Issue 899

Australia

More than 300 people of all ages gathered in Adelaide on September 24 calling for concentrating solar thermal (CST) technology to replace Port Augusta’s ageing 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 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 University of Sydney Political Economy Students Society released the statement below to explain its Save Political Economy campaign.

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The Department of Political Economy is under threat of amalgamation into a school of Politics and International Relations. The School of Social and Political Sciences is undergoing a review. In the draft proposals for School restructuring, two of the four proposals result in Political Economy being amalgamated into a School or Department of Politics and International Relations, and losing academic and administrative independence.

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 24 hours of action targeting retailer Harvey Norman for their role in helping to drive the destruction of Australia’s native forests.

Five forest campaigners were arrested after two climbers abseiled down the Sydney Opera House and unfurled a giant banner. Two campaigners were arrested at Harvey Norman’s Preston store in Melbourne after occupying the roof and displaying a large banner.

For two weeks running, the Chogm Action Network (CAN) has had meetings of almost 50 people – double the regular attendance – as new activists have come into the movement inspired by the Wall Street Occupation.

Since March, CAN has been organising a protest for the October 28 opening of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM).

Discussion at the two meetings has revealed that there is a lot of good will and common purpose among the activists now working together.

Qantas CEO Alan Joyce is in line for a salary increase of 71% at the airline’s upcoming annual general meeting, but Qantas staff continue to battle the company for job security and decent pay.

The proposed increase will bring Joyce's annual salary package to $5 million.

Fremantle in Western Australia is emerging as a key battleground between a Liberal-National state government committed to building freeways at any cost and a community that wants to see better public transport and an expansion of rail freight.

Container movements at Fremantle Port are predicted to double by 2020, yet the percentage being carried to port by train has declined from 17% in 2007 to 11% in this year. It is predicted to dwindle to 8.5% by next year.

Occupy Sydney activists have been buoyed by motions of endorsement by the NSW State Council of the Construction Forestry Mining Energy Union (CFMEU) and the Canterbury-Bankstown Teachers Association, the Maritime Union of Australia and the NSW division of the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU).

The CFMEU and MUA donated money to assist the Sydney occupation.

See also
Unions throw weight behind Occupy Melbourne

The people of Brisbane have many reasons to join the global occupy movement. Living costs are rising, while the state government is bent on privatising the state’s public services and has endorsed the expansion of the destructive and unwanted coal seam gas industry.

In line with the international day of action for real democracy on October 15, the “99%” in Brisbane will meet at Post Office square in the city at 9am. Protesters plan to occupy for as long as is necessary.

Thousands of Customs Officers attended stop-work meetings around Australia on October 13. They voted to take further industrial action next week if needed as part of their campaign to have the federal government agree to a fair pay agreement.

Customs officers at than fifty locations took action. This caused delays at international airports, ports, cargo inspections, international mail centres and other customs sites.

About 2000 health and education workers rallied outside state parliament on October 13 as part of their campaign for improved pay and working conditions. State school teacher aides and Queensland health workers angrily protested together, outraged at the state government's wage offer of only 2.5% a year over three years — less than inflation.

The teacher aides were also demanding increased working hours. They have faced cuts in hours in recent years. Their union, United Voice, wants a government guarantee that the aides could work for up to 35 hours a week.

Victorian postal workers have won a two-week moratorium on unsafe delivery methods while attempting to resolve a health and safety dispute with Australia Post that started in August. Their union believes Australia Post is preparing to roll out the system across Australia.

About 44 posties were stood down without pay by Australia Post at its Airport West and Mount Waverley Delivery Centres in September, after they refused to carry out a new delivery system that increases risks to health and safety on the job.

The Occupy Wall Street movement is an ongoing series of protests that began in New York City in September this year and has now spread internationally. Some commentators compare the occupy movement to the Arab Spring movement — particularly the Tahrir Square protests in Cairo that launched the 2011 Egyptian revolution.

See also:
Unions back Occupy Sydney

World

On October 11, the general secretary and national organiser of General Workers’ Union (GWU), as well as 17 workers, were arrested by police while preparing for a peaceful protest in the office of East Timor's justice ministry.

The protest was being staged to support the demands of 19 workers sacked unfairly by the ministry.

The arrested workers preparing to protest were dismissed from the Turismo Hotel because of the unfair decision of the justice ministry towards their management in closing the business.

The statement below was released by Socialist Alliance in Australia on October 14.

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Walking around downtown Cairo on October 10, everything felt relatively normal ― if, perhaps, a little more tense than usual for post-January 25 Cairo.

That is, until I came across the wrecks of burnt out cars on the Corniche el Nil in Maspero, just north of Tahrir Square, being pulled apart by enterprising young men.

The Venezuelan government returned more than 15,800 hectares of ancestral lands to the indigenous Yukpa people on October 12, as Venezuela celebrated “Indigenous Resistance Day” with public events and marches across the country.

Originally designated by then-US president Franklin Roosevelt as “Columbus Day” in 1937, October 12 is the date that Christopher Columbus first “discovered” the Americas.

The anniversary was re-named “Day of Indigenous Resistance” by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez in 2002 to commemorate indigenous struggle against European invasion and colonisation.

More than 13 million people are facing extreme food insecurity in the Horn of Africa in Ethiopia, Somalia, Eritrea, Djibouti, Sudan, South Sudan, Uganda and Kenya.

Almost 30,000 children have already died in Somalia in 90 days.

Famines in the region have become common enough for the Western media response to be cliched. Out-of-context images and sound-bites depict hopeless Africans needing Western charity yet again, and references to conflict making the situation worse depict conflict as local failing that Western intervention may be able to remedy.

Venezuela’s socialist president Hugo Chavez has likened the Occupy Wall Street movement in the United States to Venezuela’s February 1989 Caracazo riots against neoliberal policies that are widely seen as the start of Venezuela's revolutionary process.

Chavez made the comments by phone on the television program Dando y Dando on October 5.

The Polynesian island nation of Tuvalu, in the Pacific Ocean, is facing a severe shortage of fresh water.

Australia Network News said on October 10 that a state of emergency had been declared and Tuvalu's disaster co-ordinator Sumeo Silu said there was only about three days of water left. Tuvalu is in the midst of a crippling drought and had no rain for months.

ANN said Australia and New Zealand would deploy a large desalination plant to the island, home to about 10,000 people.

What stance should the European left take towards the euro and its galloping crisis?

This issue, which began as a theoretical discussion among radical economists in late 2009, has increasingly acquired practical political urgency: left parties are being challenged to define their position in the face of rising popular resentment at governments forking out billions in taxpayer euros to bail-out banks and indebted “Club Med” countries.

At a Madrid media conference called by the 15-M movement to announce Spanish actions for the October 15 global day of occupations, the media showed little interest in the international solidarity plans of the world’s founding indignado movement.

The journos wanted to talk about one thing: what would be 15-M’s attitude to the November 20 Spanish general elections? Abstention? Spoiling the ballot? A vote against the parties of “the political class”? A vote for parties closest to 15-M’s positions? And, if so, which parties?

This statement was released by the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee.

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We are part of the world’s 99% yearning for freedom, justice and equal rights! If a people one day wills to live. Fate must answer its call. And the night must fade. And the chain must break
― Abou-Al-kacem El-Chebbi (Tunisia)

Mothers and wives of Palestinian prisoners quickly gathered outside the office of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in Gaza after a prisoner swap deal was announced on October 11 between Israel and Hamas.

These women have not seen their loved ones, imprisoned by Israel, for five years.

For the past five years, the families of 950 Palestinian prisoners from Gaza have been protesting weekly outside the ICRC’s headquarters, demanding their right to visit their sons, husbands and relatives inside the Israeli jails, a right denied to them by Israel.

Israeli human rights organisation B’Tselem drew attention on October 10 to plans by the Israeli government to expel 27,000 Bedouin Palestinians living in what is known as “Area C” of the occupied West Bank.

Israel's Civil Administration is planning to expel the Bedouin communities living in Area C. In the first phase is planned for January. About 20 communities, involving 2300 people, will be forcibly transferred to a site near the Abu Dis rubbish dump, east of Jerusalem.

Striking Greek public-sector workers paralysed transport and left rubbish piling up in Athens and Thessaloniki on October 14, the Morning Star said that day. The strike was the latest salvo against the European Union-International Monetary Fund campaign to make working people pay for the banking crisis.

Rubbish collectors stayed off the job for a 10th consecutive day, the article said. Members of the All Workers Militant Front also blockaded the Acropolis for a second day.

Sitting in the shade of a small lemon tree in the German Colony area of Haifa in northern Israel, eight Palestinian activists are on hunger strike in solidarity with Palestinian political prisoners. The prisoners have been going without food since September 27 in protest against poor prison conditions and a lack of basic rights.

Muhannad Abu Ghosh, a Haifa resident and one of the hunger strikers, said: “I decided to participate in the hunger strike in order to support the political prisoners, the freedom fighters, imprisoned in the Israeli dungeons.

On October 15, protests and occupations as part of a "United for Global Change" day of action initiated by the Spanish Indignant movement took place in more than 1000 cities in dozens of nations around the world.

Unions have warned that Britain's National Health Service faces its biggest strike in history on November 30 unless the government drops its changes to workers' pension plans, the Morning Star said on October 14.

NHS workers' union GMB has condemned the government's plans. NHS national officer Rehana Azam said health minister Andrew Lansley “is ignoring the very strong arguments we made and turning his back on the anger and frustration felt by NHS staff”.

This article from a participant of the Occupy Wall Street movement, Pham Binh, was written on October 13. The movement has spread around the United States and internationally. There are about 1500 sites globally planning to take part in some form in the October 15 international day of action. (See Occupy Together for a full list.)

See also:
Occupy Australia takes off -- thousands take part across the country

Analysis

The Tasmanian Labor-Greens coalition government has forged ahead with savage cuts to the state’s health services, causing anger, frustration and despair in the community. More than 7600 people have been languishing on the elective surgery waiting list. Yet the government said on October 4 that it would cut elective surgery by $58 million over the next three years.

This will cause 130 health jobs to be lost and wards to be closed in all the state’s big hospitals. It is possible that only emergency cases will be dealt with in future.

The occupy movement is spreading, and in more ways than one. It’s spreading across the globe — by October 11 occupytogether.org could boast of 1273 occupy events planned worldwide. But the movement, united under its slogan “We are the 99%”, is also reaching out to, and involving, other established social movements.

Environmentalists and climate campaigners have linked up with Occupy Wall Street protests in New York. Hundreds of climate activists joined a 5000-strong march there on October 5. Their message was well received by other protesters.

Petty politicking over whether refugees should be illegally deported to Malaysia or to Nauru forced the Australian government to abandon its policy of “offshore processing” of refugees on October 13.

Since the “Tampa election” in 2001, competition between the two main parties over who can most mistreat the small number of refugees arriving in Australia by boat has been at the centre of Australian electoral politics.

More than 3000 people turned out on October 16 to walk across the Sea Cliff Bridge in the Illawarra in protest against coal seam gas mining plans in the area. The protest was further proof the coal seam gas (CSG) industry is in trouble. Its problem? An informed public.

The Australian said on October 10 that a survey had showed the CSG industry was “losing the PR battle”, with 63% of respondents recalling a negative media story about CSG.

Driving the bad coverage has been the large grassroots campaign against the industry.

Salil Shetty, Amnesty International’s secretary-general, has slammed the Northern Territory intervention, saying that it is making the problems facing Aboriginal Australians worse, AAP reported on October 7.

He said the government’s “top-down externally driven” efforts to close the gap on Aboriginal socio-economic disadvantage were instead having the opposite effect”. Amnesty was appalled that current policies had in effect caused “forced evictions from their traditional homelands”.

“I’ve come to believe that if we burn all reserves of oil, gas and coal, there is a substantial chance we will initiate the runaway greenhouse. If we also burn the tar sands and tar shale, I believe the Venus syndrome is a dead certainty.”

The determination of the WA government and transport minister Troy Buswell to close more than 720 kilometres of so-called Tier 3 railway lines in the state’s Wheatbelt has put it on a collision course with grain farming communities. It threatens to unleash a vast increase in heavy truck traffic and all the problems that go with it.

The Socialist Alliance released this statement on October 14.

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The Occupy Wall Street protest started small. But it has now become a global movement, with occupy events planned in about 1500 cities worldwide.

It’s born out of the recognition that, in country after country, ordinary people are being made to pay for an economic crisis caused by the super-rich. The 99% are being told they must surrender their livelihoods, their future, their security and their dignity to keep a broken system afloat.

Many workers are told by their employer to get an Australian Business Number (ABN). Such workers are said to be “independent contractors” rather than employees. This allows the employer to avoid various obligations, such as minimum wage rates, paid sick leave and annual leave.

ABNs are issued by the Australian government through the website (abr.gov.au). No payment is required to obtain an ABN from this site.

Yet many people pay private companies to get them an ABN. Googling the term “ABN” recently, I found advertisements saying things like: “ABN registration for only $95.”

The High Court in London will soon decide whether Julian Assange is to be extradited to Sweden to face allegations of sexual misconduct. At the appeal hearing in July, Ben Emmerson QC, counsel for the defence, described the whole saga as “crazy”.

Sweden’s chief prosecutor had dismissed the original arrest warrant, saying there was no case for Assange to answer. Both the women involved said they had consented to have sex. On the facts alleged, no crime would have been committed in Britain.

Resistance!

The world is rising up. When we look around the globe we see people in motion. Revolutions in the Middle East and North Africa against brutal dictators, the movements against austerity measures in Europe and Britain, democratic and indigenous revolutions in Latin America, and the Occupy Wall Street protests spreading across the United States. Resistance is in solidarity with all these movements for change.

Culture

“Since his death, Tupac has become an international martyr, a symbol on the level of Bob Marley or Che Guevara, whose life has inspired Tupacistas on the streets of Brazil, memorial murals in the Bronx and Spain, and bandanna-wearing youth gangs in South Africa.”

These words, penned five years ago by culture writer Eric K Arnold, are just as true today, a decade and a half after the African American rapper was shot dead on September 13, 1996 ― perhaps even more so.

Walk With Us: Aboriginal Elders Call Out to Australian People to Walk with them in their Quest for Justice
Compiled and published by Concerned Australians
$15, 71 pages, hard cover
wwww.concernedaustralians.com.au

Walk With Us is the long awaited sequel to the highly regarded and recommended This Is What We Said — Australian Aboriginal People give their views on the Northern Territory Intervention, published in February last year.

Lupe Fiasco, a US hip hop artist, wrote the following poem in support of the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) movement. It was published in the second edition of The Occupied Wall Street Journal, which is published by activists in the OWS movement.

Fiasco has publicly supported the movement from its early days and donated 50 tents to those occupying Liberty Square in New York.

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Hey Moneyman the crowd is outside. The past, the future and the now is outside. The teachers and cooks and the drop-outs too. Word on the street is they looking for you…