Issue 897

News

Israeli activist and author Miko Peled, currently touring Australia, is convinced that the Israel-Palestine conflict can be solved. But, he told public meetings in Sydney and Newcastle, he doesn't believe that it will happen while the government of Israel remains committed to Zionism (the maintenance of Israel as an exclusively "Jewish" state) and continues its ethnic cleansing operation by moving Palestinians off their land. “It is not some inexorable process of nature,” Peled said. “It is a conflict between people, and it is therefore something over which people can have control.”
“Most countries don’t detain asylum seekers” or, if they are detained, they “are only detained until the UNHCR recognises them and then they are released,” Robyn Sampson, researcher with the International Detention Coalition told a public meeting on alternatives to detention of asylum seekers.
The group “Conserve West Lake Macquarie Now” is working with local government and lobbying the New South Wales government and a coal company to gazette the woodlands of West Lake Macquarie on the NSW central coast as a State Conservation Area. The area is Crown land, some of it leased by local coal company Centennial Coal. This land will provide the final links for a “green corridor” from the Watagan Mountains to the shores of Lake Macquarie.
“The process of building socialism, as shown in Venezuela, is very complex. It is often a matter of two steps forward, one step back,” said John Cleary, coordinator of the May Day 2011 solidarity brigade to Venezuela, at a forum at the Brisbane Activist Centre on September 17. The Brisbane forum, sponsored by the Australia Venezuela Solidarity Network (AVSN), heard a report from Cleary about his recent trip to Venezuela, and to Bolivia on the brigade that followed.
A report released on September 24 by Friends of the Earth has revealed that the new Victorian planning laws restricting wind farms are costing the state dearly in jobs and investment.
More than 60 people assembled outside Blacktown Council on September 24 to protest plans to mine for coal-seam gas in Blacktown. Mining has already begun in the Blacktown area at Eastern Creek and threatens the integrity of the Prospect Reservoir, organisers said. Ben Hammond from the Blacktown Greens told the rally that Dart Energy was already mining coal-seam gas in Blacktown while AGL was seeking approval to mine also.
More than 100 locals attended a public meeting in Forrest, in Victoria's Otway ranges on September 16 to show their concern about coal seam gas (CSG) exploration in the area. Two companies, CFT CBM Holdings and ECI International, have CSG exploration licences over large areas in the Otway Ranges.
A dramatic stand-off between police and a group of squatters took place at the main campus of the University of Sydney on September 16. The squatters, who had been living at the abandoned St Michael’s College, staged a protest action during the eviction.
Chanting “Coal seam gas, we will stop it; our community is not for profit”, 2000 locals marched on September 18 from Newtown’s Camperdown Park to Sydney Park in St Peters, just 200 metres from a proposed CSG mining site. The colourful march packed King Street, where most cafes and shops carried “No Gas” signs. Many pedestrians either cheered the rally or joined the march.
A group of refugee activists from the Refugee Advocacy Network and the Refugee Action Collective (Victoria) took on a very ambitious project a few years ago, which has culminated in the Just Like Us exhibition. The exhibition opened on August 26 — the 10th anniversary of the Tampa incident, when then-PM John Howard refused to allow the Norwegian ship Tampa to dock in Australia after it had rescued asylum seekers from a sinking boat.
Australia introduced new rules on September 15 allowing people to nominate their gender as male, female or indeterminate on their passport. Sex reassignment surgery is no longer a precondition for nominating a passport gender different from the one on your birth certificate.
Activists from the Climate Emergency Action Network (CLEAN) in Adelaide, accompanied by Mark Ogge from Beyond Zero Emissions (BZE), went on a road trip to Port Augusta over September 15 to 18 to campaign for solar thermal power. Port Augusta’s two ageing coal-fired power stations, Northern and Playford B, are due to be replaced in the near future. CLEAN and BZE argue that concentrating solar thermal power plants are the logical way forward for Port Augusta and its workforce.
Several community environment groups released the statement below on September 22. * * * Environment, health and community groups have gathered in Sydney on September 22 to discuss the future of wind energy in NSW. As electricity prices continue to rise for most NSW households, the groups have welcomed reports from South Australia that wind power is cutting pollution and lowering the wholesale market cost of electricity.
The statement below was released by the Refugee Action Collective (Victoria) on September 20. * * * Refugee activists oppose removing human rights from Migration Act; All MPs who support human rights should vote against Gillard’s amendments. The Refugee Action Collective opposes the proposed changes to the Migration Act by the Labor government and any amendments proposed by the Liberal opposition. It believes all amendments seek to strip any safeguards for human rights and defies international law.

Analysis

If Julia Gillard is deposed as Australia’s prime minister, she has only herself to blame. Gillard’s ALP is barely distinguishable from the Coalition, varying only by a nuance here or there. More than any other reason, this explains her bottomless unpopularity. The ALP has continually abandoned its supposed constituency, the working class, in favour of the wealthy, who contribute more and more to the ALP’s coffers. It’s true Gillard didn’t start the rightward shift of the ALP, but she has taken it so far that Abbott can now attack Gillard from the “left”.
The newly appointed head of Infrastructure NSW, former Liberal NSW premier Nick Greiner, laid out his agenda in a speech to the Australia Israel Chamber of Commerce on September 15. The Sydney Morning Herald said Greiner’s advice to the NSW Liberal government was to privatise more and increase the use of public-private partnerships (PPPs). These are exactly the same tools that have failed for past state governments.  
Green Left Weekly, Socialist Alliance and other left-wing groups, have received more attention than normal in recent weeks in the mainstream media and even in state and federal parliamentary debates. This attention has mainly been in response to the movement for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israeli apartheid and has mostly consisted of nasty allegations of anti-Semitism, with endless colourful references to Hitler and the Nazi’s Holocaust.
For the past seven years, the community action group TAP into better Tasmania, formerly Tasmanians Against the Pulp Mill, has campaigned against Gunns Ltd’s attempts to build a pulp mill in the Tamar Valley. TAP spokesperson Bob McMahon spoke to Green Left Weekly’s Susan Austin. * * * How many years has the campaign against Gunns’ pulp mill been going for?

The development of the coal seam gas (CSG) industry brings risks to Australia’s limited water resources. It draws contaminated water out of the ground, damages aquifers and uses and pollutes large quantities of freshwater. These risks, and the implications for health, agriculture and the environment, are central reasons for the growing community campaign to stop CSG mining. Images in the documentary Gasland of people setting their tap water on fire have made many question the impact of unconventional gas on water supplies.

A vote on the Labor government’s harsh proposed changes to Australia’s migration laws was postponed until October 11, after parliament failed to vote on them on September 22. This followed a bizarre twist in the farcical refugee debate on September 19 when new laws were passed increasing refugee protection at the same time as the government pushed forward with its plans to expel refugees to Malaysia.
Nala Mansell-McKenna is a well-known Aboriginal political activist in Tasmania, who was recently elected state secretary of the Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre (TAC). “We like to call the secretary the role that’s our main political spokesperson, but when you work in the same building as Michael Mansell you are usually the second main political spokesperson,” she laughed, referring to the way that Michael (her father) is frequently contacted for comment on political issues.
In recent debates around solutions to the climate crisis, several ideas hold the largest share of government support and media coverage. These include: green consumerism, carbon offsetting, carbon taxes, carbon trading, geo-engineering and carbon capture and storage. But do these “solutions” take, as their frame of reference, the full extent of the problem? Here are some reasons to be doubtful. Green consumerism is one variation of the argument whereby “your dollar is your vote”.
With climate change, humanity basically doesn’t get any second chances. For a recognisable climate to be preserved, net global greenhouse gas emissions need to peak within the next decade, then decline to zero by around mid-century. It’s a tight call, so we have to get things right first time. If we delay, the laws of physics will not be kind.

World

Two months after the secession of South Sudan, Khartoum’s ruling elite is making no retreat from the strategy that eventually forced the country’s division. This strategy includes marginalisation and neglect of the outlying regions; the forced imposition of Khartoum’s right-wing Islamic, pro-Arab agenda on Sudan’s culturally, linguistically and religiously diverse population; and brutal repression of dissent. The Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) is waging wars on several fronts, from Darfur in the west to the states along the new southern border.
Newly released figures confirm unemployment is going through the roof, austerity measures are causing global unrest, huge strike action has occurred recently in place like Chile and the biggest strike in Britain since 1926 seems increasingly likely in November with plans for sustained industrial action into the new year. At the same time, we are becoming desensitised to news of whichever freak weather condition, flood, forest fire or natural disaster has just occurred in whichever country.
The lead-up to the payment of the sixth installment of International Monetary Fund (IMF) loans to Greece, to be handed out in October, finds Greek people in a state of shock and helplessness. The first “memorandum” agreement was signed by the Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) government with the IMF and European Union (EU) representatives in May 2010. It came after two decades of savage neoliberal attacks by successive New Democracy (the major right-wing party) and PASOK (so-called “socialist”) governments.
The South Asian Social Forum will be held in Dhaka, Bangladesh, from November 18-22. Part of the World Social Forum, SASF takes the democratisation process as its core theme. The World Social Forum, which was formed in 2001, has its roots in the early 1990s and different NGO initiatives and activities parallel to those of the United Nations. Its formation was inspired by the mass upsurge across Latin America, in particular the struggle of the Zapitistas in southern Mexico and the 1999 Seattle protests against the World Trade Organisation.
Elections in the city-state of Berlin on September 18 delivered another serious blow to the government of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, even as her party’s vote increased. Merkel’s centre-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU) came in second place in the Berlin election, winning 23.4% of the vote – up from 21.3% in 2006.
Speaking in Rome on September 15, Lorenzo Bini Smaghi, Italian executive board member of the European Central Bank (ECB), said of the design of the euro: “The assumption was made ― largely theoretical ― that there would be no crises.” Oh, indeed. And now with Europe and the world showing every sign of dipping into a recession that will further stress Euope's common currency, what is to be done?
Statements, articles, letters and petitions have been circulating on the internet for the past month calling for an end to the "destruction of the Amazon". The target of these initiatives has not been transnational corporations or the powerful governments that back them, but the government of Bolivia's first indigenous president, Evo Morales. See also: Bolivia: Conflict deepens over Amazon highway plan
United Nations-African Union joint special representative Ibrahim Gambari said in Khartoum on September 15, that attacks in Darfur were down by about 70% over the past three years thanks to the peacekeeping efforts. However, a September 16 statement by Hussein Abu Sharati, a spokesperson for Darfuri refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs), angrily rejected the claims. He said the government “still commits genocide in Darfur” and that people are unable to return to their homes because it is unsafe.
On October 7, Rene Gonzalez will be released from a United States prison in Florida after serving a 15 year sentence. Gonzalez is one of the Cuban Five — five Cuban men jailed in the US for infiltrating right-wing anti-Cuban terrorist groups to defend the security of the Cuban people. The US government is now trying to stop Gonzalez’s immediate return to his homeland after his release. In the most cynical and mean-spirited fashion, a US court is extending his punishment by making him spend three years on probation in Florida.
Cuba is a world leader in ecologically sustainable practices. It is the only country to have begun the large-scale transition from conventional farming, which is heavily dependent on fossil fuels, to a new agricultural paradigm known as low-input sustainable agriculture. Thriving urban organic farms feed and beautify Cuba’s cities, strengthen local communities and employ hundreds of thousands of people thanks to government support.
On September 21, death row prisoner in the state of Georgia, Troy Davis, was killed by lethal injection. His execution came despite a campaign from around the world in his defence, including by Amnesty International, and protests outside the prison where he was held and across the US. Last-minute legal appeals in the US Supreme Court failed to stop the execution. Davis was found guilty of the murder of police officer Mark MacPhail in 1989 and sentenced to death.
Voters should expect to see “a new Chavez, a rejuvenated Chavez, touring the country as a candidate, touring the streets at a rhythm set by the circumstances”, said Venezuela’s socialist president Hugo Chavez after the date for Venezuela’s presidential elections was announced as October 7, 2012. The Venezuelan Electoral Commission’s (CNE) president Tibisay Lucena also announced that judicial, regional and local elections would take place on separate dates.

Culture

Australian Made King Brown Sound Planet Records www.reverbnation.com/kingbrown1 When far-right extremist Anders Behring Breivik went on a mass killing spree in Norway on July 22, he was listening on his headphones to "Lux Aeterna", a mournful piece of music by British film soundtrack composer Clint Mansell. A more appropriate Mansell composition might have been “Ich Bin Ein Auslander”, written by the musician when he was fronting cartoonish electronic indie rockers Pop Will Eat Itself in the 1990s.
Once I ruled the Northern plains, my clan roamed free and wild, the lush Dakotas were my home, the gods were on my side. Every leafy shrub was mine, every blade of grass, every creature trembled when a herd of bison passed. My family has been slaughtered for food, for prize, for fun, of all the kings that roamed the earth I’m now the only one. Am I now a laughing stock? The object of your pity? A weakling of the prairies, while you prosper in the city? And who was it that killed my clan? Let’s set the record straight: that bastard son of Europe’s womb —
All Along the Watchtower: Memoir of a Sixties Revolutionary By Michael Hyde The Vulgar Press, 2010 272 pages, $32.95 (pb) Red Silk: The Life of Elliott Johnston QC By Penelope Debelle Wakefield Press, 2011 212 pages, $32.95 (pb) Phillip Adams: The Ideas Man — A Life Revealed By Philip Luker JoJo Publishing, 2011 337 pages, $34.99 (pb)

Resistance!

Over the past month, humanities and social sciences students at Adelaide University have successfully fought back against attempted cuts to their tutorials. In July, deputy vice-chancellor Professor Pascale Quester announced cuts to tutorial numbers from 12 to 10 or nine. The lost tutorials would be replaced by optional one-on-one consultation time with tutorial teachers. On August 24, at a student-management forum organised by Adelaide University Union (AUU) president Raffaele Piccolo, Quester tried to justify the cuts on educational grounds.