Issue 914

Australia

The Beyond Nuclear Initiative released the statement below on March 13.

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The Beyond Nuclear Initiative (BNI) says radioactive waste management legislation passed this afternoon in the Senate is deeply flawed and will not slow down the campaign against the proposed Muckaty radioactive waste dump in the Northern Territory.

The Darwin Asylum Seeker Support and Advocacy Network released the statement below on March 7.

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The Darwin Asylum Seeker Support and Advocacy Network (DASSAN) has been informed by asylum seekers inside the Northern Immigration Detention Centre (NIDC) that two Iranian asylum seekers attempted suicide this morning.


Melbourne, March 10. Photos by Chris Peterson

After eight months of campaigning by Victoria’s nurses to keep staff-to-patient ratios and win a wage rise there may be a breakthrough in the dispute.

On March 7, the Ted Baillieu Coalition state government finally offered to begin new negotiations with the Australian Nursing Federation (ANF) though a conciliation process overseen by Fair Work Australia.

More than 50 people rallied outside the Perth headquarters of British multinational corporation Serco on March 9 to protest against the company's ongoing push to privatise and take over public services.

Serco runs Australia’s immigration detention centres and is responsible for implementing the oppressive government policy of mandatory detention.

In addition, the company has contracts to run prisons and hospitals and other public services. The protest was calling for all of these privatised enterprises to be returned to public hands.

A public forum “Beyond the Carbon Price” will take place at NSW Parliament House on April 27 to open the fourth Climate Action Summit, to be held at the University of Western Sydney over April 27-29.

A diverse panel of speakers will engage with the question of how Australia should tackle climate change now that the carbon price has been adopted.

The 2012 International Women's Day (IWD) march in Sydney, Australia, took place on March 10. Protesters marched from Town Hall to First Fleet Park near Circular Quay, where they held a IWD picnic.

The rights or working women was a central theme of the event. The protest celebrated the Australian Services Union's court victory for equal pay for community sector workers. The Asian Women At Work contingent highlighted the rights of migrant workers rights.


Photos by Peter Boyle

More than 500 women and their supporters marched through Sydney's CBD on March 10 for an International Women's Day protest.

Despite the NSW government's promise to rule out sensitive areas to coal seam gas (CSG) activity, the long-awaited Strategic Regional Land Use Plan and Aquifer Interference Policy means “every part of NSW is still up for grabs”, Jess Moore from Stop CSG Illawarra said on March 6.

Liberal premier Barry O’Farrell’s government policy is “a disaster and a broken election promise”.

Moore said “no areas are off limits to CSG”.

The Maritime Union of Australia and other unions organised an action outside Rio Tinto’s headquarters on March 5 in solidarity with Quebec workers who have been locked out by Rio Tinto since December 30.

Members of the United Steel Workers (USW) Local 9495 District 5 branch came to Australia to gain support for their campaign.

The dispute began over Rio Tinto’s decision to use more sub-contractors at the aluminium smelter in Alma, Quebec. Click here to see campaign actions.

“Capitalism wrecks everything,” Liam Flenady, Socialist Alliance candidate for South Brisbane in the March 24 Queensland election, told a meet-the-cadidates forum sponsored by Green Left Weekly on March 6.

"The neoliberal agenda of the past three decades means privatising profits, and socialising losses. Queensland and Australia are in the midst of a political crisis right now.

"People have generally lost confidence in the major parties and their support for the status quo. But they don't yet have a firm belief in a viable alternative project.

Greenpeace activists on March 7 painted a huge message saying “Reef in danger” on the side of the Panamanian-registered coal ship Chou Shan, which was moored in Gladstone Harbour.

The action was timed to coincide with the arrival of a delegation from UNESCO investigating the impact of large-scale gas and coal developments on the Great Barrier Reef's world heritage values.

The Ballerrt Mooroop College Support Group met on March 4 to discuss action in response to the imminent closure of the college, which is the last surviving Aboriginal school in Melbourne.

Aboriginal people in the area have worked hard to keep the school open. But over the past 12 months, the education department has taken much of the land away and bulldozed the valuable student and community asset, the gymnasium/gathering place.

The Darwin Asylum Seeker Support and Advocacy Network (DASSAN) released the statement below on March 8.

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DASSAN has been informed by asylum seekers inside the Northern Immigration Detention Centre (NIDC) that a hunger strike commenced today in the centre.

A number of asylum seekers commenced the hunger strike this afternoon in the North 1 compound. They are protesting at the amount of time spent in detention and the levels of self harm they are witnessing inside NIDC.

The Refugee Action Coalition Sydney released the statement below on March 8.

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Tamil refugees from the boat stranded in 2009 in Merak, Indonesia, after being stopped at the request of then Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, have been told that 24 of their number have been accepted to be resettled in Australia.

The announcement came only a couple of hours after a demonstration of about 80 of the 134 recognised refugees at the Medan United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) offices in protest at the long delays in their resettlement.

In the biggest staff and student rally at the University of Sydney for years, 700 students and staff packed the university’s Main Quad on March 7 to protest management plans to axe 340 staff.

One hundred staff have already received redundancy notices unless they can “show cause” they should keep their jobs. A further 64 staff have been told they must ditch research projects and take up teaching-intensive roles or also face losing their jobs.

Despite the university having 1000 more students than last year, management also plans to cut 190 general staff positions.

The Aboriginal Legal Service of Western Australia released the statement below on March 6.

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The Aboriginal Legal Service of Western Australia (ALSWA) has slammed the WA state government’s offer of up to $2000 to Aboriginal workers whose past wages were stolen by the state.

“This is a slap in the face and a cruel and heartless offer which offends the very notion of recompense,” said ALSWA CEO Adjunct Professor Dennis Eggington.

About 50 people attended a forum addressed by Michael Anderson at the Curtin University Aboriginal Studies Centre on March 5. Anderson is a Gamilaroi man from New South Wales and is one of the four original founders of the Aboriginal Tent Embassy in Canberra in 1972.

The forum was organised by the Nyoongar Tent Embassy. Two days before, Anderson had addressed the WA Tent Embassy.

The Nature Conservation Council of NSW released the statement below on March 6.

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The draft Strategic Regional Land Use Plans released today will not deliver adequate protection for local communities, wildlife, natural areas and groundwater resources from the impacts of coal and coal seam gas exploration and mining, according to the Nature Conservation Council (NCC) of NSW.

Townsville: Just a few weeks out from the Queensland state election, campaigns of various political parties are in full swing as the candidates attempt to persuade constituents to vote for them.

The Queensland Council of Trade Unions (QCU) has joined the fray as it seeks to hold politicians to account by calling for candidates to commit to observing a charter that supports policies that benefit workers.

World

After two decades of political deadlock, Africa’s oldest refugee population is losing faith in UN mandated peace negotiations.

“No one will give us our freedom — we must take it!,” Sahrawi journalist Embarka Elmehdi Said told Green Left Weekly.

Said sees little hope for a peaceful resolution to the crisis that has gripped Western Sahara since its independence from Spain in the 1970s.

A child when her family fled the Moroccan invasion of Western Sahara in 1975, Said has spent most of her life in the Polisario run refugee camps on the Western Sahar-Algeria border.

Anti-women campaigners in the Republican Party are dominating the discussion in mainstream politics and the Democrats' response has been to let them, says the February 29 Socialist Worker editorial that is reprinted below.

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"Virginia is for lovers," goes the state's tourism motto. But if its right-wing politicians get their way, Virginia will be for turning women into human incubators.

The Sun Herald in south Mississippi carried a small story on February 21 with far-reaching implications for the capitalist economy and democratic rights.

The multinational corporation Northrop Grumman, manufacturer of aerospace and military equipment, opened a new centre in Mississippi devoted to the development of “unmanned aerial vehicles” (UAV), popularly known as drones.

The article gushed over the vast commercial and investment opportunities for Mississippi. It said spending on UAVs is estimated to rise over the next decade from US$5.9 billion a year to $11.2 billion.

Cuban President Raul Castro has urged the Caribbean nation's citizens to contribute to a free and frank debate on the future of Cuba’s socialist project.

For the Cuban Communist Party (PCC), the aim of this debate is twofold: to strive for consensus on a new Cuban model of socialist development and to empower Cuba’s working people to implement what has been decided.

In other words, to advance a socialist renewal process in the face of entrenched opposition from within the administrative apparatus.

Hearings began last month into the case of five West Papuan independence leaders on trial for treason. They were arrested with hundreds of others when Indonesian troops attacked the Papuan People's Congress on October 19 last year.

The conference had declared the Indonesian-occupied territory an independent state. West Papua was officially annexed by Indonesia's Suharto dictatorship in 1969 in a United Nations-supervised “act of free choice”, in which only 1022 Papuans were allowed to vote.

Ugandan newspaper the Observer reported on March 2 serious allegations against Ugandan troops in the Central African Republic (CAR), where they have been present since 2007, chasing the remnants of the Ugandan militia, the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA).

The allegations include rape, child prostitution, arms dealing and the plunder of CAR’s timber and diamonds.

Similar allegations have been made concerning the Ugandan army’s (the Uganda Peoples Defence Force, UPDF) 1997-2003 intervention in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Observer said.

Since its November 20 election triumph, the administration of Spanish Popular Party (PP) Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has launched such a blitzkrieg of neoliberal policies, less democratic rights, state centralism and conservative social values that at times it seems as if the country has gone back 40 years in four weeks.

Rajoy’s is not just one more example of a new government breaking promises due to “shocking revelations” that its predecessors had left the cupboard bare. (That old ruse has already led to public sector salary cuts of up to €500 a month.)

Rural protests make up a large part of overall social unrest in China. But such protests had not received prominent international attention until the siege of Wukan, a village of 12,000 in Guangdong province, late last year.

Just like the strikes in Honda plants in 2010, Wukan brought to light the deep-seated grievances of villagers in a dramatic way. The revolt featured the eviction of party officials and the police, the self-management of the village by villagers, and the stand-off against armed police in a siege for more than a week.

The Occupy Wall Street movement, which began in New York in September last year and rapidly spread to hundreds of cities and towns across the United States, continues organising against the greed and exploitation of the “1%”.

Occupy activists are mobilising against home evictions, supporting workers fighting for their rights and taking action against corporate exploitation and environmental destruction.

Analysis

Workers and their unions need strong labour law reforms. Two of many changes I urge can be adopted by the Independent Inquiry into Insecure Work in Australia and the federal government’s Fair Work Act Review are:

1. Amend the Fair Work Act to repeal the penal powers and have an effective right to strike.

2. Amend the Fair Work Act to restrict casual and other forms of precarious work to a limited period. Then require employment contracts for ongoing, more permanent work. Fair Work Australia should have the power to order the transition to more secure employment contracts.

A new media watchdog to regulate big media corporations — but also smaller, independent and online media operations — was the key recommendation of Ray Finkelstein’s sweeping report on Australian media released on February 28.

Mike Crook, the Socialist Alliance candidate for Sandgate in the March 24 Queensland state elections, is a former ALP member, who radicalised when working on construction and mining projects over many years. Mike is active in community and environmental campaigns in the Sandgate area, including the Transition Towns movement.

Media watchers should be forgiven for a degree of confusion over statements by federal treasurer and deputy prime minister Wayne Swan in the past two weeks.

He began the month with a Press Club address, published in The Monthly’s March edition titled “The 0.01%” where he attacked “the rising power of vested interests” — naming mining magnates Clive Palmer, Andrew Forrest and Gina Rinehart — for “undermining our equality and threatening our democracy”.

The advertising industry is insidious. A massive US$464 billion was estimated to have been spent globally on commercial advertising in 2011. Next year it is tipped to grow by another US$22 billion despite the ongoing economic crisis in Europe and the US.

A “free trade agreement” being negotiated by Australia, the United States and other countries could have profound impacts on crucial public policy issues including food security, natural resource management, access to essential medicines, public assets and more.

Negotiations for the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) – including Australia, the US, New Zealand, Chile, Peru, Singapore, Brunei, Malaysia and Vietnam – are taking place in unprecedented secrecy.

Sometimes it takes a truly dramatic event to really make you face up to a serious threat.

It was not that I was unaware of the danger of already occurring climate change, but it was still a shock when the Essendon Football Club had to cancel its game against St Kilda, scheduled for Wangaratta on March 3, when the team's plane couldn't land in the extreme weather.

As a result, the Bombers forfeited four points in the NAB Cup. I just thanked Christ it was only the pre-season.

See also:

It was a week which started with federal treasurer Wayne Swan having a go at the mining billionaires for distorting our democracy, but which soon entered a new phase whereby the Labor party illustrated the rather narrow range within which our two party system has room to move.

In 1963, a senior Australian government official, A R Taysom, deliberated on the wisdom of deploying women as trade representatives. “Such an appointee would not stay young and attractive for ever [because a] spinster lady can, and very often does, turn into something of a battleaxe with the passing years [whereas] a man usually mellows.”

On International Women’s Day 2012, such primitive views are worth recalling; but what has happened to modern feminism? Why is it so bereft of its political, indeed socialist roots, that any woman who “achieves” within an immoral system is to be admired?

The Socialist Alliance released the statement below on March 8.

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This International Women’s Day, on March 8, falls at a time when the environmental and economic crises of global capitalism are making life even harder for most women and the communities they live and work in.

The corporate media has fawned over the new foreign minister, but a look at Bob Carr in his own words shows his right wing positions on uranium, Palestine, Julian Assange, the US, Aboriginal rights, human rights, workers and privatisation.

I remember Grong Grong; my aunt and uncle had a store there in the 1960s. Floods are not common in this stretch of the NSW Riverina, but they happen in odd years when the Murrumbidgee River further south rises and breaks its banks.

For runoff from the often-parched paddocks around Grong Grong to cause flooding is almost unheard of.

Independent MPs Rob Oakeshott and Tony Windsor announced a plan in early February to convince the government to count native forest wood-fired power stations as a renewable energy source. Their plan would mean wood-fired power would qualify for renewable energy subsidies.

Below is an “open letter of concern” to Oakeshott from 16 Australian scientists about his support for “incentives for native forest biomass burning”.

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Dear Mr Oakeshott,

Prime Minister Julia Gillard anointed former NSW premier Bob Carr as Australia's foreign minister on March 2. His appointment awaits the approval of a joint sitting of NSW parliament, but for all intents and purposes, Carr has just been catapulted to the third-highest political post in the land after being out of politics since 2005.

Resistance!

A telling quote in the film KONY 2012 says: “Who are you to stop a war? — the question is, who are you not to?”

I think the question that the people behind KONY 2012, which went viral on the internet on March 7, need to be asked is: “Who are you to start one?”

Joseph Kony, the leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army in eastern Africa, is a bad man. He should be held to account for his crimes. But we should be wary of any campaign that says the solution is to send in US troops to Uganda. And that is the take-home message from the campaign.

Culture

When Aboriginal rapper Darah Morris uploaded his first music video, "Aboriginal Style", to YouTube, it became an instant hit. Then it got deleted.

"After 15,000 views on YouTube it got removed for 'inappropriate content', which I find really ridiculous," he tells Green Left Weekly.

It's a familiar story. South Australian Aboriginal rapper Caper recently had the video for his song "How Would You Like To Be Me?" banned by Facebook after a complaint, despite the song gaining high rotation on daytime radio.

The Solidarity Choir in Sydney is celebrating its 25th anniversary on March 31.

The event will take place from 7.30pm upstairs at the Gaelic Club, 10 Devonshire St, Surry Hills, near Central Station. The concert will feature songs from various groups and artists with a political orientation, such as Ecopella, the Sydney Trade Union Choir, the Solidarity Choir and "Andsome Friends".

The event is also a fundraiser for the Asylum Seekers Centre and admission is by donation ($20/$15).

NT Consultation Report 2011 ― By Quotations
Published by Concerned Australians
72 pages, hardcover, $15
www.concernedaustralians.com.au

The latest Concerned Australians book, NT Consultation Report 2011 ― By Quotations, couldn’t have been released at a better time.

The simple but powerful collection of quotes are selected from the federal government’s Stronger Futures consultations, conducted across the Northern Territory between June and August last year.