Issue 912

Australia

A rally to oppose the Western Australian government's plans to redevelop the Perth city foreshore attracted about 1000 people on February 26.

The Colin Barnett government plan would involve flooding the Esplanade and building large high rise developments on the new water's edge.

Speakers at the rally said there was no public consultation about the plan before it was presented, that the plan involves cutting Riverside Drive leaving only one east-west thoroughfare through the city and that the heritage value of the Esplanade will be ruined.

Stand for Freedom and the Stop the Intervention Collective Sydney released the statement below on February 28.

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At noon on Tuesday February 28 at Parliament House in Canberra a strong coalition of human rights, community sector and Aboriginal organisations will demand the Senate reject “Stronger Futures” legislation, which passed through the House of Representatives yesterday.

Despite heavy police intimidation and media racism, the Nyoongar Tent Embassy at Matagarup, otherwise known as Heirisson Island in Perth, is still standing strong.

The Tent Embassy was founded by local Aboriginal people to voice dissent against a proposed deal with the state government that would include giving up native title rights.

The embassy is also about asserting Aboriginal sovereignty. Embassy participant Iva Hayward-Jackson told  Green Left Weekly  the embassy is about asserting Nyoongar sovereignty and protecting sacredness of Aboriginal culture.

A snap rally was held outside NSW parliament house on February 22 to protest a bill proposed by Premier Barry O’Farrell to lift the 26-year moratorium on uranium exploration in NSW. The Nature Conservation Council and Beyond Nuclear Initiative organised the rally.

The moratorium on nuclear exploration in NSW began as a bipartisan agreement between Liberal and Labor parties after an investigation found that the effects of mining would be too dangerous.

Immigration minister Chris Bowen has decided to close the Pontville refugee detention centre in Tasmania by March 1. The move is in keeping with the government’s original plan to operate the centre for only six months.

Last month, about 150 asylum seekers held in Pontville started a hunger strike to demand they be released into the community. At least three were hospitalised.

On February 16, Unions Tasmania secretary Kevin Harkins released a statement calling on Tasmanian’s to rally on February 25 to keep the detention centre open.

After Victorian nurses walked off the job from six Victorian hospitals, Ted Baillieu's state government was still refusing to undertake effective negotiations with the Australian Nursing Federation (ANF).

The dispute has dragged on for eight months and has been in its current conciliation process under Fair Work Australia (FWA) for 105 days.

On February 24, the FWA ordered the ANF to stop all industrial action as sought by the government. But the ANF has said it will go ahead with its actions as decided on by members at a mass meeting on February 25.

Community feeling was strong in Erskineville as residents gathered to oppose overdevelopment in their neighbourhood on February 22. The Friends of Erskineville (FoE) called the meeting in their local town hall in response to City of Sydney plans to allow nine-storey towers in the Ashmore Estate area, bordering Alexandria.

Liam Flenady, the Socialist Alliance candidate for the seat of South Brisbane in the upcoming Queensland state elections, spoke with Green Left Weekly’s Jim McIlroy about his views on coal and coal seam gas mining in the state. Flenady’s remarks are below.

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The Socialist Alliance Queensland released the statement below on February 24.

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Former Labor Party candidate Jason Briskey has been endorsed to run for the Socialist Alliance in the northern Queensland seat of Dalrymple. Briskey, 28, a devoted sole parent to daughter Shakira, 9, works at RB Communications in the main street of Charters Towers.

A long-term Charters Towers resident, Jason's family has had strong ties with the area for more than 90 years. Jason is a committed worker for his local community.

The Darwin Asylum Seeker Support and Advocacy Network (DASSAN) released the statement below on February 23.

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The Darwin Asylum Seeker Support and Advocacy Network has been informed that an Iranian man attempted suicide today at the Northern Immigration Detention Centre (NIDC). The man has been detained in the infamous North 2 punishment compound for two weeks.

After self-harming during the day, the man climbed onto the roof of North 2, made a noose out of a sheet, and was stopped just before jumping from the roof.

Stop CSG Illawarra released the statement below on February 22.

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On February 20, Proactive Investors Australia (and other industry journals) reported that drilling had started on a coal seam gas (CSG) well in the Illawarra Coal Measures in the Burragorang region.

Rolling industrial action has hit Port Kembla as part of an ongoing dispute between local coal terminal management and workers. Strike action began on February 1 as a result of management scaling back conditions during negotiations over a new enterprise agreement.

At any time, up to 15 ships can be spotted sitting on the horizon off Port Kembla. Most of the ships are waiting to access the coal terminal. BHP Billiton operates the terminal on behalf of its owners, which include Xstrata, Peabody Energy, Gujarat NRE and Centennial Coal.

Stop CSG Illawarra will host a community conference on March 25 to discuss the impacts of the coal seam gas industry and the campaign to halt it in New South Wales. Wollongong's Lord Mayor Gordon Bradbery will open the conference, and Wollongong City Council has agreed to waive all fees for the use of the city's Town Hall on the day.

Several hundred people rallied and marched at Jondaryan, west of Toowoomba, on February 20 to protest against moves by New Hope Coal to expand its coalmine at nearby Acland.

Speakers at the rally were from an unusual range of backgrounds, including radio shock jock Alan Jones, maverick federal MP Bob Katter, Greens Senator Larissa Waters and local farmers. Lock the Gate Alliance president Drew Hutton chaired the rally.

Forty members and supporters of the Nyoongar Tent Embassy marched on Government House early on February 21. The march was an important public statement for the embassy after an February 19 operation by more than 50 armed police cleared tents and vehicles from the embassy site at Matagarup (Heirrison Island).

Some media reports have falsely given the impression that that was the end of the embassy. In fact, the embassy remains strong.

World

Among the 5 million emails and documents leaked by WikiLeaks from the US-based private intelligence firm Stratfor are details of some of its secret media partners. The company’s “Confederation Partners” are spread across four continents.

The crackdown on whistleblowers to protect national security is "neo-McCarthyist hysteria" and Julian Assange says he has the emails to prove it.

The WikiLeaks founder hit back hard at critics at London's Frontline Club on February 27 as his site unveiled an extraordinary cache of five million emails yanked from the servers of transnational spies-for-hire Stratfor.

See also:
WikiLeaks publishes Global Intelligence Files, exposes Stratfor

Whistleblowing website WikiLeaks released the statement below on February 27.

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Today, Monday February 27, WikiLeaks began publishing The Global Intelligence Files -- more than five million emails from the Texas-headquartered "global intelligence" company Stratfor. The emails date from between July 2004 and late December 2011.

Among the 5 million emails and documents leaked by WikiLeaks from the US-based private intelligence firm Stratfor are details of some of its secret media partners. The company’s “Confederation Partners” are spread across four continents.

Amnesty International has called on Israel to immediately release Palestinian prisoner Khader Adnan, who has been held since December without charge under Israel's infamous policy of “administrative detention”.

The call came after Adnan, near death, ended a 66-day hunger strike when Israel signed a deal on February 22 agreeing to release the 33-year-old father of two by April 17.

Two decades after the demise of Soviet bureaucratic “socialism” and the onset of its “Special Period” crisis, Cuba is immersed in an ongoing debate on the future of its socialist project.

When Raul Castro became interim president in August 2006, he called for free and frank debate. He launched a series of nationwide consultations in the lead-up to the Sixth Congress of the Cuban Communist Party (PCC) in April last year.

Intersecting with these organised debates is a wider discussion in Cuba’s revolutionary press, academic journals and other institutional spaces.

If the uprisings of last year have proved anything, it is that progressive change is not out of reach, even in the most unlikely of circumstances. In the face of overwhelming odds, the Arab Spring has brought changes in the region that were unthinkable 18 months ago.

However, it is still common for people advocating radical change to be sneered at, regarded as naive fools or dangerous loonies.

But when you take an honest look at the state of the world today, it is those who think things should not change are the ones that start to look foolish or crazy.

German President Christian Wulff resigned on February 17 after prosecutors applied to have his presidential immunity stripped in a corruption scandal.

Wulff has been accused of having received kickbacks from businessmen, including a home loan of 500,000 euros (paid via an anonymous bank cheque) in 2008.

When German tabloid Bild threatened to publish the allegations, Wulff left voice messages on the editor's phone threatening "war".

Ten thousand people mobilised in Dresden on February 18 to stop an annual march of European neo-Nazis.

A broad coalition of political parties, church groups, trade unions and other anti-fascist groups formed a united front campaign to stop the planned neo-Nazi march through peaceful, mass blockades.

Six days earlier, a group of more than 1000 neo-Nazis gathered in Dresden for a march supposedly to commemorate the innocent deaths caused by the 1945 bombing of Dresden by the Allied forces.

The abridged statement below was initiated by the British Coalition of Resistance and signed by dozens of groups and individuals around the world ― including Australia's Socialist Alliance. See Coailiast of Resistancefor the list of signatories and to add your name.

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Fifty-seven Spanish cities and towns came to a stop on February 19. Up to 2 million people marched in protest against the new labour “reform” of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy's Popular Party (PP) government.

The marches brought together veterans of the struggle for union and worker rights under the Franco dictatorship, activists from the 1970s “transition to democracy” and today’s indignados.

“Old” slogans (“If you don’t fight, you lose”) mixed with new (“They piss on us and say it’s raining”).

Will the Spanish economy benefit from Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy government’s anti-worker labour market reform?

How tens of millions of people answer that question — and act on their answer — will determine the course of Spanish politics this year and beyond.

The law was announced on February 10 and already in force as a royal decree before adoption by parliament.

See also
Spain's 'Work Choices Super' at a glance
Spain: Millions march against labour law

Governments and commentators keen on promoting a war against Iran should be stridently opposed, not so much because of the threat to world peace, but because their reasons display a shocking lack of imagination.

The most common one is that Iran has "Weapons of Mass Destruction". How pathetic to pick the same excuse twice in a row. They should make it more interesting, by revealing evidence that Ahmadinejad has built a Terminator, or plans to fill the Strait of Hormuz with a giant Alka-Seltzer so the Persian Gulf fizzes over Kuwait.

The US response to the uprisings in the Arab world remains deeply hypocritical.

“It is time to stop the killing of Syrian citizens by their own government,” US President Barack Obama said at a February 24 meeting in Tunis of the representatives of 60 countries, led by the Western powers and their Arab allies.

The group cynically called itself the “Friends of Syria”.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton took the opportunity to lash out at the US’s main global competitors, Russia and China.

In the kabuki theatre of British parliamentary politics, great crimes do not happen and criminals go free.

It is theatre after all; the pirouettes matter, not actions taken at remove in distance and culture from their consequences. It is a secure arrangement guarded by cast and critics alike.

The farewell speech of one of the most artful, Tony Blair, had "a sense of moral conviction running through it", effused the television presenter Jon Snow, as if Blair's appeal to kabuki devotees was mystical. That he was a war criminal was irrelevant.

Powerful US free-market think tank The Heartland Institute is reeling after leaked internal documents were posted on the Desmogblog website on February 14 showing the powerful corporate interests behind its well-known campaign against climate science.

Desmogblog said the leaked documents “expose the heart of the climate denial machine”, which “relies on huge corporate and foundation funding from US businesses”.

In the early hours of February 17, about 1000 police and National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) officers conducted a violent raid of Khartoum University’s student dormitories, arresting more than 300 students.

Most were released later that day. Two students are missing, suspected kidnapped by the NISS. Some of the arrested students told a Sudan Human Rights Monitor press conference that police had used racist verbal abuse against students and many were beaten.

“The confrontation here isn’t between Chavez and this little man, it’s the bourgeoisie against the people, the empire against the country”, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said on February 16.

Chavez was referring to his newly-nominated presidential opponent, Henrique Capriles Radonski. He was pointing to the class battle that lies behind the looming presidential elections scheduled for October 7.

How will Spain’s new labour "reform" — announced on February 10 by employment and social security minister Fátima Báñez and already in force as a royal decree before adoption by parliament—affect Spain’s workers and unemployed?

First, imagine the essence of 30 years of Australian anti-worker and anti-union law — from Hawke’s Accord through Keating’s enterprise bargaining and Howard’s Workplace Relations Act to Work Choices and the Fair Work Act — but all rolled into one bill.

Analysis

The Stop the War Coalition Sydney released the statement below on February 26.

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Stop the War Coalition opposes sanctions against Syria – steps towards a military intervention – by the United States, Israel, NATO or any other foreign power.

We oppose the violence by the Syrian state and the armed mercenaries and agent provocateurs, which, in many cases, are being supported by foreign powers.

Len Cooper, the secretary of the Victorian Telecommunications Division of the Communications, Electrical and Plumbing Union, wrote to Victorian unions last August inviting them to take part in a discussion “aimed at leading to the formation of a campaign on the right to strike”.

The Victorian Trades Hall Council (VTHC) endorsed the campaign as a sub-committee of the hall on February 10. It committed to back a motion on the right to strike at the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) national congress, which takes place in Sydney in May.

Public housing in Victoria (and elsewhere around Australia) is in a state of crisis. For at least the last two decades, successive state governments have failed to meet the challenge of providing public housing to all who need it.

Instead, they have relied on the free market to provide “affordable housing” as a means of avoiding their responsibilities. The result has been a disaster, with nearly 40,000 people on waiting lists.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard said marriage equality was "inevitable" when she met with three same-sex couples on February 21 during a dinner organised by GetUp! The admission came despite her own opposition to equal marriage.

“If changing the f****** leader would change f****** government policy to support the f****** 99% instead of the f****** 1% then we’d be f****** interested in this f****** soap opera!”

This tongue-in-cheek Facebook status that I posted on February 21 ended up sparking a bit of political discussion.

It expressed what a lot of ordinary people were thinking as round two of Kevin Rudd versus Julia Gillard came to a head.

The Socialist Alliance released the statement below on February 23.

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The Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS) is running a campaign to raise the pittance that the unemployed are expected to live on — $243 a week on the Newstart Allowance — by $50 a week.

On an oppressively hot Sunday afternoon on February 19, I visited the Villawood detention centre in Sydney’s west, a suburban prison for up to 400 refugees and asylum seekers.

At the centre, in the same compound as the maximum-security “Blaxland centre” that holds male refugees, is the Sydney Immigration Residential Housing facility. Six children live with their refugee families in a small row of simple single-storey homes, replete with CCTV, ever-present guards and a spiked fence.

The Nyoongar Tent Embassy in Perth released the statement below on February 19. The statement was authored by embassy spokesperson Robert Eggington.

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[Aboriginal warrior from the Nyoongar] Yagan stated: “You came to our country — you have driven us from our haunts, and disturbed us in our occupations. As we walk in our own country we are fired upon by the white man; why should the white man treat us so?”

There is a big story the media is missing and it must only be matter of time before a Murdoch tabloid splashes it on its front page.

ABC News reported on February 19 that three queue-jumping boat people had escaped from a camp in Darwin. But the left-wing Bolshevik Gillard- and/or- Rudd-loving national broadcaster is hiding the true story!

More than 400 people crowded into a lecture theatre at the University of Technology Sydney on February 17 for a public forum, “Don’t shoot the messenger: WikiLeaks, Assange and Democracy”. The forum was organised by the Support Assange and WikiLeaks Coalition.

More than 400 people crowded into a lecture theatre at the University of Technology Sydney on February 17 for a public forum, “Don’t shoot the messenger: WikiLeaks, Assange and Democracy”. The forum was organised by the Support Assange and WikiLeaks Coalition.

More than 400 people crowded into a lecture theatre at the University of Technology Sydney on February 17 for a public forum, “Don’t shoot the messenger: WikiLeaks, Assange and Democracy”. The forum was organised by the Support Assange and WikiLeaks Coalition.

More than 400 people crowded into a lecture theatre at the University of Technology Sydney on February 17 for a public forum, “Don’t shoot the messenger: WikiLeaks, Assange and Democracy”. The forum was organised by the Support Assange and WikiLeaks Coalition.

Resistance!

Last year, students of Political Economy at the University of Sydney stood up to threats to merge their department into either a politics or straight economics department.

They protested because they believed in the value of learning alternative economics, refused to accept cuts in staff or subjects and believed students have the right to have a say in the institution at which they choose to study.

Culture

Vultures’ Picnic
Greg Palast
416 pages, 2011
Penguin
www.gregpalast.com

Investigative reporter Greg Palast is back ― and this time, it’s personal.

The former United States corporate crime investigator, who exposed the 2000 and 2004 elections of George W Bush as frauds, has gone for a more intimate feel in his latest book, Vultures’ Picnic.

The Egyptian revolution has mobilised millions of people. It brought down the United States-backed dictator Hosni Mubarak. The struggle for democracy and equality continues.

Countless songs dedicated to the uprising rocketed around the internet. Two of these songs, "Rebel" and "Not Your Prisoner" from hip-hop trio Arabian Knightz, quickly became anthems of the revolution. Arabian Knightz released their new album Uknighted States of Arabia on January 25 ― the one-year anniversary of the protests that sparked the revolution.

Colectivo Mujer and the Addison Road Gallery in Marrickville, Sydney invite you to “Latinas: Our Origins, Our Voices”. This cultural event will celebrate International Women’s Day (IWD) on March 8.

Colectivo Mujer is a group of women from Latin America and elsewhere who strongly identify with our cultures that recognise the contribution of women and men to ever-evolving feminisms.

Fighting Fund

“Something is badly amiss when Queensland bushies embrace Green Left Weekly, and the opposite ends of the political fringe, the Greens and Bob Katter’s Australian Party, find a common cause,” began a February 22 editorial in Rupert Murdoch’s The Australian, the only national daily newspaper in this country.