Issue 919

News

Stand Fast, an anti-war group of military veterans, released the statement below on April 24. * * * “You do not honor the dead through mindless flag waving, rewriting history or promoting new wars,” said Hamish Chitts, East Timor veteran and spokesperson for Stand Fast — a group of veterans and former military personnel who oppose the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
No Fracking WAy held its first rally against fracking and unconventional gas extraction in the state on April 21. The demand was for a moratorium on unconventional gas until it could be proven safe for human health and the environment. The state's environment minister has recently given the go-ahead for mining companies to frack the Perth Basin without the Environmental Protection Agency's assessment or approval.
Mental health workers have been striking for two hours at a time in rolling stoppages around Victoria since April 10. The campaign is in support of a new enterprise bargaining agreement. Key elements of the claim include a 16% pay rise over three years and improved staffing. After seven months of negotiation, the government has still not budged on its position of capping pay rises at a below-inflation 2.5% a year. The union covering mental health workers, the Health and Community Service Union (HACSU), has negotiated with the employers via Fair Work Australia.
The Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) was forced into compulsory arbitration in December over the primary Victorian Public Service Agreement (VPS), but continues to campaign on several other agreements.   There is still no outcome of the compulsory arbitration from the VPS, which covers 30,000 state public servants.   For agencies such as the Victorian SES, parliament and parks, enterprise bargaining agreements expired mid-last year. But negotiations were stalled because the government still insists on a cap of 2.5% a year on public sector pay rises.  
The Construction Forestry Mining Energy Union (CFMEU) has demanded that BHP Billiton surrender its lease on the Norwich Park coalmine, near Dysart in Central Queensland. The BHP Mitsubishi Alliance (BMA) combine announced early this month that it would shut down the mine because it was allegedly losing money. BMA has laid partial blame on the long-running industrial dispute with mineworkers in Queensland for losses at Norwich Park and other mines in the state.
Pay Justice Action released the statement below on April 19. * * * Pay Justice Action (PJA), a grassroots activist group campaigning for equal pay, applauds the initiative of the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) for making insecure work a focus for the whole union movement.
About 240 people attended a forum on “Wikileaks, Assange & defending democracy” on April 19. Presented in partnership with the WikiLeaks Australian Citizens' Alliance (WACA), the forum argued that conversations about WikiLeaks and its editor-in-chief Julian Assange are about much more than the organisation and the individual behind it. They encompass freedom of speech and the press, whistleblower protection, government transparency, the underlying tenets of our democracy and civil rights. 
Campaigners against the mining companies’ push to open up the Kimberley region in WA to vast gas and mineral exploitation told a public meeting on April 19 that this was the “Franklin Dam campaign of our time”. The forum “Saving the Kimberley: Our Land or Gasland?” was organised by Stop Coal Seam Gas, Sydney.
Supporters of WikiLeaks and Julian Assange protested outside the Sydney Convention Centre on April 20 as Attorney General Nicola Roxon spoke inside at the Commonwealth Regional Law conference. Earlier, three activists entered the conference venue and chanted slogans in support of Assange outside the room where Roxon was speaking. They continued for about 10 minutes before they were asked to leave.
The Support Assange and WikiLeaks Coalition released the statement below on April 19. * * * The Attorney-General Nicola Roxon will be speaking at a conference in Sydney on Friday April 20 on the subject of “Rule of Law and the Commonwealth Principles – Terrorism, Emergency Laws and Human Rights”.
”No new coal! Save the Great Barrier Reef!" was the main theme of the rally held outside Queensland parliament on World Heritage Day, April 18. Six Degrees and Greenpeace Brisbane called the rally, which attracted about 50 people. The rally came after the April 12 announcement by deputy premier Jeff Seeney that Gladstone harbour, which is facing environmental destruction due to coal industry development, might be removed from World Heritage listing.
About 50 people attended an April 17 rally in King George Square to mark a global day of action against military spending. The rally, organised by Just Peace Brisbane, called for Australian military funding to be radically cut back in the upcoming federal budget. “If the world cut military spending by just one-half of 1%, we could save the lives of 6 million children," Peter Arndt, from the Catholic Justice and Peace Commission, told the audience.
The NSW Parliament passed a motion on April 4 in support of pro-democracy protests in Bahrain. The motion condemned the Bahrain government's repression of protesters, attacks on doctors, killing of 60 protesters by security forces, destruction of 40 Shi'a mosques, expulsion of journalists, and widespread use of torture.

Analysis

Geelong Trades Hall secretary Tim Gooden released the statement below on April 27 about the move by the federal government to put the Health Services Union (HSU) East into administration. * * * I am very concerned by the announcement of minister Bill Shorten that the federal government will seek to have the HSU East put under the control of an appointed administrator.
The Darwin Asylum Seeker Support and Advocacy Network released the statement below on April 24. * * * A 10-year-old year old Vietnamese asylum seeker has provided a community visitor from the Darwin Asylum Seeker Support and Advocacy Network (DASSAN) with a letter pleading for help. The 10-year-old girl arrived in Australia by boat in March 2011 and has been detained in three different centres located in three different states since arriving in Australia.
A Labor MP, escort services, huge salary packages, allegations of nepotism and police probes have all been connected to the ongoing Health Services Union (HSU) scandal. The scandal involves allegations against top HSU officials, who are claimed to have misused union funds paid by union members such as ambulance drivers, nurses and health support workers.
Green Left Weekly's Rachel Evans spoke to Damien Cahill, vice-president of the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) at the University of Sydney about the campaign against staff and other cuts. Cahill is a senior lecturer in the Political Economy department at the university. What level of cuts to teaching staff is Sydney University trying to make?
The Socialist Alliance released the statement below on April 20. * * * In the space of a few days, 350 Toyota workers, including some who have spent decades working for the company, have been axed in appalling scenes at the Altona plant, west of Melbourne.
In recent weeks, a boat with more than 120 refugees was forced back to Indonesia under Australian orders, 10 Falun Gong members from China docked at Darwin’s wharves and another boat made several distress calls to Australia before vanishing. The first boat was on its way to Christmas Island when it began taking on water. A Singapore-flagged ship rescued the 120 Afghan and Iranian refugees onboard and took them back to Merak, Indonesia.
Right now, there is an opportunity to slash Australia’s carbon emissions by 5 million tonnes a year in one stroke. The city of Port Augusta in South Australia has all the right conditions to make it Australia’s first baseload renewable energy hub. The two coal-fired power stations at Port Augusta are getting old. Industry experts say they may be forced to close as soon as 2015.
Another week, another atrocity committed by occupying forces in Afghanistan kindly captured on camera by the perpetrators. Isn't technology fantastic? Back in the bad old days of the Vietnam War, intrepid war reporters had to risk their lives in the middle of war zones to get images of terrible crimes committed by the occupying force. Now, with these wonderful smart phones and cheap, easy to use digital cameras, the bastards can do it themselves.
Over the past few years it appears that debate and conflict about climate policy has dominated Australian politics. But the appearance is different to the reality. There is no serious debate between the two big parties about climate change. A serious debate would be grounded in the climate science, which says we must move to a zero carbon economy at emergency speed.
In his notorious April 11 speech, “The End of the Age of Entitlement”, shadow treasurer Joe Hockey said that if the Liberal-Nationals were elected to federal government they would slash Australia's already battered welfare system. “The Age of Entitlement is over,” Hockey said with a sly smirk. “We should not take this as cause for despair. What we have seen is that the market is mandating policy changes that common sense and years of lectures from small government advocates have failed to achieve.”
All I really want to say is “thank you”. And there is plenty I want to thank you for. I want to thank you for not cancelling your April 18 evening conversation with Martin Flanagan at the Melbourne Wheeler Centre to discuss your new book Am I black enough for you? It was a very powerful and moving event to be part of; a reaffirming lesson of the importance of courage, humility and respect. As we all found out, it was no easy decision for you to go ahead with the event.
Hundreds of committed citizens of Keerrong and The Channon form a human map of our roads and creeks. The legal system and governments have failed us. Now we're taking a stand. We won't let gas miners contaminate our water, air and land with toxic chemicals. Through grassroots public meetings and surveys, we reached a 99% majority decision to close our roads and valleys to coal seam gas mining.
Prime minister Julia Gillard’s April 17 speech on Afghanistan was widely heralded as a change of policy. It is and it isn’t. It does set out a schedule for a partial withdrawal of troops — thereby bringing Australia belatedly into line with the US drawdown of troops by 2014. But it also affirms that Australia, like the US, will not withdraw all its troops.
Tasmania is facing a series of big, interlinked problems. These include: • a health system in crisis, • job losses in other public services causing big service inadequacies and unacceptable workloads and stress on frontline staff, • bleeding of skilled professionals and new graduates to other states, • the highest unemployment rate in the nation, • an economic recession, and • a rising cost of living.

World

Activists have been campaigning to prevent the removal of public housing in the Auckland suburb of Glenn Innes since April 2. Many Tenants who have lived in the homes for decades have been evicted. Contractors are preparing to remove the homes for a new housing development. The development will reduce public housing, and evicted tenants have not gotten any guarantees of a right to return. Tenants, local community members and activists in the Mana Party organised to try to stop the removals,. They have peacefully blockaded and occupied the empty houses in protest.
The Vatican has attacked the largest group of American nuns for allegedly promoting radical feminism. It appointed a bishop to “reorganise” the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR). This is in stark contrast to how the church has handled its ongoing sexual abuse scandal among its men.  
Air France demanded to know the religion of a passenger on an April 15 flight from Nice to Tel Aviv and removed her because she was not Jewish. The incident, confirmed by an Air France official, may violate international and European law by subjecting prospective passengers to illegal religious discrimination. In recent days, Israeli authorities reacted to an effort by hundreds of European travellers to visit the occupied West Bank at the invitation of Palestinians by stationing hundreds of armed police and soldiers at the main international airport at Lydd.
Ahmed Ben Bella, a leader of Algeria's fight against French colonial rule, died on April 11 aged 95. Ben Bella was the north African nation's first president after it won independence in 1962, until a 1965 coup. Ben Bella was active in fighting French rule from the 1940s. After the French were forced to grant Algeria independence in 1962, Ben Bella sought to promote a socialist path for the Algerian revolution ― promoting policies such as agrarian reform and workers' self-management. The right-wing coup in 1965 that overthrew his rule ended Algeria's socialist trajectory.
Argentine President Cristina Kirchner announced the nationalisation of Federal Petroleum Deposits (YPF), the country's largest oil extractor and refiner, on April 16. Altogether, 51% of Spanish oil multinational Repsol's 57% stake in YPF has been claimed by the Argentine government. The move shook the markets, with YPF shares falling 30% on the New York stock exchange. The nationalisation has drawn condemnation from Spain, the European Union and the United States ― as well as US regional allies Chile, Colombia and Mexico. In contrast, it was applauded by Venezuela and Bolivia.
The expression “business as usual” summarises the view of the revolution in Bahrain held by the Bahraini authorities, Western governments, international media like Al Jazeera, and the Gulf states. The Formula One Grand Prix has been confirmed by the International Automobile Federation. It declared the decision to reinstate it “reflects the spirit of reconciliation in Bahrain”.
Environmentalists seem to realise that they have some stake in a fight such as the Ecuador-Chevron lawsuit. That case, which Chevron has recently moved to an international arbitration panel to try to avoid a multibillion-dollar penalty handed down by Ecuadorian courts, is about whether a multinational oil corporation will have to pay damages for pollution, for which it is responsible. Most environmentalists figure that would be a good thing.
However the dispute in Britain about tax and charity donations ends up, the one thing we must all agree on is how inspiringly generous these philanthropists are, selflessly donating chunks of money that, by coincidence, are the amount they would have had to pay in tax anyway. Even the Good Samaritan would have said: "That's TOO philanthropic, you're being a fool to yourself."
Privatisation polices have been stepped up since the end of the war between the Sri Lankan government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam in May 2009, says Ranath Kumarasinghe from Sri Lanka's New Socialist Party (NSSP) Kumarasinghe is features editor of Haraya, a Sinhala language newspaper published by the NSSP. He recently visited Australia to speak at the Marxism 2012 conference, organised by Socialist Alternative in Melbourne over Easter.
The statement below was initiated by the Socialist Party of Malaysia (PSM), in solidarity with workers' rights and pro-democracy activist Somyot Pruksakasemsuk ― jailed in April last year under the lese-majeste (insulting the monarch) law. It has been signed by the Australian Socialist Alliance, the Party of the Masses in the Philippines, the Indonesian People's Liberation Party, the Confederation of Congress of Indonesian Unions Alliance (KASBI), Indonesia, and the Labour Party Pakistan . * * *
The crisis embroiling the government of Papua New Guinea has taken new turns as sections of the establishment struggle for power. Public outrage has grown against new laws that undermine the country's constitution. Just days after pledging it would not use the new powers of the Judicial Conduct Act to suspend judges, the government of Prime Minister Peter O'Neill suspended Chief Justice Sir Salamo Injia and Justice Nicholas Kirriwom on April 4.
“April 13, the great day of victory 10 years ago, opened the way to the independence and unity of our Latin America and the Caribbean,” Venezuela's socialist President Hugo Chavez said on April 13. He was speaking during a commemoration of the uprising that toppled a short-lived military coup that aimed to crush the Chavez presidency . “We showed that a people united will never be defeated.”
A series of protests, or Hikoi, will take place across New Zealand from April 24 to May 10, under the banner “Aotearoa Not For Sale”. The demonstrations are being organised against the pro-privatisation, pro-mining and anti-social agenda of the National Party government, led by Prime Minister John Key. The Hikoi will kick off at the top of New Zealand's north island at Cape Reinga on April 24.
At the insistence of the United States and Canada, Cuba was excluded from the Sixth Summit of the Americas, an intergovernmental conference held in Cartagena, Colombia, over April 14-15. As a result of opposition from many Latin American nations over Cuba's exclusion, as well as Argentina's claim to sovereignty over the Malvinas (Falklands) islands, the summit ended with no final declaration signed. The summit, involving all nations in the Americas except Cuba, is ostensibly designed to facilitate dialogue, understanding and cooperation between nations of the region.
The Sindh Progressive Committee (SPC), which brings together activists from the Labour Party, Workers Party, Communist Party, Jeay Sindh Mahaz, National Party, Awami Party and Watan Dost Inquilaabi Party, held a rally on April 17 outside the Hyderabad Press Club in the southern Sindh province. The rally protested against the kidnapping, forced conversion to Islam and forced marriage of young Hindu women.
One of the big challenges facing Cuba as it designs climate change adaptation policies is the preservation of its coastal ecosystems against the predicted rise in sea level and increasingly catastrophic extreme weather events. With the country’s 5500 kilometre of coastline and 4000 cays and islets, almost everyone on the Cuban archipelago feels their life is tied to the sea in one way or another. “It’s lovely, but it is also dangerous,” said 78-year-old Teresa Marcial, who lives on the coast in Santa Fe, in the northern outskirts of Havana.
At 2.36am, in the early hours of April 19, the student and Occupy Dataran encampment in Kuala Lumpur was violently ambushed by a big group of men. After the ambush, everyone sat down, and victims of violence started to tell stories of what happened. Here is a brief summary of the stories.
The Coalition of Free and Fair Elections (known as Bersih — which means “clean” in Malay) called for a mass sit in on April 28. It did so due to suspicions that the country’s Barisan Nasional (BN) government was about to call a general election before addressing widespread electoral irregularities. The irregularities were confirmed by a review forced on the government by the previous Bersih 2.0 mass rally on July 9 last year.

Culture

“Belief in Winter’s iron music turns the lands of home to Spring.” Kenneth Patchen, “Nocturne for the Heirs of Light” Even your blood seems cold slush so we come, bearing scientific warmth and clean blades Of faith and all such crude early things we moderns strive to sharpen, your mystic heart alone beats most desperate beneath our lazer aim: true tempered love at gunship point thrusts in you bleeding you clear in sha'Allah by dread hand of surgeon- drone, bootkick- blessing, your shabby portal opens upon us we ash-cross your brow:
Debt of Honour: Australia’s first commandos and East Timor Exhibition at the Western Australian Museum Until May 20. When the Japanese entered World War II after the December 7, 1941, attack on Pearl Harbour, they swept through south-east Asia and the Pacific.
£OOT Filastine Muti Music Released April 3, 2012 www.filastine.com Genre-bending musician Filastine says he has taken so much flak for being political in his music that these days he tries to be a little more innovative in getting his message across.