all Blossom Road’s 27 employees were suddenly sacked on May 19, without explanation and without being paid entitlements. The company was liquidated, but the very next day the company re-opened under a different name and owned by the previous boss Bill Jadilebovski’s son.

Michael Coleman is keen to rejoin a Gaza Freedom Flotilla at any time (although his parents would say something different). The youth worker from Sydney has just returned from taking part of the international protest against Israel’s illegal siege on Gaza.

Coleman narrowly avoided a jail term for trying to help a Canadian boat — the Tahrir — leave a port on the Greek island of Crete as part of the Freedom Flotilla 2. He is very proud to have been part of an international protest which has again put the spot light back on to Israel.

Two Australian Palestine solidarity activists, former NSW Greens MP Sylvia Hale and Jews Against the Occupation activist Vivienne Porzsolt, were released from immigration detention by an Israeli court on July 13. The court ordered they not be deported.

The judge ruled that while they had not broken any rules, they had a limited time to apply to the Israeli Defence Force to visit Bethlehem and Ramallah in the West Bank. The pair had told immigration on entry to Israel that they wanted to visit Palestine.

World

Pablo Solon completed his term as Ambassador for the Plurinational State of Bolivia to the United Nations on June 30.

As representative of a small and poor country, Solon has played a key role in perhaps the decisive political struggle of this century: the fight against climate change and the unjust economic system causing environmental and social crisis.

On behalf of the Bolivian government led by indigenous President Evo Morales, Solon has pushed for the UN to enshrine the right to water as a human right, and led efforts to implement a Declaration of the Rights of Mother Earth.

A week after Malaysian authorities failed to stop people taking to the streets of the capital Kuala Lumpur on July 9 to demand free and fair elections, six activists from the Socialist Party of Malaysia (PSM) remained detained without trial.

The detainees include federal member of parliament Dr Jeyakumar Deveraj, who has been hailed by a prominent local writer as “the Malaysian saint of the poor”.

In the predominantly Roman Catholic city of Manila, a small group of Metropolitan Community Churches (MCC) are preaching a message of inclusion and social justice that has angered the religious hierarchy.

Now, their practice of blessing same-sex marriages has resulted in leaders of the Catholic Church in Manila threatening legal action, and calling for MCC to be stripped of its right to solemnise marriage ceremonies.

On June 25, the MCC of Metro Baguio hosted a Holy Union of eight same sex couples at the Ayuyang Bar in Baguio City. 

The scandal engulfing Rupert Murdoch and his global media empire is giving the world a glimpse of what the face of power looks like today — and it’s ugly.

The revelations of networks of patronage and power, which link politicians and the police to corporate interests that believe themselves to be above laws, ethics or scrutiny, are frightening.

However, Murdoch’s reputation for deciding elections and dictating policies to governments, and the notorious right-wing bias (and looseness with inconvenient facts) of his media outlets, is not new.

How does political censorship work in liberal societies? When my film, Year Zero: the Silent Death of Cambodia, was banned in the United States in 1980, the broadcaster PBS cut all contact. Negotiations were ended abruptly; phone calls were not returned.

Something had happened. But what?

Year Zero had already alerted much of the world to the horrors of Pol Pot, but it also investigated the critical role of the Nixon administration in the tyrant’s rise to power and the devastation of Cambodia.

A national assembly of the National Front for Popular Resistance (FNRP), uniting more than 1500 delegates from across Honduras, voted on June 26 to launch a new political party, the Broad Front of Popular Resistance (FARP).

The FNRP is the main coordinating body of popular struggle since a right-wing coup overthrew the democratically elected government of president Manuel Zelaya two years ago, on June 28, 2009. One of its key demands is for a constituent assembly to draft a new democratic and pro-poor constitution.

In early July, Venezuela’s Social Investigation Group XXI (GIS) released new comparative data on electoral fairness in the country compiled by the Canada-based Foundation for Democratic Advancement (FDA) which found Venezuela’s elections to be “exceptionally fair, and thereby highly democratic”.

Substantial changes proposed for East Timor’s Petroleum Fund law will expose the nation’s finances to high risk and open the door to corruption.

Just a few years ago the fund was widely praised as a model of prudential and sustainable management, and a means of possibly escaping the “resource curse” of waste and corruption.

That is all about to change.

East Timor's AMP government, led by Xanana Gusmao, has a bill before parliament that removes most of the prudential controls on the fund.

Violent attacks and rioting, orchestrated by terrorist Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF), have targeted communities of the Catholic minority in Northern Ireland in recent weeks.

The largely working-class Catholic east Belfast suburb of Short Strand was attacked in riots organised by the UVF on June 20. Petrol bombs and rocks were thrown at homes and residents.

See also
Sinn Fein leader to speak in Australia

When it comes to comparing the cases of two publishers of secret information — WikiLeaks editor-in-chief Julian Assange and billionaire media mogul Rupert Murdoch — the hypocrisy from politicians and media is huge.

The key difference between the two is obvious — one seeks to challenge the establishment, the other exerts huge control over it.

See also:
Murdoch scandal: Hypocritical warmongers exposed
Watching Murdoch crisis so much fun

As rocks fly and tear gas wafts through the streets of Athens, Greece’s Prime Minister George Papandreou has warned of a coming crackdown on protesters and striking workers.

Meanwhile, a new bailout for the banks is being prepared in the halls of power in Europe.

Papandreou was able to secure breathing room for the Greek government with another round of emergency loans that saved it from the immediate prospect of default — the state failing to pay back some or all of its debts.

Oh this is such fun. And every few hours it gets better, but always with an announcement there’s “still worse to come”, leaving us struggling to imagine what they might have done that’s worse.

Presumably by tomorrow it will turn out they planted a bug in Heather Mills’s false leg and hacked into Stephen Hawking’s voicebox.

The only thing that tarnishes it slightly is now everyone hates Murdoch. It’s like when you follow an obscure band and they become famous.

Analysis

Critics have dubbed the Intelligence Services Legislation Amendment Bill now before parliament the “WikiLeaks Amendment”.

It will strengthen the powers of Australia’s spy agency ASIO to target any individual or organisation that opposes the interests of the Australian government, even if Australia’s defence interests and international relations are not at stake.

This would include Australian citizens involved in non-violent political activities abroad, which do not constitute a threat to Australia’s security.

A health scare developed at Villawood detention centre in June after an asylum seeker was diagnosed with leprosy.

Despite assurances from the Department of Immigration and Citizenship, a whistleblower revealed the extent of asylum seekers’ poor health care.

International Health and Medical Services is the private health provider contracted to provide health care to people held in Australia’s immigration detention centres.

The federal Labor government released a discussion paper, Stronger Futures in the Northern Territory, on June 22. It suggests the continuation of much of the NT intervention after the Northern Territory Emergency Response legislation expires next year.

In a new twist to Tasmania’s forest industry crisis, two wealthy environmentalists, Graeme Woods and Jan Cameron, have bought the Triabunna woodchip mill from notorious woodchipping company Gunns Ltd.

Gunns had almost stitched up a deal with a pro-logging company called Fibre Plus (owned by Aprin) but this fell through due to problems obtaining finance.

As the 28th Australian soldier was killed in Afghanistan, four Christian activists were arrested during a peaceful blockade of the secretive Swan Island military base in Victoria.

News of the death of Sergeant Todd Langley, 35, came on the second day of the week-long “Peace Convergence” in opposition to Australia's ongoing military involvement in what activists have called an “unnecessary and ineffective war in Afghanistan”.

Green capitalism is on a roll at the moment. On July 8, a group of New Zealand business leaders launched their “Pure Advantage” campaign with full-page ads in the daily papers headed: “Even if you don’t believe in climate change, there’s money to be made doing something about it.”

This was followed by the classic: “There’s money in being green and we need to start turning Green Growth into wealth.”

That says it all, really.

Coal seam gas drilling has been a hot topic in Australia over the past couple of years, interest fuelled by the US documentary Gasland.

The land on top of the coal arc stretching from northern Queensland down to the southern Highlands of NSW is being slapped with exploration licences that progress to pilot wells at an alarming rate, especially in rural New South Wales.

In NSW, there is no specific legislation covering coal seam gas, and yet exploration and wells are going ahead.

Action on climate change is one of the most important issues of all. But the Gillard government’s carbon price plan is not a serious response, grounded in the climate science.

The biggest problem is that it aims to take ten years to cut Australia’s emissions by just 5% (based on 2000 levels).

This is nowhere near enough. It’s so far from enough that even if it succeeds, the world will still be pushed into an unstable, dangerous climate system.

See also: Carbon price: what’s in it for renewables?

Climate campaigners have been understandably happy about the funding bodies for renewable energy contained in the carbon price package. It seems that these measures are largely in place because of strong campaigning by the grassroots climate movement and the Greens MPs in negotiations.

You could be forgiven for thinking that when the Labor government says its new carbon price plan will cut Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions by 5%, it means Australia’s emissions will fall by 5%. But you would be wrong.

Treasury modelling for the carbon price says Australia’s domestic emissions will go up by about 12% on 2000 levels by 2020.

There’s been so much political spin around the Julia Gillard government’s carbon tax announcement. Of course, there’s the predictable hysterical hollering from Tony Abbott, Barnaby Joyce and the climate change denier’s camp, but there is also tons of bullshit from the Labor government.

However, a couple of developments have provided a much-needed reality check.

Letters

Carbon price not effective

It is unbecoming for the Greens and major environmental organisations to be supporting the Gillard government’s carbon price, which promises to be so palpably ineffective in reducing Australian emissions.

Even treasury modelling indicates that it will be over a decade before Australian emissions begin to fall, whereas climate science indicates that we need big reductions beginning now.

Culture

Finding Santana
By Jill Jolliffe
Wakefield Press, 2010
177 pages, $24.95 (pb)

Jill Jolliffe's encounter with the Komodo Dragon, a carnivorous, aggressive, pre-historic lizard, was "hair-raising". But even more threatening were the murderous agents from the Indonesian secret police, with their de facto uniform of "cropped hair, trim moustache, Rolex watch and Ray-Ban sunglasses".

Oranges & Sunshine
Written by Rona Munro, directed by Jim Loach
Starring Emily Watson, Hugo Weaving & David Wenham
Showing now in selected cinemas

Oranges and Sunshine is a film adaptation of the book Empty Cradles, written by Margaret Humphries.

Humphries was a Nottingham part-time social worker (played by Emily Watson), who investigated the forced relocation of British children to Australia from British orphanages.

Face the Fire
Jimblah
Obese Records
Buy now on iTunes
www.myspace.com/jimblah01

If James Alberts, better known as Adelaide-based rapper Jimblah, hadn't discovered hip hop, he could well have ended up serving time in prison.

Instead, he now serves prisoners in prison, by teaching them.

"In my early teens, I just wanted a place to fit and I looked up to the older lads who were [committing crimes]," Alberts, a 27-year-old Larrakia man, tells Green Left Weekly.

We kid you not

US right-winger: Gay bullying 'healthy peer pressure'

“Anti-gay bullying is not bullying at all; in fact, it is 'peer pressure and is healthy.' That’s according to Rich Swier, an activist with the Tea Party Nation.

“Swier was responding to a report from a Florida group that showed that '77% of all bullying victims are picked on due to sexual orientation, gender identity, or the perception of either.' The report also pointed out that 'LGBT youth are up to five times more likely to commit suicide than their straight counterparts.'