Issue 888

News

Stop CSG Illawarra released the statement below on July 23. The group campaigns for a Royal Commission into all impacts of coal seam gas mining; a moratorium on coal seam gas mining until the outcome of the Royal Commission; and a ban on fracking. * * * On July 21, the O’Farrell NSW government announced changes to coal seam gas rules.
The Darwin Asylum Seeker Support and Advocacy Network released the statement below on July 24. *** “The growing crisis in Australia’s detention centre shows the government must reconsider its detention policy and pursue more humane approaches to asylum seekers as a matter of urgency”, Carl O’Connor from the Darwin Asylum Seeker Support and Advocacy Network said today. His comments came as 10 refugees from Iran and Afghanistan staged a rooftop protest at Darwin’s Northern Immigration Detention Centre (NIDC).
The Victorian secretary of the Electrical Trades Union (ETU), Dean Mighell, told the July 20 Age that his union could not support the Gillard government’s carbon price plan. Mighell said the scheme gives compensation payouts to the fossil fuel giants, but gives no guarantee for workers employed in coal-fired power stations in Victoria’s Latrobe valley.
Shortly before noon on July 21, officers from the Australian Federal Police raided the Sydney office of Greenpeace Australia Pacific, confiscating material but making no arrests. The raid was conducted in relation to an “alleged trespass and property damage” on July 14, when Greenpeace activists in Hazmat suits used whipper-snippers to destroy a CSIRO trial of genetically modified (GM) wheat being grown in Canberra’s north. Greenpeace claimed that the wheat was planned for secret human trials and had already caused allergic reactions in mice.
Asylum seekers in Scherger detention centre in north Queensland launched a hunger strike on the morning of July 21. By the afternoon of July 22, 67 asylum seekers had joined the hunger strike. Most of the protesters are ethnic Hazaras from Afghanistan. The asylum seekers released the statement below on July 22. * * * In the Name of Merciful God, This hunger strike is a response to the continued pressure exercised by the Australian Immigration Department on us.
After 28 years, the Sydney Resistance Centre has moved to its new location at 22-36 Mountain Street, Ultimo. The new centre was officially opened on July 16. It was a special day for the Socialist Alliance national office, the Socialist Alliance Sydney branch and Green Left Weekly.
The Environment Centre Northern Territory released a new document on July 20 that detailed several disastrous events over the recent wet season at the Ranger uranium mine in Kakadu national park. The document revealed ongoing seepage from the tailings storage facility at the mine. It also said the mine was unable to effectively deal with the millions of litres of contaminated water generated.
More than 5000 Construction Forestry Mining Energy Union (CFMEU) members and delegates packed meetings at Festival Hall in Melbourne and Trades Hall in Geelong to vote on the latest Enterprise Bargaining Agreement for the building industry. Under the agreement, wages will rise by 20% over four years with increases in superannuation contributions and other allowances. One significant feature of the agreement is that shop stewards will be recognised and be given the time and facilities they need to represent union members.
Media mogul Rupert Murdoch described his appearance before the British parliamentary hearing into the News Of The World’s phone hacking scandal as the “most humble day” of his life. His son, James, added: “It’s a matter of great regret … these actions do not live up to the standards that our company aspires to around the round.”
A group of women teamed up at Tram Stop 1 on the corner of Bourke and Spencer streets on July 22 to commemorate the 42nd anniversary of a protest against women’s unequal pay by women’s liberationists Zelda D’Aprano and Bon Hull. D'Aprano and Hull boarded a tram but refused to pay the full fare. The “equal pay team” talked to commuters on the busy city tram and shared views on why women are still receiving unequal pay in Australia.
August will mark one year since Palm Island Aboriginal leader Lex Wotton was released on parole. Unlike the police officer charged with the 2004 murder of Palm Island resident Mulrunji Doomadgee, Wotton was jailed for taking part in the protests against Doomadgee’s death. No one was jailed for Doomadgee’s death in police custody. Despite his release, Wotton is muzzled by parole conditions aimed to silence him. He is subject to a four-year political gag, which bans him from speaking to the media or attending meetings. Wotton has launched a High Court challenge against the gag order.
Federal police raided the rooms of asylum seekers in the Christmas Island detention centre in the early morning on July 22. Refugee advocates said some refugees "have been beaten" and "dragged out of the compounds". The brutal crackdown followed three days of protest. See also: Refugees on hunger strike make public appeal More rooftop protests at Darwin detention centre
Julian Assange, John Pilger and Noam Chomsky have added their names to a new online petition in support of former Guantanamo Bay prisoner David Hicks. They join scores of other signatories, including Greens MP Adam Bandt, human rights lawyer Julian Burnside, Liberty Victoria President Spencer Zifcak and Overland Journal editor Jeff Sparrow. Overland released the online petition on July 21.
On July 20, 150 Israeli soldiers in three missile ships and seven commando boats attacked a small boat, the Dignite Al Karame, and arrested the 10 activists, three crew and three journalists on board. This took place in international waters, rendering Israel's interception an act of piracy under international law. The boat was towed to the Israeli port of Ashdod, where one of those on board, Israeli journalist Amira Hass, was released.
A group of about 40 protesters chanted “we can't eat coal, can’t drink gas, lock the gates” as they gathered outside Ipswich Civic Centre on July 21 to oppose the coal and coal seam gas industries. Inside, Prime Minister Julia Gillard addressed a business and community breakfast, co-sponsored by the Ipswich City Council. Outside, a Julia lookalike sat down to a breakfast of coal and toxic coal seam gas “fracking” fluid, in a symbolic protest at the threat coal and coal seam gas mining pose to farmers and residents of south-east Queensland.

Analysis

When you’re the world’s biggest resource corporation, and aim to gouge high profits for the next century from the world’s largest mine, you probably won’t care to let environmental considerations block your path. Add in a state government frantic to get investment dollars flowing, and the outlook for threatened species in the vicinity could be grim. BHP Billiton is due to decide early next year whether to spend an estimated $20 billion on a massive expansion of its Olympic Dam copper, gold and uranium mine near Roxby Downs, 560 kilometres north of Adelaide.
On July 15, former NSW Greens MP Sylvia Hale and I used the freedom from deportation awarded us by an Israeli court to good effect. We joined the largest rally for some years in support of a Palestinian state ahead of the expected United Nations vote in September. We carried a green and yellow banner saying, “Aussies say end blockade of Palestine”. The rally and march, with drumming circles and flowers was organized by a coalition of groups called Sheikh Jarrah Solidarity.
Over the July 9-10 weekend, the New South Wales Labor conference failed to produce a motion in support of equal marriage rights. The conference instead voted to send the decision to the ALP national conference that is to be held in December. This motion passed despite the fact that all other ALP state conferences have passed motions in support of reforming the law to grant equal marriage rights. It also came two weeks after New York legalised same-sex marriage on June 24.
Despite growing international outrage over the Sri Lankan military’s mass killings of over 40,000 Tamil civilians in 2009, the Sri Lankan government is defiantly refusing to heed international demands for an independent investigation into the atrocities. Instead it is escalating a range of discriminatory and repressive policies towards the Tamil people. Australia’s cricketers should take a principled stand in defence of human rights and justice, and boycott playing with Sri Lanka until the government there conducts itself according to the rules of international society.
Socialist Alliance Hobart branch notes the recent expressions of disillusionment with all political parties in parliament in Tasmania. The state government continues to disappoint with its lack of transparency when it comes to funding dodgy deals such as the proposed Aprin loan (now scuttled after Gunns chose a different bidder), with its inability to support the proper funding of public services such as education and health.
Footprints for Peace, an international grassroots group that organises walks, bike rides and runs around the world, invites families and people of all ages, background and cultures to come and support traditional owners in their opposition to uranium mining in Western Australia by taking part in the “Walk away from uranium mining” that begins in Wiluna on August 19 and finishes in Perth on October 28.
Sara Hudson, a research fellow at the Centre for Independent Studies, recently wrote a comment piece on ABC’s Drum Opinion that supported the Northern Territory intervention. It also attacked public land title in remote Aboriginal communities. The article was what you might expect from a research fellow from the conservative think tank. "Public bad, private good", and so on. But one passage stood out to me, given I had visited many remote Aboriginal communities recently.
Critics of the Gillard government’s proposed carbon price get daily coverage in Australia’s mainstream media. But some types of critic — those who want Australia to stay a polluter’s paradise — are heard the loudest. Other views, which say the carbon price plan is a dangerous diversion from real climate action, are mostly frozen out. Below are four green reasons to oppose the carbon price. 1. Emissions and fossil fuel use go up For a policy that is supposed to drive Australia’s carbon emissions down, the carbon price does a very bad job.
The headline on the final issue of Rupert Murdoch’s News Of The World, “Thank You & Goodbye”, provoked speculation of suitable rejoinders like “Piss Off & Good Riddance!” and more colourful expressions of the same sentiment.

World

More than 100 loyalists (supporters of British rule) were involved in a serious mob assault at a “peaceline” in the mid-Ulster town of Portadown in Northern Ireland on July 15, throwing bricks, bottles, paint-bombs, fireworks and at least one blast bomb. The mid-Ulster Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) has been widely blamed for the assault, the latest in a series of large-scale attacks it has mounted over the “marching season” (when the Protestant Orange Order holds provocative anti-Catholic marches).
Ireland’s seven-month-old United Left Alliance (ULA) is the “new kid on the block” of European anti-capitalist parties. Launched in November last year, it won five TDs (members of the Irish parliament, the Dail) in February elections, despite its name not appearing on the ballot paper. To date the ULA has also won 20 positions in local councils and one seat in the European parliament. In the Dail, the ULA TDs have already had successes, such as stopping the abolition of the Joint Labour Committees that set wages and conditions in some industries.
The six Socialist Party of Malaysia (PSM) members detained under the Malaysian government's emergency ordinance since June 25, have been deprived of all creature comforts. They are locked up in 2-by-2.5 metre cells, in solitary confinement. The lights are on in the cells day and night and one-way mirrors ensure there is no privacy.
Dr Jeyakumar Devaraj, a federal member of Malaysia's parliament, is one of six activsts from the Socialist Party of Malaysia (PSM) being held without trial since June 25. The arrests, under Malaysia's draconian Internal Security Act, were part of a crackdown ahead of the 50,000-strong march through Kuala Lumpar on July 9 for democracy. Protest letters still are urgently needed to be sent to be Malaysian government. Please visit  here for details of where they can be sent. See also:
It was a Palestinian legislator who made the most telling comment to the Israeli parliament last week as it passed the boycott law, which outlaws calls to boycott Israel or its settlements in the occupied territories. Ahmed Tibi asked: “What is a peace activist or Palestinian allowed to do to oppose the occupation? Is there anything you agree to?”
In Scoop, Evelyn Waugh’s brilliant satire on the press, there is the moment when Lord Copper, owner of the Daily Beast, meets his new special war correspondent, William Boot, in truth an authority on wild flowers and birdsong. A confused Boot is brought to his lordship’s presence by Mr Salter, The Beast’s foreign editor. “Is Mr. Boot all set for his trip?” “Up to a point, Lord Copper.” Copper briefed Boot as follows: “A few sharp victories, some conspicuous acts of personal bravery on the Patriot side and a colourful entry into the capital.
Hone Harawira, an elected member of New Zealand parliament for the newly formed Mana Party, caused a stir on July 14 when he refused to swear allegiance to the English queen in order to take his seat. Instead, Harawiri swore allegiance, in Maori, to Te Tiriti o Waitangi (the 1840 treaty between Maori tribes and Britain that recognised Maori ownership of their lands.) Stuff.co.nz said that day that parliamentary speaker Lockwood Smith refused to swear Harawira in as an MP on the grounds his affirmation was not legal.
National Union of Journalists general secretary Michelle Stanistreet has drawn a direct link between compulsory redundancies at the BBC and the malign influence of Rupert Murdoch on the government. She told pickets in London on July 15: "These cuts and job losses have been brought about directly by a decision to freeze the licence fee for the next six years. "This was a shabby deal done by BBC management and the government behind closed doors last autumn, with no democratic scrutiny or transparent discussion.
With no less than 10 inquiries occurring simultaneously, a few things have become clear about the criminal behaviour of Rupert Murdoch’s media empire. One is that News of the World journalists bugging phones, including those of missing children and the families of murder victims, is just the tip of the iceberg. See also: Build the people-powered media! John Pilger: Amid scandal, acrid smell of business as usual
About 1000 people took part in the Enough Campaign's protest against European Union/International Monetary Fund austerity program in Dublin on July 16. The campaign is supported by People Before Profit Alliance parliamentarians  Richard Boyd Barrett  and  Joan Collins, the Unite Trade Union, the Waterford Trades Council, the Spectacle of Defiance, the Socialist Workers Party, the People’s Movement, Afri and several independent members of parliament.
Speaking in response to new figures released by the Department of Finance, Sinn Fein Finance spokesperson Pearse Doherty said the total European Union/International Monetary Fund (EU/IMF) profit on loans to Ireland will exceed €13 billion. The figures were released in response to a parliamentary question submitted by Doherty. He said: “Last week Minister for Finance Michael Noonan admitted that the total profit being made by our European partners from the 3% surcharge on [the Irish bailout] loans would be at least €9 billion.
The Republican-controlled House of Representatives threw down the gauntlet to President Barack Obama on July 19 by voting to cut federal spending by US$6 trillion and demand a constitutional balanced budget amendment in exchange for agreeing to raise the federal debt ceiling. The US must raise the debt ceiling by August 2 or default on its debts for the first time, potentially leaving the government unable to pay its employees and plunging the world into a second credit crunch. The bill is unlikely to pass into law.
Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the millionaire former president of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and leader of France’s center-left Socialist Party, is charged with raping a west African immigrant housekeeper in a five-star Manhattan hotel. But Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr seems like he wants to make the whole case go away. After initially agreeing to US$1 million bail and house arrest, Vance arranged for Strauss-Kahn to be released without any bail. The press reported prosecutors and Strauss-Kahn’s lawyers met about a deal in which the case would be dropped.
After the initial furore of the release of thousands of secret United States embassy cables by WikiLeaks, much of the mainstream media coverage has largely ignored or hidend the most important aspect of the saga ― the damning contents of the secret documents that incriminate the powerful and expose their lies. Much of the coverage has devolved into negative stories and allegations about the personal lives of WikiLeaks editor-in-chief Julian Assange and the alleged source of the secret US documents, Bradley Manning.

Culture

The Cage By Gordon Weiss Picador, 2011 The Cage tells the horrifying story of the final months of the war in Sri Lanka, which ended with the defeat of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in May 2009. Gordon Weiss, the former United Nations spokesperson in Sri Lanka, says the war ended in a "bloodbath", including the "wholesale bombardment by government forces of unarmed civilians".
The Women's World Cup proved to be a sparkling oasis amid the most arid section of the sports calendar. The football tournament provided a series of non-stop thrills, culminating with Japan's heart-palpitating final victory against the US, winning 3-1 on penalty kicks after extra time finished with the game tied at 2-2. Star US player Abby Wambach is no doubt hurting, but I hope the forward with the skull of steel realizes that she was absolutely correct when she said before the final: "It's gonna be awesome."
Stieg Larsson’s hard-hitting novel, titled  Man som hatar kvinnor  ("Men who hate women") in Swedish, was titled  The  Girl  With  the  Dragon  Tattoo<.em>  in English translation — possibly  a subtle indication of the publisher’s discomfort  with  the strong women’s liberation message contained in it.
The Grammy awards have long been the kind of thing that one simply has to deal with if you're going to approach music under capitalism. It comes wrapped in all the elitism, commerce and segregation that necessarily has to accompany the music industry, but it's still something of a great salt lake for any artist — even those who are the most socially conscious — if they want to navigate the most treacherous waters of their craft. Like any money-making venture, it can be just as susceptible to public pressure as it is to the forces of the market.

Resistance!

There is no denying it, depression is on the rise across the world. The World Health Organisation says depression will be the second largest contributor to the global burden of disease by 2020. For young people this is already the case. Depression leads to about 850,000 deaths every year. But why is depression on the rise? In some instances it is a product of more readily available methods of diagnosis and public understanding of the disorder. But increases in suicide rates and other indicators suggest that the increase in depression is well beyond this statistical readjustment.