Issue 906

Australia

On December 17, activists gathered in Perth’s city centre for a speakout as part of an international day of action for accused Wikileaks' whistleblower Bradley Manning. The action defied attempts by the Perth City Council to close down stalls and take down banners for the action.

In May 2010, 24 year old Bradley Manning was arrested over suspicion of leaking secret US military and government documents to Wikileaks.

The statement below was released n December 12 by the Refugee Rights Action Network WA.

* * *

Today, just a few hours before he was due to be returned to Sri Lanka, a Tamil father's deportation order was stopped by the High Court.

On Friday, the Federal Magistrates court dismissed an application for an injunction on the deportation of two Tamil asylum seekers. However on Friday Mr F's case was added to a High Court Challenge to elements of off shore processing that violate procedural fairness.

Police violence has been increasing against the Occupy Melbourne camp, now located at Flagstaff Gardens.

There have been a number of extremely questionable police actions in recent days against Occupy Melbourne. These include: the establishment of a 24/7 police presence and operations van next at Flagstaff Gardens; the arrest of a man for swearing; and -- worse of all -- the forced removal of Occupier’s clothing when wearing tent costumes.

Rally for marriage equality outside the ALP national conference, December 3.

A group of 14 Occupy Sydney activists faced charges at Downing St District Court in Sydney on December 5. The charges arose out of the police eviction of Occupy Sydney's camp in Martin Place on October 23.

The cases were "stood over", allowing human rights lawyer Stuart Littlemore to take some of these cases to the High Court in the new year. Occupy activist Tim Davis-Frank quipped "It looks like we'll be occupying the court system for a while!"

A solidarity demonstration outside the court involved a few rogue Occupy tents on legs, who were refused admission into court.

Victorian nurses have decided to take their claims directly to the community, after negotiations with the Baillieu Victorian government over their enterprise bargaining agreement broke down yet again.

Australian Nursing Federation (ANF) Victorian branch secretary Lisa Fitzpatrick told a mass meeting on December 2: “The government negotiators staged a ‘breakdown’ in negotiations last night to bait nurses and midwives into taking further industrial action that would pull the last forced arbitration trigger.

The Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) has condemned the federal government's planned increase in the “efficiency dividend” imposed on the Australian Public Service.

“Efficiency dividend” is a euphemism for funding cut. In the 2012-13 financial year the “dividend” will be 4%, based on the assumption the public service will increase its efficiency by 4% during the year.

Such cuts have been continuing for many years. In 2011-2012 the “efficiency dividend” is 1.5%.

Protesters picketed a December 1 event in Red Hill addressed by Sri Lankan High Commissioner to Australia Thisara Samarasinghe. The protest was organised by the Refugee Action Collective to condemn Samarasinghe, a former navy admiral accused of war crimes against the Tamil people in northern Sri Lanka, and the appalling human rights record of the Sri Lankan government.

A bill recognising same-sex civil unions passed through the Queensland parliament on November 30 by a vote of 47 to 40. Labor MPs were given a "conscience vote" on the issue, but only four voted against. The Liberal-National Party opposition voted as a bloc against the bill. Most independent MPs also voted against the bill.

The Australian Forests and Climate Alliance released the statement below on December 2.

* * *

“During the Durban Climate Conference all countries, including Australia, must take real action to protect the world's forests and deliver real reductions in carbon pollution,” said Australian Forests and Climate Alliance (AFCA) spokesperson Peter Campbell.

Protesters gathered outside the annual general meeting of Australian mining company Lynas Corporation in Sydney on November 30. Lynas is building a rare earths refinery in Kuantan, Malaysia, which will dump toxic and radioactive waste near a highly populated area. Local residents have been campaigning against the refinery.

Greens senator Lee Rhiannon addressed the protest. Three activists attended the AGM and criticised Lynas's rare earths refinery before shareholders, CEO Nicholas Curtis and directors.

World

The statement below was released by a range of Asian left and workers' organisations on December 11.

* * *

Workers at the Freeport-McMoRan Grasberg mine in West Papua are striking for a wage increase.

The strike started on September 15 and it involves nearly 12,000 workers. It was called after the negotiation between the union and the management went into deadlock.

The striking workers want to be paid US$7.50 per hour (for grade F1) to $18 per hour (for grade A5) instead of the $2.10 per hour to $3.50 per hour they are currently receiving.

Leaders of the Congolese community in Australia, at a meeting organised by the Latin American Social Forum in Sydney, explained the crisis the Democratic Republic of Congo is facing after more than 50 years of exploitation by the Western countries and their local allies, and appealed for solidarity from the international socialist movement.

See also:
Congo: Mineral profits fuel violence.


The United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP17) was held in Durban from November 28 to December 11. The statement below was published on December 11 in response to the conference's outcomes by Climate Justice Now!, a network of organisations and movements from across the globe committed to the fight for social, ecological and gender justice.

In response to the news that the Philadelphia District Attorny's office has dropped its push to apply the death penalty to Mumia Abu-Jumal, framed for the 1981 murder of a police officer, FreeMumia.com released the statement below.

* * *

South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu has called for the release of Mumia Abu-Jamal: “Now that it is clear that Mumia should never have been on death row in the first place, justice will not be served by relegating him to prison for the rest of his life -- yet another form of death sentence.

What's striking about the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) Movement and its popular slogan “We are the 99%” is how much the central demand of the movement resonates with the Black community.

African Americans, with few exceptions, are in the bottom 20% of income and wealth. Double digit unemployment is the norm in “good” economic times.

Yet the social composition of most OWS occupations (some 10,000 including college campuses) has had few Black faces including in urban areas with large Black populations.

The savage austerity in Greece has affected people’s lives in many different ways. The hardship faced by Greek people has been directly reflected in their psychological condition.

It is indicative that there has been a big increase in suicides in Greece. In September, the Greek health ministry said suicides in the first five months of 2011 may have risen by 40% compared to the same period of 2010.

See also
Greece: New gov't follows austerity script

Israeli officials suspect that France-based megabank BNP Parisbas has pulled out of Israel due to pressure from Palestine solidarity groups, even though the bank itself has denied this.

Israeli paper Haaretz reported on 24 November: “The powers that be are furious at BNP Paribas for shuttering its operations in Israel, and suspect it is acting due to Arab and anti-Israeli pressure in France, the bank’s home base.

“Preliminary results from Congo’s presidential election show incumbent Joseph Kabila leading,” Associated Press reported on December 3. For several reasons, this is not surprising news from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

The reasons include election-related violence, in which the police and army were not neutral, and electoral fraud.

Violence escalated in the final days before the November 28 poll.

“There is money.” That was the major election campaign slogan of the Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) in October 2009.
 
It was pompously used by the party’s leader, George Papandreou. PASOK won the election largely on that basis.
 
By saying that money existed, Papandreou was promising to alleviate some of the suffering caused through years of brutal neoliberal attacks. People believed a PASOK government would redress some of the injustice.
 
See also
Greece: Suicide, mental health problems rising

Despite the crushing victory of incumbent Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner in the October 23 Argentine presidential elections, the campaign and results also demonstrated that an important social and political left alternative continues to exist.

The unpredictable consequences of the global economic crisis and the reaction by Cristina’s mixed social base to future policy decisions may prove important challenges to her new government.

A year has gone by since the results of the climate change negotiations in Cancun were imposed, with the objection of only Bolivia. It’s time to take stock and see where we are now.

In Cancun, the developed countries listed their greenhouse gas emission reduction pledges for the 2012-2020 period. The US and Canada said they would reduce emissions by 3% based on 1990 levels, the European Union between 20% and 30%, Japan 25%, and Russia from 15% to 25%.

Cuadrilla Resources, which is exploring for natural shale gas in north-west England, has admitted its use of the notorious process of “fracking” was responsible for earthquakes in the region this year, BusinessInsider.com said on November 7.

Fracking is a dangerous process involving fracturing rock with pressurised liquid. Some of the health and environmental dangers of the process were revealed by the film Gasland, about the impact of the practice in the United States.

Britain's High Pay Commission has just published a report about the trend in salaries paid to the highest 0.1% of earners, and it seems that someone must have made a terrible mistake.

Because, in this time of unprecedented debt and sacrifice, the government's making daily statements such as "in order to keep old age pensions viable, we are insisting from now on that the elderly contribute towards their upkeep, by going on the game for just two days a week”.

The World Bank Out of Climate Finance coalition issued the statement below on December 1 from Durban, South Africa.

* * *

Today, 163 civil society organisations from 39 countries released a letter exposing an attempt led by the US, Britain and Japan to turn the Green Climate Fund into a “Greedy Corporate Fund” at UN climate talks in South Africa.

The Green Climate Fund was created to support people in developing countries — people who are the most affected by the climate crisis but are the least responsible for it.

Alameda Park is Mexico City's languid space for lovers and open-air ballroom dancers: the gents in two-tone shoes, the ladies in finery and heels.

The cobbled paths undulate from the great earthquake of 1985. You imagine the fairground sinking into the cobwebs of cracks, its Edwardian organ playing forlornly. Two small churches nearby totter precariously: the surreal is Mexico's facade.

The Occupy protests are part of a global movement that is questioning the basic structures of the political and economic system to an extent not seen since 1968. Whether it will succeed in changing these structures is unclear. But, Roger Burbach says, it has already created something far more powerful: a global shift in consciousness.

* * *

“Shut It Down”, “No More Shipping for the 1%” and “Death to Capitalism” proclaimed some of the banners near me as I joined thousands of demonstrators who converged on the Port of Oakland on a sunny afternoon in November.

The article below is reprinted from a December 1 post at OccupyOakland.org. For more information on the December 12 shutdown, visit www.westcoastportshutdown.org.

* * *

As of November 27, the Occupy movement in every major West Coast port city: Occupy Los Angeles, Occupy San Diego, Occupy Portland, Occupy Tacoma, Occupy Seattle have joined Occupy Oakland in calling for and organising a coordinated West Coast Port Blockade and Shutdown on December 12.

The Occupy movement in the United States continues to gain strength, despite wide-scale repression. The article below is abridged from a US Socialist Worker editorial.

* * *

The raids, arrests and police violence against the Occupy movement that has been occurring across the United States are about trying to silence a movement giving voice to the accumulated discontent of the working-class majority.

They're also about showing who's the boss ― the political and business establishment.

Egyptians went to the polls on November 28 in the first round of parliamentary elections since dictator Hosni Mubarak was overthrown in February.

Large numbers of people turned out to vote despite calls from some revolutionary groups for a boycott of a process seen as a means to legitimise the rule of the Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF).

The elections were held amid ongoing protests against the military regime by thousands of pro-democracy activists in Tahrir Square in Cairo and elsewhere across the country.

A summit of huge importance was held in Venezuela on December 2-3. Two hundred years after Latin America’s independence fighters first raised the battle cry for a united Latin America, 33 heads of states from across the region came together to form the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC).

For Latin America, the summit represented a further step away from its traditional role as the United States’ backyard and its emergence as a player in its own right in international politics.

Resources

As you read these words, disaster may be about to strike in the galloping crisis of the European financial system and the euro. Or it may not — yet.

On November 30, the imminent threat of a banking system implosion stirred the European Central Bank (ECB), the US Federal Reserve, Bank of England and central banks of Japan, Canada and Switzerland, into taking the minimum action needed to prevent a “Lehman Brothers event” collapsing the European financial system.

Tory attempts to belittle public-sector industrial action rang pathetically hollow on November 30 as millions of workers joined the fight against government-imposed pension cuts for public servants.

Services across England, Scotland and Wales ground to a halt in the strongest show of union strength in a generation.

Schools, courts, museums and job centres were paralysed in the 24-hour strike which also brought extensive disruption to transport, hospitals and government departments.

Analysis

After a year of ferocious debate, the New South Wales Greens decided on December 4 to retreat from supporting the global pro-Palestine Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign.

It does not mean the NSW Green Party has abandoned all support for the Palestinian struggle for justice, but it marks a setback for the left inside the Greens and the pro-Palestine movement in Australia.

A task of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, now under way in Durban, South Africa, is to extend earlier policy decisions that were limited in scope and only partially implemented.

These decisions trace back to the U.N. Convention of 1992 and the Kyoto Protocol of 1997, which the U.S. refused to join. The Kyoto Protocol’s first commitment period ends in 2012. A fairly general pre-conference mood was captured by a New York Times headline: “Urgent Issues but Low Expectations.”

Despite a significant, if partial, win for the marriage equality movement, the right-ward shift of the Australian Labor Party (ALP) continued apace at its recently concluded national conference.

The tone of the 10,000-strong demonstration for equal marriage rights for same-sex couples outside the conference in Sydney’s Darling Harbour on December 4 was more angry than celebratory — even though the conference had just voted to accept marriage equality in ALP policy.

Rev Dr Djiniyini Gondarra responds to the 'second intervention' otherwise known as 'Stronger Futures in the NT', a new Commonwealth Government initiative which will maintain key powers introduced through the NT Intervention. This message was screened in Sydney on Saturday December 3, at a meeting hosted by the CFMEU Indigenous Committee, "The Case Against the NT Intervention". The meetings was part of the official Fringe program of the ALP national conference. Dr Gondarra is a Senior Elder from Elcho Island.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s imminent $90,000 pay rise is more than twice the estimated median wage of all Australian full-time or part-time employees, aged 15 years or over. More than half of all Australian workers have a yearly pay packet smaller than the PM’s expected pay rise.

The $40,000 pay rise expected for backbenchers will also be more than the total wage of many Australian workers.

The phrase “organise, don’t agonise” has become a bumper sticker, a popular slogan in the feminist movement, the title of many speeches, conferences and newsletters. African-American civil rights activist Florence Rae Kennedy coined the term. Gloria Steinem quoted her in Ms magazine in 1973.

Since then, this powerful slogan has circumnavigated the world many times — used by many activists and movements.

It has lasted because the slogan reasonates strongly with the condition of the oppressed, exploited and persecuted.

Most environmentalists would agree consumerism and consumer culture put too heavy a burden on the planet. Consumer spending is central to the economy, which is why economists and governments also pay it close attention.

But most mainstream economists say endless economic growth, which implies limitless consumption, is both possible and desirable. This ignores how it helps fuel our ecological problems.

Today, most things sold on the market are made to be thrown out and replaced. A big part of economic activity is made up of selling products “designed for the dump”.

It is now common knowledge that Australian adult prisons are incarcerating children as young as 13. The major obstacle for human rights advocates struggling to free these children from our adult prisons is the Australian government and the horrific prejudices and stereotypes they have shoved down Australians’ throats.

Australian energy company Santos has met determined resistance to its coal seam gas operations in Australia. It is less well known that Santos was one of the companies responsible for a monumental environmental catastrophe in Indonesia in 2006. The accident drowned villages in the Porong subdistrict of Sidoarjo in mud, and displaced up to 50,000 people.

The federal government’s decision to release small numbers of refugees from detention to live in the community while their claims are assessed will be welcome news to many refugees that have suffered under its mandatory detention policy.

In the lead up to the ALP national conference over December 3-4, Labor’s refugee policy has been in the spotlight.

For years the Ageing, Disability and Home Care department (ADHC) has run a “Don’t DIS My Ability” campaign to celebrate International Day of Persons with Disabilities. In partnership with Accessible Arts, an arts program has been designed to supposedly boost and foster arts and disability practice in New South Wales.

These initiatives coincide with talk at the national level about social inclusion policies targeting those classed as disadvantaged in the workforce. The federal government appears to be setting ambitious goals for greater participation and integration into the workforce.

At present, there are no long-term health studies into the nano-ingredients used in many sunscreens. As with all emerging technologies, scientists simply haven’t had enough time to perform these experiments.

When recently confronted with the growing levels of public concern about untested nano-sunscreens, the Australian government continued to sit on its hands.

Occupy began as a movement against the effects and causes of the global economic crisis and against the austerity measures pushed by governments for the benefit of the 1%. In Australia, many people were inspired by Occupy Wall Street in New York and the global movement it had sparked.

When an international call for action on October 15 came out, we responded, and began our own occupations here.

In the face of a broad and growing campaign, rhetoric from the NSW government is beginning to match some of the risks when it comes to coal seam gas (CSG) mining. This begs the question: what is being done when it comes to CSG?

In an interview about CSG mining on December 1, NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell told 2GB’s Alan Jones: “I don’t intend to allow — particularly after the drought we went through over a decade — mining or any other activity to threaten water resources.

Elders from the remote Northern Territory Aboriginal community of Ramingining, East Arnhem, released the statement below on November 28.

* * *

Today, Elders of the remote NT Aboriginal community of Ramingining are shocked and angered by last week’s announcement that the fundamentally destructive measures of the intervention will be extended for another 10 years.

WikiLeaks won the 2011 Walkley award for the “most outstanding contribution to journalism” on November 27. The Walkleys are annual awards for excellence in Australian journalism.

In giving the award, the Walkley Foundation said WikiLeaks had “shown a courageous and controversial commitment to the finest traditions of journalism: justice through transparency.

See also: Julian Assange accepts WikiLeaks’ Walkley award

Friends of the Earth, the Inland Rivers Network, the Nature Conservation Council of NSW, the Central West Environment Council, Fair Water Use Australia, the National Parks Association of NSW and The Wilderness Society Sydney released the joint statement below on November 28.

* * *

Seven environment groups have described the draft Murray-Darling Basin Plan released today as a monumental failure for the rivers and the communities that depend on them.

Culture

The strategy of most people when they hear a racist or xenophobic comment is to be silent and hope that it will go away. The problem is, that strategy just tends to embolden the racists.

So it has proved with Tony Greig.

His constant derogatory remarks about Indians or “the Indians”, as he refers to them, are not only offensive, they are part of a pattern of blatant racism and xenophobia that Greig has shown through his playing and commentating career.

See also:
Australian cricket's corruption denial syndrome

Cricket is on the verge of a corruption-induced implosion, yet you wouldn’t know in Australia. As far as Australian cricket administrators are concerned, it is the end of the world as they know it and they feel fine.

Despite more and more revelations coming out about corruption in cricket, it was still shocking for many to hear former Indian batsman Vinod Kambli claim that something was “amiss” in the semi-final of the 1996 World Cup.

Because there is a better way

A safer way to touch and cradle humanity

Because understanding starts with understanding

And understanding that is just the start.

Because caring is intellectual

Not the ineffectual nonsense demeaned by

Right-wing amoral propagandering

Meandering fiscal drivel driven by market forces

Apocalyptic horses

Pounding down and out at the worst of our fears.

I'm a socialist because there are always years

Ready for a redder dawn

Ears born to listen to wider concerns

Yearning to sort it out.

Because caring means fighting back

Because Green Left Weekly is taking a break for the summer, it asked staff, contributors — or just people it likes — to name the best books published this year. Here are their suggestions.

Tim Dobson, Green Left journalist and blogger at Press Box Red
A Life Too Short: The Tragedy of Robert Enke by Ronald Reng
Yellow Jersey Press, 2011