Issue 922

Australia

A group of protesters stage a "die-in" action on day one at the Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration (APPEA) conference held at the Adelaide Convention Centre on May 14.

The NSW Teachers Federation (NSWTF) has called on its members to stop work for two hours on May 18. The union says it has made the decision because “the future of public education in NSW is at stake”.

The federation said: “The purpose of the [stop work] meetings will be to hear detailed reports on the very serious impact that Local Schools, Local Decisions and other state government policies will have on working conditions, student learning opportunities and the resourcing of our schools.”

The Wilderness Society released the statement below on May 15.

* * *

Rallies will be held around the country tomorrow (Wednesday, May 16) to protest the outrageous use of police resources to crush community opposition to the proposed James Price Point gas industrial complex in Western Australia’s Kimberley.


Melbourne, May 12. Photos by Ali Bakhtiavandi


Melbourne, May 12. Photos by Ali Bakhtiavandi

Supporters of the Aboriginal Sovereign Embassy in Brisbane’s Musgrave Park released the statement below on May 14.

* * *

Brisbane City Council has turned its back on negotiations with the Brisbane Sovereign Embassy over its right to exist in Musgrave Park, South Brisbane.

This afternoon at around 4pm, Luke Bell from Brisbane City Council told the Embassy by phone that negotiations were off and that Council would be forcibly removing the Embassy in the near future.

The statement below was released by Ray Jackson, president of the Indigenous Social Justice Association on May 15. Jackson tried to visit Tamil refugees in Villawood detention centre, who have been given adverse security checks by ASIO and cannot be released from detention.

Jackson planned to present two men with Original Nation Passports, issued by elder Robbie Thorpe of the Treaty Republic, to let them know the local Aboriginal community welcomed them to Australia.

CSG Free Northern Rivers brought 7,000 people to the streets of Lismore on May 12 in a colourful and outspoken show of solidarity against Coal Seam Gas Mining in the region. And concerns over coal mining loom not far behind in a groundswell push to renewable energy sources.

Filmed & edited by Sharon Shostak.

The Wilderness Society released the statement below on May 14.

* * *

• 250 police sent to Broome; 276 to Eureka Stockade.
• Joint venture partners must speak out or be tainted by Premier’s actions.

Western Australian Premier Colin Barnett has sent 250 police officers to Broome to crush community opposition to the proposed gas industrial complex at James Price Point, not far off the 276 police and soldiers sent to the Eureka Stockade to crush the miners.

Organisers of a Sydney Palestine solidarity protest — Commemorate Al-Nakba: Protest Against Israeli Apartheid! — released the statement below on May 12.

* * *

NSW police initiated a Supreme Court action against the pro-Palestine Al-Nakba commemoration march to be held in Sydney on May 15. The police are seeking a court order prohibiting the public assembly and procession. Protest organisers state that they will not be intimidated and will defend the right to protest in court.

A May 10 rally against TAFE cuts announced in the Victorian budget attracted more than 2000 protesters in front of Premier Ted Baillieu’s office.

“Lock up Baillieu, throw away the key, we won’t stop until TAFE is free” was just one of chants the crowd roared. Lecturers, teachers, students, support staff, community groups, the Australian Education Union (AEU) and National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) joined forces to fight against the $300 million cutbacks.

Huon Valley Environment Centre last night participated in a peaceful action on the Hobart waterfront. Activists used a projector to place images and messages about Ta Ann on the side of a vessel that was in port loading veneer.

After protests against across-the-board staff cuts at the Australian National University (ANU) in Canberra, a new major "restructuring" has been proposed for the School of Music.

The university has two music programs. It announced one would be cut while the other would undergo significant changes, focused on "professional development" and the "portfolio career" rather than the fostering of musical abilities.

Friends of the Earth Australia released the statement below on May 11.

* * *

Today, the Brisbane magistrates court supported the efforts of Gladstone local Mark Driscoll in his stand defending the destructive dredging of the Gladstone Harbour in the Great Barrier Reef.

The Indigenous Social Justice Association released the statement below on May 9.

* * *

The Indigenous Social Justice Association will hold a rally on May 12 at 2.30pm outside the Kings Cross police station.

May 12 is one of the days selected by the Aboriginal deaths in custody meeting held at the Aboriginal Tent Embassy’s 40-year commemoration in January to promote the campaign.

At the rally, we will demand:

The statement below was released by the Refugee Action Coalition on May 11.

***

A Tamil refugee with an ASIO negative security finding attempted suicide in the early hours of May 11. He is the second ASIO negative Tamil refugee to attempt suicide in less than a month at the misnamed Melbourne Immigration Transit Accommodation (MITA) detention centre.

The Tamil man, in his early 30s, had attempted suicide by hanging and was dropped down by fellow refugees who found him at around 1.30am this morning.

Suncorp Insurance has left residents of Emerald and Roma in the lurch after it announced it would refuse all new insurance policies to householders in the region. No other insurers offer policies in the area.

The small Queensland towns were hit hard by floods in recent years. Suncorp said on May 7 no new policies for home and contents insurance would be offered until flood mitigation works, including flood levees, are built around the two towns. Premiums for existing policy holders are due to rise dramatically.

About 40 unionists protested outside the annual meeting of mining giant Rio Tinto's board meeting on May 10 against the company's involvement in the London Olympic Games. Rio Tinto is manufacturing medals for the games.

At the same time, the mining corporation has staged a lock-out of 800 mine workers at the Alma smelter in Canada. Unions say the lock-out began after the Canadian workers refused contracts that would cut wages of new workers by half.

ANZ: Customers just need education

An ANZ spokesperson told the Age the bank’s interest rate policy had created “public relations” challenges, but said: “We are in it for the long haul and part of that is an education process for our customers and us.”

Organisers of a Sydney Palestine solidarity protest — Commemorate Al-Nakba: Protest Against Israeli Apartheid! — released the statement below on May 11.

* * *

The NSW Police have contacted the organisers of the Al-Nakba commemoration march in Sydney threatening to seek a Supreme Court injunction unless the march is cancelled.

The protesters have decided to assert their right to public protest, saying that they will contest any attempt to prohibit the march.

An enthusiastic group of twenty people gathered for the inaugural meeting of the local Repower Port Augusta group on May 8 at the Cooinda Club in Port Augusta, South Australia.

The group said its purpose was to raise awareness and build broad support in the community for concentrating solar thermal power to replace the ageing coal-fired power stations in Port Augusta.

Melbourne-based renewable energy research group Beyond Zero Emissions recently released a report detailing how Port Augusta could become a renewable energy hub.

The Stop the Intervention Collective Sydney released the statement below on May 9.

* * *

Remote NT communities are joining with the south-western Sydney suburb of Bankstown in a pledge to challenge the implementation of 'Stronger Futures' legislation which is set to be debated in the Senate.

Green Left Weekly hosted a forum at the Brisbane Activist Centre on May 8 called “Challenges facing the Queensland labour movement: Where to now for the unions under a Liberal National Party government?”

The meeting heard from Mark Taylor, a workplace delegate for the Together union in the Brisbane City Council and a state council delegate for the Queensland Greens. It also heard from Marg Gleeson, an Australian Services Union (ASU) delegate in the community housing sector and Socialist Alliance activist.

Stop CSG Sydney released the statement below on May 10.

* * *

Stop CSG Sydney welcomes the ASX announcement today that Dart Energy will not drill in St Peters. However, after 18 months of dealing with Dart Energy they remain cynical and will not abandon their campaign until the well is completely off the table.

Community Action Against Homophobia released the statement below on May 10.

* * *

Marriage equality advocates are preparing to hit the streets across Australia on Saturday May 12 in a national day of protest, just as US President Obama declares his support for equal marriage rights.

Stop CSG Sydney released the statement below on May 9.

* * *

Marrickville councillors backed residents campaigning against coal seam gas (CSG) in the inner city on May 8 when they voted unanimously to support a new condition on agreeing to the development application of a waste recycling business — to prohibit CSG mining.

See also:
St Peters CSG mines would affect entire area, says activist

World

Eighty four protesters were arrested at a May Day protest in Dili. The 84 were placed in a detention centre.

More than 100 protesters had marched to the Hotel Timor, a four star hotel in Dili, on May 1 to demand a pay rise and to stop sackings of local staff. Four staff of the hotel had recently been dismissed after being accused of stealing.

The demonstrators chose May 1, the International Workers' Day, to express their concerns and demand their rights.

Greece will hold new elections in June if last-ditch negotiations on forming a coalition government fail once again.

In May 6 elections, the country's two main parties — the conservative New Democracy and the center-left PASOK — suffered catastrophic losses and the Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA), was catapulted from minor-party status into second place.

See also
Greece voters revolt against cuts

The presence of police and mobile brigade soldiers at construction sites for the PNG LNG (liquefied natural gas) project in Papua New Guinea ― majority owned by Exxon Mobil ― is an indication of the community discontent surrounding the project.

Fears have been raised that conflict over the project could provoke violence like that of Bougainville in the 1990s.

The results of the May 6 elections in Greece sent a message that has been heard around the world: Working people want an end to the austerity agenda that has plunged Greece's economy into depression and slashed living standards everywhere.

The highlight of the vote was the result for the Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA), a broad left party. SYRIZA came second with 17%, ahead of the social democratic PASOK (13%) and just behind the conservative New Democracy (ND ― 19%).

See also

In what marks a significant shift in the balance of European politics, in the final round presidential election on May 6, Socialist Party candidate Francois Hollande defeated right-wing incumbent Nicolas Sarkozy of the centre-right Union for a Popular Movement by almost 52% to 48%.

Hollande is France's first president from the social democratic Socialist Party in France in 17 years. Sarkozy is the first president since 1981 not to win a second term.

Elections in Schleswig Holstein on May 6 delivered yet another blow to the federal coalition government of German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and the Free Democratic Party (FDP).

As well as forming government federally, the CDU and FDP were also in government in the small northern German state.

The CDU lost nearly 100,000 votes, slipping 0.7 points to 30.8% — its worst result in the Schleswig Holstein since 1950.

Compared with a southern Europe stricken by ever-rising unemployment and government attacks on social welfare and democratic rights, Luxembourg can feel as if it is on another, much more pleasant, planet.

The richest country in Europe ― with Gross Domestic Product per capita at least 30% higher than that of the US, unemployment at 5.9% and the second-lowest public sector debt to GDP ratio ― this most important financial centre after London’s City would seem to be floating above the crisis.

Now that parties supporting cuts are losing elections across Europe, I wonder if the British Labour Party will consider a policy of opposing cuts.

At the moment, they sort of oppose them, so if the government announces 200 libraries are closing next Wednesday morning, Labour says: "This is typical of this callous administration. They ought to wait until the afternoon."

Quebec college and university students are now in the 13th week of their militant province-wide strike. They have voted overwhelmingly to reject a government offer that met none of their key demands.

After a 22-hour bargaining session involving ministers of the Charest government, university and college heads, and leaders of the major trade-union federations, the student leaders agreed on May 6 to put the offer to a vote of their memberships without recommending acceptance.

If the offer was accepted:

The death in prison of poor odd-job man Aa-Kong (also known as Ah Kong) is yet another indication of the barbarity of the lese majeste (insulting the monarch) law, the injustice of the Thai legal system and the brutality of the Thai ruling class.

The fact that he was refused bail to get medical treatment, and the that the prison authorities waited three days after he became ill before sending him to the prison clinic, is an indication of the terrible conditions in Thai prisons.

As the world marked World Press Freedom Day on May 3, an annual day declared by the UN General Assembly, Sudanese journalists had no reason to celebrate.

They spent the day just like many before it, fighting against censorship and calling for press freedom.

Journalists working for Al-Jareeda, an independent daily based in Khartoum, headed to the Sudanese Journalist’s Union to stage a silent sit-in.

On May 1 and 2, Al-Jareeda was taken over by the National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) of Sudan.

Six Palestinians on hunger strike against their illegal long-term detention without trial in Israeli jails were close to death on May 8, the International Committee of the Red Cross said that day. Two of the six, Tha’er Halahleh, 33, and Bilal Diab, 27, had, by May 12, been on hunger strike for 75 days.

The other four prisoners had been on hunger strike for between 51 and 68 days on May 12.

The victory of Socialist Party (PS) candidate Francois Hollande in the French presidential election on May 6 set off a wave of hope across Europe. On May 9, the Spanish government announced that it was nationalising the country’s fourth biggest bank, Bankia, to keep it from collapsing.

What do these seemingly unrelated events have to do with each other?

Enormous expectations are being loaded onto the shoulders of the former French PS national secretary. In recession-stricken Spain, Portugal and Greece, people hope he will put Europe’s economies on a path to growth and job-creation.

Analysis

Towards a Socialist Australia was adopted as a draft by the 8th National Conference of the Socialist Alliance, held in Sydney, over January 20-22, 2012.

Socialist Alliance also voted to consult with members, supporters and allies in the social movements over the coming months to improve this draft and deepen our collective understanding of the current political climate and the nature of the economic and environmental crises.

In South Australia, where abortion is still legally considered a crime under the Criminal Act, women do not have the legal right to make their own reproductive choices. What we have now is tenuous and limited access to abortions through an underfunded healthcare system.

Now, this access is under attack. Family First MP Robert Brokenshire has introduced into the SA upper house the Births, Deaths and Marriages Registration (Registration of Still-Births) Amendment Bill (also known as Jayden’s Law), which will be put to a vote on May 16.

“Right Greece, up against that wall over there. Here, put that blindfold on... what’s that? No you can’t have a last fucking cigarette, you are too broke. You flogged your last pack off to Goldman Sachs.”

If the International Monetary Fund (IMF) was honest, this is how its press releases would read when describing the brutal austerity the “troika” of the IMF, European Union and European Central Bank demands from Greece in return for funds to stop the country going bankrupt.

The University of Sydney Vice-Chancellor Michael Spence and the university Senate further displayed their “democratic” views on May 7 by sending riot police to break up protests by more than 500 students and staff.

Protesters disagreed with the flawed plan to carry out budget cuts and retrench staff.

Spence also sent an email to all staff damning the protesters as “outside agitators”, even though the protest was organised by the student-led Education Action Group (EAG) and the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU).

In a display of non-partisanship, Marrickville Council put the community first by voting unanimously to lock the gate on coal seam gas (CSG) mining on May 8.

Local stop coal seam gas activists urged councillors to prohibit a private waste disposal and recycling company — Alexandria Landfill — from being allowed to sub-contract its site in St Peters to a CSG miner for exploration and pilot drilling.

Over only a few days, more than 1000 families from 60 Australian cities and towns volunteered to host asylum seekers awaiting a protection visa, under a government scheme to release more refugees from detention.

From next month, the Australian Homestay Network, the Red Cross and the federal government will coordinate to place asylum seekers released from detention on bridging visas in Australian households for a six-week stay.

Online campaigner GetUp! made a call-out to its members on May 3 and the Homestay network wrote to its 5000-member base asking for help.

Is there a surplus or is there not? Does delivering a $1.5 billion surplus in 2012-13 make Wayne Swan a “good economic manager”? Are you a winner and grinner or a loser soon to be driven to the boozer? Blah, blah, blah. Enough, enough already with the budget spins and counterspins.

You want something real to worry about from the budget? Worry about your job if you are lucky enough to still have one, and worry about what will happen to you if you lose it.

"We are all Greeks" was the proud solidarity message worn by many at the Sydney May Day march on May 6. This simple message captured the widespread solidarity felt with the working people of Greece — including the unemployed, pensioners, students and small business owners — who are being forced to pay a painful price to bail out the biggest banks in the world.

Supporters of the National Campaign for the Right To Strike initiated the sign-on statement below.

* * *

Australian law has never provided for the unrestricted right to strike. The first Australian industrial law, the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act of 1904, penalised Australian striking workers with fines and jail sentences.

Before that, Australian workers had to comply with the British Master and Servants Act of 1837, which meant that a worker could face jail if they were absent from work for an hour without permission.

Fair Work Australia’s findings into the Health Services Union (HSU) have revealed serious breaches of the union’s rules, as well as federal regulations governing registered organisations.

On the same day that 8000 farmers, environmentalists, the Country Women’s Association and others took part in Australia's biggest rally against coal seam gas (CSG) mining, the NSW mining industry launched a website to “dispel myths” about the industry.

Website creator the Minerals Council of NSW includes the state's biggest mining companies: Anglo American, BHP Billiton, Barrick Gold, Peabody, Rio Tinto, Shenhua and Xstrata.

Green Left columnist Carlos Sands rants, raves, and is literally moved to tears by the arguments of defenders of Israel in his second outing on Green Left TV. And as 19 Palestine solidarity activists face court in Melbourne, he has some choice words for Max Brenner and the Murdoch media.

Allan Rees, spokesperson for the No Aircraft Noise (NAN) party, believes that the site south of Wilton must be assessed as a replacement airport for Sydney. “This is the only way to end the growing noise nightmare for 100,000 people,” he said on May 9.
 
NAN has campaigned for decades to get the Sydney airport moved out of the city on the grounds of its detrimental health and environmental impacts.

Residents of St Peters have been shocked to discover the company that planned to drill for coal seam gas (CSG) in their community never had a formal land access agreement with the owners of the proposed site.

Since WikiLeaks raised the ire of the US government in 2010 through the publication of leaked diplomatic cables, PM Gillard’s conduct towards Australian founder Julian Assange has been reprehensible.

Gillard is yet to apologise for her inflammatory claims that Assange had acted illegally, despite the Australian Federal Police’s subsequent findings that he had broken no laws.

Her remarks were made at a time when she should have been defending Assange from the US politicians calling for his assassination.

The Australian Anti-Bases Campaign Coalition released the statement below on May 8.

* * *

“Cuts in military spending of up to $5 billion in the budget are a step in the right direction, but the Gillard government has missed an opportunity to enhance Australia’s security and release funds needed for social, infrastructure and environmental projects,” Denis Doherty, national co-ordinator of the Australian Anti-Bases Campaign Coalition, said in Sydney today.

The Australian Youth Affairs Coalition released the statement below on May 9.

* * *

The peak body for youth affairs in Australia has welcomed last night’s budget measures that support a fair go for young Australians, but continues to call on the Gillard government to ensure that financial assistance is raised to levels that ensure young Australians are not living below the poverty line.

Stop CSG Sydney campaigner Pip Hinman addressed Marrickville Council on May 8 to urge the council to rule out coal seam gas mining in the area. The council voted unanimously to prohibit coal seam gas mining on the property of St Peters waste recycling business Alexandria Landfill.

Hinman's speech to Marrickville Council is below.

See also:
Marrickville Council votes to ban coal seam gas from St Peters

Louise Steer, public officer for Stop CSG Sydney, made the remarks below at Marrickville Council’s May 8 meeting.

The council unanimously agreed to place a condition on the development application of St Peters waste recycling business Alexandria Landfill to prohibit coal seam gas mining at the site.

See also:
Marrickville resident urges council to block CSG
Marrickville Council votes to ban coal seam gas from St Peters

* * *

The National Welfare Rights Network released the statement below on May 9.

* * *

“The nation’s budget is now in the black but unfortunately more single parent families are in the red,” said Maree O’Halloran, President of the National Welfare Rights Network today in a preliminary response to the May 8 federal budget.

“There are some small but significant gains in the budget for people made redundant and for those currently looking for work, studying or/and caring for children.

It used to be that when you got a job, it was a job you could count on. Over the past 30 years, that's been changing. More and more workers feel insecure in their job. The National Union of Workers' campaign aims to reverse this trend. Visit http://www.nuw.org.au

Western Saharan human rights campaigner Malak Amidane is touring Australia in May to raise awareness of the brutal occupation of her homeland.

Culture

Celebrity Inc. ― How Famous People Make Money
By Jo Piazza
Open Road, 2011
231 pages

Celebrity is just like printing your own money, says Jo Piazza in Celebrity Inc.

Two rich, spoilt, talentless celebrity brats ― Paris Hilton and Kim Kardashian ― are experts at the fame game. Kickstarted by family wealth, and propelled to fame through a steamy sex tape and reality TV, Hilton “earns” around US$10 million a year. The Kardashian family franchise raked in $65 million last year.

Unmasked
By Nate Anderson
Ars Technica, 107 pages

What kind of a jerk would want to bring down WikiLeaks? The kind of socially inept and morally bankrupt arsehole that is Aaron Barr, CEO of internet security firm HBGary Federal.

This book documents Barr's WikiLeaks-whacking work, apparently for the US government, that brought him into contact with the Julian Assange-supporting hacktivist group Anonymous. It eventually led to Barr's downfall.

Adam Yauch (best known as MCA from the US hip hop group the Beastie Boys) wasn't larger than life. Beneath the dynamic stage presence, over-the-top rhymes and highly stylised videos was someone who was quite humble and even soft-spoken in interviews.

One almost gets the feeling that Yauch and his MCA alter-ego were two separate people. The hole that both leave in modern music, however, is immense.