Issue 915

Australia

The Refugee Action Coalition Sydney released the statement below on March 20.

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Two Afghan refugees were taken in handcuffs from Darwin to Christmas Island on the afternoon of March 18.

Refugee advocates have called for the immediate end of the use of Christmas Island as a punishment centre and have called for a full inquiry into Serco and its system of harsh, unaccountable, and arbitrary punishments.

Serco has become the judge, jury and jailer of asylum seekers within Australia’s detention regime.

Organisers of an anti-coal protest at the Boggabri open-cut coalmine in northern New South Wales released the statement below on March 19.

Speakers at the event included Maules Creek Community Council spokesperson Phil Laird, author and journalist Paul Cleary, Liverpool Plains farmer Tim Duddy and Greens MLC and mining spokesperson Jeremy Buckingham.

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The Australian Forests and Climate Alliance (AFCA) released the statement below on March 19.

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Australia’s forests and wildlife had a desperately narrow escape from an increase in destruction today when Parliament voted not to subsidise the burning of native forest wood for electricity. The vote was 72-72, with Speaker Peter Slipper casting the final ‘no’ vote to Rob Oakeshott’s motion.

Farmers and supporters marched on the Labor Party and Liberal National Party offices in Brisbane on March 12 to protest coal and coal seam gas mining in Queensland, before attending a 1000-person strong food security forum at the Brisbane Convention Centre.

Friends of the Earth Melbourne released the statement below on March 20.

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One of Victoria’s worst kept secrets over the past year has been the intention of the state government to expand the state’s involvement in the coal industry. A draft cabinet submission shows that the Baillieu government is preparing a campaign to promote further development of Victoria’s brown coal reserves.

A protest of 250 people took place outside NSW parliament on March 15. It was organised by anti-coal seam gas (CSG) groups Stop CSG Sydney and Stop CSG Illawarra.

The action coincided with the parliamentary debate of a petition, signed by 20,000 people, calling for a statewide moratorium on CSG mining, a royal commission into its effects and an immediate ban on fracking.

An Aboriginal protest march is being planned for March 28 to take up issues such as the government’s miserly stolen wages offer and the proposed deal that would extinguish Nyoongar native title in south west Western Australia.

The WA government made an offer on March 6 to pay up to $2000 to Aboriginal people who were forced to work for rations in previous decades. It is an insulting offer that has been slammed by Aboriginal organisations.

Victorian nurses crowded into Festival Hall in Melbourne on March 16 to hear their nine months of struggle had reached a successful outcome.

After what the ABC said was Victoria’s longest running industrial dispute, nurses have won 14-21% pay increases and kept their nurse-to-patient ratios in return for minor productivity offsets.

Australian Nursing Federation (ANF) secretary Lisa Fitzpatrick said: “This is a bittersweet victory for nurses and midwives after an unprecedented industrial marathon with the Baillieu government to protect patient care and secure a fair pay rise."

Another company is following in the footsteps of Qantas by locking out its workers from March 5 to 14.

Sigma, a company that distributes pharmacy products to wholesale and retail customers, locked out 150 workers in an attempt to intimidate them into ceasing all industrial action. The workers are members of the National Union of Workers.

The workers walked off the job for 48 hours on February 23 after Sigma management told them that it would cut night-time shift loadings. Workers at both the company’s sites at Rowville in Melbourne and Shepparton walked off.

Bob Katter’s homophobia is abhorrent, says socialist candidate

The Socialist Alliance Queensland released the statement below on March 15.

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Liam Flenady, Socialist Alliance candidate for the seat of South Brisbane in the March 24 Queensland elections, has slammed the TV ad by Bob Katter's Australian Party (KAP) that attacked Liberal National Party (LNP) leader Campbell Newman over the equal marriage issue. "The advert is homophobic and abhorrent to all decent human values," Flenady said.

Stop CSG Illawarra released the statement below on March 16.

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Thursday March 15 2012 was a big day for the coal seam gas (CSG) issue in our state parliament.

In the morning a motion was put to the NSW Upper House by Jeremy Buckingham of the Greens — to place a moratorium on all CSG projects in the state, other than the Camden production field.

Over 200 people attended a coal seam gas community forum in Oakdale on March 11, packing out the Workers’ Club. Local residents organised the meeting to tell the community about CSG development in their suburb.

They were incensed that they had not been told by the NSW government or gas companies Apex/Ormil about the drilling of a nearby CSG exploration well in the Warragamba Dam water catchment area.

The Refugee Action Collective Victoria released the statement below on March 15.

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Independent MP Rob Oakeshott is attempting to get legislation through parliament that will allow asylum seekers to be sent to third countries for processing. Oakeshott has called on both major parties to support his bill.

The Refugee Action Collective (RAC) has condemned Oakeshott’s bill as being anti-humanitarian and an attempt to circumvent the High Court ruling last year that said the Malaysian refugee swap deal was illegal.

About 200 people marched in Melbourne on March 11 to commemorate the Fukushima nuclear disaster and call for an end to uranium mining.

Long-term anti-nuclear campaigner Margaret Beavis told the rally: “We need to phase out nuclear power. Why are we risking everybody’s health with this terrible power source?”

Tomo Matsuoka from Japanese for Peace said: “Australian uranium ended up as fallout at Fukushima. Nuclear power has never been sustainable and never will be. Australia is the supplier of the fuel — we must stop it.”

Kurdish protesters in Melbourne went on a 48-hour hunger strike on March 12 in support of Kurdish political prisoner and leader, Abdullah Ocalan. They said they also sought to increase awareness about the need to find a peaceful solution to the Turkish government’s oppression of Kurds.

The Melbourne Kurdish Association said: “On February 15, 2012, 400 Kurdish political prisoners went on an indefinite and non-alternate hunger strike in prisons across Turkey and Kurdistan. In recent times another 400 prisoners joined these indefinite hunger strikes, making a total number of 800.

Forest Rescue released the statement below on March 14.

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Forest Rescue has been waging a non violent direct action battle with the Western Australia state government’s Forest Products Commission (FPC) in order to secure the last remaining numbat habitat in the southwest — the Warrup Forest near Bridgetown in WA.

The forest is one of the last remaining intact colonies of the numbat, of which less than a thousand remain in the wild. The numbat was originally found across the whole of southern Australia.

Green Left Weekly’s Keith Westbrook visited Matagarup (Heirrison Island) in Perth on March 13 to talk to the Aboriginal protesters at the Nyoongar Tent Embassy about their fight for sovereignty and their campaign against the state Coalition government’s plan to extinguish native title rights in the southwest of Western Australia.

Tent Embassy spokesperson Greg Martin’s comments are below.

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About 1000 people attended a food security forum in the Brisbane Convention Centre on March 12 to defend agricultural land and water against mining for coal and coal seam gas (CSG). The forum, chaired by controversial radio broadcaster Alan Jones, was organised by the Lock the Gate Alliance and GetUp!

Country singer Lee Kernaghan, who is passionately opposed to the destruction of Australian bushland by the mining industry, opened and closed the forum with music.

Hundreds of people donned as much green as they could find on March 10 and crammed into the Irish Murphy’s pub in Brisbane to start their celebrations for St. Patrick’s Day a week early. But on the opposite street corner, about 80 women and their supporters gathered in recognition of the many injustices still faced by women in Australia and around the world today.

Ana Borges from Women’s House opened the International Women's Day rally with a powerful statement that recognised the world of contradictions women live in, where their every move is subject to criticism by the status quo.

As a tropical downpour loomed, about 400 people stayed put to spell out "SOS" next to a huge banner that read "Reef in Danger" on the city’s Esplanade on March 11.

The rally marked the visit to the city of a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) commission, which looked at the possible impacts of the dramatic rise in shipping through the Great Barrier Reef expected over the next decade.

UNESCO has responsibility for the World Heritage listing for the reef.

Activists delivered an early birthday present for Rupert Murdoch to The Advertiser building in Adelaide on March 9.

Occupy Murdoch delivered a yellow “uranium” cake, along with demands for media reform, to the office of the News Ltd tabloid.

Activist Tamara Otello baked the cake, which she explained was intended “for The Advertiser staff”.

She said: “It hasn’t been laced with anything nasty ... unlike The Advertiser. It’s actually a chocolate mudcake.”

World

Sixty thousand people marched on Madison, Wisconsin on March 10 to mark the one-year anniversary of the passage of Governor Scott Walker's drastic dismantling of collective bargaining rights for public employees.

Last year, Walker's attacks on labour rights sparked huge protests. Hundreds of thousands occupied the Wisconsin capital building. Their actions prefigured Occupy Wall Street and inspired countless others to take a stand against economic inequality, political injustice, and the tyranny of the 1% enforced through politicians and banksters.

Women workers in the United States are attacking low pay and bias from many angles, assailing wage laws that exclude them, suing over outright discrimination and trying to organise unions.

And they’ve been confronting the disrespect that accompanies smaller paychecks.

The pay gap between men and women in the US actually shrank in 2011. Women now average 82.2% of men’s earnings ― but the numbers don’t indicate progress because all workers lost buying power.

The latest wave of murderous Israeli air strikes on Gaza, which began on March 9, appeared aimed at raising pressure for war on Iran and undermining Palestinian group Hamas.

Al Jazeera said on March 13 that 25 Palestinians had been killed by Israeli forces in the first four days of air strikes. It said 18 of the dead had been identified as resistance fighters.

A Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) report on March 12 said 73 Palestinians, mostly civilians, were wounded in the strikes.

For the US military and the pro-war Western corporate media, the March 11 slaughter of 16 civilians, nine of them children, as they slept in their homes in the villages of Alkozai and Najeeban in Panjwai district, Kandahar province, was an aberration.

For Afghans, it was just the latest massacre.

There are differing accounts of what happened. The US maintains the killings were the work of a single “rogue” soldier. Eyewitnesses, however, insist there was more than one attacker.

Invisible Children's “KONY 2012” film, which supports US military intervention in Uganda and has gone viral on the internet, has caused widespread outrage in the central African nation, Al Jazeera said on March 14.

The article pointed out that most Ugandans have been excluded from the “internet revolution”. It said this means most of the victims of Joseph Kony, on whose past crimes the film focuses, have never heard of the film ― or even YouTube.

Ugandan newspapers carried front-page reports in recent weeks from the highly respected Social Science Research Council of New York, accusing the Ugandan army of atrocities against civilians in Central African Republic while on a mission to fight Joseph Kony and the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA).

The army denied the allegations. Many in the civilian population, especially in the north, were sceptical of the denial. Like all victims, they have long and enduring memories.

See also:

United States secretary of state Hillary Clinton, speaking to the US Senate Appropriations Committee last month, said Syrian President Bashar al-Assad meets the criteria of a war criminal.

Telegraph.co.uk reported on February 28 that Clinton said: “Based on definitions of war criminal and crimes against humanity, there would be an argument to be made that he would fit into that category.”

But long experience indicates such moves can complicate the resolution of violent conflicts, as it limits options for negotiated settlements and can encourage war criminals to fight to the bitter end.

The All Japan 3.11 Action Committee released the statement that is abridged below below on March 11.

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March 11 marks the one year anniversary of the TEPCO Fukushima Daiichi nuclear reactor accident. Many people were forced to evacuate and still continue to live under hardship without enough compensation.

Despite the fact that an rising number of people in Japan (up to 70%) want to end nuclear power, the Japanese government is obsessively promoting it.

Tens of thousands filled the square as the echoes of the speaker at the podium boomed through huge speakers. Some came in anger, others in grief, but all agreed: it was time for a change. Many carried banners, others carried drums; some had taken their children out of school to attend.

No, this wasn't Tahrir Square; it was Tokyo, Japan, on a chilly Monday last September.

Ever since the devastating earthquake and tsunami that crippled the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power station, Japanese civil society has become less, well, polite.

The following statement was issued by the South African Municipal Workers Union (SAMWU) in support of six Zimbabwean activists and socialists facing trial for “inciting public violence” in relation to screening a video more than a year ago in support of the Egyptian pro-democracy uprising.

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The South African Municipal Workers Union (SAMWU) is alarmed to hear reports that the six Zimbabwean activists who dared to show and discuss a film of the Egyptian uprising last year in Harare and who are in court defending themselves, are in danger of receiving heavy prison sentences.

Sri Lanka is under pressure over repeated allegations of war crimes committed during its war against the pro-independence Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.

The war, which lasted nearly three decades, ended with the defeat of the LTTE in May 2009. An estimated 40,000 Tamil civilians were killed in the first five months of 2009 alone.

The case of the soldier who went berserk in Afghanistan and killed 16 people must be utterly baffling to psychiatrists.

Who can imagine what might cause someone in a stable environment such as Kandahar, with reliable role models training you to distrust the entire local population as terrorists, and no access to weapons except automatic machine guns, to flip like that? Still, they say it's always in the tranquil places that these things happen.

The parents of hunger-striking political prisoner Hana al-Shalabi issued a call on March 14 to all Palestinians to protest in support of their daughter, who was on her 28th continuous day without food in protest at her detention without charge or trial by Israel.

The statement said: “We call upon the Palestinian National Authority, the Palestinian national factions, and all Palestinians to take to the streets on Saturday, March 17 and to demonstrate in support of our daughter Hana Shalabi and all administrative detainees.

War by media, says current military doctrine, is as important as the battlefield. This is because the real enemy is the public at home, whose manipulation and deception is essential for starting an unpopular colonial war.

Like the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, attacks on Iran and Syria require a steady drip-effect on readers' and viewers' consciousness. This is the essence of a propaganda that rarely speaks its name.

Analysis

Scott Power is the Senior Principal Research Scientist at Australian Bureau of Meteorology. This article is republished from The Conversation.

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Farmers, environmentalists, irrigators, winemakers, horse breeders, the NSW opposition, and coal seam gas (CSG) campaigners have all been angered by the NSW Coalition government's new land use plans, which give the go-ahead to CSG and coalmining across the state.

Despite Premier Barry O’Farrell’s pre-election promise that key agricultural land would be protected from mining and CSG activity, the government's draft Aquifer Interference Policy and draft Strategic Regional Land Use Plans "have left the gate open", said the NSW Farmers Association.

Resources minister Martin Ferguson introduced the National Radioactive Waste Management Bill into the House of Representatives in February 2010, saying it represented “a responsible and long overdue approach for an issue that impacts on all Australian communities”.

The bill names Muckaty, 120 kilometres north of Tennant Creek in the Northern Territory, as the only site to remain under active consideration for a national nuclear waste dump.

The Northern Territory has become Australia’s refugee detention capital. The federal immigration department’s new plan is to fund extra police for NT detention centres.

The immigration department, Australian Federal Police and the NT police agreed on March 12 to a two-year deal for 94 new police officers, worth $53 million.

NT chief minister Paul Henderson said it was “great news for the people of Darwin”.

Community workers were granted long-awaited pay rises in a historic decision by Fair Work Australia on February 1.

Before this decision, the 16 previous equal pay cases tried to improve pay for sectors that employ mostly women, such as the community services sector. Every case failed.

The Australian Services Union waged a determined and ultimately successful campaign. This decision will give wage rises from 23-45% to youth support, disability, refuge, family support and social workers, and also clerical and administrative staff.

The recently released independent Gonski review into school funding reaffirms what many teachers and parents already knew. Current school funding arrangements are dysfunctional and inequitable and the failure to reform the way we resource our public schools has come at an immense social and economic cost.

Gonski’s recommendations are far from perfect and recommend continued public funding of elite private schools. But they do highlight the need for an immediate injection of funds into public schools.

The problem

Newly appointed foreign minister Bob Carr said in a January blog post: “As [NSW] Premier, I never saw a demonstration that didn’t hurt the side that mounted it. And I was never persuaded by a noisy crowd with a few placards.”

But on March 2, the same week he was appointed, the federal government gave a powerful confirmation of the power of protests.

The latest State of the Climate report by the Australian Bureau of Meteorology and the CSIRO was launched at a weather monitoring station on remote Cape Grim in Tasmania. The location was an apt choice for a report that has very bad news about Australia's continuing failure to respond adequately to the climate change crisis.

One of life’s truisms is the powerful get to kill who they want.

Israel proved this again with days of murderous air strikes on Gaza that began on March 9. By March 13, at least 25 Palestinians were dead and more of Gaza’s devastated infrastructure ruined.

This latest carnage was justified by the fact the first strikes killed members of the Popular Resistance Committee.

New legislation introduced by the federal Labor government will entrench many aspects of the Northern Territory Emergency Response, the NT intervention, for 10 years.

The Senate Community Affairs References Committee released the findings of its inquiry into the Stronger Futures in the NT Bill and related legislation on March 13. It suggests some minor amendments, but leaves the substantive content of the bill unchallenged.

March 11 was the first anniversary of the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami in north-east Japan and the meltdowns, explosions and fires at the Fukushima nuclear plant.

The impacts of the nuclear disaster have been horrendous. More than 100,000 people are still homeless and some will never be able to return.

Homeless, jobless, separated from friends and family, the toll on people's health and mental well-being has been significant — one indication being a sharp rise in suicide rates. One farmer’s suicide note simply read: “I wish there wasn’t a nuclear plant.”

The gas industry is fond of saying that burning gas for energy will help tackle climate change. Australian energy company AGL says burning coal seam gas (CSG) results in 50% less greenhouse gas emissions than coal. Industry advertising campaigns bump up that figure to 70%.

All suggestions of an insipid and apathetic Sydney University political culture have been shot dead over recent weeks by an inspired campaign by staff and students to defeat Vice-Chancellor Michael Spence's plans to cut 340 university staff, and cut courses and the budget by a further $28 million.

Starting with a stunt at Orientation week, which disturbed Spence's opening address at the Great Hall, and a rally and march through the centre of the university, students have ensured that they've kept the pressure on Spence and his management cronies.

Climate activists like Newcastle group Rising Tide have labelled December’s draft Energy White Paper (EWP), which charts the federal government’s plan for Australia’s future energy mix, a “black” paper. The group says the paper “plans to further expand fossil fuel extraction (both domestically and for exports) at the expense of renewable [energy]”.

Beattheblockade.org released the statement below on March 16.

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Today marks the launch of “Beat the Blockade” — a day of action on April 5 to protest the extrajudicial financial blockade of WikiLeaks and raise vital funds for its work to continue.

Jason Briskey is standing as the Socialist Alliance candidate for the northern Queensland seat of Dalrymple in the March 24 Queensland state elections. A resident of Charters Towers, Jason is a single father of nine-year-old daughter Shakira. He was the ALP candidate for Dalrymple in the last state elections.

The Socialist Alliance released the statement below on March 13.

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The 1968 My Lai massacre of at least 500 unarmed civilians in South Vietnam was a turning point in the US war on Vietnam. Most of the victims of the US platoon outrage were women, children (including babies) and elderly people.

It was not until the following year when investigative journalist Seymour Hersh broke the news of this atrocity that it became one of the tipping points in finally ending the US-led war on the Vietnamese people.

The Socialist Alliance released the statement below on March 15.

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Billions of dollars — desperately needed for public health, education, transport, closing the shameful gap between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people and a real response to the climate change crisis — will be wasted if the Gillard Labor government hands down another 1% cut in the corporate tax rate.

Letters

Population growth

I’m tired of hearing how population growth and leaky boats cause the destruction of our environment — as if two-child families, frugality and no migration would make us sustainable.
 
Take any industry you like, sustainability is blatant nonsense. A log truck speeding down our country roads, even if it’s full of plantation trees is incredibly destructive. These trees are ripped out like carrots every few years. How many wooden rocking chairs do you need? This timber is largely intended for woodchips and those are probably earmarked for export.
 

Culture

Yiddpop
Fayvish
Oriente Musik
www.oriente.de

The Yiddish language, developed out of German by Ashkenazi Jews, was the major language of European Jews before the Holocaust. With the development of modern Hebrew in Israel it started to fade.

However, a Yiddish language and cultural revival has been gaining speed, especially since the collapse of Eastern European Stalinist states in the 1990s.  Many Jews are visiting the lands of their forebears and linking up with, for example, surviving klezmer musical traditions.

Follow The Sun Tour
Xavier Rudd
www.xavierrudd.com

Victorian surf/roots musician Xavier Rudd has long been known for his progressive politics and championing of Aboriginal and environmental issues. Green Left Weekly’s Mat Ward caught up with the multi-instrumentalist before his Australasian tour for “Follow The Sun”, the lead single off his forthcoming new album.

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Tell us about the new album.

The oil-rich South American nation of Venezuela is in the midst of a complicated and contradictory process of social transformation. The revolutionary movement, headed by President Hugo Chavez, is redistributing wealth, bringing key industries under state ownership and promoting experiments in direct, participatory democracy. The aim of the Bolivarian revolution is to build a “socialism for the 21st century”.

The Hunger Games Trilogy
Suzanne Collins
Scholastic Press, 2010,
three volumes, $31.

The Hunger Games is young adult fiction for the 99%.

Millions of readers around the world have made the 2008-10 Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins a wildly popular series, and an eagerly-awaited movie version is scheduled for release this year.