Issue 896

News

The Australian Manufacturing Workers Union (AWMU) has launched action in the Federal Court to protect a member who is facing disciplinary action from his employer after he took action to address a serious health and safety issue. In early August, Jon Zwart, an AMWU delegate and health and safety representative at Visy Coburg, tagged (took out of service) a forklift whose reverse beeper was not audible.
About 50 people attended a vigil on the parliament lawns in Hobart on September 16 in support of Ali Alishah, a jailed anti-pulp mill protester. Alishah was arrested on September 5 at Gunns' proposed pulp mill site in the Tamar Valley in northern Tasmania after locking on to a truck that was entering the site. He has already spent almost two weeks in jail and will likely stay in custody until September 26. A long-term forest campaigner, Alishah was taking action with the group Code Green, which has been conducting civil disobedience actions at the pulp mill site.
Activists rallied in Melbourne to call for greater rights for people with mental illness on September 16. The rally was called by the Australian Mental Health Human Rights and Law Reform Coalition to condemn abuses in the Victorian mental health system.
Students from the University of Wollongong have campaigned over the past three years for the university to switch to 100% renewable energy by 2015. They have collected more than 3000 signatures from students in support of the plan. The university administration has instead begun plans to build a trigeneration plant on the campus, which would generate electricity through burning natural gas.
These days, there aren’t many victories against attacks on working-class people by neoliberal governments and greedy, ruthless corporations. This makes the victory in the campaign to save Melbourne’s only Aboriginal school, the Ballerrt Mooroop College in Melbourne’s northern suburb of Glenroy, especially important. Late on September 12, the state education minister Martin Dixon sent an email to campaigners saying that he had agreed to the compromise plan that had been negotiated between the Ballerrt Mooroop College and the Glenroy Specialist School for disabled children (GSS).
Almost 20 years after its last attempt, American fast food giant McDonald’s has again set its eyes on the quaint communities of the Dandenong Ranges. Determined to ensure the ranges do not miss out on its heavenly presence, this time McDonald’s hopes to establish a new fast food outlet in the village of Tecoma. It is even promising to remain open 24/7 for those desperate to fix their nightly Chicken McNugget cravings.
The Barry O’Farrell Coalition government has promised it will make “New South Wales number one” again. We are assured this will mean improving transport, health and education infrastructure and strengthening the public sector that delivers these services to the people of NSW. The “horror budget” some media promised was delivered on September 6. This budget does little to improve public services. Instead, the state’s fiscal output rests on strengthening private sector spending.
As time passes, the reasons the public might have for trusting chemical company Orica and the NSW environment minister Robyn Parker are evaporating. On the night of August 8, highly toxic hexavalent chromium leaked from Orica’s Kooragang Island plant and blew over the Newcastle suburb of Stockton. Orica notified the NSW environment department at 10.45am the next morning. Orica representatives began doorknocking residents in Stockton on August 10. Parker says she was not told of the accident until that night.
Queensland Murri leader Sam Watson called for a new royal commission into Black deaths in custody at a rally outside state parliament on September 15. “Enough is enough. We need urgent action to end Aboriginal deaths in police watchhouses and prisons,” he said. He announced a national day of action on Aboriginal deaths in custody on November 19, preceded by a series of actions, including a day of commemoration for John Pat, the Aboriginal youth murdered in custody in Roebourne, WA, in October 1985.
Employees at the Department of Human Services (DHS) voted to reject an enterprise agreement proposed by management, which would have covered 42,000 staff. Seventy three percent of those who took part in the ballot voted “no”. More than 120,000 public servants from agencies such as defence, customs and the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry have now rejected inadequate agreements. Industrial action has occurred in some places.
“The future of the education struggle in Chile is uncertain, but we are very hopeful of the outcome," University of Chile academic Dr Leonora Reyes told a September 15 forum at the Queensland University of Technology. "But for sure, after this cycle of student upsurge, our country will not return to the past.” The forum was sponsored by Australian Solidarity with Latin America (ASLA), the National Tertiary Education Union (University of Queensland) and the QUT Student Guild and was chaired by Socialist Alternative's Rebecca Barrigos.
Grassroot activist group Code Green Tasmania released the statement below on September 15 to mark a protest outside forest company Gunns’ Launceston office that day. The previous day, Tasmanian premier Lara Giddings announced her government would give Gunns $23 million in return for the company agreeing to end the logging of native forests. Giddings also said she had cancelled Gunns’ $25 million debt to the state-owned Forestry Tasmania. * * * Forty protesters today staged a peaceful protest at Gunns Ltd’s Lindsay St office.
Right-wing independent federal MP Bob Katter is famously on record as saying he would “walk backwards to Bourke” if a gay community could be found living in his north Queensland electorate. A 70-strong protest for equal marriage rights outside Katter’s Mt Isa electorate office on September 11 showed that he does indeed have gay constituents. However, the MP has not made good his promise.
Five refugees staged a rooftop protest for a several hours at the Northern Immigration Detention Centre on September 15. The group carried banners reading: “We need help” and “People smugglers and [the Department of Immigration and Citizenship] are the same, both playing with our life.” The refugees called for shorter processing times for their claims. One of the protesters said he was from Kuwait and had spent 16 months in detention. “I am not the longest one here, either,” he said.
The Darwin Asylum Seeker Support and Advocacy Network released the statement below on September 13. * * * A detention centre worker has contacted the Darwin Asylum Seeker Support and Advocacy Network (DASSAN) and indicated that a SERCO security guard was in tears as a result of a directive from the Department of Immigration following a hunger strike and rooftop protest at the Northern Immigration Detention Centre (NIDC) in Darwin. An Afghan Hazara has been on the roof of South 1 compound for two days and has been on a hunger strike for a number of days before that.
Malalai Joya, dissident author and former member of the Afghan parliament, addressed a packed Marrickville Town Hall on September 9. More than 500 people braved the cold to hear Joya speak defiantly about the war waged on her country by US/NATO forces for the past decade. On the eve of the 10th anniversary of the September 11 attacks, which became the pretext for the invasion of Afghanistan less than a month later, Joya advocated for immediate removal of all occupying troops.
Gillard’s refugee policy breaches ALP platform, say dissidents Labor for Refugees (NSW) released the statement below on September 12. * * * Labor for Refugees (NSW) condemns the policy announced today by the Prime Minister that legislation will be pursued to overcome the High Court's rejection of the Malaysia deal. Labor for Refugees (NSW) calls on the Gillard government to comply with the unambiguous provisions of the ALP National Party Platform. Ms Gillard was one of many national delegates who voted unanimously in favour of the ALP National Platform in 2009.
Friends of the Earth released the statement below on September 12. * * * The NSW government is mismanaging one of the Murray-Darling’s most significant wetlands, deciding last week to open up the Millewa section of the Murray Valley National Park to more firewood collection. "The Barmah-Millewa forest is an internationally significant Ramsar-listed wetland, and the largest Red Gum forest left on Earth,” said Friends of the Earth spokesperson Jonathan La Nauze.

Analysis

Australia’s ability to remain a signatory to the UN refugee convention would be put in serious doubt if the government succeeded in weakening protection for refugees in the migration act, prominent human rights lawyer Julian Burnside QC told Green Left Weekly. “The judgement was clear that the arrangement that had been made with Malaysia has been made legally invalid,” he said. “The question is whether the government thinks having signed the convention limits the range within they can change the act.
Now that the Labor government has almost entirely reneged on its 2007 election promise to end Australia’s sickening abuse of refugees, the two big parties are united on an issue they have so vehemently pretended to disagree. Unhappy with the High Court’s interpretation of the law — that Australia must uphold fundamental human rights when making policies on refugees, and that deporting them to a country that does not have such rights violates the law — the Labor government is cajoling the opposition to agree to water down Australia’s refugee protections.
A huge crowd of about 650 people attended a memorial service at the Elder Hall, University of Adelaide on September 9 to farewell Elliott Johnston, the only communist to become a judge in Australia. He died on 25 August, aged 93. Those paying tribute included representatives from the legal profession, trade unions, the Aboriginal community, the original Communist Party of Australia (CPA) and his son Stewart.
Some years ago I and many others, fought and demonstrated against the toxic verbal bile that was mouthed then by what was seen by most Australians to be a fringe party. Their disgusting rantings only proved them to be an ultra-racist party. Some politicians agreed with them, some used them politically whilst the rest whimpered and whispered in case they lost votes.
Jeff McMullen, a prominent journalist and Aboriginal rights advocate, gave the address below at the Sydney launch of Walk With Us: Aboriginal Elders Call Out to Australian People to Walk with them in their Quest for Justice at Gleebooks, Sydney, on September 1. * * * The welcome to country from Aunty Millie [Ingram] and the elders’ statement goes to the heart of the issue: that we walk in an Aboriginal land.
Toro Energy has submitted an application to build Western Australia’s first uranium mine, at Wiluna, the start of WA’s iconic Canning Stock Route. The debate over the proposed mine has far-reaching ramifications. The construction of WA’s first uranium mine is likely to be the “thin edge of the wedge”, whereas a strong show of public opposition can significantly increase the likelihood of keeping WA uranium-free. That, in turn, is important in the context of the national debate over uranium mining.
A decade ago most experts would have thought it impossible. But several teams of scientists say the Arctic ice cap had shrunk to its smallest recorded extent, volume and area. Environmental physicists from the University of Bremen said on September 9 the Arctic ice cap extent was “small as never before”.
A motion condemning anti-apartheid protests targeting the Max Brenner chain of chocolate and coffee shops was passed by the Australian Senate on September 13. The motion was moved by Queensland Nationals Senator Ron Boswell and supported by all parties except for the Greens. Another motion, from Liberal Senator Eric Abetz, “condemning the Australian Greens and their leader for failing to condemn the vile boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel” was defeated.
The Refugee Action Collective (Victoria) released the statement below on September 13. * * * The Refugee Action Collective condemns Labor’s plan to try and change the Migration Act to make the Malaysian “solution” lawful in the wake of the High Court victory. We reiterate our demand to end all offshore processing. Asylum seekers should be processed on the mainland, in the community.

World

Troy Davis was executed by the state of Georgia on September 21.. Journalist Jon Lewis was present at the execution and told media waiting outside the prison that Davis was “defiant until the very end, defending his innocence until the end”. Davis was convicted of killing off duty Georgia police officer Mark MacPhail in 1989. He was sentenced to death.
“We are going to the United Nations to request our legitimate right, obtaining full membership for Palestine in this organisation,” Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Ramallah-based, internationally recognised Palestinian Authority (PA), declared in a September 16 televised address. “We are going to the Security Council.” Abbas has acknowledged the initiative is largely symbolic and that UN recognition of Palestinian sovereignty would not translate to actual control of territory.
A 20-hour assault on the US embassy in Kabul by Taliban fighters on September 14 has exposed further weaknesses in the already-crumbling facade of the United States-led occupation of Afghanistan. The Taliban launched a sustained rocket attack on what is supposedly the most secure area in the country, seriously embarrassing Western officials who continue to insist “progress” is being made.
Iraqi hotel worker Baha Mousa died after violent and cowardly abuse by British soldiers, a public inquiry in Britain has found. Inquiry chairperson William Gage published his report on September 8. He described the treatment of Mousa and his fellow detainees in the Iraqi city of Basra in 2003 as "an appalling episode of serious, gratuitous violence on civilians which resulted in the death of one man and injuries to others". Mousa was detained along with a number of others by members of the 1st Battalion Queen's Lancashire Regiment after a raid on the Ibn al-Haitham hotel in Basra.
At the Second Meeting of American Organisations and Movements in Tihuanacu, Bolivia, in 1983, September 5 was officially designated International Indigenous Women’s Day. Since then, September 5 has been growing in recognition as a major event in Latin America's progressive calendar. The date was chosen in honour of Bartolina Sisa, an Aymara resistance leader who was brutally executed by royalist forces in La Paz, now the capital of Bolivia, on September 5, 1782.
WikiLeaks' release of cables from the United States embassy in La Paz has shed light on its attempts to create divisions in the social and indigenous movements that make up the support base of the country’s first indigenous-led government. The cables prove the embassy sought to use the US government aid agency, USAID, to promote US interests. A March 6, 2006, cable titled “Dissent in Evo’s ranks” reports on a meeting only months after Morales' inauguration as president in December 2005 with “a social sectors leader” from the altiplano (highlands) region in the west.
Neoliberal policies “which have fed the growing political disaffection of Bolivia's majority poor, have helped fuel the country's rolling 'social revolution.'" This was how a May 6, 2006, US embassy cable from La Paz recently released by WikiLeaks viewed the powerful wave of struggle that led to the election of Bolivia's first indigenous president, Evo Morales, in 2005. This secret assessment came despite Washington publicly trumpeting neoliberal policies as the way to solve the problems of Latin America's poor.
The wave of riots in numerous English cities this August did not lead to widespread disruption anywhere in Wales. Despite this, several people in Wales have been arrested for riot related offences, some of whom have been denied bail and handed highly disproportionate sentences. These arrests are not a result of the limited disorder that happened in Cardiff on August 9, which briefly led the BBC to drop the term “England Riots” in favour of “UK Riots”.
Instead of this pointless Vickers Report about how to sort out the banks, the investigation by the Independent Commission on Banking headed by John Vickers should have been carried out by Supernanny. She'd have sorted it. Because the problem seems to be they've got no discipline. And governments have been like these soppy posh parents you get who watch their toddlers go berserk in public, and eventually say, "Polyglot, darling, I've warned you haven't I, about drilling through a stranger's leg with a masonry bit. Now please put the tools down or you won't get a canape."
“Bloody Greeks — corrupt and lazy, born cheaters who think the world owes them a living. Why should the hard-working taxpayers of the euro zone core economies like Germany have to fund billion-euro rescue packages for those scoundrels?” That’s the vicious tone of Germany’s tabloids and conservative politicians towards Greece’s galloping public debt crisis and the Greek people’s protests against the austerity programs. The austerity has been imposed on them by the European Union, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund (the “troika”) as the price of bail-out funding.
What the polls had predicted would be an easy victory for the Social Democrats in Denmark's September 15 election turned out to be much closer. The last poll before the vote showed the Social Democrat leader Helle Thorning-Schmidt ahead of her Liberal opponent Lars Løkke Rasmussen by 52.3% to 47.5% as preferred prime minister.
Fifty years have passed since Congolese leader Patrice Lumumba fell victim to a US-Belgian murder plot. The killing of the Congo's first post-independence leader set the newly-independent central African country (now known as the Democratic Republic of the Congo) on a tragic course that has led to the horrors of today. The involvement of Western imperialist interests in this resource-rich region has been disastrous for its inhabitants from the outset. Under Belgian rule, which officially ended in 1960, the Congo became a byword for crimes against humanity.

Culture

At this year’s Deadly Awards, an annual celebration of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture being held on September 27, all eyes will be on one of the fastest rising stars in Aboriginal music. Yung Nooky doesn’t even have an album out yet, but the radical rookie rapper from country New South Wales has already been flown out to Los Angeles to record a track with emcee Taboo from hip hop heavyweights The Black Eyed Peas.
[This article, by veteran English singer-songwriter Billy Bragg, is reprinted from Rock & Rap Confidential. You can subscribe to R&RC free of charge by sending your email address to rockrap@aol.com . * * * How ironic that The Clash should be on the cover of the British music magazine NME in the week that London was burning, that their faces should be staring out from the shelves as newsagents were ransacked and robbed by looters intent on anarchy in Britain.
Yirrkala, in north-east Arnhem land, is home to the famous 1963 “Bark Petition”. This was a protest action by the Yolngu people that led to the first native title litigation in Australia’s history. I was there last month for the anniversary of that stage of their landmark struggle. The petition was an attempt by the Yolngu people to force legal recognition of their land ownership rights.
There used to be snow On the mountain tops Now the rivers run low Nothing left for the crops Where will they go They who work the land When all the ancestral waters Have vanished in the sand? Free market policies And vanishing border lines Replacing highland pastures With open cut mines No choice but to leave A thousand years behind City lights on the horizon What will they find? Billboards by the highway Paper-thin lies Selling progress and consumerism As the land about them dies Welcome to decaying sewers And chemical smokestack plumes

Fighting Fund

Recent polls in Australia now show that Kevin Rudd is the preferred prime minister of 44% of those surveyed, but the guy is just another right-wing creep swanning around the world, giving the world unsolicited advice in Ruddese while living it up in presidential hotel suites costing up to $2700 a night.
This is a country in serious denial. Australia is a world leader in per capita greenhouse gas pollution and in fossil fuel exports. It produces 30 tonnes CO2-equivalent a person a year and 54 tonnes if Australia’s exported CO2 pollution is included. Pakistan produces 0.9 tonnes and Somalia produces 0.1 tonnes. Yet in these two countries people are dying from climate change as we speak.