Issue 923

News

The Darwin Asylum Seeker Support and Advocacy Network released the statement below on May 23. * * * The private corporation that runs immigration detention centres, Serco, has recently insisted that Serco security guards watch over visitors and asylum seekers when members of the Darwin community visit the Darwin Airport Lodge.
The Refugee Action Coalition Sydney released the statement below on May 23. * * * Following a report on ASIO negative Tamil refugees, aired on the ABC’s current affairs program, 7:30, on May 21, Serco guards raided and searched the accommodation rooms of ASIO-negative Tamils late Tuesday afternoon.
Photos by Ali Bakhtiavandi
More than 100 people rallied in King George Square on May 18 to commemorate the Palestinian Al-Nakba (The Catastrophe), when Israel was established with the mass expulsion of Palestinians from their villages and homes. Protesters held placards with the names of villages that were destroyed by Zionist forces in 1948. Speakers condemned the Apartheid policies of the Israeli state from then until now. The rally was followed by a procession through city streets in double file.
Activists expected that a new “anti-association” law would be passed by the Western Australian parliament on May 1. Instead, the law has been debated inside and outside parliament since then. The new law would give power to a judge to declare an organisation to be a “criminal association”. Members of declared organisations can be given “control orders” restricting their contacts with other people and could even prohibit their use of telephones or email.
A newly formed group, Defend Free Speech in Perth, has put some early runs on the board by forcing the Lord Mayor Lisa Scaffidi to respond to an open letter to the council.
Federal resources minister Martin Ferguson released a report on May 14 into Australia’s gas reserves. The report signalled a huge expansion of gas mining in the NT and bad news for the environment. Two new areas have been opened for gas exploration: shale gas exploration in the central NT, and conventional offshore gas exploration north-west of Darwin. Both of these present serious environmental problems. The shale gas industry relies on capturing gas by pumping sand, water and chemicals into the ground — a process commonly known as fracking.
The findings of the Climate Commission report The Critical Decade will be a focus of discussion at the upcoming Climate Change Social Change conference. The report has generated much heated debate by suggesting that rising temperatures in western Sydney will affect everything from our water supply to mental health and crime levels. The impact of the carbon price on the environment and working families in western Sydney will also feature at the conference. It will be held at the Parramatta Town Hall and will take place on June 30, the day before the tax officially takes effect.
Photos by Ali Bakhtiavandi
Thirty people attended a May 15 rally on the steps of South Australia’s Parliament House to protest the Births, Deaths and Marriages Registration (Registration of Still-Births) Amendment Bill, also known as Jayden’s Law, introduced by Family First MP Robert Brokenshire, which was to be voted upon the next day. However, in the face of community concerns regarding the intentions and wording of the amendment and a campaign organised by the South Australian Feminist Collective (SAFC), Brokenshire has delayed the vote for several weeks.
About 70 people gathered for a vigil in Melbourne on May 15, in support of the community campaign against a gas hub in the Kimberley region, WA. Earlier, more than 100 police arrived at the site of a peaceful blockade near James Price Point to crush the ongoing protest. The organisers said: "We need as many people as possible to show our support for those blockading, and send a message to police and Joint Venture Partners that brutality and intimidation will not discourage us; it will only make us stronger."
More than 200 police staged a dawn raid on the peaceful Aboriginal Sovereignty Embassy in Musgrave Park, South Brisbane on May 16. They evicted the 80 people defending the site and arrested about 30. More than 100 protesters outside the wire fence surrounding the park rallied in support, despite a police blockade of all streets around the area from 6am.
More refugees confronted with a lifetime in immigration detention because of an “adverse” security check by ASIO are being driven to suicide attempts and self-harm.
The Australian Council of Trade Unions unanimously passed a motion supporting self-determination for the people of Western Sahara at its national congress over May 15-17. The motion also called for the Australian government to push local companies to “end the importation of phosphate”, which is plundered from Western Sahara by Morocco. Saharawi human rights activist Malak Amidane spoke at a public forum in Sydney on May 17 as part of a national speaking tour, organised by the Australia Western Sahara Association and the Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies.
More than 200 Queensland police evicted the Aboriginal Sovereign Embassy from Brisbane’s Musgrave Park early on May 16 on the orders of Brisbane City Council. Police arrested about 30 activists. A crowd of more than 200 people, including Aboriginal protesters from the embassy together with community and union supporters, later marched to state parliament to protest the eviction. The Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) Congress passed the motion below on May 16 in support of the Brisbane Sovereign Embassy. * * *
The Socialist Alliance Western Sydney released the statement below on May 16. * * * Parramatta RSL management took the extraordinary step on May 15 of banning John Coleman, a Socialist Alliance candidate for the upcoming Parramatta local council elections, from attending the Climate Commission public forum held on its premises. Coleman, a Granville resident and campaigner for action on climate change, denounced the move as an “outrageous attack on democratic rights and freedom of speech”.
Protesters erected a giant “radioactive barrel” outside Queensland parliament on May 15, the first session under the new Liberal National Party (LNP) state government. The protest, sponsored by Friends of the Earth Brisbane’s Peace Anti-Nuclear and Clean Energy Collective (PACE), was held to oppose a push for uranium mining in Queensland, banned under the previous Labor government.
Beyond Nuclear Initiative released the statement below on May 17. * * * Muckaty traditional owners have welcomed news that Australia’s peak trade union body, the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU), has today committed to actively support the campaign against a proposed radioactive waste dump at Muckaty, 120 kilometres north of Tennant Creek in the Northern Territory.
A film of a large, peaceful student and staff rally on May 7 against Sydney Uni job cuts, being met by a brutal police and riot squad response. The police presence was organised by the architect of the cuts, vice chancellor Michael Spence. The growing campaign has forced a reduction in the staff cuts - but campaigners are determined to end ALL cuts. Rally organised by the NTEU and the Education Action Group. Film by Green Left TV.

Analysis

The rivers of the Murray-Darling Basin are dying. While average inflows decline due to climate change, extractions for irrigation remain at environmentally damaging levels. But the plan for management of the basin’s water resources drawn up by the Murray-Darling Basin Authority (MDBA), due to be adopted by federal parliament later this year, ignores fundamental problems. Unscientific and politically-driven, the plan needs to be torn up, and the tasks of saving what can be saved of the rivers, their ecosystems and their human communities addressed afresh.
Exploration licences for coal seam gas mining (CSG) cover 75% of the land in New South Wales where people live. Residents are worried about the effect CSG mining could have on their land and water, and angry about the lack of consultation by the gas companies.
Attorney-general Nicola Roxon is planning a raft of new powers for ASIO to intercept and store any individual’s information. The move follows the adoption of new laws that allow Australia’s spy agencies to target individuals and organisations that oppose the government's interests — nicknamed the “WikiLeaks amendment”. Several proposed changes to telecommunications interception and access laws, as well as the Intelligence Services Act 2001, would expand ASIO’s powers of surveillance and reduce government oversight of ASIO activities.
The news that former Geelong Grammar School student Rose Ashton-Weir is suing the elite private school for failing to secure her a spot at Sydney University's law school has been the source of much mocking on the internet as a classic case of a spoilt brat's temper tantrum.
About 100 unionists packed the Unions NSW Atrium on May 14 to discuss the right to strike campaign, at a fringe event of the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) Congress that began the same day. Titled “Advance Australia Fair? Australian jobs and the right to strike”, the forum was sponsored by the Victorian Trades Hall Council. VTHC secretary Brian Boyd said it had not generally sponsored or organised ACTU fringe events, but this campaign warranted it.
The Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC) is being set up under the Clean Energy Future legislation (the carbon price package). It will provide $10 billion to support renewable and low-emissions energy. That’s the message that most climate-concerned people have been hearing from the Labor government and the Greens. Unfortunately, it now seems overly optimistic. The recently completed CEFC expert review shows it may give most of its support to gas projects.
The Green Left Weekly fighting fund has received a huge boost over the last couple of weeks, thanks to the efforts of hard working supporters and volunteers around the country. So far this month, $24,600 has been sent in to the fighting fund, largely from successful fundraising events organised by our supporters. A huge thanks to everyone who helped organise and attend these wonderful events.
Truck safety is down, down at Coles Truck drivers and their families rallied outside Coles stores on May 10 to protest against the supermarket giant’s treatment of drivers, which they say is causing road deaths. The market power that Coles and other big retailers have — including control over a third of the truck driving market — allows them to dictate price and delivery schedules to drivers.
In the week Barack Obama received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2009, he ordered bombing attacks on Yemen, killing a reported 63 people, 28 of them children. When Obama recently announced he supported same-sex marriage, American planes had not long blown 14 Afghan civilians to bits. In both cases, the mass murder was barely news. What mattered were the cynical vacuities of a political celebrity, the product of a zeitgeist driven by the forces of consumerism and the media with the aim of diverting the struggle for social and economic justice.
Mardi Reardon-Smith gathered at Brisbane’s Musgrave Park with other supporters early on May 16 to support the Brisbane Aboriginal Sovereign Embassy, which was later evicted from the park by more than 200 police officers. Her account of the day is below. * * *
Socialist Alliance Brisbane released the statement below on May 18 * * * The Socialist Alliance expresses its full support and solidarity with the Aboriginal Sovereign Embassy in Musgrave Park, South Brisbane, and strongly condemns the actions of police and Brisbane City Council in forcibly evicting the Aboriginal community members at the embassy on May 16. The use of more than 200 police to stage a dawn raid on the peaceful embassy is a return to the police state tactics of the Joh Bjelke-Petersen regime in Queensland 30 years ago.

World

Up until now the argument has been that there's no alternative. We have to slash public spending and wages because there's so much debt that otherwise there'll be chaos, absolute chaos. The joy of this method is it saves having to make a case for your actions, so it ought to be used more often. Journalists accused of phone hacking could say, "I had no choice but to listen to a dead soldier's voicemail because otherwise there'd be chaos, absolute chaos. Just look at Greece, they didn't hack any phones and look at the mess they're in, there was no alternative."
Economic collapse drives workers into hunger and destitution. Foreign powers extort huge payments, forcing the national economy toward bankruptcy. The government forces workers to pay the costs of capitalist crisis. This description of Greece in 2012 applies equally to Germany in 1921. How should a workers’ party respond? The German Communist Party (KPD) proposed a simple fiscal policy: tax those who own the country’s productive wealth.
The strike of post-secondary students in Quebec has taken a dramatic turn with the May 18 approval by the provincial government of a special law to cancel the school year at strike-bound institutions and outlaw protest activity deemed disruptive of institutions not participating in the strike. Details of Bill 78 were unveiled the day before and debated in a special, overnight session of Quebec’s National Assembly.
Voters in Germany’s largest state of 18 million people, North Rhine Westphalia, went to the polls on May 13 to reject Chancellor Angela Merkel’s politics. This came a week after the loss for Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU) in the election of Schleswig Holstein. These results mark a rejection of the hard line austerity politics pushed across Europe by the Merkel-led coalition government.
The rhetoric from Tunisia's interim government, led by the Islamist party Ennahda (the Renaissance), as well as the financial establishment, is that the old regime is gone. What is needed now, they say, is stability and the restoration of economic growth to complete the transition to democracy. International Monetary Fund (IMF) Managing Director Christine Lagarde said on April 2: "Investors and the population at large need to regain confidence in the future of the economy, to look beyond the short-term difficulties and provide the foundations for a rebound of the Tunisian economy."
The controversial Ramu nickel mine near Madang in Papua New Guinea has come under fire for new claims of environmental damage. The mine has been the subject of a long-running battle with locals over plans to pump 100 million tonnes of mine waste into Basamuk Bay over 20 years. The dumping threatens the pristine ecosystem of the area as well as the livelihoods of local people.
The announcement by giant US bank JPMorgan Chase that it had lost US$2 billion in a shady deal shows the kinds of financial speculation that led to the 2007-2009 financial collapse continue to steam ahead. It also underscores that both Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney and Democrat president Barack Obama are in Wall Street’s pocket. As the financial system was collapsing in the waning months of the George W Bush administration, it responded with huge bailouts of banks and other financial institutions.
Thousands of Palestinian political prisoners held in Israeli prisons have called off a hunger strike after winning several key concessions from Israel. Solidarity protests have been staged in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, occupied Jerusalem, and Israel, and tens of thousands joined a rally in the town of Kafr Kana in the Galilee. Actions in solidarity with the hunger strikers have been organised around the world.
The sensational outcome of the Greek elections on May 6 in which SYRIZA, a coalition of left-reformist and radical left groups, came second to right-wing New Democracy (ND) with nearly 17% of the vote, came on the back of the catastrophe being imposed on the Greek working class. It is being forced to pay for the crisis of Greek and European capital. This catastrophe has resulted in Greek workers and pensioners, already on some of the lowest wages and social security entitlements in Europe, having their incomes directly cut by as much as 40% over the past few years.
In the week before the first anniversary of the indignado (“the outraged”) protests and camps that broke out across Spain on May 15 last year, the Spanish media was full of opinionated wishful thinking about the state of what became known as the 15-M movement. This wasn’t just the usual malice of the right-wing media, which can always be relied upon to play up the inevitable roughness of some indignado actions ― like call-outs where only a handful respond and end up outnumbered by police and TV crews.
The rulers of the world are panicking over the results of Greek democracy. As stock markets plummet globally, the crisis in Greece has become the main item for discussion for the world’s most powerful politicians at the May 19-20 G8 meeting at the US presidential retreat, Camp David. See also: Greece: Mass anger, left gains shows urgent need for united front Mark Steel: Starve the Greeks and they'll feel better
There is no end in sight to violence and repression in Honduras. There is also no end in sight to the United States and Canadian governments and business maintaining political, economic and military relations with the country's military-backed regime. Even after US Drug Enforcement Administration officers killed at least four Honduran civilians ― including two pregnant women ― in the name of the "drug war", two more journalists, Alfredo Villatoro and Erick Martinez Avila, have been killed in the Central American nation.
Some years ago, travelling on the presidential plane of Venezulea's left-wing President Hugo Chavez of with a French friend from Le Monde Diplomatique, we were asked what we thought was happening in Europe. Was there any chance of a move to the left? We replied in the depressed and pessimistic tones typical of the early years of the 21st century. Neither in Britain nor France, nor anywhere in the eurozone, did we see much chance of a political breakthrough. Then maybe, said Chavez with a twinkle, they could come to our assistance.

Culture

Nuclear Kop The Super Raelene Brothers www.superraelenebrothers.com.au Anti-nuclear activist band The Super Raelene Brothers first made it into the pages of Green Left Weekly in 1995. But the duo, who have just dropped their latest atomic-bomb-atomising EP, Nuclear Kop, were making music way before then. “We've been making music since we were kids,” says guitarist and vocalist Basil Schild, who makes up one half of the band with his violinist brother, Derek.
The Party, The Socialist Workers Party 1960-1988, Volume II: Interregnum, Decline and Collapse, 1973-1988, A Political Memoir By Barry Sheppard Resistance Books (London), 2011 345 pages. In the 1960s and 1970s, the United States Socialist Workers Party (SWP) was one of the most promising socialist organisations in any imperialist country. Formed in the 1930s, it survived the isolating conservatism of the '50s to play a key role in building many progressive movements, particularly the fight against the Vietnam War.
The Party, The Socialist Workers Party 1960-1988, volume I: The Sixties, A Political Memoir By Barry Sheppard, Chippendale, Australia: Resistance Books, 2005, 354 pages including index, with a rich collection of photographs. The Party, The Socialist Workers Party 1960-1988, volume II: Interregnum, Decline and Collapse, 1973-1988, A Political Memoir By Barry Sheppard London: Resistance Books, 2012 345 pages including index.

Letters

Freedom to protest Congratulations to the Sydney Al-Nakba Planning Committee for successfully defying police and winning its case in the Supreme Court to be allowed to protest on Al-Nakba Day. The Supreme Court decision on May 14 sets an important precedent for future protest groups in Sydney when they come up against police opposition. The police will not be in a hurry to take a protest group to court again.