Issue 893

News

Communities and local conservation groups from across NSW will celebrate the beauty and diversity of our native plants and wildlife and the environment at the Festival of Nature, a calendar of more than 90 nature-based events across NSW. During biodiversity month in September, the Nature Conservation Council of NSW and its member groups will inspire a better connection with nature with bushwalks, birdwatching, photo competitions, wildflower walks, talks, and guided sculpture or art installation.
Justice for Palestine Brisbane released the statement below on August 29. * * * Brisbane supporters of the boycott, sanctions and divestment campaign (BDS) have pledged to intensify their campaign following a successful protest on August 27. Despite the rain, fifty protesters took to the streets to highlight the links between the Max Brenner chocolate store and the Israeli military occupation of Palestine.
With less than a month until the 2nd Climate Change/Social Change conference, around the theme “World at a Crossroads”, in Melbourne, the list of confirmed speakers and sponsors is growing. The conference is being organised by Green Left Weekly, Socialist Alliance and Resistance at the University of Melbourne over September 30-October 3. It aims to promote recognition that in order to solve the global climate crisis, radical social change is required.
Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) members in several government departments are continuing to campaign against the federal government's policy of limiting pay rises to 3% a year, which is less than the rate of inflation. CPSU members in the defence department walked off the job for one hour on August 25 to attend protest meetings over stalled pay negotiations. Civilian staff at more than 70 defence bases and offices throughout the country took part.
A group of protesters chanted "Refugees are welcome here, free the refugees" outside the Hotel Grand Chancellor on August 26 while Prime Minister Julia Gillard addressed the Institute of Public Administration conference inside. The Socialist Alliance’s Jenny Forward told the rally: “With Pontville Detention Centre about to open down here, we want to keep the pressure up on the government to come up with a much more humane approach to refugee processing and resettlement.
A protest planned for October 28 at the Commonwealth Heads of Government summit (CHOGM) received wide media attention on August 23. This came after The West Australian ran an article under the inflammatory headline “Protesters vow to break CHOGM security lines”. A second article was titled “Rally would be test of new powers”.
Unions have sharply criticised Qantas as the airline announced it had doubled its profits a week after it said it needed to lay off 1000 workers. Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce reported a $249 million after-tax profit for 2010-11 — about twice what it earned the previous year. Its before tax profit amounted to more than $550 million, which is a rise of about 50% over the 2009-10 financial year. On August 16, Qantas announced plans to restructure its business, which would include setting up two new Asian-based airlines and cutting up to 1000 Australian-based jobs.
About 100 people gathered on the steps of the Sydney Opera House on August 21 to show their support for the student movement in Chile, which is campaigning for free education. As protests and strikes for free education rock the country, more than two dozen high school students have launched a hunger strike until the Chilean government agrees to make public education free. A solidarity protest also took place in Brisbane’s West End on August 20 in support of the hunger strikers.
More than 100 people demonstrated in Sydney on August 26 to mark the 45th anniversary of the Wave Hill walk-off, when Gurindji workers walked off the Wave Hill cattle station and launched an eight-year protest for land rights that helped define the modern Aboriginal land rights movement. The protest, organised by the Stop The Intervention Collective Sydney, took place outside the electorate office of federal Minister for Social Inclusion Tanya Plibersek. The rally called for an end to the discriminatory Northern Territory intervention.
“Boycott Apartheid Israel! Boycott Max Brenner!” were the main themes of a rally and march in Brisbane on August 27, which focused on the Max Brenner chocolate shop at South Bank. Despite steady rain, more than 50 protesters demonstrated to support a boycott of the Max Brenner chain, as part of the Australian and international boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign initiated by representatives of the Palestinian people.
Australia Post is trying to implement a new form of delivery called separate bundle delivery (SBD). SBD will force posties to sort part of their mail outside while straddling their motor or push bikes, hindering safety. Currently, mail is sorted into delivery sequence inside the delivery centres and then delivered. SBD will move an hour of the inside work outside, exposing posties to traffic, extreme weather conditions and increased fatigue.
Former Guantanamo Bay concentration camp detainee David Hicks says if he wins the Queensland Premier's Literary Award he will donate the proceeds to torture victims. “If I win this award, every cent will go to victims of torture,” Hicks told Network Ten TV on August 24. “I have never been a supporter of terrorism,” Hicks said. “I had no choice but to sign a piece of paper to get out of Guantanamo Bay,” the August 25 Courier-Mail reported.
Friends of the Earth (FoE) have called on the Victorian Liberal government to “immediately ban any coal seam gas or new coal developments in the state”. The environmental group says Victoria “faces a wave of exploration licenses for coal seam gas (CSG), coal, and shale gas” and has urged people to write to Premier Ted Baillieu to demand “a thorough investigation into the likely impacts of [the coal and coal seam gas] industry on water resources, farmland and food security, local communities and natural biodiversity."
Wollongong’s city centre experienced something special on August 25: an explosion of art, culture and youth talent. During Community Voice's public launch of its cultural policy, a crowd of more than 200 people swelled around the mall's amphitheatre. As young musicians performed, graffiti artists Adam Rizvik and Josh Harris produced an amazing piece in real time that simply said “create art” on stage. For two hours the mall — not known for its social atmosphere — was filled with beautiful music, inspired speeches, happy people and the smell of spray paint.
The Refugee Action Collective Sydney released the statement below on August 24. * * * “A disgraceful incident at Broome hospital today has highlighted the contemptuous attitude of Serco staff to the welfare of asylum seekers they have a duty to care for,” said Ian Rintoul, spokesperson for the Refugee Action Coalition. Serco officers cancelled medical appointments at Broome hospital for three Afghan asylum seekers for talking to a refugee advocate in the hospital waiting room.
The Last Stand, a new action-based environmental group that has launched a campaign against Australian retail companies profiting from the logging of native forests, released the statement below on August 24. * * * Today, almost 50 activists have taken action at four sites across Australia to protest Harvey Norman’s sale of wood products sourced from native forest destruction. Four activists have been arrested.

Analysis

Renowned Marxist economist and ecologist John Bellamy Foster is a feature guest speaker at the World at a Crossroads: Climate Change Social Change conference, which will take place in Melbourne over September 30 to October 3. He spoke to Green Left Weekly’s Peter Boyle about capitalism’s growing economic and environmental contradictions. * * *
“A White House investigation … uncovered a culture of complacency, cost-cutting and systemic failures and companies unprepared to deal with accidents and consequences.” That was how ABC News on January 18 summed up the findings of the US inquiry into last year’s disaster at BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil platform in the Gulf of Mexico. The explosion caused 11 deaths, and unleashed the worst accidental marine oil spill in history. About 4.9 million barrels of oil escaped over nearly three months before the well was capped.
Antony Loewenstein is an independent journalist and author of My Israel Question and The Blogging Revolution. Green Left Weekly’s Simon Butler asked Loewenstein about recent attempts to intimidate supporters of the boycott, sanctions and divestment (BDS) campaign against Israel. See also: Loewenstein on Israel: Attacks a chance to divert protests * * *
Ian Angus is a veteran of the socialist and environmental movements in Canada and internationally. He is a featured guest speaker at the Climate Change Social Change activist conference, which will take place in Melbourne, from September 30 to October 3. Angus is the founder and editor of climateandcapitalism.com, an online journal that focuses on capitalism, ecology and the ecosocialist alternative.
The issue of marriage equality is steadily gaining traction among the Australia population. Seventy-five percent of Australians expect same-sex marriage to be made legal a 2011 Galaxy Poll found. The same research said 62% of Australians support marriage equality; the number is as high as 80% among younger people. The poll also said 78% of Australians believe there should be a conscience vote in parliament on the issue.
A convoy of 30 trucks and cars loaded with drilling equipment and workers from energy company Woodside set out from Broome in northern Western Australia at 2.30am on August 26. It was heading for James Price Point. Two protesters locked onto two vehicles when the convoy arrived and another two locked onto a strong point on the road, halting the convoy. The action was the latest drama in a vibrant local campaign against a planned gas hub at James Price Point. A community blockade at the site has been in place for the past three months. See also:
During the historic High Court challenge to the federal government’s so-called Malaysia solution, barrister Debbie Mortimer, representing refugees that face expulsion from Australia, said “fundamental rights were at stake” in the case. “Liberty … freedom of movement and bodily integrity and the freedom from assault,” she said in court on August 22. “The proposed conduct of the Commonwealth interferes with all three of those rights.” See also
The Strategic Review of Indigenous Expenditure was submitted to the government in February 2010 but only made public on August 7 after a long-running freedom of information case brought by Channel 7. Queensland Murri activist and Socialist Alliance spokesperson Sam Watson spoke to Green Left Weekly’s Jim McIlroy about the report’s findings. * * *
Private Matthew Lambert became the 29th Australian solider to die in the war in Afghanistan on August 22. Most Australians disagree with the war, but the two big parties remain unswerving in their support of the US-NATO led occupation. Malalai Joya, a former Afghan MP and outspoken anti-war activist, is visiting Australia for a third time on the eve of the 10-year anniversary of the invasion of Afghanistan. The Sydney Stop the War Coalition, the Melbourne Writers Festival and the Support Association for the Women of Afghanistan - Australia are the hosts of Joya’s Australian tour.
The Socialist Alliance released the statement below on August 23. * * * BlueScope Steel Ltd. announced on August 22 that it would shut two production facilities and shed 1000 jobs as part of a restructure aimed at turning around a $1.05 billion annual loss. This will mean the shutdown of a blast furnace at Port Kembla in the Illawarra region of New South Wales and closure of its Western Port hot strip mill in Victoria. The Port Kembla closure will result in 800 job losses, while at least 200 jobs will be cut at Western Port.
We are a group of Tamil Refugees awaiting for our status and security to be confirmed in Villawood Detention Centre. Although we happen to be Tamil, we wish our comments to encompass all the differing ethnic groups that languish in Villawood. The object of this letter is to thank the growing number of Australians in the community for offering continued support, advice and hope, in our endeavour to make Australia home. Although held in a prison like environment, we are not criminals. We all have families that we love and miss very much.

World

Independent and community media makers in Canada have passed a groundbreaking national motion to join the Palestinian-led call for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel.  In June, the National Campus and Community Radio Association of Canada (NCRA) ― an umbrella organisation representing more than 80 radio stations across Canada ― adopted the motion at its annual meeting. NCRA said: “In doing so, the NCRA is proudly the first national media organization in Canada to join the global movement for BDS.”
Furious emerging farmers in the Kareeberg municipality in South Africa’s Northern Cape Province have decided to stop paying rent for the municipal-owned land they are farming. These farmers have been robbed, prevented access to and ownership of land by colonial conquest, segregation and apartheid. Now, South Africa’s protection of capitalist property and its neoliberal state policies are keeping them landless.
There were amazing scenes in Chile on August 21 when 1 million people marched in Santiago chanting: “The people united will never be defeated!” These were awe-inspiring scenes of mass mobilisation. The acute trigger is the privatisation of the education system. The underlying trigger is relentless and ever widening social and financial inequality. If the people know about neoliberal policies, it is the Chileans.
The ongoing student protests in Chile are an unwavering accomplishment aimed at combating the social injustice infecting the country's education system. What started out as a series of peaceful protests in May has become a movement that unites students, artists and much of the general population. They are defying the government’s stance on social class, cultural difference and political division with regard to education.
Nearly half a year after workers revolted over Wisconsin Republican Govenor Scott Walker's February announcement that he intended to bust Wisconsin's public-sector unions, voters went to the polls in nine recall elections. Unions and their supporters hoped the polls would put the state Senate in the hands of Democrats ― whose 14 Senators left the state for a month after Walker announced his anti-union bill in a bid to block it. Despite an obscene amount of money flowing into the state over the past few months, the union movement fell just one seat short of its goal.
A confidential United States cable released by WikiLeaks on July 29 documents the arrest of controversial Malaysian blogger and Malaysia Today editor Raja Petra Kamaruddin. Kamaruddin had been outspoken in his criticism of the government. On September 12, 2008, Kamaruddin was arrested at his residence under the Internal Security Act (ISA) ― which allows for detention without trial. Kamaruddin’s arrest came days after Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi threatened to use the ISA to repress those purportedly stoking racial and religious tensions.
Another Arab dictator is gone. But the nature of the fall of Muammar Gaddafi raises questions about the nature of the new regime that will emerge, and to what extent it will truly reflect the interests of Libya's people. On August 21, forces of the National Transitional Council (NTC) entered Tripoli and claimed victory against the forces that remained loyal to Gaddafi. A week later, loyalist forces continued to hold out in the dictator's home town, Sirte, and in pockets around Tripoli. But Gaddafi's 42-year reign is over.
The new government of Papua New Guinea, led by prime minister Peter O'Neill, has announced plans to revert ownership of minerals and resources to traditional landowners. Mining minister Byron Chan said in a speech on August 11 the government would seek to give traditional owners legal ownership of resources under the land and sea. Currently, the PNG government owns anything more than six feet under the surface. Chan also promised an urgent review of mining and environmental laws, especially those involving deep sea mining.
On August 23, military chief Henry Rangel Silva revealed that over 40,000 hectares of land had been recovered and 15,000 people freed from conditions of “slavery” as part of Plan Caura, the Venezuelan government’s anti-illegal mining project. Silva, chief of Venezuela’s Operational Strategic Command, is head of the anti-illegal mining initiative, formed in 2010 when the Bolivarian Armed Forces (FANB) were given the task of stemming Venezuela’s growing problem with illegal mining activities in the south eastern part of Bolivar state.
A further 52 people were arrested at the White House on August 22 for taking part in an ongoing sit-in. They are trying to push President Barack Obama to stand up to Big Oil and deny the permit for a huge new oil pipeline. Obama will decide this year on TransCanada’s permit for the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline. This would send 900,000 barrels a day of the world’s dirtiest oil to US refineries, allowing further development of the Alberta tar sands in Canada. The pipeline would pass through Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas.
With some exceptions, the powerful international media has ignored a recent Cuban parliamentary bill that would deepen democracy on the island. The reason is obvious: the news is not convenient. The initiative is made within socialist institutions, not in terms of the “transition” that is highly anticipated and promoted by certain hegemonic interests in this world. The idea is to give the green light to an experiment in the new provinces of Mayabeque and Artemisa. If it bears fruit, it would be extended to the whole country through constitutional reform.
Israel has been rocked by weeks of ongoing protests against high house prices and the cost of living. To avoid being painted as “extremists”, the organisers have avoided the obvious ― the cost of the occupation of Palestinian territory and protecting the illegal Jewish settlers has directly contributed to the Israeli state's neoliberal austerity policies.

Culture

Dick Smith’s Population Crisis: The Dangers of Unsustainable Growth for Australia Allen & Unwin, Sydney 2011, 228 pages   Those who say today’s big social and ecological problems stem from there being too many people on the planet face a special difficulty. As the Australian ecologist Alan Roberts once said, populationist authors need “to persuade their readers that the main thing wrong with the world was the existence of those readers themselves”.  
Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention Manning Marable Penguin, 2011 596 pp. (hb), $49.95 “If you’re not careful, the newspapers will have you hating the oppressed and loving the people doing the oppressing,” African American revolutionary Malcolm X, assassinated in 1965 at the age of 39, once said in a comment on the capitalist media that applies to contemporary reporting on English riots or refugees. Malcolm, who increasingly saw the link between capitalism and racial oppression in the last years of his life, said: “You can't have capitalism without racism.”

Fighting Fund

Putrajaya, the seat of Malaysia’s federal government, was built for more than US$8 billion as a fantasy project of the country’s former PM and strongman Mohamed Mahathir. It was carved out of rubber plantation-covered hills in the 1990s and turned into a planned city for public servants. Many buildings were designed to look like palaces — with an eclectic mix of styles from around the world — giving the city the look of a sprawling, but spookily empty, theme park.

Resistance!

There’s been much hoo-haa about cannabis possession lately in Western Australia, because now, if you are found with 10 or more grams of it,  you’re a criminal. As of August 1, just 10 grams — rather than the 30-gram amount under the previous Labor government — can land you a maximum $2000 fine or two years’ jail. Heavy, right? And to top it off, those caught will receive a nice little criminal record to go with it. Get caught with less than 10 grams and you are in for a mandatory counselling session. The new penalties have sparked an outcry from responsible users across the state.

We kid you not

Britain: Living standards deteriorating “Almost 40% of households saw their finances deteriorate between July and August, according to a survey by the financial information company, Markit. “The study, of 1,500 adults, showed finances worsened at their fastest pace since February 2009, in the middle of the last recession. “Many reported a rise in debt levels and a fall in savings and income. “Just under 6% of households reported an improvement in their financial situation.