Issue 903

News

On November 16, police attacked and dismantled the Occupy Melbourne site in Treasury Gardens. Three activists were arrested. At a general assembly in City Square this evening, activists will plan their response. “Any major decisions will be made in a democratic process tonight. Anyone is welcome, including the police commissioner [Ken Lay] and Robert Doyle,” Occupy Melbourne activist Carl Scrase told the Age.
The Australian government is moving to deport a 27 year-old Afghan asylum seeker, Ismail Mirza Jan, from Villawood Immigration Detention Centre in western Sydney to Kabul, Afghanistan. Mirza Jan is an ethnic Hazara who fled Afghanistan after his father was killed by the Taliban for his imputed association with the political group Hezbe-e-Wahdat. At his mother’s urging, he was assisted by people smugglers to escape Afghanistan and has spent the last 11 years trying to seek safety from any country that will provide him protection and a chance at life.
The Monash Refugee Action Collective released the statement below on November 14. * * * Three student activists at Monash University are facing a disciplinary hearing for speaking out against mandatory detention.
The Northern Inland Council for the Environment and The Wilderness Society Newcastle released the statement below on November 14. * * * Environment groups have responded to news that the NSW government plans to stop a single coal seam gas pilot production well on the Liverpool Plains with calls for a far more extensive moratorium.
Australian Marriage Equality released the statement below on November 15. * * * Marriage equality advocates are disappointed Prime Minister Julia Gillard has today affirmed her opposition to same-sex marriage and has tried to pre-empt the outcome of Labor’s National Conference by calling for a conscience vote. The Prime Minister’s comments are below and appear in an opinion piece published in the November 15 Age.
The Occupy movement has sprung up in Cairns, where street activities kicked off on October 15 in City Place. About 200 people took part. Since then, up to 40 people have met each Sunday. This will continue with alternating weeks of discussions about plans for Occupy, along with music, presentations and an open mike. Discussion among those involved in Occupy Cairns is increasingly turning to how to address not just local issues but national and international questions of corporate power. Fourteen working groups have discussed various issues and how the new group will work.
Socialist Alliance (SA) stallholders at today’s Newtown Festival were told today by a festival organiser that NSW Police had urged them to ban SA and Occupy Sydney from the festival. The SA has paid for and run a stall every year at the festival. But this year police threatened organisers — the Newtown Neighbourhood Centre — with a $16,000 bill if they did not carry out the ban, saying that the presence of SA and/or Occupy Sydney might incite trouble.
Hundreds took to the streets of Hobart for the Inaugural Pride Parade on November 5 as part of the TasPride Festival. This was the first parade held since Tasmania was the final state to decriminalise homosexuality in 1997. Tasmanian Aboriginal lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex members also marched. Speakers at the rally afterwards at Parliament House included Tasmanian Gay and Lesbian Rights Group spokesperson Rodney Croome, Outright Youth coordinator Joshua Brown, Community Services Minister Cassy O’Connor and Coming Out Proud president Julian Punch.
About 4500 people marched and rallied in Hobart on November 12 against the state government cuts to essential services. Angry health care, education, children's services and other public sector workers, including police, joined with the broader community to chant "no more cuts", drowning out the efforts of Labor Premier Lara Giddings who tried to convince them that the government had no other option. Greens leader and cabinet minister Nick McKim was also booed and heckled as he tried to defend the cuts.
There was a sea of red when public sector nurses filled Melbourne’s Festival Hall on November 11 to decide on further industrial action. About 50 buses brought nurses from across the state. A swing version of “Danny Boy” played in the background to set a sombre but defiant tone. Messages of support came from Australian Council of Trade Unions president Ged Kearney and the California Nurses Association.
Despite Fair Work Australia putting in place an injunction banning National Union of Workers (NUW) officials from taking part in the Baiada poultry workers’ picket line, workers and community supporters were able to hold off an attempt by riot police to break the picket late on November 11. One man’s legs were crushed when about 80 police charged the picket. He was taken to hospital with a suspected broken leg. NUW members at Baiada Poultry in Laverton North voted to begin indefinite strike action on November 9 and instigated a picket line around the chicken processing plant.
Sydney lord mayor Clover Moore made clear at a Sydney City Council meeting on November 6 that she supported the “principles” of the Occupy movement but did not support Occupy Sydney. Greens councillor Irene Doutney put a motion to investigate the dawn police raid on the group in Martin Place and help find Occupy a site for the protest. But Moore replied that she had to “balance the rights of residents, visitors, workers and others to have access to the public domain”.
People concerned about coal seam gas (CSG) will deliver a petition signed by more than 15,000 NSW residents to Premier Barry O'Farrell on November 22. The NSW-wide petition, initiated by Stop CSG Illawarra, calls for an immediate moratorium on all CSG projects, a Royal commission into the full impacts of CSG and an immediate ban on fracking. Stop CSG Illawarra member Chris Williams said: "Premier O'Farrell has pledged that any petition with over 10,000 signatures will trigger a debate in parliament.
On November 4, Israeli warships in international waters attacked and boarded the two vessels Tahrir and Saoirse that were trying to deliver medical aid the besieged territory of Gaza.
Climate action group Rising Tide Newcastle has released a website that spoofs the NSW Minerals Council’s new advertising campaign, which claims the state’s mining companies are “world class”. Rising Tide’s parody uses a similar layout and design to the NSW Minerals Council website, but points to the industry’s poor track record in the areas of environment, community, economy, health and innovation.
The Hepburn Community Wind Farm, at Leonards Hill in Hepburn Shire, was declared officially open yesterday when 10-year-old Neve Bosher of St Augustine’s School in Creswick cut a massive ribbon wrapping the girth of a 68m high wind tower, in front of more than 760 people. Bosher beat a field of 147 other school children in the region, in a competition to name the 2 REpower wind turbines. Her winning names are Gale and Gusto.

Analysis

NSW Greens MP David Shoebridge gave the speech below in NSW Parliament on November 11. It is republished from his blog. * * * The Occupy movement began with a single protest in New York on September 17, 2011, called “Occupy Wall Street”. This protest targets corporate greed and growing inequality across the globe. The protesters’ slogan “We are the 99%” refers to the vast disparity in wealth, particularly in the United States, between the wealthiest 1% and the rest of the country.
In the lead up to the ALP National Conference next month, marriage equality is shaping up to be the biggest test yet to Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s leadership. Gillard has moved from her position that she would override a pro-equality decision at the conference, to hinting she will allow Labor MPs a conscience vote. However, she now also holds the dubious honour of being the only remaining Labor leader supporting the marriage ban.
Before the first Australian occupations following the example of Occupy Wall Street began on October 15, even some of the activists involved wondered if it would work. After all, this was the “lucky country” that escaped the global financial crisis. But thousands of mostly young people rocked up to launch Occupy Melbourne in City Square, and a further 1000 launched Occupy Sydney in Martin Place in the heart of the city’s financial district. Hundreds launched Occupy Brisbane in Post Office Square.
Veteran Brisbane activist Gary McLennan spoke at an Occupy Brisbane rally on November 5. An abridged version of his speech is below. * * * Friends, I want to thank you sincerely for the invitation to speak to you today. It remains for me a badge of honour, a great honour, that I’ve been asked twice to speak to the Occupy Brisbane movement. I said when I first spoke to you that your movement represented the best hope for the kind of world that I wanted my grandchildren to grow up in. I believed that then and I still believe it now.
The government has undermined the right to a fair trial of up to 350 mostly Indonesian people now facing charges of “people smuggling” in Australian courts. It has done so by introducing hastily drafted, retrospective amendments to the Migration Act. The People Smuggling Deterrence Bill 2011 was passed in the lower house November 1, supported by Labor and the Coalition. If carried by the Senate, it will amend the migration act to make it an offence to bring a person to Australia with “no valid visa”. Greens MP Adam Bandt and independent MP Rob Oakeshott spoke against the bill.
On the eve of US President Barack Obama’s visit to mark 60 years of the ANZUS military alliance, PM Julia Gillard is not convincing people that Australia must “stay the course” in Afghanistan. A November 4 Roy Morgan poll, taken six days after an Afghan army trainee killed three Australian soldiers and wounded seven, said 72% of people want troops out, the biggest opposition since the war began 10 years ago. Supporters of the pro-war parties polled closely: 69% of ALP voters and 67% of Liberal-National Party voters want troops out. Among Greens supporters, the figure is 80%.
The global Occupy movement has focused the spotlight on the 1% versus the 99%. Who are the 1%? In the United States, the 400 richest individuals have as much wealth as the bottom 150 million. A similar picture applies in all the large capitalist countries. Economy owned by the 1%
WikiLeaks has awakened many people to the cynical and violent workings of the political, military and corporate entities that run the world. For Christine Assange this awakening has been heightened because her son is WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange — now the target of the powerful 1% who have not appreciated his contribution to transparency. “I started off on this journey saying WikiLeaks is great in theory but … I’m not going to support it publicly before I’ve read everything I can on it,” she told Green Left Weekly. “It was quite a journey for me.”
Not many things would get the Returned and Services League and died-in-the-wool greenies climbing into bed together; have a mother-and-daughter being frisked by police on the same day, nor cause the arrest of an 83-year-old retired high school English teacher. But the 14 Ficusmicrocarpa var. Hillii, commonly known as Hill Figs, planted in memory of World War I soldiers in Newcastle have.
The strengthening links between unions and the US Occupy movement will be expressed in mobilisations across the US on November 17. N17 has been called as a national day of action for Occupy and the labour movement, and a range of protest actions and stay-aways will take place across the country. It will also mark the two-month anniversary of Occupy Wall Street. Union links to the Occupy movement in Australia are still in their early days. However, the US example shows that there is much common cause to be found.
Port Augusta Mayor Joy Baluch gave the speech below at an October 29 community forum sponsored by the Climate Emergency Action Network SA, Beyond Zero Emissions and the Port Augusta City Council. * * * Australian history shows that visionaries are few and far between when it comes to building the infrastructure of this nation.
Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal, Oct 30: Let me start by introducing you to the Palestinian people and give you a brief background to the conflict. Palestinians are the indigenous inhabitants of the land that was once known as Palestine — and is now called Israel and the Occupied Territories. Palestinians were mostly a population of farmers — fellaheen — their view of their identity is therefore defined by their connectedness to the stones, the earth and the trees.
Seven Aboriginal community leaders from the Northern Territory released the statement below on November 4. * * * United First People’s Law men and women who are born leaders representing people of Prescribed Areas in the Northern Territory make this statement. Once again, they have gathered to openly discuss the future of our generation who have been subjugated by the lies and innuendo of the federal government, set out in the Stronger Futures document (October 2011).

World

Socialist Worker -- New York City police destroyed the Occupy Wall Street encampment at Zuccotti Park in an early-morning surprise attack on November 15. Hundreds of people who were sleeping at the park found themselves surrounded by police with no warning, and then subject to arrest or the violence of the NYPD.
The role of notorious Malaysian-owned logging company Rimbunan Hijau (RH) is in the spotlight after Greenpeace activists blockaded one of its ships in Papua New Guinea on October 24. Greenpeace was supporting about 200 local landowners from West Pomio, in New Britain, who were protesting against what they say was illegal logging by RH, AAP said on October 24. Forty-thousand hectares of land was leased to RH — operating under a front company called Gilford — for 99 years for a palm oil plantation, without the consent of all landowners.
Green Left Weekly’s Ted Walker spoke to two young members of the Egyptian Socialist Party, Basem Osman and Amr Bahaa, in Cairo in September. They discussed their experiences during the uprising against former dictator Hosni Mubarak and the future of Egypt’s revolution. * * * Why did you join the Egyptian Socialist Party?
After two weeks of hard work to obtain signatures and the constitutive documents, on October 27 the National Front of Popular Resistance (FNRP) presented before the Supreme Electoral Tribunal more than 81,000 signatures and other documents supporting the request for the inscription of the political instrument, the Freedom and Refoundation Party (LIBRE).
Just four days after about 10,000 people circled the White House to protest a proposed 2700-kilometre tar sands oil pipeline from Canada to Texas, the Obama government announced it will postpone a decision on whether it will go ahead until 2013. Radical author and activist Naomi Klein addressed an October 10 public meeting at New York’s New School University, where she spoke about the Keystone XL pipeline. The transcript of her remarks below first appeared on DemocracyNow.org. * * *
“A map of the world that does not include Utopia is not worth glancing at”, wrote Oscar Wilde, “for it leaves out the one country at which humanity is always landing. And when humanity lands there, it looks out, and seeing a better country, sets sail. Progress is the realisation of Utopias.”
Over October 19-20 there was a general strike in Greece. The overwhelming majority of Greek workers took part in the strike with dynamic demonstrations and other forms of action. In that way, Greek people expressed their anger and despair over the devastating measures carried out in Greece in the past year and a half. The relentless, vicious austerity measures have been imposed by the PASOK (Panhellenic Socialist Movement) government and the “troika” of the International Monetary Fund, the European Central Bank (ECB) and the European Union.
News International chief executive James Murdoch and his billionaire father Rupert were accused of running a mafia-style empire on November 10. Labour MP Tom Watson made the allegation during James Murdoch’s second appearance before the Commons culture, media and sport committee over the phone hacking scandal. During lively exchanges Watson asked Murdoch: “You’re familiar with the mafia? “Are you familiar with the word omerta, the culture of silence around the mafia? Do you accept that applies to the Murdoch empire?”
Italy faces a wave of devastating International Monetary Fund (IMF) imposed austerity as European leaders struggle to contain the spreading debt crisis by disenfranchising their own citizens. On November 4, at the end of the G20 meeting in Cannes, the President of the EU Commission Jose Barroso announced that “Italy has asked on its initiative to the IMF to monitor its commitment to fiscal and economic reforms”.
Socialist Worker (US): It was an Arab Spring and a hot summer of struggle in Europe. But autumn has belonged to Wall Street — to Occupy Wall Street, that is.
I have read countless articles and watched numerous videos about Gilad Shalit being reunited with his family five years after his abduction. One typical report noted he was “just 19 years old in 2006 when he was cruelly and illegally abducted by Hamas”. I have been hearing of him for the past five years. I know Shalit’s name better than I know the names of my classmates.
Power loom workers in Faisalabad went on a series of major strikes and demonstrations in mid-2010. Six leaders the Labour Qaumi Movement (LQM, the organisation of Faisalabad power loom workers) were arrested by the police. Once detained, they were charged under anti-terror laws. The six have been sentenced to a total of almost 490 years' jail (served concurrently). The jailed LQM leaders are also members of the Labour Party Pakistan (LPP).
The Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) released the statement below on November 9. * * * The rights of Fijian workers have deteriorated further following the start of a draconian decree that effectively bans collective bargaining. ACTU President Ged Kearney said the Essential Industries Employment Decree, which came into full effect yesterday, denied workers of many fundamental rights, including to freely organise or collectively bargain.
No one should underestimate the epoch-making election result in Nicaragua for the Sandinista-led Alianza Nicaragua Triunfa and its candidate Daniel Ortega. The result marks a return to levels of support for the Sandinista Popular Revolution last seen in Nicaragua's first ever democratic election in 1984. The Frente Sandinista de Liberacion Nacional (FSLN) and its allies have won more than 60% of the national vote. It is no surprise that the anti-democratic right-wing parties refused to accept their crushing defeat.

Culture

Arlene TextaQueen textaqueen.com When my wife and I were in the supermarket the other day, we got chatting to a kindly white stranger. After a few seconds, the woman asked my wife, "And how long have you been here?"
In the Crossfire: Adventures of a Vietnamese Revolutionary By Ngo Van AK Press, 2011 264 pages, $43.99 Australians know of the Vietnam War from the arrival of Australian troops in 1965 through to their withdrawal in 1973. People in the United States generally date it from the arrival of US advisors through to the inglorious departure of US helicopters in 1975. However, for the Vietnamese the struggle began long before that, from their colonisation by the French in the 19th Century.
The Man on Devil's Island: Alfred Dreyfus & the Affair that Divided France By Ruth Harris Allen Lane, 2011 542 pages, $26.95 (pb) The Dreyfus Affair in France a century ago shows how little has changed. “National security” was on the lips of politicians and military officers as an innocent man from a vilified group was framed for treason in a rigged military court and sent to rot in a prison hell-hole to serve political ends amid war hysteria. Make the name “Alfred Dreyfus” or “David Hicks” and the template fits.

Editorial

Debate about the Labor-Greens carbon price has dominated Australian politics for the past year. So it is little surprise that the passing of the carbon price laws through parliament on November 8 received widespread media attention. But the media’s coverage overshadowed two shocking new reports on the climate emergency released in the past week.

Fighting Fund

Nurses in Victoria are being threatened with an Alan Joyce-style lockout because they have campaigned for a modest 3.5% pay rise (just to keep up with the rising cost of living), superannuation and overtime improvements, and keeping patient-to-nurse ratios. Australia’s four big banks, meanwhile, have announced a combined annual profit of $24.4 billion, up 12% from $21.7 billion a year ago. This speaks volumes about the grossly distorted priorities in our society.

Resistance!

I originally heard about a proposed occupation in Brisbane when I was following the other global Occupy movements. I was immediately excited and very interested in being involved, as I have never really experienced anything like it before. From my (young) perspective, this was a significant and unique event, unparalleled since the anti-globalisation protests of the ’90s and early 2000s.