Issue 905

Australia

Councillors! We are Occupy Melbourne! We come here in peace … We’ll only take a few minutes of your time. We’ve come to speak to Robert Doyle but he refuses to speak to us.

We understand that some of the council support us. We urge you to speak out publically.

To Robert Doyle, we offer this statement: We are Occupy Melbourne. We are part of a global movement. Our movement is non-violent. Our movement seeks to reclaim our voice and democracy.

The letter below will be distributed at the upcoming ALP national conference, December 3-4, 2011. To add your name to the open letter please visit the Stop the War Coalition Sydney website.

We, the undersigned, call on Prime Minister Julia Gillard to rethink the government’s support for the US-NATO war in Afghanistan.

Specifically, we call on her to remove the Australian troops, and to send massive amounts of untied aid to the war-ravaged nation.

Sydney — On November 29, inner west peace advocates gathered to give away fair trade chocolate crackles and sing freedom carols outside the Max Brenner chocolate outlet in Broadway, which is owned by the Israeli multinational, Strauss Group.

Their aim is to peacefully draw attention to the plight of Palestine and to expose companies like Max Brenner, which support Israel’s occupation of Palestine.

A rally to support the Egyptian revolution took place in Melbourne on November 27.


Photos by Ali Bakhtiavandi

After 13 days of an around-the-clock picket line, the workers at poultry company Baiada in Laverton North have won a tremendous victory. Baiada was well known as having the worst pay and conditions of all poultry processing companies.

A rally to defend WikiLeaks and its founder Julian Assange took place outside the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade on November 25. More than 50 people attended to demand the Australian government take firm diplomatic action to protect Assange. If extradited to Sweden from Britain, Assange faces a genuine risk of rendition to the US.

In a week that saw a huge mass meeting and a rally of 12,000 people, Fair Work Australia (FWA) has ordered Victorian nurses— for the third time — by to lift their industrial action.

The Australian Nursing Federation (ANF) said on November 25 it would order its members to comply with the decision. The ANF hopes that its new offer of a compromise may pave the way to fruitful negotiations with the Coalition state government.

After ammonia gas leaked from Orica’s Kooragang Island chemical plant on November 9 and made two people four kilometers away very ill, the Environment Protection Authority ordered the plant to shut down.

But because Orica is its major supplier, the Hunter’s coal industry has as little as three to four weeks of explosives in stock.

The largest Hunter mining company, Coal & Allied, told the November 22 Newcastle Herald it had cut production due to the explosives shortage.

The Transgender Day of Remembrance ceremony, held annually on 20 November, was started in 1999 in response to the brutal murder of North American, Rita Hester.

It is a day marked by solemn ceremonies in cities around the world that record the sex and gender diverse who have fallen, and the government inaction that foments such hate crimes.

“People are joining up to the Lock the Gate Alliance all over the country,”, Lock the Gate president Drew Hutton told a rally of about 100 outside Brisbane’s Sofitel Hotel on November 24.

The rally was called to protest at the annual general meeting of coal seam gas (CSG) company LNG Ltd. The company’s AGM took place inside the hotel.

Hutton said: “The Lock the Gate Alliance is now moving to ‘Block the Gate’. We are calling on groups all over Australia to blockade wherever CSG companies are setting up, against the wishes of the farmers and landholders.

Adelaide Socialist Alliance branch hosted a Solidarity Dinner and Fiesta on November 19 to celebrate 20 years of Green Left Weekly and raise funds for the paper’s fighting fund.

The event was a great success, with about 50 people attending. Those present ranged from long time GLW supporters to young Resistance activists, members of the Latin American community and people involved in Occupy Adelaide.

Wollongong City Council, elected on September 3, has so far made several decisions that reflect community will in the area. This is a refreshing change from the years of corruption scandals that rocked the last elected council and the four-year unelected administration that followed it.

All 13 councillors, including four Liberal, four Labor, three independent and two Green, are under immense pressure to deliver outcomes for the community. Key election issues included democracy, transparency and accountability.

The Health and Community Services Union (HACSU) has begun a series of rolling stoppages for better wages and conditions at mental health services across Victoria. HACSU covers mental health and allied health workers.

Stoppages and rallies have been held in Bendigo and Shepparton, and at Eastern Mental Health, St Vincents and Melbourne Health. A two-hour stopwork rally will be held at Latrobe Valley Mental Health on November 29, from noon at the Latrobe Valley Hospital in Traralgon.

Stop CSG Illawarra released the statement below on November 23.

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This week the Planning Assessment Commission granted approval to a 16th coal seam gas (CSG) borehole in the Illawarra.

Stop CSG Illawarra spokesperson Jess Moore responded: “It is now abundantly clear who [Premier Barry] O’Farrell represents. It’s not communities, and the concern we express for our water, environment and health; it’s the CSG industry.

Activists involved in organising October’s peaceful protests during the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Perth had warned that special security laws passed for the event could be used to restrict the right to protest in Western Australia.

Now, a month after CHOGM finished, three Perth-based activists are fighting charges related to CHOGM.

Trade unionists from the Transport Workers Union, the National Tertiary Education Union and the Maritime Union of Australia joined Occupy Sydney activists in a protest on November 22 outside Angel Place Recital Hall, where the union-bashing CEO of Qantas Alan Joyce was addressing a forum.

Two hundred people rallied outside NSW parliament on November 23 and handed over 20,000 petitions that call for a moratorium on coal seam gas (CSG) mining, a royal commission into the industry's impacts on communities and the environment and a ban on fracking.

Coalition Premier Barry O'Farrell promised before the last election that his government would convoke a parliamentary debate on any issue upon receiving at least 10,000 petitions.

World

On November 23, Sudan lost an invaluable activist, writer and leader.

Al Tijani Al Tayeb was one of the founders of the Sudanese Communist Party and the editor of the SCP’s newspaper Al Midan. He dedicated his entire life to the movements against colonialism, dictatorship and capitalism in Sudan and against imperialist exploitation of Africa and the Middle East.

Al Tijani was born in 1926 in a poor village near the town of Shendi in north Sudan. His father was heavily involved in the Sudanese independence movement, fighting against the British occupation.

The Occupy movement spread to Durban for the start of COP17 (the 17th Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change), protesting at the perceived lack of access to the conference centre for members of the public.

The Occupy COP17 General Assembly, meeting at a designated spot just outside of the conference centre boundaries, was aimed at providing a forum for those who wanted to find new solutions to the climate change problem and discuss climate justice.

The Sixth Congress of the Cuban Communist Party (PCC), held April 17-21, coincided with the 50th anniversary of Cuba’s historic defeat of the US-backed invasion at the Bay of Pigs and Fidel Castro’s proclamation of the socialist character of the Cuban Revolution.

When Fidel, 85, made a surprise appearance at the Congress closing session, many of the thousand delegates were overcome with emotion as aides helped him to his seat next to President Raul Castro.

Representatives from the Latin American and Caribbean governments that make up the Bolivarian Alliance of the Peoples of Our Americas (ALBA) met in Bolivia on November 17-18 to coordinate their battle plan ahead of the international climate change summit in Durban later this month.

ALBA unites eight countries, including the radical governments of Venezuela, Bolivia, Cuba, Ecuador and Nicaragua. It helped lead the fight at the 2009 Copenhagen summit against attempts by rich nations to impose their anti-environmental plans.

Seven years after being launched by the Venezuelan and Cuban governments, the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our Americas (ALBA) has become an important voice on the global stage willing to stand up and denounce capitalism.

ALBA has grown to include eight Latin American and Caribbean countries (Venezuela, Cuba, Bolivia, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.

A new uprising has exploded in Egypt since police attacked protesters in Tahrir Square on November 19. Hundreds of thousands of people have taken to the streets in Cairo and other cities to demand the end of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) that has governed Egypt since dictator Hosni Mubarak was overthrown in February. Dozens of people have been killed by the police and military and much larger numbers injured.

It’s another statistic showing up the criminal absurdity of Plan Colombia and Washington’s “war on drugs.”

Last year, according to recent United States Drug Enforcement Administration sources, Peru produced about 325 metric tonnes of pure cocaine, surpassing Colombia’s output of 275 tonnes.

For the first time since the early 1990s, Peru has emerged as the world’s leading cocaine producer. Bolivian production is also reportedly up.

In its traditional, folk medicinal form, coca is a blessing that dispels ailments such as indigestion and altitude sickness with remarkable efficacy.

United States Undersecretary of State James Steinberg, speaking in Bogota on October 26, claimed the future relationship between Washington and its most favoured client in Latin America, Colombia, would be based on “reciprocity and mutual respect”.

The stated purpose of Steinberg’s visit was to “re-launch the agenda” of US-Colombian relations” by initiating a “High-Level Partnership Dialogue”.

The shocking image of a campus cop at the University of California (UC) Davis coldly circling in front of a line of seated protesters, taking aim and pepper-spraying them at point-blank range has now been seen around the world.

The November 18 assault has become a new symbol of the vicious crackdown on the Occupy movement, from one end of the country to the other.

In the face of widespread and growing outrage, UC officials are scrambling to explain why their police thought it was necessary to assault peaceful demonstrators with chemical weapons.

The statement below was released by Friends of the Earth International on November 16 and is reprinted from www.foe.org.

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Friends of the Earth International is inspired and energised by the unfolding of world-historic, transformative events. From the popular uprisings in Northern Africa and the Arabian Peninsula to the indignados of Europe, from the encampments of the #occupy movement to the student movements in Latin America and Britain, people from all over the world are calling for economic and socio-political justice.

The November 20 Spanish election went as the polls had forecast: the Spanish Socialist Workers Party (PSOE) government was massacred, with its lowest vote in 34 years. The right-wing Popular Party got a 186-seat absolute majority in the 350-seat parliament and left and left-nationalist forces emerged stronger, led by the United Left (IU) and Amaiur, the Basque left-nationalist coalition.

The South Korean government is building a naval base on Jeju Island, officially named the “Island of World Peace”. The base will be one of the largest in the world. The island is located just under 300 miles from the Chinese mainland.

It will be home to both United States and South Korean warships. It will include 20 large destroyers, two aircraft carriers, two nuclear submarines, the Aegis ballistic missile defense system and 6000 soldiers.

It is part of the same process of US militarisation of the region reflected in plans for a new US military base at Darwin.

A November 8 report by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the United Nations’ nuclear regulatory authority, has been used by the United States and other Western powers as a pretext for a new round of economic sanctions against Iran and the ramping up of belligerent rhetoric.

“The phraseology is ponderous but the message is clear,” BBC diplomatic and defence correspondent Jonathan Marcus explained on November 8. “Iran, the IAEA believes, may well have been working on research for a nuclear bomb to arm one of its long-range missiles.”

On November 25, a group of around 50 Palestinian, Israeli and international activists protested against Israel's apartheid separation wall near the village of Bil'in in the West Bank. Weekly protests in the village have been taking place for six years. Residents also protested the arrest of Ashraf Abu-Rahma, a young activist from the village, who has been detained for three weeks.

Since 2008, Seksualiti Merdeka (Independent Sexuality) festival, the LGBTiQ's main vehicle for awareness raising and education made its contribution to Malaysian society in a beautiful, intellectually artistic manner, devoid of vulgarity.

It made “straight” heterosexual society realise and appreciate that other forms of sexual love existed and that these could be as genuine as a woman-man love. It had been and still is a struggle for gay men and women to survive even in apparently liberal-minded societies.

Analysis

Just a few days before his appeal hearing over his extradition to Sweden over sexual assault allegations, which many believe may be a prelude to Assange’s extradition to the US on espionage charges, WikiLeaks won a stunning victory for citizen journalism and a free press when it took out the 2011 Walkley award for most outstanding contribution to journalism.

After months of relentless propaganda by mining companies and the corporate media, the idea of taxing the super profits of the big mining companies remains a popular measure. Recent Essential Research polling said 51% support such a tax (up from 50% since July 2010). Opposition to it rose from 28% to 33%.

The ban on marriage between persons of the same sex is an assault on the basic human dignity of same-sex attracted people. It subjects them to a damaging social stigma, a new report by the American Psychiatric Association (APA) has now recognised.

The document surveys 10 recent psychiatric studies that explore the consequences of the marriage ban on test-samples of thousands of everyday people.

Tahrir (“Liberation”) Square in Cairo was the birthplace of hope for millions if not billions of people this year.

It was here that the Egyptian people launched a mighty democratic revolution. And it is where, in its second stage the Egyptian revolution once again has the attention of the world as the year draws to a close.

The Egyptian revolution was not the first charge of the new wave of Arab revolt, but it was the one that had the scale and power to topple a dictator, Hosni Mubarak, once believed to be unshakeable.

The Socialist Alliance released the statement below on November 25.

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The federal government, through its “Stronger Futures” bill and associated legislation, seeks to lock in “intervention mark II” — for 10 years.

“Gillard and Abbott fly in and out of Afghanistan under heavy protection from harm. Both curry political advantage from the khaki vote. The rest of us see young Ozzie lives ripped apart without any obvious gain to ordinary Afghans. Let the pollies go and fight their own useless war …”

“Dan51” from Sydney, who made this comment under a November 22 Sydney Morning Herald article, is part of the majority (64% in the November 21 Essential Poll or 72% according to Roy Morgan), who want Australian soldiers out of Afghanistan.

A “controlled burn” by the Department of Environment and Conservation (DEC) got way out of control in south-west Western Australia on November 23, turning into a raging bushfire that destroyed thirty homes and was still not under control days later. Suburbs affected include Gnarabup and Prevelly. Hundreds of people have been evacuated from their homes.

The increased US military presence in Australia, announced by PM Julia Gillard and US President Barack Obama during Obama’s November 16-17 visit, is a setback for peace. Australia should be closing existing US military bases in Australia and put an end to existing joint military exercises with US forces.

Australia should stop taking part in US-led military aggression. In particular, it should withdraw Australian soldiers from Afghanistan and Iraq.

A voluntary system of certifying whether goods are free from forced labour is about as far as things go in Australia when it comes to abolishing the slave trade throughout the world.

Though it is illegal to import slave made goods, there has never been a single prosecution for the crime in Australia.

STOP THE TRAFFIK Australia believes it should not be left to the ethics of consumers to decide whether to purchase products made by slaves. Rather, they simply shouldn’t be available in Australia.

Socialist Alliance released the statement below on November 24.

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"The Australian government should come out and support the Egyptian people in their demand that the Egyptian Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF) return the government to the people who successfully ousted the former dictator Hosni Murbarak in February this year, " Socialist Alliance national convenor Peter Boyle said today.

The Mercury, Nov 22 -- There they fell during 2011, one after the other in past-their-prime domino descent.

Zine El Abidine Ben Ali from Tunis, Hosni Mubarak from Cairo, Dominique Strauss-Kahn from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Muammar Gaddafi from Tripoli, Georgios Papandreou from Athens, Silvio Berlusconi from Rome, US football guru and sex-crime cover-upper Joe Paterno from Penn State University. Media baron Rupert Murdoch, soccer supremo Sepp Blatter, Syrian tyrant Bashar al-Assad and Yemeni dictator Ali Abdullah Saleh looking decidedly shaky, too.

Letters

Greens turn backs on Obama protests

Bearing witness to Obama’s war agenda outside the parliament on November 17 when he was inside talking up war in the Pacific also revealed a terrible truth about the parliamentary Greens.

They were invited to come join us, to speak out against the US Alliance and US bases. None did. Some apologised, but most did not even see fit to acknowledge the invitation.

The terrible truth is that Greens leader and spokesperson on defence, Senator Bob Brown turned his back.

Culture

"Lou Reed and Rage Against the Machine's Tom Morello are among the first signatories of Occupy Musicians”, a November 22 British Guardian article said.

supports Occupy Wall Street and the global movement against inequality. The Guardian said the website aims to co-ordinate performances at Occupy sites and showcase new works by signatory artists.

It said: "Occupy Musicians is a sister site to the bookish campaign at Occupy Writers, the lensing of Occupy Filmmakers and the speech-bubbles atOccupy Comics."

The Beginning of the American Fall
Stephanie McMillan
Cartoonmovement.com

The Adventures of Unemployed Man
Erich Origen and Gan Golan
Little, Brown, October 2010. 80 pp.

Action Comics
Grant Morrison
Detective Comics

The worldwide Occupy protests have inspired a lot of music over the past few months. But it has also broken into artistic circles some might not know of. One such area is comics.

Here Comes Trouble: Stories From My Life
By Michael Moore
Allen Lane, 2011
427 pages, $29.95 (pb)

In 1968, the 14-year-old Michael Moore was expelled from the seminary where he was training to become a Catholic priest. His offense had been to ask awkward questions, like why can’t women become priests.

As Moore had to be reminded by Church authorities, “you either have to accept things or not”. For Moore, accepting the status quo was not an option, so authority would always be having trouble with Moore.

Punks Against Apartheid officially launched its website on November 23 in support of the global boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign targetting Israel.

The group says it is “is an emerging global network of musicians, artists, and activists inspired by the history and ethics of punk rock. We are opposed to all forms of oppression, exploitation and racism — particularly the Israeli apartheid regime and its colonial terror.

More than 100 people filled Leichhardt’s Palace Cinema on November 24 for the Sydney premiere screening of Growing Change: A Journey Inside Venezuela’s Food Revolution.

The documentary, made by filmmaker and solidarity activist Simon Cunich, examines the global food crisis that leaves hundreds of millions of people in hunger and is rapidly depleting the soil fertility on which long-term food security depends.