Issue 908

News

As the last appeal hearing on Julian Assange's extradition to Sweden began in London, a group of supporters in Sydney begin a vigil at the Sydney Town Hall. Speakers at the vigil included pro-WikiLeaks activist Jann Dark and NSW Greens MLC John Kaye.
Community workers have today been handed long awaited pay rises in a historic decision by Fair Work Australia in the equal pay case. The case was lodged by the Australian Services Union on March 11, 2010, to address the gender-based undervaluation of the community services sector and deliver long overdue pay increases. Australian Services Union (ASU) Victorian and Tasmanian Assistant Branch Secretary Lisa Darmanin said this was a day community workers around Australia would never forget.
Friends of the Tamar Valley released the statement below on February 1. * * * Friends of the Tamar Valley (FTV) today condemned the announcement that a 10-bank syndicate -- which includes the ANZ Bank -- has granted an extension to the loan agreement for Tasmanian logging company Gunns Ltd. Gunns was due to either re-pay, or re-finance $340 million of debt by January 31. The company’s total debt was estimated to be $698 million at the end of June last year.
The Stop the Intervention Collective Sydney released the statement below on January 31. * * * The Stop the Intervention Collective Sydney (STICS) has declared support for the Aboriginal rights protests in Canberra on January 26 targeting Tony Abbott and Julia Gillard. STICS says that the Northern Territory intervention has turned the clock back more than 40 years in Aboriginal affairs, erasing many of the gains made through the struggles of the original Tent Embassy.
Occupy Sydney occupied the head office of Westpac in Sydney on January 30 to protest against the axing of 188 jobs. The people whose jobs are being axed will have to train their overseas replacements, who will be paid far less. Meanwhile, Westpacs CEO Gail Kelly was paid $9.5 million in 2011 and Westpac made $6.9 billion.
Refugee rights activists scaled the fence of the Leonora detention centre on the night of January 28 to communicate with refugees inside and protest against the mandatory detention of asylum seekers.
The Darwin Asylum Seeker Support and Advocacy Network (DASSAN) released the statement below on January 30. *** Serco’s application in current court proceedings for a Suppression Order preventing the publication of its Use of Force Manual is scandalous, says Darwin Asylum Seeker Support and Advocacy Network (DASSAN) spokesperson Fernanda Dahlstrom. The document sets out how much force Serco staff can use against those detained in the nations privatised immigration detention centres, the circumstances that Serco staff can use force and when the use of force is unlawful.
Cathy has been a shopping centre cleaner in a busy Westfield in South Australia for more than 10 years. She takes great pride in her job, and she loves interacting with tenants and helping customers. To her, a clean shopping centre with happy customers is indicative of a good day’s work. But Cathy only makes $16.57 an hour. In fact, her hourly wage has only gone up by $3 an hour in the 10 years she's been working. Cathy’s husband is disabled and can’t work. So, for less than $600 a week, Cathy and her husband try to survive.
It was standing room only at the Port Dock Hotel on January 21 as Communist Party of Australia members and friends gathered to launch CPA secretary Bob Briton’s campaign for the state seat of Port Adelaide. The seat, formerly held by South Australian treasurer Kevin Foley, is being contested in a by-election to be held on February 11.
Socialist Alliance and Refugee Rights Action Network member Alex Bainbridge posted this report from Leonora in remote central Western Australia on January 28. Photos and video by Zebedee Parkes. * * *
The Darwin Asylum Seeker Support and Advocacy Network released the statement below on January 27. * * * Four genuine refugees, one Rohingyan and three Tamils, are currently left rotting in the Northern Immigration Detention Centre as a result of negative security assessments from the Australian Security and Intelligence Organisation (ASIO). The men cannot be deported to their home country and are unlikely to find a third country in which they can reside.
Following Queensland Labor Premier Anna Bligh’s announcement that a state election would take place on March 24, the two Socialist Alliance candidates issued a joint statement. Mike Crook, who will contest the seat of Sandgate, and Liam Flenady, who will stand in South Brisbane said on January 27: “The major parties in the upcoming Queensland election stand for the neoliberal status quo. What the people really need is a radical transformation of the system.”
Video by Takvera/youtube Long-time Aboriginal activist Robbie Thorpe addressed about 100 people at a memorial held in Melbourne on January 20 for two Aboriginal freedom fighters executes in 1842. Tunnerminnerwait and Maulboyheenner were among five Tasmanian Aborigines who conducted a campaign of resistance against European settlement in 1841 around Western Port and South Gippsland near Melbourne.
About 200 people rallied and marched to mark Invasion Day on January 26. Several speakers noted that sovereignty had never been ceded by the Aboriginal people to the British colonisers, nor to the Australian government. They stressed the need to continue to support Aboriginal rights, to campaign against Black deaths in custody, to oppose the Northern Territory Intervention and to pay back Stolen Wages. Speakers also emphasised the mobilisation in Canberra to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the Aboriginal Tent Embassy occurring that day.
After unilaterally locking out the Qantas workforce in October, grounding the fleet and leaving workers and travellers stranded, Qantas CEO Alan Joyce has been handed a positive outcome by the federal government’s Fair Work Australia (FWA). Joyce’s lockout resulted on October 30 in FWA terminating the legal, protected industrial action that Qantas unions had voted for, rewarding Joyce’s industrial sabotage.
The real story of the powerful march celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Aboriginal Tent Embassy was ignored by the mainstream media, which instead focused on misleading accounts of protesters confrontation of Australia's racist opposition leader Tony Abbott and PM Julia Gillard later in the day.
Friends of the Tamar Valley released the statement below on January 25. * * * Between 40 to 50 people gathered outside the Launceston branch of ANZ on January 25 as part of a coordinated series of rallies urging the bank to provide no further financial support for Tasmanian logging company Gunns Ltd’s controversial Tamar Valley pulp mill.
Friends of the Tamar Valley released the statement below on January 24. * * * ANZ branches around the country will be targeted tomorrow by the community seeking to halt Tasmanian logging company Gunns Ltd’s controversial Tamar Valley pulp mill. ANZ Bank is due to make a decision about extending a debt facility to Gunns at the end of the month.

Analysis

Mark McGowan stepped into the leadership of the Western Australia Labor Party on January 23 promising to support uranium mining in WA and deregulation of shopping hours. Together, these decisions signal a significant shift to the right by WA Labor. Previous leader Eric Ripper had promised that an incoming ALP government would close down any uranium mining in the state, even if the current Liberal government has granted full approvals. That position was at odds with national Labor’s pro-uranium policy, but is popular in WA.
In Hobart’s Pontville detention centre, 35 Afghan refugees had been on hunger strike for a week, putting three of them in hospital, when they were joined by more than 100 others. It meant almost half the centre’s detainees were refusing food by January 24. The actions were in protest against the government’s failure to deliver its promise to release more refugees from detention to live in the community on bridging visas while their claims are assessed.
Very soon, Green Left Weekly turns 21. That’s not a bad achievement for a radical left news source in a fairly conservative, stable country like Australia.   Throughout that time, GLW’s style, tone, look and the emphasis of its coverage have changed many times. If it is to stay a useful tool in the fight for social justice and human dignity then it will surely need to change some more in the future too. This applies most of all to GLW’s online presence.  
Newcastle activist and satirical singer-songwriter Nicholas Barrington Wood died last December at home after a short illness. He faced death with the same courage with which he lived his life, true to himself to the end. His life was a journey that began in Manchester, England. It was his journey though: not to any destination, but to understand life. He spent years in Arabic, African and Asian countries, teaching and learning languages, playing and composing music, falling in love and having children.
Thousands of children starting preschool in NSW this week will be charged fees of up to $40 a day for the first time at government-run preschools.   Last year, Premier Barry O’Farrell’s government introduced fees without consultation for the 100 preschools run by the Department of Education and Community Services (DEC). Most are attached to public schools.   Many parents had already accepted a preschool place for 2012, or even enrolled their child, before learning that the previously free classes would attract daily fees.  
The eighth national conference of the Socialist Alliance in Australia decided to take a draft document titled “Towards a socialist Australia” through a nationwide public discussion and consultation process to promote a wide discussion about socialism in the 21st century.
Opposition leader Tony Abbott and his co-thinkers are dead wrong. The Aboriginal Tent Embassy, established by activists 40 years ago, is as relevant as it was then. Early on January 26, Abbott told reporters he understood why the embassy was set up “all those years ago”, but said it was not relevant today.
“Poker machine playing is a repetitive and insidious form of gambling which has many undesirable features. It requires no thought, no skill or social contact. The odds are never about winning … the machines … are addictive to many people. Historically poker machines have been banned … in the public interest, they should stay banned.” This quote is not from independent MP Andrew Wilkie, or “No Pokies” Nick Xenophon. It is from the 1974 Royal Commission into Gambling, Western Australia.
The day after the January 26 protests by Aboriginal people and supporters gave the media the sensationalist images of Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Liberal leader Tony Abbott fleeing under police protection, the Herald Sun's Mark Knight captured the image with a truly hilarious cartoon.
Wind farms might appear controversial in the media, but they enjoy an overwhelming 83% support in affected communities, say several recent reports. The only noise worth worrying about is that from the small minority who vocally oppose them. Unfortunately, that noise is drowning out other voices in the public arena.
redSTACHE, January 26 -- In Canberra, in front of Old Parliament House (also known as the Museum of Democracy) is the First Nations' Tent Embassy, established in 1972 by four Aboriginal activists who wanted to draw attention to the plight and inequality of Indigenous Australians. 2012 is the 40th anniversary of the Embassy, so a large gathering was organised for this Australia/Invasion day.
Last year, software engineer LN Rajaram started Lokalex, a project aimed at “reversing globalisation” in Chennai, India. Green Left Weekly’s Mat Ward spoke to him about it. * * * What’s your background? I was born in a village in Tamil Nadu, India, in 1949, but grew up in the streets of Mumbai, the finance capital of India.
Tension around pokies reform came to a head on January 21 when Prime Minister Julia Gillard broke her agreement with independent Tasmanian MHR Andrew Wilkie to implement timely reforms to address problem gambling. Wilkie subsequently withdrew his support for Gillard’s minority government and noted he would “only support motions of no confidence in the event of serious misconduct and not support politically opportunistic motions”.
The article below is republished from Refugee Rights Network WA. * * * The Asylum Seeker Resource Centre, Myths, facts and solutions says: “Today resettlement is offered to less than one percent of the world’s refugees, between 1912 and 1969, nearly 50 million Europeans sought refuge abroad and all of them were resettled.

World

These days when an online conversation turns to international affairs, even here in Australia, it’s not long before the Ron Paul supporters arrive. Not since the height of Obamania have so many Australians been so enthusiastic about a  US politician. But what makes the passion about Paul even more remarkable is that he’s a Republican — and many of his local fans identify as progressives.
The nationwide strike in Nigeria against a petrol price hike ended under rather curious circumstances on January 16. The strike called by trade unions had crippled the economy, save for the fact that the oil pipelines continued to deliver their load. Labour leaders and civil society coalitions entered into dialogue with a government that favours monologues. It was not surprising that the game was over before the labour leaders knew it.
United States politicians have, for the moment, succumbed to pressure of a growing campaign against the Stop Online Piracy Act (SIPA) and the PROTECT IP act (PIPA). The campaign has involved forces ranging from independent bloggers and content producers to internet giants Wikipedia, Reddit, Facebook, Twitter and Google In response to protests, the proposed acts have, for now, been shelved.
Egyptians massed in Tahrir Square on January 27 to press the ruling junta to transfer power to a civilian administration and put generals on trial for killing protesters during the popular uprising last year. The protest was staged on the first anniversary of the "Friday of Rage," one of the bloodiest days of the 18-day wave of protests a year ago that ousted former president Hosni Mubarak. Police and soldiers killed and wounded hundreds of protesters.
When US forces crossed into Pakistan from Afghanistan and killed 24 Pakistani border guards on November 26, it further strained Pakistan-US relations, already complicated by the fact the Pakistani elite, in particular the military, maintains close links to both the US and the Taliban. This collaboration with both sides of the Afghan war has continued despite the November 26 incident being far from unique. Both the Taliban and the US-led forces routinely kill Pakistani civilians, as well as soldiers and police.
The article below is a joint statement released by left parties from Pakistan and Afghanistan, who took part in a conference in Lahore over December 21-22. It is reprinted from Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal. * * * The progressive and democratic forces of Pakistan and Afghanistan met in Lahore for two days in the first ever joint conference.
The high profile shutdown of file-hosting company MegaUpload on January 20, and the arrest of CEO Kim Schmitz (aka Kim Dotcom) and other executives for allegedly operating a global pirating network, is the latest shot in the war over freedom on the internet.
The Sixth Congress of the Cuban Communist Party (PCC), held in April, “endorsed for the first time a fundamental change in the political and economic model”, said Cuban political scientist and Temas editor Rafael Hernandez. This does not mean abandoning Cuba’s socialist project, but renewing this project after two decades of the post-Soviet “Special Period”. This is a deep structural crisis in Cuba’s post-capitalist, centrally-planned economy and an ideological and ethical crisis of the nation’s socialist vocation.
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has criticised the US State Department’s “absurd” decision to threaten Latin American countries with sanctions should they engage in trade with Iran. Chavez made the comments on the state VTV channel after State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland warned Latin American countries they would be liable to US sanctions if they were to use Iranian banks or purchase Iranian oil.
Deadly repression in Indonesia has refocussed attention on the role of Australian mining companies in human rights abuses in the country. People of the Paniai region in Indonesian-occupied West Papua have lived in terror since November. The Australian government-trained “anti-terrorist” unit Detachment 88 (D88) and Brimob paramilitary force launched an offensive in the area that month to eliminate fighters from the Free Papua Movement (OPM).
In December 1984, the Sri Lankan Army (SLA) expelled Tamil farmers from three villages in the Ma'nalaa'ru region in the northeast of the island of Sri Lanka and seized 1500 acres of land. The land has been occupied by the SLA ever since. The displaced farmers told two Tamil National Alliance members of the Sri Lankan parliament who recently visited the area that the army still bans them from returning. They are not even allowed to look at their land.
Lisette Talate died the other day. I remember a wiry, fiercely intelligent woman who masked her grief with a determination that was a presence. She was the embodiment of people’s resistance to the war on democracy. I first glimpsed her in a 1950s Colonial Office film about the Chagos Islanders, a tiny creole nation living midway between Africa and Asia in the Indian Ocean. The camera panned across thriving villages, a church, a school, a hospital, set in a phenomenon of natural beauty and peace. Lisette remembers the producer saying to her and her teenage friends: “Keep smiling girls.”
Tensions were high after a prominent supporter of the controversial Ramu nickel mine near Madang in Papua New Guinea died suddenly on January 3. This comes after the PNG Supreme Court rejected an appeal on December 22 against the decision to allow the Ramu mine operators to dump 100 million tonnes of toxic mine tailings into Basamuk Bay over 20 years.

Culture

Peruvian-born Harlem emcee Immortal Technique rocked a full house at the Metro in Sydney on January 19 as part of his debut tour of Australia and New Zealand. The Afro-Peruvian Technique grew up alongside other poor African Americans and Latinos in New York and steered clear of offers from record labels (“offered me a deal, and a blanket full of smallpox!”, he sings in “Industrial Revolution”). Instead, he built up a substantial following as an independent artist.
The Tall Man Screening SBS ONE, Feb 5, 8.30pm. The director of a documentary about the death in custody of Aboriginal man Mulrunji Doomadgee says the family wanted him to use footage of the death, but he was blocked from accessing it. "We tried and failed to get access to it," Tony Krawitz tells Green Left Weekly. "So I've never seen it — it screened in court, but can't be released." Krawitz's multi-award winning film, The Tall Man, is based on the critically-acclaimed book of the same name by journalist Chloe Hooper.

Resistance!

Historically, racism has given rise to the belief that different human populations possess different capacities, some superior and some inferior, based on aspects such as cultural traits and genetic makeup. At its crudest, racist views often hold that genetic makeup can imply specific traits and characteristics, and has been used as a tool to separate people in our society. This kind of view became widespread across the world, justifying crimes such as the mass enslavement of Africans, the genocide committed by the Nazis, and the “white Australia” policy, initiated in 1901.
The small town of Kerry, located on the Scenic Rim in Queensland's Beaudesert, is a prime food-producing area one hour from Brisbane. The land is now the site of a coal seam gas (CSG) exploration well. The community hasn't let this happen quietly. The property on which the drilling occurred has also been the site of a significant protest. A community blockade against foreign-owned CSG company Arrow Energy stopped work on the site for almost 10 days, until the company's trucks broke through by driving over dozens of hats laid down in protest on January 21.