Issue 902

News

Supporters of Palestinian human rights gathered in Sydney on November 10 to protest the Australian government's silence on the arrest by Israeli authorities of Australian Michael Coleman, who took part in the recent Freedom Waves to Gaza attempt to sail humanitarian aid to Gaza.
It was “shameful” of the Victorian Liberal government, the Victorian Hospitals Industrial Association (VHIA) and the state's hospitals to consider locking out nurses or using a strikebreaking workforce to end the enterprise bargaining campaign of public sector nurses, Australian Nursing Federation (ANF) state secretary Lisa Fitzpatrick said on November 9.
Update, Nov 11: Free Gaza Australia said this morning that Freedom Waves to Gaza activist Michael Coleman has been released from detention and has been deported back to Australia. Free Gaza Australia says fourteen Irish Palestine solidarity activists are still held by Israel. Coleman is due to arrive at Sydney airport at 4.30pm today where friends, family and supporters will welcome him back. * * * Free Gaza Australia released the statement below on November 9. * * *
Friends of the Earth released the statement below on November 9. * * * Protesters halted dredging in Gladstone harbour today, when Friends of the Earth campaigner Derec Davies locked on to a Gladstone port corporation dredge. Davies was part of a protest organised by Friends of the Earth with the support of local people. He unfurled a banner on the dredge, which read “Save the reef, halt dredging” and chained himself to the dredge at approximately 9:30am in the morning, after being ferried in by a fast-travelling Zodiac inflatable speedboat.
Contrary to some media reporting, the Occupy Sydney movement has a focused and coherent political agenda, researchers from the University of Sydney believe. Based on 180 field interviews undertaken at the November 5 rally in Sydney, a research team from the University’s Department of Government and International Relations have discovered that the movement's position is focused on concerns about the social and political impact of capitalism on Australian and global society.
Free Gaza Australia released the statement below on November 7. * * * Contrary to Israeli claims that the takeover of the two Freedom boats Tahrir and MV Saoirse by the Israeli navy was peaceful, organisers of this latest Freedom Wave to Gaza say it was aggressive and dangerous. The two boats were violently intercepted in international waters, says Michael Coleman, an Australian aboard the Tahrir, who is currently imprisoned in Israel.
About 300 people rallied in King George Square on November 5 to support the worldwide Occupy movement, and assert the right of Occupy Brisbane to keep its encampment in public space. Following the rally, demonstrators marched to Post Office Square, Queens Park, and then across the Brisbane River to Musgrave Park in West End.
From November 9 to 15 Australian Taxation Office staff will vote on management's proposed enterprise agreement. This is the second time a staff ballot has been held. The first version of management’s proposal was rejected in June by a majority of 59% to 41%. The Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) is recommending that staff vote “no”, because the pay offer of 9% over three years is less than the expected rate of inflation. A ballot of CPSU members endorsed this position following a recommendation by union’s Tax Section Council.
About 1500 people joined an Occupy Sydney rally at Town Hall on November 5, making it the largest of the three Occupy Sydney marches so far. Members of the Maritime Union of Australia and other unions filled out the crowd. The crowd marched to Martin Place -- where Occupy Sydney had set up a permanent camp from October 15-23 until being violently evicted by police. Police took legal action to stop the march on November 5, but the day before an agreement was reached allow a different, shorter march route.
Occupy Melbourne has re-established its occupation at Melbourne’s Treasury Gardens. Its general assemblies are still held in City Square, the original Occupy Melbourne site. Since being violently evicted from City Square on October 21, Occupy Melbourne has become a travelling occupation. When the Occupy Melbourne march arrived at the Treasury Gardens on October 29, it was met with a big police contingent, including police on horses. The police had threatened to arrest anyone who tried to pitch tents.
“When I meet with [climate change] minister Greg Combet next week I will be taking my prescription pad with me and I will be writing a prescription for solar thermal for Port Augusta, not just three times a day but permanently,” said Dr David Shearman of Doctors for the Environment Australia (DEA) to a 120-strong crowd in Port Augusta’s Cooinda Club on October 29. Shearman was one of several speakers at the forum, which was organised by the Adelaide-based Climate Emergency Action Network (CLEAN), the Port Augusta City Council and Beyond Zero Emissions.
On November 4, Israeli warships stopped two Freedom Waves to Gaza boats in international waters that were attempting to deliver medical aid to Gaza, in defiance of the Israeli blockade. The following is abridged from a statement by Free Gaza Australia. * * * All communication was cut late last night to Freedom Waves boats Tahrir and Saoirse as they were sailing in international waters, approximately 50 nautical miles off the coast of Gaza.
Thousands of New South Wales high school and primary school teachers stopped work for two hours on November 2. They voted overwhelmingly to reject the Coalition O’Farrell state government’s salary offer. Ninety-nine percent of teachers at the stopwork meetings also voted to hold a 24-hour stopwork action on November 29 if the government refused to make a reasonable salary offer. Teachers will consider further industrial action at the start of 2012 if a reasonable offer is not made by then.
The Nature Conservation Council of NSW released the statement below on November 4. * * * The Nature Conservation Council of NSW is calling on the federal government to commission its own modelling of the carbon pollution from coal seam gas exploration and production rather than relying on claims made by industry. “We in Australia have vitally important decisions to make over coming months about our own transition to a clean energy economy and the part we play in global carbon emissions,” Chief Executive Officer Pepe Clarke said today.
Another horrific tragedy has struck a group of refugees taking the final-resort option of boarding an unseaworthy boat to try to reach Australia in search of asylum. Dozens were feared to have drowned when a boat carrying about 70 mostly Afghan and Iranian refugees sank off the coast of Java, Indonesia, on November 1. See also Tamil refugee’s death throws spotlight on detention system The boat capsized after taking on water for about two hours at about 5am local time, the Herald Sun said.
The Stop the War Coalition Sydney, Stand Fast and Peacebus.com released the statement below on November 1. * * * Prime Minister Julia Gillard has urged Australians not to be overly concerned about the incident that left three Australian soldiers dead and five wounded in Afghanistan on October 29.
The NSW Nature Conservation Council held it's annual Environment Awards on October 29. The awards celebrate and acknowledge the inspiring contributions made by environmental groups and individuals over the past year.
“It’s great to see the sense of coming together shown in your camp here,” Murri community leader Sam Watson told a gathering of about 40 people at the Occupy Brisbane camp at Post Office Square on October 29. Watson spoke at a special forum as Occupy Brisbane entered its third week at the square. The work of the camp has continued to develop and expand, as up to 40 tents now occupy the park, and an “OccuLibrary” has been added to the “OccuPlay” childcare tent. General assemblies are held every evening to discuss issues facing the occupation.

Analysis

Video Transcript: These last few years, I’ve had to get a lot more careful about how I spend my paycheck. Everyone has. Like I’m eating out less often, holding back on expenses I don’t really need, saving for my kid’s college. I’m getting more responsible, taking control of how I spend. But one thing I can’t control is that every month a big chunk of my paycheck goes off to the government.
Free Gaza Australia released this open letter to Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard on November 7. * * * Dear Prime Minister Gillard, Many people in Australia have been organising an Australian contingent to join the Freedom Wave to Gaza initiative which left Turkey late last week. As you would be aware, two boats full of unarmed civilians carrying solidarity messages, medical aid and extending the hand of friendship were attacked by Israeli military in an act of piracy in international waters.
Green Left Weekly’s Jonathon Rutherford spoke to Australian environmentalist and author Ted Trainer about capitalism, affluence, the limits to growth and how we can move to a better society. * * * Today most environmentalists, including most on the left, think that the main barrier preventing a smooth transition to renewables is political, not technical. Against this powerful belief you have argued that consumer-capitalist society cannot be sustained by renewables alone. Can you briefly explain why?
Sydney Peace Blog — The 2011 City of Sydney Peace Prize Lecture was delivered to a sold-out crowd at Sydney Town Hall on Wednesday November 2 by the 2011 Sydney Peace Prize Recipient Professor Noam Chomsky. The full text of Chomsky’s lecture, titled Revolutionary Pacifism: Choices and Prospects, is below. * * *
The rapid growth of the coal seam gas (CSG) industry — despite broad public opposition and proven risks — is bringing the gap between policy and public will into stark relief. Research remains limited, but there is mounting evidence CSG mining poses serious risks. The industry puts huge demand on water supplies, particularly ground water, damages aquifers and produces large quantities of contaminated water that can pollute soil and water sources. It divides the landscape with roads, wells and pipelines, and can cause seismic activity and subsidence.
If you speak out against the widening gap between wages and CEOs’ salaries, the corporate media will accuse you of stoking the “politics of envy”. Workers who dare take industrial action to get a few more crumbs from the bosses’ table are cast as class war dinosaurs. The Occupy protesters? We’re told they are naive rebels without a clue. But the Qantas lock-out proves otherwise.
Alan Kohler, the editor in chief of Business Spectator and the finance presenter on the ABC News, was blunt about who was to blame for the Europe debt crisis in his November 2 opinion piece on the ABC's The Drum. He said: “The debt crisis in Europe is the fault of bankers, yet the people are the ones who pay.
Two grassroots lesbian, gay, bisexual, sex and/or gender diverse (LGBSGD) rights conferences will take place in Sydney in early December. The conferences will coincide with a national marriage rights rally on December 3, outside the ALP National Conference. Australia's first Sex and Gender Diversity (SGD) Human Rights and Dignity Conference, is planned for December 2 at the Redfern Community Centre.
The Northern Territory government’s latest proposed approach to teaching Aboriginal students, like its previous policy, places a primacy on reading and writing in English. It allows for students’ first language to be used to help teachers explain new concepts, but critics fear it falls short of valuing Aboriginal languages.
When Annie Leonard put her groundbreaking cartoon The Story of Stuff online in late 2007, she would have been really happy if 50,000 people had watched it. “To my utter amazement we got 50,000 viewers on the first day,” she told Green Left Weekly during a recent visit to Australia. Almost four years later, more than 15 million people, in every country in the world, have watched The Story of Stuff.
Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce grounded all Qantas aircraft, locked out Qantas workers, and disrupted the travel plans of thousands of passengers, including visiting heads of state, on October 29. The lock-out sparked a successful application by workplace relations minister Chris Evans to Fair Work Australia to end the lockout and stop industrial action by Qantas unions. Fair Work Australia handed Joyce an effective weapon against the unions — the termination of legal, protected industrial action that members of the unions had voted for.
… and in the eyes of the people there is the failure; and in the eyes of the hungry there is a growing wrath. In the souls of the people the grapes of wrath are filling and growing heavy, growing heavy for the vintage. — John Steinbeck, The Grapes of Wrath. In my spare moments, I have been collecting Christian responses to the Occupy Wall Street movement. A few common themes have emerged.
An eight-day protest on the rooftop at the Northern Immigration Detention Centre (NIDC) in Darwin ended shortly before five refugees “locked themselves in a room … where one man took an overdose of sleeping pills while the other four began cutting themselves,” the Darwin Asylum Seeker Support and Advocacy Network (DASSAN) said on November 2. Serco guards broke down the door and one man was taken to hospital. Two other refugees later tried to hang themselves.
Occupy Sydney activist Elena Ortega gave the speech below at an October 22 rally in Sydney’s Martin Place. Earlier this year, Ortega took part in Spain’s indignado movement, which has involved huge protests and occupations against corporate power across the country since May 15. * * * People of Occupy. We are here to fight for a real democracy, which puts power in the hands of ordinary people and brings about real change.
What if rising sea levels are yet another measure of inequality? What if the degradation of our planet’s life-support systems — its atmosphere, oceans and biosphere — goes hand in hand with the accumulation of wealth, power and control by that corrupt and greedy 1% we are hearing about from Occupy Wall Street protesters in Zuccotti Park? What if the assault on the US's middle class and the assault on the environment are one and the same? Money rules

World

In October, the Sydney branch of the Australia-Cuba Friendship Society (ACFS) toured Dr Merita Armindo Monteiro, an East Timorese doctor trained for free in Cuba. Armindo Monterio is also an activist in the Timor Leste-Cuba Friendship Association. Since 2004, Cuba has undertaken a large-scale medical training program for East Timor and sent hundreds of Cuban medical personnel to work on the island. Cuban medical collaboration in the region has since been extended to Kiribati, Nauru, Vanuatu, Tuvalu and the Solomon Islands. Papua New Guinea may soon benefit from Cuba’s generosity as well.
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has ordered the expropriation of the British agricultural company Agroflora. The company is a subsidiary of Britain’s Vestey Group that focuses on the commercial production of beef. Chavez said the company’s 290,000 hectares of farmland would be expropriated and brought under direct “operational and administrative control” of the state through the country’s Food Security and Sovereignty Law. This law allows the government to forcefully expropriate land in “exceptional circumstances” relating to issues of national food security and the public good.
The streets of Oakland, California, echoed with the voices of tens of thousands of people determined to take a stand on November 2. Workers, students, activists and people from all walks of life responded to the call for a general strike by Occupy Oakland. The last general strike in the United States was in 1946 (also in Oakland).
Occupy has gone viral. First we had flash trading, then flash mobs, and now a flash movement. But this is no flash in the pan. The Occupy movement is here to stay, come hell or high water, because the status quo is unacceptable. Not since the 1930s and 1960s have tens of thousands of people in the US been this defiant and determined to win economic and social justice. What is unfolding is in many ways a synthesis of the movements of those eras. Our emphasis on mass, non-violent resistance in the face of repression is a product of the civil rights movement.
“The crisis of the capitalist system has provoked the indignados movement [the ‘outraged’, as they are known in Spain] that has arisen in one country after another across the globe,” Elisa Osori, a national directorate member of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) said. The PSUV is a mass party headed by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. A revolutionary process in Venezuela is redistributing the nation’s oil wealth, bring industries and resources under public ownership and promoting direct, participatory democracy.
On September 30, 2001, in the midst of one of the worst economic crises in Argentine history, the owners of the Zanon ceramic factory announced plans to switch off the furnaces. In response, union delegates occupied the plant in the southern province of Neuquen. The next day, workers arrived to join the occupation ― frustrating plans to sell off the machinery.
Experts hired to probe an earthquake near Blackpool left their paymaster red-faced today when they ruled that its controversial "fracking" for shale gas was the most likely cause. An independent report commissioned by energy firm Cuadrilla into possible links between drilling at its Preese Hall-1 well in Lancashire and tremors which hit the region earlier this year found that it was "highly probable" drlling was to blame. The report's release coincides with a protest on November 2 that stopped work at the Cuadrilla site near Southport.
The statement below was released by Tar Sands Action on October 31. The group is seeking to stop the Keystone XL pipeline, built to transport oil from the Athabasca tar sands in north-east Alberta, Canada, to refineries in the United States. Mining the Athabasca tar sands is one of the most environmentally destructive practices on the planet. For more information, visit www.tarsandsaction.org . * * * Yesterday we got some of the strongest confirmation yet that efforts to stop the Keystone XL pipeline are having a long-term impact on the tar sands industry.
A new manual by six Europe-based NGOs calls for an end to forest offsets, whereby carbon emissions in one country can be supposedly “offset” by protecting forests in another. Forest offset programs are largely organised through the Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD) mechanism, which receives support from the World Bank and other financial institutions. The report says there are two motivations for forest offsets: “reducing the pressure to do something about fossil fuel emissions and the short term profit motive.”
Two civilian boats, the Canadian Tahrir (“Liberation”), and the Irish Saoirse (“Freedom”), carried 27 people from nine countries to try to reach the beleaguered Gaza Strip to challenge Israel’s ongoing criminal blockade of the territory. On November 4, the two ships were illegally boarded by the Israeli military in international waters. All passengers, including Australian activist Michael Coleman, were detained by Israel.
On election night in Tunisia, as it became clear that moderate Islamist party Ennahda had won most seats in the Constituent Assembly and would be forming government, many Tunisians feared for the revolutionary struggle that has continued since the uprising that overthrew Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in January. In the final count, Ennahda received just under 37% of the popular vote, and won 90 seats out of the 217-member assembly. The next largest vote was won by the centre-left Congress for the Republic Party (CPR), with 30 seats.
In a grim piece of political theatre that is becoming more frequent, and more surreal, a sombre PM Julia Gillard on October 30 acknowledged the latest three Australian fatalities in Afghanistan by claiming that Australia was winning a just war there. The death toll of Australian soldiers in the decade-long war is now 32. Military deaths in Afghanistan are unusually bipartisan events in Australian politics. Gillard’s claims were unreservedly backed up by the Liberal-National opposition.
Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams led a dramatic walkout from the Dublin parliament (Dail) on November 2. The protest was over the coalition government’s decision to hand over more than €700 million to an unknown private investor in the failed Anglo Irish Bank. Finance minister Michael Noonan admitted in the Dail there was no legal obligation to refund the bond investment, which was not covered by the former government’s bank guarantee. With the government refusing a debate on the matter, Adams led the walkout of Sinn Fein and United Left Alliance parliamentarians.
In the space of barely more than a weekend, the deal that was supposed contain the euro crisis has unravelled entirely. The call for a referendum on the so-called rescue package by Greek Prime Minister Georgios Papandreou, later retracted under huge pressure, merely capped its rapid unravelling. The prospect that the European Unions’ principal victims could be asked their opinion of the policies inflicted on them provoked near-hysteria in respectable quarters. EU leaders, Greek politicians, and the financial markets united to denounce the threat of an unseemly democratic intrusion.
Strike action by thousands of workers at the notorious Grasberg gold and copper mine in West Papua since September 15 has brought operations to a halt, despite attempts to stop the strike. The mine is the largest and most profitable in territory controlled by Indonesia and has a long association with human rights abuses. It is owned by US mining giant Freeport-McMoRan and British-Australian company Rio Tinto. West Papua has been occupied by Indonesia for nearly five decades, despite strong demands from Papuans for self-determination.

Culture

When fist-raising 1968 Olympian Dr John Carlos and I wrote his memoir, The John Carlos Story: The Sports Moment That Changed the World, we didn't exactly expect the publishing date to coincide with a mass national protest movement for economic and social justice. I've now heard about 100 variations of the joke: "It was really smart of your publisher to plan this whole 'Occupy' movement with your book release." It's an obvious comment, given that Carlos and I have made sure to visit every Occupy encampment we can on our national book tour.
'Look At Me Now' Sky’High Grindin Records Aboriginal rapper Sky’High admits she can be difficult to work with. “I can come across a bit intimidating or ‘weird’,” she tells Green Left Weekly, laughing. “Some people can't handle that ― I’m unpredictable as fuck.”
Strong>The Short Goodbye: A Skewed History of the Last Boom and the Next Bust By Elisabeth Wynhausen Melbourne University Publishing, 2011 219 pages, $29.99 (pb) From writing stories about workers being sacked during the 2009 global financial crisis, Elisabeth Wynhausen, a journalist at Rupert Murdoch’s The Australian, got a taste of the real thing when she was handed a pink slip of her own.
Ramy Essam has been featured on my Rebel Frequencies site before. The young folk-singer may best be described at "the troubadour of the Egyptian revolution". Essam performed at the initial rallies demanding dictator Hosni Mubarak step down, and was kidnapped and tortured as a result. And yet he still writes and performs. Furthermore, his own personal struggle to sing publicly demonstrates how much more work the revolution still has ahead of it.

Resistance!

In the context of Australia’s struggling climate movement, the achievements of the Australian Youth Climate Coalition (AYCC) have been significant. When the Murdoch press would rather report Lord Munckton’s denialist nonsense, a group that connects more than 70,000 young Australians to raise awareness and combat climate change is commendable. However, AYCC’s politics are not without problems.