Issue 898

Australia

The secretary of the Communications Workers Union Victoria, Len Cooper, sent the letter below to the Occupy Melbourne community outreach working group on October 12.

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Dear friends,

I am writing on behalf of my union to endorse your call for real democracy.

Today in the City of Boston, America, one of our sister unions, IBEW Local 2222, representing Boston telecom workers will read out a statement supporting the Wall
Street and Boston occupations.

More than 300 people of all ages gathered in Adelaide on September 24 calling for world leading concentrating solar thermal (CST) technology to replace Port Augusta’s aging coal fired power stations.

The action was organised by several environment groups, including the Australian Youth Climate Coalition, the Climate Emergency Action Network, the Socialist Alliance, Resistance and the Young Greens. The crowd met in Adelaide’s Rymill Park and then took to the streets in a colourful, rhythmic parade, featuring a moving solar thermal tower.

The Occupy Melbourne Community Outreach Working Group has released the letter below addressed to Australian unions and union members.

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Dear union member,

We write to address you on a social movement that may have great impact on issues affecting all workers and union members in Australia.

The Last Stand released the statement below on October 8.

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Today, over 30 actions took place around the world as part of a global 24 hours of action targeting retailer Harvey Norman for their role in helping to drive the destruction of Australia’s native forests.

The Australian Nuclear Free Alliance released the statement below on October 11.

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In the wake of the approval of BHP-Billiton’s Olympic Dam expansion, the Australian Nuclear Free Alliance (ANFA) is calling for a moratorium on uranium mining due to the long-term impacts associated with the nuclear industry.

Uncle Kevin Buzzacott, Arabunna elder from Lake Eyre and president of ANFA, addressed a rally at parliament House in Adelaide on October 11 held in response to the approvals announced by the state and federal government:

Tasmanian-based environmental group Code Green released the statement below on October 11.

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Ten protesters from environmental group Code Green have blocked a road that leads to at least two active logging coupes in east Ben Lomond in Tasmania’s north-east. One protester was suspended in a tree attached to a tripod in the middle of the road.

The coupes are within the 430,000 hectares highlighted for immediate protection in the Intergovernmental Agreement of August 7, signed by the federal and state governments.

The Darwin Asylum Seeker Support and Advocacy Network released the statement below on October 9.

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The Darwin Asylum Seeker Support and Advocacy Network (DASSAN) has called on NT members of the federal government, member for Lingiari Warren Snowdon and Senator Trish Crossin, to vote against legislation to be introduced this week that would allow the offshore processing of asylum seekers.

Snowdon was reported as strongly supporting the proposed amendments in caucus.

Stop CSG Illawarra released the statement below on October 10.

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Stop CSG Illawarra — the community group that organised the 3000-plus person human sign action on Austinmer Beach in late May — is planning a community walk across the iconic Sea Cliff Bridge for October 16.

The walk is part of a national day of coordinated actions under the theme “Defend Our Water”, and is calling for a moratorium on the coal seam gas (CSG) industry, a Royal Commission into CSG and a ban on “fracking”.

Hazara asylum seekers inside Darwin detention centre released the statement below to explain the aims of their recent protest.

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We the Hazara Afghan asylum seekers held a peaceful protest in Darwin detention centre with number of 100 asylum seekers on September 24.

We strongly condemn the act of target killings of Hazaras in Pakistan and Afghanistan and we pass our condolences to those grieved families.

Just about every passerby stopped at a recent Green Left Weekly stall in Hamilton, Newcastle, to sign a Lock the Gate Alliance petition for a moratorium on coal seam gas (CSG) mining.

All those who stopped were concerned about plans to mine CSG at nearby Fullerton Cove.

Mining company ECI International has “submitted a surrender request” to the state government for its coal and gas exploration licence covering 500 square kilometers — including the town of Colac and a large region of the Otway Ranges — said the October 7 Colac Herald.

This is the second coal exploration venture in the area that has withdrawn after Mantle Mining pulled out of its project in the Deans Marsh area.

The withdrawal occurs less than two weeks after 100 residents packed a hall at Forrest, in the Otway Ranges, to organise opposition to the project.

More than 500 people gathered in Melbourne over September 30 to October 3 to take part in four days of stimulating talks and discussion at the second Climate Change Social Change conference. The conference, which featured five plenary sessions, 39 workshops and more than 90 speakers, was organised by Green Left Weekly, Socialist Alliance and Resistance.

More than 29 Hazaras traveling on a bus near Quetta, Pakistan, were separated from other passengers and executed by Islamic fundamentalists on September 20. This was the third time Hazaras have been attacked in a month.

After hearing the news, more than 400 Hazara asylum seekers in Curtin detention centre protested the killings near the centre’s administration building on September 21. The protest was to alert the immigration department of the situation Hazaras face in Pakistan.

Workers in the Department of Immigration and Citizenship have won pay rises of about 11% over three years. Management initially offered only 9%, but conceded bigger rises following a 65% “no” vote to the offer in a staff ballot. Members of the Community and Public Sector Union had threatened industrial action over the issue.

By contrast, Australian Taxation Office (ATO) management has so far refused to go beyond its original offer of 9% over three years.

Fay Waddington, a long-time activist in the Palestine solidarity movement in Brisbane, held a free give-away of “Mohammed Brenner chocolates” to passersby in Boundary Street, West End, on September 24.

Waddington and other supporters have held a regular weekly Palestine solidarity stall there every Saturday morning for several years, ever since the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 2006.

Waddington, a Socialist Alliance member, issued a statement to Green Left Weekly, describing the action as “a Chaser-inspired take on the Max Brenner brouhaha” in Australia over recent months.

“For the good of both peoples, the Separation Wall must come down, the Israeli control over the lives of Palestinians must be defied so that a secular democracy where all Israelis and Palestinians live as equals can be established in our shared homeland," says Miko Peled, Israeli writer and peace activist.

Peled gave a public lecture, sponsored by the Queensland Council of Unions, under the theme, "Moving towards a democracy in Israel/Palestine," at the TLC building here on September 23.

Inspired by the three-week-long Occupy Wall Street protest in New York, which has now spread to more than 100 cities across the US, ad-hoc activist coalitions in several Australian cities have called for similar occupations beginning on October 15.

Wall Street-style occupations have been called for Sydney, Melbourne, Perth, Brisbane and Adelaide. By October 6, close to 1300 people had indicated on Facebook that they would attend the Melbourne event.

At noon on October 8, Stop the War Coalition Sydney will mark the 10th anniversary of the start of the longest running war in Australia’s history. A protest, starting at Town Hall, will hear from a state MP, an aid worker and a lawyer and had intended to march via the Sydney Cenotaph in Martin Place to the US Consulate in Martin Place.

Together with the veterans’ group Stand Fast, the anti-war coalition was to lay a wreath to commemorate all the dead from the Afghanistan war.

Liberal students at Queensland University of Technology (QUT) have run a bogus ticket under the name “Green Left” in the QUT Student Guild elections, held over September 20 to 23.

The two main tickets in the election were Epic, backed by the Liberals, and Activate, backed by the Labor students and the left on campus.

Pat Eatock laughs at the suggestion that her successful Federal Court action against Andrew Bolt and News Ltd has jeopardised free speech. Bolt is one of Australia’s most widely read columnists, boasting 3 million visits a month.

On September 28, Justice Mordecai Bromberg ruled that the ultra-conservative columnist Bolt had breached the Racial Discrimination Act in two articles he wrote in 2009 in which he criticised “fair skinned Aborigines” for what, he argued, was a choice they had made to identify as Aboriginal.

World

Crowds burned a US flag in Kabul on October 6 at a rally to mark the 10th anniversary the next day of the US-led invasion and occupation of Afghanistan.

For three hours, Reuters said, “men and women … with placards and banners accusing the United States of massacring civilians while denouncing President Hamid Karzai as a puppet subservient to Washington” took part in the peaceful protest organised by the Solidarity Party of Afghanistan.

Lina Ben Mhenni, 27, is a Tunisian blogger and activist for freedom of speech, women’s rights and student rights. Her blog, A Tunisian Girl, was censored under Zine el Abidine Ben Ali’s regime.

During the early days of the uprising against Ben Ali that started on December 17 last year, she travelled to the rural Tunisian cities of Sidi Bouzid, Regueb and Kasserine to document police repression and catalysing protests throughout the country.

“We Tamils, inside and outside the island of Sri Lanka, still want an independent state,” Visuvanathan Rudrakumaran, prime minister of the Transnational Government of Tamil Eelam (TGTE), told me recently in New York.

“And because the war crimes and severe brutality of the Mahinda Rajapaksa government against our people have become well known, our cause is being spoken about all over the world.”

A secret cable sent from the US Embassy in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, in 1996, released by WikiLeaks, provides an in-depth account of the processes of wealth distribution and waste within the ruling House of Saud.

The cable noted: “Royals still seem more adept at squandering than accumulating wealth.” It said corruption abounded largely unchecked.

It was the view of the US embassy in Saudi Arabia that getting a grip on royal family excess was at the top of pressing concerns for the oil-rich US ally.

A blog of those that support the Occupy Wall Street protests, that began in New York in September and have since spread to hundreds of US cities, hosts a series of personal testimonies from ordinary people across the United States. It indicates the source of the deep anger at the corporate elite that have become rich off their suffering. A selection are published below.

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There is a sharp reality disconnect in the Black community.

On the one hand, the Black population continues to support the first African American president, Barack Obama, by more than 90%.

Yet the plight of the Black communities is at its worst condition in three decades. Official unemployment is over 16% ― twice that of whites and iabout 30% for young African Americans.

Black household income is in decline and the lowest of the five major ethnic groups. Poverty is at the highest levels in 30 years.

September 25 will go down as one of the darkest days in Bolivia since Evo Morales was elected as the country’s first indigenous president almost six years ago.

After more than 40 days of indigenous protesters marching, police officers moved in to repress those opposed to the government’s proposed highway that would run through the Isiboro-Secure National Park and Indigenous Territory (TIPNIS).

The controversial highway has met with both opposition and support from the many indigenous and social organisations that form the Morales government’s support base.

Members of the Philippines Air Lines Employees Association (PALEA) have been engaged in three weeks of pickets at the Philippines Airlines (PAL) terminal at Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Manila.

About 2600 ground crew have fought against forced contractualisation — the replacement of permanent, secure jobs with contract labour.

PALEA president Gerry Rivera told Green Left Weekly the dispute had its origins in 2009 when PAL management declared their intention to outsource the roles of the 2600 ground crew.

The Europe Against Austerity conference held in London on October 1 was attended by 681 people, including 150 from outside Britain. This happened the same weekend that two big demonstrations took place.

In Glasgow, a “People First” demonstration of 15,000 called by the Scottish TUC took place on October 1.

The next day, 35,000 joined a demonstration in Manchester outside the governing Conservative Party conference, which was called by the Trades Union Congress and backed by the Coalition of Resistance and the Right to Work Campaign.

Pro-democracy protesters in Bahrain have gone on the offensive in the face of government repression and harsh sentences for activists arrested in the first wave of protests in February and March.

Large protests began on September 23 against sham by-elections for Bahrain’s toothless parliament. Most people heeded the democracy movement’s call for a boycott — only about 17% turned out to vote, FT.com said on September 25.

Police blocked attempts by protesters to reach the previous epicentre of the protests — the now-demolished Pearl Roundabout, known as Martyr’s Square by protesters.

Inspired by the Arab Spring and Spain's movement of The Indignants (which began occupying city squares to build a citizens' movement for real democracy and against austerity), the Occupy Wall Street movement began taking to the streets in September in the famous financial district in New York. Brutal repression by police helped fuel support for those camping at Liberty Plaza (as Zuccotti Park has been renamed by the occupiers). Increasing support has come from trade unions — including a union-organised march in New York of tens of thousands of people in solidarity with OWS.

The declaration published below was unanimously passed by all members of Occupy Wall Street on September 29. It is the first official document for release. Receive an official press copy of the latest version by emailing c2anycga@gmail.com .

#OccupyWallStreet is a people-powered movement for democracy that began on September 17 with an encampment in the financial district of New York City. It has faced severe police repression.

September 25 will go down as one of the darkest days in Bolivia since Evo Morales was elected as the country’s first indigenous president almost six years ago.

After more than 40 days of indigenous protesters marching, police officers moved in to repress those opposed to the government’s proposed highway that would run through the Isiboro-Secure National Park and Indigenous Territory (TIPNIS).

See also
NGOs wrong over Morales, Amazon

Analysis

I am a member of Pulp the Mill, a group of peaceful community protesters who engage in civil disobedience to protest the politically corrupted Tamar Valley pulp mill assessment process in Tasmania.

Pulp the Mill has repeatedly called for a Royal Commission into this corrupted process, and in particular into Section 11 of the Pulp Mill Assessment Act 2007, a clause that removes the right of people to either claim compensation, or take legal action, should the pulp mill cause a negative impact on their health or livelihoods in any way whatsoever.

NSW education minister Adrian Piccol has announced a process of “community consultation on the reform of TAFE and the vocational education and training sector in NSW”.

The NSW Liberal government plans to repeat its Victorian counterpart’s attacks on public education and further privatise vocational education. The government plans to encourage private colleges and universities to undercut TAFE providers. It will offer a publicly-funded student voucher system to achieve this.

As part of its attacks on the NSW public sector, the O’Farrell Liberal government will begin charging parents up to $40 a day for each child they send to the once-free public preschools run by the Department of Education and Community Services (DEC). The fees will be introduced next year to the 100 DEC preschools across NSW.

These preschools were established to improve the educational opportunities for students in poor socio-economic areas, including communities that may be isolated, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

Dr Aunty Ruby Langford Ginibi, one of Australia’s foremost Aboriginal authors, passed away on October 2 in a Sydney nursing home. Through her numerous books, short stories, poetry, interviews and public appearances and her commitment to “edu-ma-cating” non-Aboriginal people about Indigenous peoples’ circumstances and struggle, she made a distinctive and substantial contribution to Australian history and literature. Her books were studied in high schools and universities in Australia and internationally.

Australia, at least for me, is a paradox. As Dorothy McKellar famously wrote, “I love a sunburnt country, a land of sweeping plains, of rugged mountain ranges and droughts and flooding rains”.

The extremes in our landscape and our weather seem to have been etched into our national psyche as well, which is something I’ve never quite understood.

Ian Angus is editor of climateandcapitalism.com and co-author, with Simon Butler, of the new book Too Many People?. This is his keynote presentation to the recent Climate Change Social Change conference in Melbourne.

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Meetings such as this play a vital role in building a movement that can stop the hell-bound train of capitalism, before it takes itself and all of humanity over the precipice. Building such a movement is the most important thing anyone can do today — so I’m honoured to have been invited to take part in your discussions.

As the world watched the Egyptian people overthrow the hated dictator Hosni Mubarak earlier this year, there would have been many who asked themselves: Could it happen in my country too?

Some did more than wonder, they took to the streets and tried to “walk like an Egyptian” and a wave of people’s power began to sweep the Arab world. But this wave of revolt didn’t stop there.

There were powerful reverberations in Spain, Israel, Malaysia and even in the United States, the world’s richest country.

The statement below is a call for solidarity with jailed Pakistani activists, including the Labor Party Pakistan’s Baba Jan. It was released on September 22. To add your support to the statement email politic.ofthepoor@gmail.com.

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On August 11, Pakistani police used live bullets against people demanding payment of compensation allowances following a devastating landslide which had happened a year before in the valley of Hunza, on July 4, 2010.

Pat Eatock laughs at the suggestion that her successful Federal Court action against Andrew Bolt and News Ltd has jeopardised free speech. Bolt is one of Australia’s most widely read conservative columnists. His blog boasts 3 million web hits a month.

On September 28, Justice Mordecai Bromberg ruled the ultra-conservative columnist Bolt had breached the Racial Discrimination Act in two articles he wrote in 2009 in which he criticised “fair skinned Aborigines” for what, he argued, was a choice they had made to identify as Aboriginal.

Culture

There’s no doubt that the explosion of social media, mobile technology and online-organising capabilities have dramatically altered the battle terrain of class struggles today in ways good, bad and ugly.

From the Arab Spring to New York’s ongoing Occupy Wall Street protests, social media and online organising are clearly transforming the way that small, isolated campaigns develop into mass movements in the streets. But how do we separate the genuinely useful aspects of social media from the “data smog” of media hype?

The Woman Who Shot Mussolini
By Frances Stonor Saunders
Faber and Faber, 2010
375 pages, $32.99 (pb)

The Honourable Violet Gibson was not like the other women of the Anglo-Irish elite when it came to Benito Mussolini, the leader of Italy's fascists.

While Lady Asquith (wife of the former prime minister) was delighted by Mussolini, and Clementine Churchill (wife of the future prime minister) was awestruck by “one of the most wonderful men of our times”, Violet Gibson aimed a revolver at the fascist dictator in Italy in April 1926 and shot him in the nose.

Natacha Atlas, the award-winning electronic-worldbeat artist, has canceled her upcoming show in Israel and will be boycotting the state until the apartheid regime is dismantled.

Entering the darkened space of the Sherman Contemporary Art Foundation that held Vietnamese artist Dinh Q Le’s latest installation, Erasure, which finished on September 10, I imagined myself to be stepping into the psychological space of a disturbed memory.

The brooding political and cultural climate surrounding the issue of refugees in Australia has involved politicians exploiting the sensitive subject in a game of political football.