Issue 894

Australia

An advertising campaign to promote coal seam gas (CSG) in a bid to “balance” the mounting community opposition to the industry has been launched by the Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association (APPEA).

APPEA have dubbed the effort “We want CSG”, and say it is an “information campaign” designed to focus on “investment, jobs, environmental benefits, and enormous opportunities that this industry generates”.

The Refugee Action Coalition Sydney released the statement below on September 4.

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The Refugee Action Coalition has called on the government to drop all aspects of offshore processing.

“Taking Tony Abbott’s offer to amend the Migration Act to re-open Nauru would be a serious mistake,” said Ian Rintoul, spokesperson for the Refugee Action Coalition.

“The Pacific Solution Mark II would be no better than mark I. Nauru would be Christmas Island only more remote and 10 times worse.

At the end of the night of Wollongong's council elections, September 3, it seemed likely voters had elected Gordon Bradbery, a progressive independent, as lord mayor.

Bradbery won 33.9% of the primary vote and is expected to win on preferences. The Liberals’ John Dorahy won 23.4% of the primary, Labor’s Chris Connor 19.7%, the Greens’ Jill Merrin 5.9% and Community Voice’s Michael Organ 4.1%.
 
Votes in the wards were still being counted as Green Left Weekly went to print, but it’s clear the once Labor dominated council will have a very different make up.

"The pay offer is a lemon" has been the theme of protests by Australian Taxation Office (ATO) workers around Australia over the past two weeks.

Workers have put lemons on their desks and stuck up posters of lemons to symbolise their rejection of management's pay offer of 9% over three years, which is less than the rate of inflation.

Some workers have called for strike action in the tax office, as has happened in other government agencies.

Supporters of Fijian workers rallied in Melbourne on September 2 against a recent crackdown by the military regime.

The same day, two Fijian trade unionists, Fiji Trades Union Congress president Daniel Urai and National Union of Hospitality, Catering and Tourism organiser Nitin Gounder, appeared in a Fijian court charged with unlawful assembly because they met with their union members to discuss a collective agreement.

The Fijian trade union movement is under very heavy attack by the Fijian military government. New laws aiming to make it virtually impossible for unions to exist.

The Orica chemicals plant at Kooragang, near Newcastle NSW, released hexavalent chromium (VI) into the atmosphere on August 8. Up to 20 workers were exposed in the accident.

The Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) was not notified of the accident for 16 hours. Residents of nearby Stockton were not told that the toxic pollutant blew over their suburb for 54 hours.

The legal team of former Guantanamo Bay prisoner David Hicks submitted a communication to the United Nations Human Rights Committee on August 23.

It argues the Australian government treatment of Hicks has violated the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Australia is a party.

The federal government rejected bids to protect James Price Point from gas development when it announced its National Heritage Listing of almost 20 million hectares of the iconic Kimberley region in Western Australia last week.

A dozen members of Darwin's legal community presented a letter to ALP MP Warren Snowdon on September 2 calling for the federal government to comply with the High Court's recent decision on the "Malaysian Solution".

The High Court said the ALP government's plan to deport refugees to Malaysia was illegal. The letter called on federal politicians to ensure the speedy resolution of asylum seeker claims, universal access to legal representation and an end to mandatory detention.

About 200 protesters against the coal seam gas industry and supporters of refugee rights rallied outside a federal government community cabinet meeting at Yeronga State High School on September 1.

Despite three separate requests from the Lock the Gate Alliance management committee and individual members of the campaign against coal seam gas, no interview with federal environment minister Tony Burke was granted.

About 100 people rallied in Melbourne on September 1 in defence of the Kurdish Association of Victoria after a series of violent attacks.

The Kurdish community has received numerous death threats. There have been many attempts to set the association's building on fire, ending on April 14 this year when the building was burnt down by arsonists and rendered non-functional.

Just a few weeks ago, eight bullets were fired at the remains of the building. Fortunately, no one was inside at the time.

Students rallied on August 29 against RMIT’s decision to terminate the Bachelor of Applied Science (Disability) course in 2012.

The course is the only disability specific degree available in Victoria and provides students with a professional education and a platform to offer leadership, innovation and quality service to community and disability-related groups.

In a statement on its website, RMIT said the course was cancelled because: “Interest in the degree has diminished over several years, resulting in the lowest ever number of applicants in 2010.”

The US embassy in Canberra secretly assessed Australian ethnic minority groups, Indigenous prisoners, the Socialist Alliance, anti-war protesters, Cuba and Palestine solidarity activists and Amnesty International for links to political violence and terrorism, an embassy cable released by WikiLeaks on August 29 has revealed.

The cable, titled “Canberra — Security Environment profile”, was sent to the FBI, the CIA, the US Defense Intelligence Agency and the Secretary of State in Washington on March 2, 2009.

A WikiLeaks cable released on August 29 has revealed federal Labor MP for Melbourne Michael Danby offered to help the US embassy promote a “Day of Solidarity with the Cuban People”. It was a May 21 2008 initiative of the George W Bush US administration designed to pressure the Cuban government.

In 2007, Australian government officials repeatedly told the US embassy in Canberra of its plans to increase Australian troop commitments in Afghanistan. But they asked the US government to keep quiet about it, as the plans had not yet been made public.

Other Australian officials briefed the embassy on Australia’s likely troop deployments even before the federal cabinet had approved it. The revelations are contained in three embassy cables — classified secret — that were released by WikiLeaks on August 29.

Related coverage:

Marking the 10th anniversary of the Tampa scandal, when the former John Howard government refused to allow the MV Tampa to dock in Australia after it had rescued asylum seekers at sea, close to 100 refugee rights activists converged on the Perth detention centre outside the domestic airport on August 27.

The rally, which was organised by the Refugee Rights Action Network, called for the end of mandatory detention and for the rejection of the federal government's plans to export asylum seekers as part of the so-called Malaysian Solution.

World

Bolivia Information Office

In July, in response to a polemical document issued by a number of critics of the Morales government, Bolivian vice-president Alvaro Garcia Linera published a lengthy response.

In it -- among other things -- he drew attention to the government’s social achievements. Below is some of the official data on which Garcia Linera based his case.

Poverty

Using data from the UDAPE (a government think tank), gleaned from the household surveys conducted by the INE, we can see that:

The tens of thousands of cables released by WikiLeaks since August reveal a wide variety of lies told by the US government and crimes in which the US government is complicit or helped cover up. www.wlcentral.org provides a daily rundown, with links, to some of the key cables.

Below are three cables that depict the apparent covering-up of US military war crimes in Iraq; the riding rough-shod over the popular will of nation in Ireland; and the way the US government seeks to divert attention from its crimes with calculated media spin.

As Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi's regime crumbled on August 23 after a rebel uprising and NATO bombing, United States President Barack Obama said: "For over four decades, the Libyan people had lived under the rule of a tyrant who denied them their most basic human rights."

Obama would know ― his government's support in recent years allowed Gaddafi's regime to do so. Indeed, the NATO bombing campaign targeted Libyan forces the US had armed and trained.

The steady stream of revelations of political, military and corporate bastardry from the stash of US diplomatic cables leaked to WikiLeaks became, in late August, a torrent.

It is about to become a deluge.

Between December and August, the number of secret US cables published by WikiLeaks was fewer than 20,000 of the more than 250,000 in the whistleblowing website's possession.

The United States is facing its gravest housing crisis since the Great Depression.

By at least one measure, today's crisis is worse. Housing prices have now fallen 33% from their peak, compared with 31% during the depression.

Yet despite the almost unprecedented nature of the housing collapse, the administration of US President Barack Obama has remained stunningly passive if not utterly disinterested.

This inaction is criminal given the fact that the largest US banks have used illegal means to file and carry out foreclosures.

“At least 87 [Greek university] departments were under student occupation, with the number increasing by the hour,” OccupiedLondon.org said on August 31.

“General Assemblies are happening all of this and next week and it is very likely that the number will increase dramatically.

“There seems to be a completely unprecedented agreement between students across almost the entire political spectrum for mobilisations against the voted law: this is rapidly becoming a stand-off between the Student community and the Parliament.”

After 15 days on strike, 45,000 workers from United States’ telecommunications company Verizon marched in to work on August 23 after getting agreement from their stubborn employer to bargain.

The communication and electrical workers will be working under their old contracts while talks continue. They agreed not to strike again for 30 days.

During the strike, which stretched from Virginia to Massachusetts, Verizon was unable to provide timely installation and repairs, and reports of outages plagued the company.

The problem, apparently, is red tape.

It's stifling business and preventing growth, because red tape is evil, and you can no more argue in favour of red tape than say: "I don't wish to contribute to the fight against cancer as I think we should have more of it."

For example, Conservative Party Member of the European Parliament Julie Girling wrote on August 30 that red tape is preventing businesses from making agency staff work more than 48 hours a week, which “costs companies £2 billion [$3 billion] a year”.

Will the host city for the November-December United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP17) clean up its act?

The August 23 launch of a major Academy of Science of South Africa (Assaf) report,  Towards a Low Carbon City: Focus on Durban, offers a chance to test whether new municipal leaders are climate greenwashers.

Will they try to disguise high-carbon economic policies with pleasing rhetoric, as their predecessors did?

What began several months ago with students taking over their high schools and universities has swelled into one of the largest protest movements in Chile’s history.

Student protests, involving tens of thousands of students and teachers, have dovetailed with angry demonstrations of workers in other sectors.

The education protests swelled to 600,000 on August 25, the second day of a 48-hour general strike called by a confederation of 80 unions.

“We are not evacuating Rikers Island,” New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said in a news conference on August 26.

Bloomberg announced a host of extreme measures being taken by New York City in preparation for the arrival of Hurricane Irene.

These included shutting down the public transit system and the unprecedented mandatory evacuation of about 250,000 people from low-lying areas.

But in response to a reporter’s question, the mayor stated in no uncertain terms (and with more than a hint of annoyance) that one group of New Yorkers on vulnerable ground would be staying put.

National environmental justice and indigenous rights organisation the Indigenous Environmental Network (IEN) that took part in the largest act of civil disobedience in decades at the White House in Washington DC from August 20 to September 3.

The purpose of these actions was to send a direct message to President Barack Obama to deny approval of the 2739 kilometre Keystone XL pipeline.

Analysis

Malalai Joya is a writer, activist and former parliamentarian in the national assembly of Afghanistan. Prior to speaking at two Overland events at the 2011 Melbourne Writers’ Festival, she discussed occupation and resistance in Afghanistan today.

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The announcement by BlueScope that 1100 workers will be sacked from the local steel industry has sent shockwaves through the community and much of the country.

Another 200 people could be sacked from the Port Kembla wharves and at least 100 more local workplaces will be seriously affected.

Many of the sacked workers have been at the steelworks for decades. They are now being told to get out of town, to move to Queensland or Western Australia, to forget about their ties to Wollongong, because other corporations may need them somewhere else.

The day after the Barry O’Farrell Coalition government was elected in NSW in March, NSW Business Chamber CEO Stephen Cartwright said he wanted action in the first 100 days of the new government.

He said business wanted O’Farrell to cut government spending, sign up to the weaker federal occupational health and safety laws (OH&S), appoint a Small Business Commissioner, establish Infrastructure NSW, and produce the first report card on the progress of the Pacific Highway upgrade.

The statement below is being circulated by Power to the People, a campaign group which formed during the fight against electricity privatisation in NSW and the newly formed NSW Union Activist Network, made up of left and green union activists.

An article, “Targeted chocolatier Max Brenner ‘a man of peace’”, in the August 13 Australian by Cameron Stewart purported to be an examination of issues around the targeting of Max Brenner by Palestine solidarity protesters as part of the global boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) campaign.

We’ve heard it all before — “the larger the cake, the larger each slice”. The bigger the economy gets, the more productive we are, the more we should expect to share in the wealth.

Trouble is it’s not true: while the economy grows and profits rise, bosses are cutting jobs and attacking our conditions. While they clean up, we lose out. And unless we fight to stop it, the imbalance will only get worse.

Fred Magdoff co-author, with John Bellamy Foster, of What Every Environmentalist Needs to Know about Capitalism: A Citizen’s Guide to Capitalism and the Environment, spoke to Scott Borchert of Monthly Review Press.

Foster is a featured speaker at the Climate Change Social Change activist conference in Melbourne over September 30 to October 3.

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Why did you decide to write a book like this, and why now?

The land around Muckaty Station, 120 kilometres north of Tennant Creek in the Northern Territory, was nominated as a possible site for a nuclear waste dump by the Northern Land Council in May 2007. This was accepted by the federal government in September 2007.

Natalie Wasley from the Beyond Nuclear Initiative told Green Left Weekly: “A small group of traditional owners, hoping for cash for their impoverished community and improved services like roads, housing and education, agreed to the dump site. However, many other traditional owners remain opposed to the plan.

“It’s just a great honour to be here,” iconic singer-songwriter Paul Kelly told Green Left Weekly. “What happened here is a fascinating and amazing story.”

Kev Carmody, another legend of Australian music, added: “It’s brought all these people together from diverse backgrounds and from all across the country and it’s an honour to the strength of Gurindji people.”

A poll commissioned by new online campaign NewsStand found 61% of Australian people agreed a “public inquiry into the Australian media is necessary so the public can better understand the relationship between politicians, corporations and media outlets”.

NewsStand, backed by GetUp, then launched an online petition on August 11 calling for parliament to “publicly scrutinise the media landscape as a whole”, which quickly gathered almost 30,000 signatures.

1. Profit maximisation is the iron rule of capitalism, setting limits to ecological reform. A profit-based economy that requires continuous economic growth makes ecological catastrophes inevitable.

2. Voluntarism, technological fixes and market incentives as they have been constructed cannot achieve even the weak greenhouse gas targets governments have committed to. Even so, many governments, such that of the US, haven’t even initiated these market mechanisms like carbon taxes or cap and trade.

The August 31 decision of the High Court to stop the Labor government’s bid to deport up to 800 asylum seekers to Malaysia is welcome news and a success for the refugee rights campaigners and the lawyers who led the case.

But the judgement has not, as many hoped, spurred the government to change direction.

In fact, immigration minister Chris Bowen said the government may even now consider reopening the Nauru detention centre and was “not ruling anything in or out”.

Letters

Dismissive letter on depression not helpful

Mark Harris’ well-balanced and thoroughly materialist short analysis of depression “Capitalism is just depressing” (GLW #888) did not warrant Dr David Faber’s dismissive comment (GLW #892): “If you want to be Marxist, demonstrate a little historical materialism please.”

Resistance!

According to Australia’s outgoing discrimination commissioner Graeme Innes, racism is still a big problem in Australian society.

This is nothing new. Racism has been an issue in Australia since the very beginning of white colonisation, when Aboriginal people were forced from their lands to make way for the new colonial Australia.

But racism, like our society, has changed with the times. This throws up new challenges in tackling it.

It has become a cliche in mainstream media and political discourse that feminism is no longer necessary in society. However many ordinary women disagree.

Green Left Weekly asked members of the newly formed Feminist Collective of South Australia about feminism’s relevance today.

Emma Gray-Starcevic said: “Women still earn on average 17% less than men in Australia, and are under-represented in a huge number of jobs, especially in industries such as law, business and politics — jobs synonymous with high wages and powerful positions.

Culture

Let me tell you what fuck all is.
It's invisible, nada it's you don't exist or matter.
That's what fuck all is.
It's Theresa May plastic faced spouting nothing tangible
That's fuck all.
Fuck all is the offer on the table
It's the option of government
Fuck all is the Big Society
That's fuck all.
Fuck all would spit in your eye
If it recognised your eye
If it recognised your humanity.
Fuck all pisses all over the crap of you,
That's fuck all.

Last year, the Sydney Underground Film Festival hosted the Australian premier of Oliver Stone's documentary on Latin America's revolutions South of the Border. This year, the festival is taking place this year on September 8-11 at the The Factory Theatre in Marrickville.

Festival organisers have five double passes to giveaway for the film Better This World (see below) to Green Left Weekly readers. Be one of the first to email  stefanie@suff.com.au  with the subject line “911” to win.

Black Swan
By Carolyn Landon & Eileen Harrison
238 pages
Allen & Unwin, June 2011

Bestselling author Carolyn Landon says the main revision she had to make in writing her latest book, Black Swan was editing all her anger out of it.

"I had difficulty with my own voice," she tells  Green Left Weekly about the book, a memoir of Koori artist Eileen Harrison.

"Mainly, it was getting my own angry and ashamed responses to what Eileen was telling off my chest. After I let off steam in the drafts, I eliminated most of my reactions.

Our Way to Fight
Michael Riordon
Pluto Press, 2011

“People safely outside the situation sometimes ask ‘Why don’t more Palestinians use non-violent protest?’ says Michael Riordon is his concluding chapter to Our Way To Fight.

“The question ignores the long history of Palestinian attempts to seek justice through non-violent means, and the equally long history of official Israeli violence in suppressing these attempts.”

Fighting Fund

If you’ve even casually followed the climate debate in Australia over the past few years, it’s most likely you’ve heard a Labor or Liberal party politician utter the phrase: “Governments should not pick winners.”

The idea is that governments’ role is not to give direct support to renewable energy such as wind power or solar power, but instead to create the market conditions where the best, most efficient technology can come to the fore.

But the argument is always used as an excuse for why governments cannot pick clean, renewable energy.