Issue 917

News

Photos from refugee rights rally, April 6, 2012 in Darwin. Read the full report here.
The near-continuous introduction, change and reversal of several federal government policies on asylum seekers arriving by boat have had a severely damaging effect on refugees held in the Northern Immigration Detention Centre in Darwin. An Iranian man who arrived on Christmas Island just after the government announced it would “swap” 800 asylum seekers in Australia for 4000 refugees from Malaysia, said he was told every day he would be deported. “It was the worst two months of my life.”
About 120 refugee rights activists from multiple Australian cities gathered outside the Northern Territory’s parliament house in Darwin today to protest against mandatory detention and the three detention centres located around the region. The event kicked off protests that are taking place at the detention facilities over the Easter long weekend for the annual refugee convergence. Each year refugee activists gather at a place in Australia where refugees are held in remote or difficult-to-reach location.
On the first day of the Darwin convergence for refugee rights, activists visited the Darwin Airport Lodge (DAL) after rallying in the city.
The Queensland ALP “snatched disaster from the jaws of defeat,” socialist activist Gary MacLennan told a public forum at the Activist Centre here on April 3. The forum, sponsored by Green Left Weekly, discussed the Liberal National Party’s (LNP) rise to power in Queensland, the crisis in the ALP and what this meant for the labour movement. MacLennan said: “When the Queensland people said no to the [Anna] Bligh Labor government, they were not saying yes to an LNP government.
1500 Sydney University students and staff rallied on April 4 to protest against management's move to sack 360 staff. Protesters marched through the university, culminating in 100 students occupying the Arts administration building in opposition to the attacks.
The Safe Food Foundation (SFF) released the statement below on April 3. * * * Slater & Gordon Solicitors today lodged a claim in the WA Supreme Court on behalf of an organic farmer seeking to recover loss and damage allegedly caused by a genetically modified canola farmer neighbour. Steve Marsh, an organic farmer from Kojonup, Western Australia, suffered contamination by genetically modified (GM) material on his farm in late 2010 leading to the loss of his organic certification and loss of income.
Video by Michael Kubler Street theatre from the "Adelaide March 4 Survival" on March 31. The protest was organised by CLEAN (the Climate Emergency Action Network). The action connected the dots between extreme weather and climate change, and demanding solar thermal for Port Augusta.
About 100 teachers, parents and concerned community members rallied outside NSW parliament on March 29 to protest against the relocation of Gosford Public Schools to the grounds of Henry Kendall High School. Speakers at the rally included Unions NSW secretary Mark Lennon, NSW Teachers Federation president Maurie Mulheron, NSWTF officer Debbie Westacott, NSW Greens Legislative Council member John Kaye as well as staff and parents from Gosford Public School.
Poultry industry union delegates in the National Union of Workers (NUW) and supporters met on March 27 to launch a report outlining the basis for the union’s “Better Jobs 4 Better Chicken” campaign. Late last year, NUW members at Baiada Poultry took strike action over conditions of employment and wages, citing widespread use of cash-in-hand work at rates well below the minimum wage.
On the afternoon of March 30, Friends of the Earth campaigner Cam Walker said on Twitter: “This has been the week from hell for climate change politics in Vic. There's still a few working hours, maybe a nuke power plant is next?” Climate targets, standards abandoned
Rallies were held in Sydney and Melbourne on March 30 in solidarity with the Global March to Jerusalem that will take place on the historic Palestine Land Day 2012. This marks the events of March 1976, after the Israeli authorities confiscated thousands of dunums of private and public land in majority Palestinian areas.
About 200 people attended a meeting on Sri Lanka organised by People for Human Rights and Equality, a group of people of Sri Lankan origin now living in Australia. The meeting was addressed by Basil Fernando, a director of the Asian Human Rights Commission, and Britto Fernando, co-convener of the Platform For Freedom, a coalition of groups in Sri Lanka campaigning for freedom of expression and the right to live.
The Socialist Alliance (SA) pushed ahead with its campaign to put socialist politics before the Queensland electorate, as the ALP government faced annihilation in the state election held on March 24. Although everyone knew the government was unpopular, the sheer size of the Liberal National Party (LNP) win took all commentators by surprise. The election result has left Labor with only seven or eight seats compared with the LNP’s probable 78. The Bligh ALP government suffered a record two-party swing away of 15%.
Photos by Ali Bakhtiavandi
The NSW Coalition government is pushing ahead with plans to relocate Gosford Public School and sell the school site to commercial developers. The site has waterfront views and is considered prime real estate. The decision comes despite a 10,000 strong petition against the plan collected by the Gosford community. Parents, teachers, students and supporters held a protest outside NSW parliament on March 29 while the petition was being read inside.
“I used to go fishing. I used to go to community meetings. I stopped doing that. I am tired because most of the time I am doing overtime.” Gamal Babiker, Cleaner. Cleaners working for contracting giant Spotless walked from Chadstone to Melbourne’s CBD on March 26 to highlight the brutal workloads that force them to walk the same huge distances in their jobs every single day.
The campaign to protect Western Australia's Kimberley region from gas extraction will be the topic of an April 19 meeting in Sydney. WA Greens Senator Rachel Siewert, The Wilderness Society national director Lyndon Schneiders and Beyond Zero Emissions' Geoff Cameron will address the public forum, Saving the Kimberley: Our Land or Gasland?
Anti-war activists gathered outside a VIP breakfast briefing of visiting Israeli military advisor, Yaakov Katz, on March 28 to condemn his support for an Israeli strike on Iran. The breakfast, which included a lot of Israeli security people with cameras, was organised by the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies. Katz, a former commando in the Israeli Defence force, has written extensively on Iran and is in Sydney to promote the Israeli government’s view that a military strike on Iran would be a “viable military option”.

Analysis

“I was a people smuggler,” said Hungarian refugee and refugee rights activist Peter Farago to a public meeting of about 70 people in Melbourne on March 27. The public meeting, titled “Smuggled to Freedom: behind the anti-people smuggling rhetoric”, was organised by the Refugee Action Collective Victoria to expose the rhetoric behind the government’s anti-people smuggling campaign.
This article first appeared in Tracker magazine on March 19. * * * Aboriginal leaders in the Northern Territory have issued a strong warning that the Australian government’s new land grab in the form of the proposed 10-year extension of the intervention will send many communities into a dangerous downward spiral with still more death and misery.
A new report by an international research body has called for detention of refugee children to be outlawed and for all countries to “ensure the rights and liberty” of children affected by immigration detention. Australian immigration detention figures released on March 25 showed that even after the federal government “completes” transferring children to “community detention”, hundreds of underage asylum seekers will stay in immigration detention centres.
The death of 21-year-old Brazilian student Roberto Laudisio Curti in a central Sydney street, after six police tasered him at least three times, has highlighted the rising use of Tasers by police and security in Australia and worldwide. The deadly confrontation with Curti on March 18 has now been revealed as a case of “mistaken identity” over the theft of a packet of biscuits. Curti was also capsicum sprayed, and was running from police when he was tasered multiple times in the back.
Global opposition to unconventional gas mining is growing fast. Impacts on water, food, health and the environment, associated seismic risks and climate change contribution are just some of the many reasons. Meanwhile, the industry is growing. Its potential growth in Australia is enormous, with large known reserves and billions to be made.
The Cocos (Keeling) Islands is a tiny group of coral atolls in the Indian Ocean 2800 kilometres north-west of Perth and 900 kilometres from Java. It has a population of about 600. These islands were nominally a British territory between 1858 and 1955, when they were transferred by a British act of parliament to Australia. Yet for the next 17 years, the Australian government allowed the islands to operate as a private fiefdom of the Clunies-Ross family — just as the British had for 100 years before then.
A movement for Aboriginal sovereignty has galvanised around the February 12 formation of the Nyoongar Tent Embassy in Perth. The embassy was directly inspired by two developments: the 40th anniversary of the Aboriginal Tent Embassy in Canberra, which promoted a national push for Aboriginal sovereignty, and the February 8 report about negotiations between the state government and the South West Aboriginal Land and Sea Council (SWALSC) about Nyoongar native title.
Phil Harrington is an economist, climate change policy analyst, consultant and activist with Climate Action Hobart. Green Left Weekly’s Susan Austin asked him about his views on the federal government’s carbon pricing package and how to respond to it. What do you think of the carbon pricing scheme that is being introduced? It’s way too little, way too late. It is designed to give the appearance of action and is being used by the government to justify the position “we’ve fixed that now” — but in fact nothing is fixed.
When you are the Only Democracy in the Middle EastTM you don’t need to worry about petty little things such as human rights. And so ABC Online reported on March 27 that Israel has severed all ties with the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC). The final outrage that forced Israel to cut ties was a UNHRC vote in favour of investigating whether illegal Israeli settlements in the Palestinian West Bank were, in fact, infringing the rights of Palestinians.
The Australian system of mandatory detention for refugees is not, contrary to official government rhetoric, based on a policy of security. Rather, it is based on an age-old policy of demeaning and scapegoating foreigners. Under international law, Australia is obliged to respect the right of refugees and settle them if they face genuine persecution, regardless of how they arrive in Australia or whether they have identification. But the policy of mandatory detention for asylum seekers subverts these rights.
In several places around world, students are rising up, fighting for their rights and demanding real change. In Quebec, university students have mobilised in record numbers to oppose attacks on their education. The government of Premier Jean Charest plans to introduce a massive 75% hike in tertiary education fees — on the back of fee increases of C$100 a year for the past five years. In response, 200,000 students and supporters marched to oppose the cuts on March 22. By March 29, about 300,000 students had gone on strike, boycotting their classes to protest the fee hikes.
The Australian Labor Party (ALP) in Queensland is in its deepest crisis in its 120-year history following the disastrous defeat in the state elections on March 24. A swing of more than 15% to the Liberal-National Party (LNP) has resulted in the Queensland ALP's record lowest primary vote of 26.5%. Labor is likely to win seven, or at most eight, seats in Queensland’s parliament of 89. The LNP will take 77 or 78. This is a worse position for the ALP than the Joh Bjelke-Petersen regime's high point in 1974, when Queensland Labor was reduced to 11 seats.
After gaining a huge majority in the Queensland parliament, the new Liberal National Party (LNP) government is preparing its assault on unions, the public service and the environment. Newly elected Premier Campbell Newman wasted no time in showing his intentions to escalate the neoliberal offensive, already started by the defeated Anna Bligh Labor government. He began by appointing leading Liberal Party honchos to key bureaucratic jobs in the administration.
The day after the Queensland election was a very dark day for the state. The unprecedented swing to the Liberal National Party (LNP) will mean huge cuts to the public sector and brutal attacks on unions. It will mean increased environmental degradation and unnecessary, destructive development. It will mean dangerous coal seam gas will spread further across the state and coal production will rise even though Australia is already the biggest exporter in the world. It will mean the ruin of Gladstone harbour due to dredging carried out to benefit the fossil fuel industry.
Green Left Weekly's Susan Austin spoke to forest activist Miranda Gibson, who has lived for more than 100 days on a platform 60 metres up a Tasmanian old-growth tree. The “Observer Tree” has brought international attention to the campaign to protect Tasmania's forests. Gibson has vowed to continue her tree-sit until the campaign wins. * * * What prompted you to climb the tree and take this courageous action? What do you hope to achieve?
University of Western Australia history professor Jenny Gregory explains her concerns with the Barnett government plan to redevelop the Perth foreshore. This interview was given to GreenLeftTV after the rally of up to 800 people on February 26, 2012 based on the talk she gave to the rally. Subscribe to GreenLeftTV YouTube channel.
Like many single parents, Helen Said and Ewen Kloas have spent years fighting their way out of the casual labour poverty trap to rebuild their lives and provide for their families.
This article was originally posted at Left Flank on March 26. * * * When watching the last few episodes of US cable TV series The Walking Dead, it struck me that the title has a double meaning, that Sheriff Rick and the other survivors of the zombie apocalypse are also among the dead who roam the planet’s surface.

World

Ever since the US-supported coup attempt against President Hugo Chavez in Venezuela failed in April 2002, Washington has been pursuing a variety of strategies to remove the overwhelmingly popular South American head of state from power.
Occupy Wall Street’s original Declaration of the City of New York, last September, listed a litany of issues, from foreclosures and bailouts to outsourcing and cruelty to animals. But it barely mentioned the environment and was silent on global warming and climate change. A resolution passed by consensus at a general assembly (GA) in January more than rectified the omission. It said: “We are at a dangerous tipping point in history. The destruction of our planet and climate change are almost at a point of no return.”
A new report released on March 28 said climate change has already led to changes in the frequency and severity of extreme weather, such as heat waves and heavy precipitation events, in many parts of the world, ClimateCentral.org said that day. The report was released by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change(IPCC).
A month after a Japanese distributor decided to stop carrying Ahava cosmetic products because of the company’s fraudulent practices and its profiteering from Israel's occupation, a major Norwegian retail chain announced it would also stop sales of Ahava products. Ahava products are made in the illegal West Bank settlement of Mitzpe Shalem, with resources taken from the Dead Sea in the West Bank. The cosmetics line profits that settlement and the settlement of Kalia, both of which are co-owners of Ahava.
Scientists using historical satellite data have found that ice cover on the Great Lakes, a collection of freshwater lakes in north-east North America around the Canada-United States border, was reduced by 71% between 1973 and 2010. The study, published in the Journal of Climate last month, found a substantial downward ice cover trend in all five Great Lakes and the associated Lake St Clair.
The general membership of Carleton University’s Graduate Students’ Association voted overwhelmingly on March 21 and 22 in support of the Ottawa university divesting, via its pension fund, from companies complicit in the illegal military occupation of Palestine. The plebiscite question, which has provisionally passed by 72.6%, marks the first time in Canada, and what is believed to be the second time globally, that a student union has taken a position via a direct vote in support of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israeli violations of international law.
While WikiLeaks was preoccupied with preparing its new “The Global Intelligence Files”, where we released on February 27 actual documents from the privatised spying world in collaboration with 25 newspapers, Swedish tabloid Expressen was preoccupied with filling its paper with false reports based on thin air. In late February, Expressen claimed WikiLeaks was preparing a “smear campaign against Sweden” and cited as sources both a WikiLeaks "insider" and a WikiLeaks “internal memo”.
Portgual's largest trade union confederation staged a 24-hour strike on March 22 in defence of workers' rights and against European Union-mandated austerity, the Morning Star said that day. Tens of thousands of trade unionists and their allies rallied in the centre of Lisbon in the afternoon.
George Galloway, running for the anti-war and anti-austerity Respect party, won a sensational victory in the Bradford West by-election on March 29. The scale of Galloway's win, turning a safe Labour seat into a 10,000 vote majority, is without precedent in modern British politics. All those who oppose austerity and war should be walking a little taller. Galloway and Respect fought a campaign on two simple premises: opposition to wars abroad and opposition to austerity at home.
A huge rally was held at Paris's Bastille monument in support of Left Front presidential candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon on March 18, the Morning Star said the next day. More than 100,000 trade unionists, members of the French Communist Party (PCF) and disaffected former members of the Socialist Party (PS) marched under red balloons and flags. Melenchon said: "We're going to make this election on April 22 a civic insurrection. "The insurrection is ... the most indispensable of duties in this France disfigured by social, territorial, cultural and gender inequality."
Elections in the German state of Saarland on March 25 have dealt a heavy blow to the federal coalition government of Chancellor Angela Merkel. Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU) kept its 12-year hold on power, holding steady at 35.2% of the small state’s voters. But Merkel's allies at a federal level ― the neoliberal Free Democratic Party (FDP) ― were wiped out at the state polls. The FDP’s share of the vote dropped from 9.2% in 2009 to 1.2%, well below the 5% required to enter parliament.
We mustn't panic, but according to a front page headline in the Daily Mail we're being "HELD TO RANSOM BY 1,000 TANKER DRIVERS". What bad luck, that 1000 tanker drivers have become Somali pirates. I suppose they had to re-train because of redundancies in the piracy trade due to new technology, such as email ransom notes and digital planks. But they've perfected a new method of ransom, which is holding a strike ballot and counting the votes.
The Papua New Guinean government has backed down in the face of a society-wide revolt over its new power to suspend judges. Prime Minister Peter O'Neill said the law would not be implemented until public consultations were carried out. Thousands of students from the University of PNG rallied in Port Moresby on March 23. Students said in a statement that the law undermines the constitution by removing the separation between the government and courts.
Mohamed Ibrahim Nugud, secretary general of the Sudanese Communist Party (SCP), died on March 22 in London, where he was undergoing medical treatment for an inoperable brain tumour. Thousands of people joined the funeral procession to farewell Nugud on March 25. His body was taken from the airport past his home and the SCP headquarters before being buried in the Al Farouq cemetery. Leaders of other opposition parties and representatives from South Sudan attended.
The killing of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin by a self-appointed "neighborhood watch captain" has provoked anguish, rage and now, at long last, resistance. We've seen rallies, demonstrations and walkouts at dozens upon dozens of high schools in Florida alone. Even more remarkably, this resistance has found expression in the world of sports. An impressive group of NBA players, from Carmelo Anthony to Steve Nash to the leaders of the NBA Players Association, have spoken out and called for justice.
The murder of Trayvon Martin in a gated community in Florida has dramatised the depths of racism in United States society. Martin was young, Black and male — that was enough for neighbourhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman to decide he was "suspicious", to stalk him and eventually to pull the trigger. African American families understand that Martin's fate could happen to their own children. That's why so many young Black men remember the time they had "the talk" — when family or friends tried to prepare them for dealing with racism in general and the police in particular.
Since the global economic crisis broke out in 2008, the many-sided protest movement against neoliberal austerity has yet to gain enough strength to force any real retreats from governments doing the bidding of capitalism’s ruling elites. But the March 29 general strike against the new labour law in Spain — hugely supported and backed by often vast demonstrations in 111 cities and towns — could well point to a turning of the tide.
Hamza has memories that no 17-year-old should have. Last year, he was arrested in the middle of the night on suspicion that he threw stones at Israeli settlers near his school in the West Bank. He was handcuffed, blindfolded and beaten on the way to interrogation. “They asked me when did I throw stones, and how, what time exactly, at night or in the morning, and who was there with me,” he said. “When they took me to the prison they put me in a small cell. They used to throw the food through the space between the door and the floor.
In what has been described as New Zealand's most high-profile and bitter industrial dispute since the early 1990s, waterside workers went back to work, after a four-week strike. Auckland's port company agreed to end its lockout of 235 workers on March 30, and pay workers a week's wages for being illegally locked out. The New Zealand Herald reported that Maritime Union president Garry Parsloe told a huge workers' meeting: “You'll all go back to your jobs and until you go back you'll all get paid. “Everything we have done has fallen into place, thanks to your solidarity.”
The African country of Mali suffered a coup d'etat against its elected government on March 21. Mali, a landlocked former French colony in western Africa with a population of 15 million, was one month away from a national election. The coup was carried out by the country’s armed forces.
Syria has been rocked by fresh violence despite the agreement of all five permanent United Nations Security Council members and the Syrian government to a six-point peace plan. The plan calls for a “Syrian-led political process to address the aspirations and concerns of the Syrian people”. Unlike previous Western-backed initiatives, the proposal does not call for the resignation of Syrian President Bashar Assad. It calls on the regime to release arbitrarily detained people, ensure freedom of movement for journalists and to respect freedom of association.
On March 14 last year, four days before the NATO intervention in Libya, there was a less publicised Western-supported military intervention. A Saudi-led force invaded Bahrain to put down democracy protests against that country’s absolute monarchy. Despite the repression, fresh protests have broken out. Press TV said on March 27 that thousands of Bahrainis rallied calling for the overthrow of King Hamad bin Isa and his Al Khalifa dynasty.

Culture

OMG I'm Queer http://minus18.org.au OMG I’m Queer is a street magazine and resource produced by Minus 18. It is designed for same sex attracted and gender diverse young people living in the City of Melbourne. Created by and for young people, OMG I’m Queer takes on sexuality and gender identity, using real life experiences. It includes contributions from comedian Tom Ballard, youth mental health foundation Headspace and trans youth group Ygender.
Labor’s Conflict: Big Business, Workers & the Politics of Class By Tom Bramble & Rick Kuhn Cambridge University Press, 2011, 226 pp., $39.95 Trade Unionism in Australia: A History from Flood to Ebb Tide By Tom Bramble Cambridge University Press, 2008 293 pp., $49.95 Tom Bramble and Rick Kuhn, through Bramble’s Trade Unionism in Australia and their jointly-authored Labor’s Conflict, offer substantial histories of two very important elements of the workers’ movement in Australia.
More than a year after the start of the “Arab Spring”, it is possible to draw up a provisional balance sheet. Since January last year, popular rebellions have deposed a number of hated dictators across the region. It began with popular rebellions in Egypt and Tunisia, which spread to Yemen and Bahrain and through to the conflicts in Libya and Syria. All of these rebellions, to varying degrees, reflected the emergence of powerful mass movements causing concern for imperialism and its regional allies — principally Israel, Saudi Arabia and Qatar.
Wrecking Ball Bruce Springsteen Columbia www.brucespringsteeen.net Bruce Springsteen is back. And according to fan and detractor alike, he's angry as hell. Given the times in which we find ourselves, this should be unsurprising. What is surprising, however, is the musical method he's chosen to express this anger: a sound and structure that is at once vintage Springsteen and new territory for the Boss.