Issue 918

News

About 80 activists and artists gathered outside the Queensland Government Executive Building on April 13 to voice their discontent over the axing of the Premier's Literary Awards. The picket was called by Socialist Alliance candidate for the seat of South Brisbane in the April 28 by-election, Liam Flenady, and Hannah Reardon-Smith, both of who are also artists. “Scrapping the Premier’s Literary Awards in the name of budget savings makes no sense,” Reardon-Smith said. “The $244,000 saved amounts to a mere 0.00028% of what we’re told by Campbell Newman is our state’s $85 billion debt.
Coalmine workers employed by the BHP Billiton Mitsubishi Alliance (BMA) in central Queensland's Bowen Basin are standing firm in the face of escalating attacks by their employer. In the latest round, BHP has announced the closure of its Norwich Park coalmine, south-east of Dysart. The move is clearly aimed at putting pressure on the mineworkers to settle their longstanding industrial dispute.
In the largest protest so far in a campaign that has grown steadily since the start of semester, 1500 University of Sydney students and staff rallied on April 4 to protest against the university management's move to sack 360 academic and general staff. The protest marched through the university chanting “staff and students say: no cuts, no way” and “they say cutback we say fightback”. At the end of the protest, 100 students occupied the arts administration building for several hours.
More than 150 people gathered at a public meeting in Hobart on April 3 to discuss the problems and solutions related to Forestry Tasmania, the government-owned company established to manage the state’s forest assets. The audience heard from Associate Professor Graeme Wells, Dr Frank Nicklason, Environment Tasmania’s Dr Phil Pullinger, veteran forest activist Geoff Law and Dr Andrew Lohrey.
A high-energy, loud and prominent rally marched through Adelaide’s central shopping mall on March 31 to show support for victims of extreme climate-change related weather events and demand real climate action. The event was Adelaide’s second annual “March for Survival”. The march ended with a mock arrest of the state energy minister Tom Koutsantonis for “climate crimes”. The charges included ignoring the urgency of the climate science and failing to support plans for solar thermal technology in Port Augusta.
Liam Flenady has been endorsed as the Socialist Alliance’s candidate in the April by-election for the South Brisbane seat of former ALP Queensland premier Anna Bligh. Flenady released the statement below on April 11. * * * Within two weeks of taking office, Premier Campbell Newman and his Liberal National Party (LNP) government show signs of returning to the bad old days of the Joh Bjelke-Petersen regime.
A farmer-led coalition that involves stop coal and coal seam gas (CSG) groups, online protest group GetUp!, a peak wine industry body, a thoroughbred horse association, and even the Country Women's Association, will coordinate a mass protest at NSW parliament on May 1. The protest coalition is furious that the Barry O'Farrell government’s recently released Strategic Regional Land Use Policy fails to meet a pre-election promise to protect key land and water resources from the coal and CSG industries. The draft policy fails protect any area of NSW from coal and CSG interests.
Larrakia woman June Mills gives "welcome to country" to the Darwin rally for refugee rights on April 6, 2012 - the first day of the national convergence for refugee rights. Read the report about the rally. [Read more of Green Left's refugee rights coverage.]
Seven people from multiple Australian cities were arrested today while climbing a hill to make contact with refugees inside the Wickham Point detention centre outside Darwin. About 35 refugee activists from Darwin, Sydney, Perth, Brisbane and Melbourne were at the centre as part of several actions that took place outside the city’s three detention centres over the Easter long weekend for the annual refugee convergence.

Analysis

Malalai Joya, a brave activist from Afghanistan who opposes Western occupation and local Afghan warlords, gives an impassioned message to the Australian government and the Australian people. Among the questions she answers are: Who is Australia supporting? What is the role of Australian troops in the occupation? What should Australian people do?
The nuclear industry has been responsible for some of the crudest racism in Australia's history. This racism dates from the British nuclear bomb tests in the 1950s but it can still be seen today. The British government conducted 12 nuclear bomb tests in Australia in the 1950s, most of them at Maralinga in South Australia. Permission was not sought from affected Aboriginal groups such as the Pitjantjatjara, Yankunytjatjara, Tjarutja and Kokatha. Thousands of people were adversely affected and the impact on Aboriginal people was particularly profound.
So far this year we've raised $36,811 for the Green Left Weekly Fighting Fund. This is a good effort, but well short of our running target. To reach our 2012 target of $250,000 we need to have raised about $80,000 by the end of this month.
Activist Marlene Carrasco says some organisations visit refugees in Sydney’s Villawood detention centre in the same way they might make a trip to the zoo. “You know, [some of the big NGOs], they just come in, say hello, then the zoo visit’s over and they leave,” Carrasco told Green Left Weekly outside Villawood on a gloomy Easter Sunday. The 42-year-old Muslim woman makes the short trip to Villawood every Sunday from Merrylands, the western Sydney suburb to which she migrated in the 1970s. She said visitors needed to do more than just visit refugees — and she should know.
Whatever BHP Billiton wants to expand operations at its huge Olympic Dam copper, gold and uranium mine, Australian authorities are almost frantic to give it. Clear violations of environment laws are not even being allowed to stand in the way. But where governments have shirked their responsibilities, eco-activists have stepped up to defend the environment. On April 3 and 4 a federal court in Adelaide heard a challenge to the mine expansion. A ruling is expected in coming weeks.
So it has been reported that Clive “Stop Taxing Me” Palmer's main private company, Mineralogy, hasn't paid tax for three years. He really is pulling out all stops to be the best cardboard cutout evil capitalist he can. You have to wonder what he'll do next. My guess is call a press conference to announce he's established a paramilitary organisation of Nazi kittens dedicated to wiping out what's left of Australia's native fauna.
There is a lot to celebrate in the legacy of retiring Greens leader Senator Bob Brown. Above all, he has been central to holding together the most successful new electoral party project in Australia that sits significantly to the left of the traditional parties of government, Labor and Liberal-National. The Greens won 1.7 million votes out of 13 million voters in the last federal election.
The decision by the organisers of the three-day Marxism 2012 to invite a broader range of international speakers and allow other socialist groups to set up stalls at its three-day Marxism 2012 conference in Melbourne over the Easter long weekend was a welcome and positive step. The conference is organised each year by Socialist Alternative and its sister organisation, the International Socialist Organisation of Aotearoa/New Zealand.
Two officers identifying themselves as being from “security intelligence” visited my house on April 11 for a chat. If recent headlines are anything to go by (“ASIO eyes green groups” The Age 12/4/12) such surprise visits will become ever more frequent for anti-coal activists like me.
“You have to put more pressure on your government to allow Afghans to decide their own future,” Afghan democracy activist and former MP Malalai Joya told a 150-strong public forum on April 11. “No nation can liberate another nation,” Joya said. “Ten years of war should have made this clear. It's better the troops leave.”
Warren Mundine, a member and former National President of the ALP, and co-convener of the Australian Uranium Association’s Indigenous Dialogue Group, has been promoting the nuclear industry recently. Unfortunately he turns a blind eye to the industry's crude racism, a problem that ought to be core business for the Indigenous Dialogue Group.
Sam Castro from the WikiLeaks Australian Citizens Alliance recently sat down with Christine Assange to talk about her son Julian, WikiLeaks' editor-in-chief, his fight against extradition to Sweden and why fighting for Julian’s freedom is actually part of a much bigger fight to defend democracy in Australia.
In article after article, book after book, scientists and environmentalists have exposed the devastating effects of constant economic expansion on the global environment. The drive to produce ever more “stuff” is filling our rivers with poison and our air with climate-changing gases. The oceans are dying, species are dying out at unprecedented rates, water is running short, and soil is eroding much faster than it can be replaced. But the growth machine pushes on.
There is a country blessed with enormous natural resources whose head of state is a monarch who resides thousands of miles away from its shores. Every time Her Majesty comes to her dominion she lays flowers in the Cenotaph, visits schools where children wave flags that carry in one of their corners a symbol of a colonial past and talks to her subjects in civic centres. During her stay she is dutifully escorted by her representative in the host country and its political, economic and military classes.
Picture this scene — late April 1986, a group of a dozen builders labourers on a cold Melbourne morning. The time is about 7.30am. They were picketing a building site where they’d been sacked for refusing to resign from their union, the Builders Labourers Federation (BLF), which had recently been “deregistered” — a nice term for outlawed under Bob Hawke’s ALP federal government. The ALP premiers of New South Wales and Victoria, Neville Wran and John Cain, joined Hawke’s drive to outlaw the BLF.
Ismail Mirza Jan is a 27-year-old Hazara Afghan locked up in Sydney’s Villawood Detention Centre. After the Taliban killed his father in 1998, Jan fled to Britain and then Ireland in 2001. Eventually refused asylum, Jan came to Sydney by plane in February 2010 in the hope he could find refuge. Instead, Jan had to fight off a deportation attempt in November last year. He says this saved him from retaliation and probable death in Afghanistan.
Far from taking the closure of the Heinz tomato factory sitting down, workers and community members from the 150-strong rural Victorian town of Girgarre are getting organised. After the announcement by Heinz last year that it would shut down its operations in Girgarre, 200 kilometres north of Melbourne, more than 300 people met there in August and formed the Goulburn Valley Food Cooperative (GVFC). See also How 'productivity' is destroying rural Australia
Behind the hype of Australia’s mining boom and “economic stability” lies the very real crisis affecting rural Australia. The impacts of droughts and floods (aggravated by capitalist-induced climate change) are part of the explanation. The real culprits behind the devastation being wreaked on rural communities are big business and the free market fundamentalists running the country in their interests. And unless a fundamental shift in priorities takes place, the situation is set to worsen. See also:

World

Venezuela’s national minimum wage is to rise 32.25% this year, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said on April 7. In a televised address from Miraflores presidential palace in Caracas, Chavez said the wage rise would take place in two phases, ― first on May 1 and then a further rise on September 1.
Literature Nobel laureate and Germany's most famous living author Gunter Grass labelled Israel a threat to "already fragile world peace" in his poem “Was gesagt werden muss” (“What must be said”). The work, published by German daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung on April 4, accuses "the West" of hypocrisy in relation to the arming of Israel. In publishing the poem, Grass, who regards himself as "irrevocably connected to the country of Israel” has made a big contribution to breaking a long standing German taboo about publicly criticising Israel's warmongering.
The new, interim president of Mali is holding out the possibility of “all out war” against the rebellion of the oppressed, Touareg nationality that has swept the north of the western African country. Dioncounda Traore took over the presidency on April 12 in a deal with the military officers who overthrew the elected president on March 21. He immediately called on the rebels to "return to the fold and to strengthen this nation instead of dividing it". BBC reported on April 12 that Traore said if they did not yield, "we will not hesitate to wage a total and relentless war".
Power loom workers in Faisalabad, a big industrial centre in central Pakistan, launched a series of strikes and demonstrations in mid-2010. Six leaders of the organisation of power loom workers, the Labour Qaumi Movement (LQM), were arrested by the police. The six were charged under anti-terror laws and sentenced to a total of almost 490 years' jail (served concurrently). The jailed LQM leaders are also members of the Labour Party Pakistan (LPP).
There’s no election quite like a French presidential contest. It is a six-month-long race in which nearly every political stable usually has a runner and where the handicapping system is less rigged against “outsiders” than in many other countries. It puts a premium on personality: a candidate who strikes voters as fresh, sincere and “not a politician” has a chance to win more support than in other elections.
Tintaya is an open-cut copper and gold mine 4000 metres high in the district of Yauri, Espinar province, southern Peru. It is a spectacle of modern industrial devastation that contrasts jarringly with the timeless beauty of the surrounding altiplano landscape. Finally, after years of aggravated environmental abuse, the mine's owner, Swiss-based Xstrata, will be investigated by Peruvian authorities. After the discovery of large deposits, a copper mine was established at Tintaya in the mid-1980s. Extractive operations were hugely expanded when BHP bought the site in 1996.
About 215,000 public service workers struck on March 27 as a warning to their employers a day before talks between the public sector union and the bosses. Two weeks earlier, 130,000 took part in the first round of strikes. The award being negotiated by the United Services Union (known as ver.di) covers more than 2 million public service workers from national to local level. Ver.di is Germany's second biggest union, with a membership of about 2.1 million people.
“The Tsolakoglou Occupation government has literally crushed my prospects for survival, so far based on a decent pension, which I alone (without supplementation from the State) financed over 35 years.” That was how the suicide note left by 77-year-old retired pharmacist Dimitris Christoulas began. It likened the current government to the collaborationist regime during the German occupation in World War II, led by Georgios Tsolakoglou. He was arrested and tried for his role.
Czech writer Milan Kundera's truism, "the struggle of people against power is the struggle of memory against forgetting", described East Timor. The day before I set out to film clandestinely there in 1993, I went to Stanfords map shop in London's Covent Garden. "Timor?" said a hesitant sales assistant. We stood staring at shelves marked "South-East Asia". "Forgive me, where exactly is it?" After a search he came up with an old aeronautical map with blank areas stamped, "Relief Data Incomplete". He had never been asked for East Timor, which is just north of Australia.
Citizens of the Union of Myanmar, formerly and more commonly known as Burma, went to the polls on April 1 for crucial by-elections that have generated much attention. The by-elections, to fill a few dozen seats in the 664-member parliament, elected leading democracy figure Aung San Suu Kyi to the constituency of Kawhmu, sending the democracy activist into the lower house of parliament. Kawhmu is a small, rural farming town with no paved roads, electricity or running water. It is just one of many impoverished towns that litter Myanmar.
As a visitor, you quickly realise that New York City is unsentimental. New Yorkers are always looking forward. It’s in the nature of Wall Street. No wonder the Occupy movement started here in downtown Manhattan, the financial district. As in all other US cities, there is a dramatic contrast between rich and poor, a Third World within the First World. Yet only 17% of the population thinks this is a problem: most have bought the American Dream that perhaps next year they too will become millionaires. But for many of the poor, it will remain bleak.
Indonesia has been rocked by an explosion of popular protest against fuel price rises right around the country. Indonesian Police Watch says between March 23 and 26 alone, there were 1063 demonstrations, 16 police stations were damaged and 750 protesters were arrested. Green Left Weekly's Peter Boyle spoke to Dominggus Oktavanius, secretary-general of the Peoples Democratic Party (PRD) of Indonesia on April 4 about the outbreak of mass unrest. * * *

Culture

Musician and activist Phil Monsour is releasing his latest 12-song CD, Ghosts of Deir Yassin after the mobilisations for Palestinian Land Day on March 30. The CD is available online at Cdbaby and other outlets.
In a recent interview with Hip-Hop DX, a hoodie-clad Nas exhibited an understandable amount of despair at the case of African American youth Trayvon Martin, the shot dead by George Zimmerman while walking home from the shops in Florida in February. The US hip hop artist said: “You never want to hear that kind of news. When it happens, you remember how many Trayvon incidents happen everyday all over the world... “It doesn’t seem like the race problem will ever get solved. I like to be optimistic, but it doesn’t seem like it’ll ever get solved.”
In a new development for progressive media, Green Left Weekly has launched GreenLeftTV, an online video resource to complement GLW's newspaper and website. It aims to provide another avenue for radical pro-people and pro-planet news and analysis.
The Lorax Starring Danny Devito, Zac Efron, Taylor Swift & Ed Helms, directed by Chris Melandandri and Kyle Balda Now showing in cinemas. Adapted from the 1971 Dr Seuss book of the same name, The Lorax is a great analogy for the destructive nature of capitalism. The story is set in “Thneedville”, a walled city in which everything is made of plastic, metal and synthetic material. It is controlled by the mayor and owner of a bottled oxygen company, Aloysious O’Hare, who sells the residents their bottled water.