Issue 921

Australia

Activists in the biggest staff-student campaign to defend education seen in Australia for decades have won a partial victory against an attempt by the University of Sydney administration to cut hundreds of teaching and non-teaching jobs.

The immediate job cuts have been reduced to 23 under pressure from the campaign. But staff and students are keeping up the fight. The photos below are of a rally and march of 500 people held on May 7, during which the administration called in the police and riot squad.

May Day was celebrated in Adelaide on Saturday May 5 with a march through the city streets.

A sizable Left Unity block marched down together from the Adelaide Activist Centre. They marched under a Left Unity banner, but also carried individual banners representing the participating groups.

The Left Unity contingent included Socialist Alliance, Resistance, the Communist Party of Australia (CPA), the Industrial Workers of the World (Wobblies) Adelaide branch, along with other independent members of the left.


Sydney May Day march, May 6. Photos by Peter Boyle

The Bring Back the Buses Action Group released the statement below on May 7.

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A quiet street in Melbourne northern suburb Mill Park is to be the scene of an angry protest against the Baillieu government’s recent cuts to bus services.

Rail link bus route 571 and Northlands-Greensborough bus route 563 were axed in a large scale northern suburbs bus restructure, which coincided with the opening of South Morang Station last month. A further six buses were re-routed, many of which now terminate at the new South Morang rail-bus interchange.

It would not come as a surprise to many activists, but a little of the close relationship between police and commercial interests has been revealed in the trial of 16 activists charged for taking part in a Palestine solidarity protest outside the Max Brenner chocolate shop in QV shopping centre in Melbourne’s CBD. The trial began on May 1 and is scheduled to last for two weeks.

The Ballroom at Melbourne Trades Hall was packed with about 130 people on May 4 for a public forum titled “Protest on Trial”. The event sought to build support for the “Max Brenner 19” — Palestine solidarity activists on trial for taking part in a protest outside a Melbourne Max Brenner chocolate shop last year.

Speakers at the forum drew links between the violent attacks on Occupy Melbourne last year and the police repression of peaceful Palestine protesters outside Max Brenner.

As part of savage budget cuts, the Victorian Coalition government has slashed $300 million over four years of funding for the provider of public technical and further education, the state’s 18 TAFE institutes that teach about 400,000 students a year.

Funding per student in 80% of courses has been cut from about $8 per training hour to as low as $1.50 - to a range meant to reflect labour market priorities.

Trades apprenticeships, aged care and child care received some small increases.

The fourth Climate Action Summit was held on the weekend of April 27 to 29 at the University of Western Sydney. This annual summit brings together climate activists and environmentalists from across Australia to discuss campaigns and issues relating to grassroots action on climate change.

“Stop more Stolen Generations, take back control of our lives” was the main theme of a rally and march held in Brisbane on May 2. About 50 Murris and supporters gathered at Roma Street Forum (Emma Miller Place) for a rally, then marched to the office of the Queensland Department of Communities, Child Safety and Disability Services in George Street.

About 350 members of the Health And Community Services Union (HACSU) attended a state-wide meeting and marched to Parliament House on May 2.

The event was held in defiance of the state government’s attempt to shut down the union's campaign against government attacks by using legal processes in Fair Work Australia.

The HACSU has been campaigning to defend jobs and ratios in the mental health system that will be slashed under proposed government cuts.

Footage from the 'Malaysian Spring': the inspiring 250,000-strong Bersih ('clean') rallies for free and fair elections in Malaysia PLUS from Australian support rallies in Melbourne (1200 people), Sydney (500) and Perth (400).

Also includes footage of the brutal police repression which saw 500 people arrested along with widespread use of water cannon and tear gas.

Justice for the Malaysian people - take the power back!

The battle to protect at-risk koalas is stepping up in Queensland after the federal government announced on April 30 that koalas would be listed as a vulnerable species in some states.

Armidale Action on Coal Seam Gas released the statement below on May 3.

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A large crowd of close to 200 people turned out for a special coal seam gas forum at the Armidale Town Hall to hear from experts who talked about the risks to water, health and the environment from coal seam gas mining.

“The great turn-out for the Forum highlights again the wide and growing community opposition to coal seam gas mining,” said Carmel Flint, spokesperson for Armidale Action on Coal Seam Gas (AACSG).

The Australian Education Union (AEU) released the statement below on May 3.

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The huge funding cuts announced by the Victorian government to its TAFE institutes will damage the TAFE sector in Victoria and the Victorian economy and community. They will also change the national Vocational and Education Training (VET) system forever.

Late in 2011, the Victorian government ripped millions out of TAFEs budgets. Private providers were left largely untouched.

Bring Back the Buses Campaign released the statement below on April 30.

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Epping bus campaigner Helen Said confronted Dysons Bus Company Metropolitan Services Company Manager Greg Deacon today accusing Dysons of putting Melbourne’s northern suburbs school children at risk when it introduced sweeping changes to local bus services on April 22.

Country and city united in a 5000 person strong march on NSW parliament on May 1 to protest against the threat coal seam gas mining companies pose to precious farming land and water supplies.

Before the rally, NSW Resources and Energy minister Chris Hartcher tried to frighten off rural support by ridiculously claiming the rally was run by the Socialist Alliance (which is just one group building this broad alliance). Hartcher's redbaiting fell flat.

Stop CSG Sydney released the statement below on May 1.

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Residents of the inner west joined farmers, environmental activists, the Country Women's Association, community groups and industry groups from across NSW in a massive rally at Martin Place today.

World

http://anothernyc.org/

Say no to the system that produces record profits for the 1% by impoverishing the 99% of us; say yes to a fair city and a better world.

The parties that have ruled the country since the end of the military dictatorship in 1974 -- New Democracy (ND) and the Pan-Hellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) -- have collapsed in the May 6 parliamentary elections.

In all elections since 1974 (except 1990-91) one of these two parties was able to gain a clear majority in the parliament and form government, jointly scoring from 70% to 90% of the vote. On May 6, their combined vote was 33%.

You can join Noam Chomsky, Tariq Ali and many others around the world in signing the open letter in support of Labour Party Pakistan activist Baba Jan, jailed and tortured for fighting for compensation for flood victims.

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For the past eight months Baba Jan Hunzai and four fellow activists have languished in various jails of Gilgit. Twice in this period he has been removed from jail and tortured by military and police agents.

At May Day rallies it organised or took part in throughout Pakistan, the Labour Party Pakistan (LPP) highlighted the cases of members and supporters facing “anti-terror” courts. These include the Faisalabad 6, serving long sentences for leading a 2010 power loom workers strike and 12 power loom workers currently facing the Anti-Terror courts in Karachi for union organising.

As Rocky Mountaineer’s lockout of award-winning on-board staff enters its 10th month, ads are once again being placed to hire more scab workers.

Rocky Mountaineer is Canada’s luxury tourist train that takes tourists throughout the summer months from Vancouver to the scenic Rocky Mountains. Nearly 40% of these visitors to Canada come from Australia.

On June 22 last year, as the Rocky Mountaineer pulled into Kamloops for its overnight stop, regular staff were ordered off the train and sent back to their homes in Vancouver. One hundred and eight staff were locked out.

With the Spanish economy sinking and 12 countries in Europe mired in recession, politicians and bankers are once again worried about a financial meltdown on the continent as the result of the crisis in the eurozone.

Adding to the concerns among politicians and financial policymakers is the prospect that elections in France and Greece on May 6 could upend the austerity packages agreed to by European leaders in December.

On more than one occasion, I have referred to the infamous agreement which the United States imposed on Latin American and Caribbean countries when the Organisation of American States was founded in Bogota on April 30, 1948.

Just by sheer coincidence I happened to be there on that date, helping to organise a Latin American students’ congress with the objective of struggling against European colonialism and the bloody tyranny imposed by the United States in this hemisphere.

Much of the world’s population continues to pay for the global financial crisis with their jobs, homes, education and health. Bankers continue to award themselves millions of dollars in bonuses, such as the British bank Barclay’s chief executive, who last year earned US$26.9 million.

The Venezuelan government, however, has raised the percentage of net profits banks must grant in credit to national social programs. In doing so, it is demonstrating to the rest of the world what a regulated and socially oriented banking system could look like.

Nicaragua's President Daniel Ortega and a crowd of more than 100,000 people gathered on the night of May 2 in Managua's Plaza de la Fe to pay tribute to Tomas Borge.

Borge, who died on April 30 aged 81, was the last surviving member of the group that founded the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN) more than 50 years ago. Borge has always been and remains a symbol of the Nicaraguan Revolution in Latin America and beyond.

Bolivian President Evo Morales once again used the opportunity of May 1, the international workers’ day, to announce his left-wing government's latest nationalisation. This time, it was the turn of Transportadora de Electridad (TDE), a subsidiary of the Spanish-owned Red Electrica de Espana (REE), which controlled Bolivia’s national electricity transmission grid.

The nationalisation was another step towards meeting the long-standing demand of the Bolivian people to return privatised companies to state hands.

The 30th Olympic games will begin in July in London as Britain's Conservative-Liberal Democratic government imposes savage austerity measures on the public. The excitement of watching the world's sporting best compete is mixed with fears of social and economic upheaval.

The British government is projected to spend US$14.5 billion on the games, $9.6 billion over budget. Prime Minister David Cameron announced last November that the budget for the opening and closing ceremonies would be doubled to $125 million.

You are all potential terrorists. It matters not that you live in Britain, the United States, Australia or the Middle East.

Citizenship is effectively abolished. Turn on your computer and the US Department of Homeland Security's National Operations Centre may monitor whether you are typing not merely "al-Qaeda", but "exercise", "drill", "wave", "initiative" and "organisation": all proscribed words.

The British government's announcement that it intends to spy on every email and phone call is old hat. The satellite vacuum cleaner known as Echelon has been doing this for years.

“Two years of brutal Con-Dem cuts and failings have left the nation seeing red as Labour gained hundreds of seats across local councils today,” Britain's Morning Star reported on May 4.

The article said the council elections took place against a “backdrop of a double-dip recession, despite massive cuts to jobs and services”. The Conservative Party lost 11 councils to Labour and the Conservatives' coalition partner in government, the Liberal Democrats, lost one.

People from all sides of politics came out on the streets of Paris in great numbers on May 1.

Ahead of the second round of the French presidential poll on May 6, it was a highly politicised May Day. In the first round on April 22, the Socialist Party's Francois Hollande beat the right-wing incumbent Nicolas Sarkozy.

The far right National Front's candidate Marine Le Pen scored a record vote of about 18%. The Left Front's Jean-Luc Melenchon took about 11% of the vote.

Analysis

Green Left columnist Carlo Sands takes "Carlo's Corner" to Green Left TV, hailing Clive Palmer's decision to seek pre-selection for the Liberal National Party to challenged Treasurer Wayne Swan.

You can read Carlo's Corner columns and subscribe to Green Left TV.

Jackie Kriz, an Australian Nurses Federation delegate from Geelong, will be the special guest speaker at Sydney’s annual Green Left Weekly May Day dinner, where she will share her experiences of the Victorian nurses’ remarkable victorious campaign and some of the lessons we can learn from it.

In his excellent discussion piece in the lead up to the recent Climate Action Summit in Sydney, climate activist David Spratt concluded: “The problem is now so big, and the scale and urgency of the solutions required so great, that it is impossible to talk about them within the current public policy frame.

“The business and political spheres have horizons too narrow and too limited in time to be able to deal with the challenges and complexities of global warming.”

Like all wars, the “price war” between the two big supermarket chains — Woolworths and Coles — has its casualties. It is in the countryside and ordinary households that the toll is being counted, not in the profits of the two giant corporations.

A key factor is the grip that the two giants hold over food sales. Australia has one of the most concentrated grocery markets in the world. Coles and Woolworths represent 80% of all supermarket sales.

They have used this powerful position to ensure their profit margins continue to grow.

Socialist Alliance gay and lesbian rights spokesperson Rachel Evans spoke in Sydney on April 24 at a rally calling to free accused WikiLeaks’ source Private Bradley Manning from prison in the US, where he is being held in solitary confinement. The protest was part of an international day of protest for Manning, who faces a court martial and possible life in prison if convicted. Evans’ speech is below.

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For weeks, Labor Prime Minister Julia Gillard and treasurer Wayne Swan have focused on one thing: using the coming federal budget to prove that they are “good economic managers”.

But good managers for who?

The Labor government is determined to deliver a surplus and cut public debt at the cost of more public sector jobs, services and cuts even to the meagre welfare support for single parents.

It can seem like there is nothing but bad news in this country sometimes. Corporations are shedding jobs, governments are slashing spending and Essendon went down to Collingwood by one fucking point on ANZAC Day.

So, it gives me great pleasure to be able to welcome a positive step to finally bring some honesty into the bastard world of Australian politics.

Yes, billionaire mining magnate Clive Palmer has announced he will seek Liberal National Party pre-selection to challenge Treasurer Wayne Swan for the Queensland seat of Lilley.

The Victorian Coalition government has taken to the state with a razor and announced huge cuts in the 2012 budget. These are the biggest cuts since the Jeff Kennett-led Coalition government that ruled Victoria from 1992-1999.

Victorian TAFE institutes in particular will be hard hit. The level of cuts was so severe that higher education minister Peter Hall sent a letter to TAFE heads on April 29 indicating that he had considered resigning from the ministry.

Twiggy could dodge tax for five more years

Billionaire Australian mining tycoon Andrew Forrest boasted on May 3 that he may pay nothing in tax for the first five years of the federal Labor government’s new Mining Resources Rent Tax (MRRT), which comes into effect in July.

The Victorian Liberal government has taken to the state’s public sector with a razor blade and announced huge cuts in the 2012 budget.

Victorian TAFE institutes in particular will be hard hit. GippsTAFE chief executive officer Peter Whitely told ABC Radio that his institute faces a loss of 10% of its operating budget. TAFE courses that are not in high demand are expected to be slashed.

Historians will look back at this year’s two parliamentary inquiries into marriage equality as the beginning of the end of the religious right’s disproportionate influence on Australian politics.

On April 13, the Senate marriage equality inquiry announced it had received 75,000 submissions with 44,000 or almost 60% in favour.

A case of the unspeakable, to paraphrase Oscar Wilde, in pursuit of the unsinkable? It is actually rather fitting that the multi-billionaire mining “magnate” Clive Palmer should be drawn to the idea of recreating the ghastly Titanic experience.

Sydney’s May 1 rally, called by the NSW Farmers Federation to “Protect our Land and Water” from coal seam gas (CSG) and irresponsible mining, represented an incredible diversity and unity from communities across NSW. Organisers said 8000-10,000 people took to the streets, making it easily the biggest action to stop CSG to date in Australia.

The Yolngu Nations Assembly, which represents 8000 Aboriginal people in the western, central and east Arnhem Land in the Northern Territory, released the statement below on May 2.

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To the Leaders of the Australian federal and Northern Territory parliaments:

1. The Yolŋu Nations reject the Stronger Futures Bill (and those associated) and call on the Senate to discard these bills in full. We have clearly informed you that we do not support the legislation.

About 50 supporters of the “Max Brenner 19” — Melbourne Palestine solidarity activists being prosecuted in the wake of a protest in July last year — gathered outside the Melbourne Magistrates’ Court on May 1 to show their support for the defendants at the beginning of their trial.

One of the defendants, Jerome Small, read out a statement on behalf of the accused. The statement appears below.

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Resistance!

For the past 12 weeks, students of Quebec’s colleges and universities have been on strike against Premier Jean Charest’s proposal to increase tuition fees by 75%. The indefinite strike involves more than 170,000 students and is now attracting high school students. Broad layers of the general public are sympathetic to the movement.
 

Culture

The Honoured Dead
By Joseph Braude
Scribe Publications, 2011
336pp, $32.95

This fascinating documentary book gives insights into the roots of the Arab Spring that is sweeping dictatorships away across the Middle East and North Africa.

Written as a first person narrative by US reporter Joseph Braude, The Honoured takes the reader into the lived experience of the poor in Morocco, explaining a good deal about the country’s history and culture in the process.

Together
Ngaratya
www.myspace.com/ngaratya

Female acoustic duo Ngaratya have received advice from the best in the business in starting their musical journey.

Help from the likes of Aboriginal hip hop pioneer Wire MC and soul singer Emma Donovan has given the sisters' debut EP Together an accomplished, mature sound that belies their teenage years.

A crew of Palestinian actors and musicians from the Jenin-based Freedom Theatre toured Egypt in April.

The aim of the tour was to conduct a series of “playback theatre” workshops and performances in Cairo and Alexandria. Playback theatre is an interactive theatre approach used as a tool for community building, public dialogue, cultural activism and trauma recovery.

In a playback event, audience members share thoughts, feelings, memories and autobiographical accounts, and watch as a team of actors and musicians instantly transform these experiences into improvised theatre pieces.

Launched last month, Green Left TV is steadily building up video content on both local and international struggles for justice, to complement the weekly newspaper and Green Left website.