Issue 924

News

Residents of the newly established Mount Cooper Estate in Bundoora in Melbourne’s north are fighting to save local parkland and restore their bus services. In early April residents discovered that the 563 bus service which linked them to Plenty Road, Northlands and Greensborough was about to be withdrawn by the Ted Baillieu Coalition State Government. Residents of the estate now have to cross Plenty Road to access public transport, which exposes school children from the estate to increased traffic hazards and is too far for many elderly residents to walk.
The Climate and Health Alliance released the statement below on May 28. * * * In the lead up to Rio+20 and the G20 Summit, Australian health groups are calling on Australian and international governments to abandon subsidies for fossil fuels in the interests of protecting human health and economic security.
A student rally against the Victorian government’s TAFE cuts on May 23 projected a mass mobilisation next semester. The rally against the TAFE cuts was organised by RMIT TAFE students. Protesters from several TAFE institutions in Melbourne met at the RMIT Carlton TAFE campus where speakers denounced the consequences of the Victorian government funding slash. Afterwards, chanting "No ifs, no buts, no education cuts” they marched through the city to parliament, slowing down traffic and stopping trams.
The Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) has accused the federal government of unfairly targeting waterfront workers as part of a so-called crackdown on organised crime. Home Affairs minister Jason Clare said on May 25 that federal police would be given new powers to put waterfront workers out of a job if they have a criminal record or are suspected of involvement in organised crime.
Refugee lawyer David Manne and a pro bono legal team will take the federal government and ASIO to the High Court to challenge the indefinite detention of refugees found to be “security threats”. The case will argue that refugees should be told the full reasons for ASIO's decision, so they are able to appeal adverse findings. Manne said the situation now is “like being sentenced to life imprisonment without even having been charged, tried and convicted. It's a secret trial”.
The Great Barrier Reef off Queensland's northern coast came within a few metres of disaster on May 19 when a broken-down bulk sugar carrier drifted just over Shark Reef, north-east of Cooktown. The 26,000-tonne ID Integrity was blown off course after its engines broke down. Crew dumped ballast to allow the vessel to pass over the reef, until tugs could reach the ship.
Cairns Politics in the Pub has restarted after a year's break. These semi-monthly discussion forums at the Green Ant Cantina feature guest speakers, panels and discussion on topical issues proposed by various community groups and individual activists. On May 23, 35 people took part in a lively debate of the question “Where to now after a Labor thrashing?” The speakers included Jonathan Strauss for the Socialist Alliance, ALP activist Elida Faith and Steve Brech from the Greens.
The trial of 16 activists arrested at a Palestine solidarity protest outside a Max Brenner chocolate store in Melbourne's QV shopping centre in July last year finished on May 25. Throughout the trial a megaphone has been sitting beside the magistrate as evidence. Freedom of political expression and the right to protest have been on trial in this court case. The court case began on May 1 and lasted almost a month. The defence counsel and the prosecution finalised their submissions on May 24 and 25.
3CR invites its listeners and the Melbourne community to Invest in Independence at Radiothon 2012. Buy your share of the media and donate to 3CR this Radiothon. 3CR’s progressive alternative coverage of social, economic, cultural and political issues has never been more relevant.
About 4000 unionists at six coal mines in Central Queensland have struck for a week from May 24 after enterprise bargaining talks with employers BHP Billiton and Mitsubishi again broke down. The 18-month-long dispute between the Construction Forestry Mining Energy Union (CFMEU) and mineowners the BHP-Billiton Mitsubishi Alliance (BMA) centres on a push by the company to replace union-appointed mine safety officers with management officials.
Premier Campbell Newman'a Liberal National Party (LNP) government wasted no time launching an all-out attack on gay rights and on community services in Queensland. The May 20 Courier Mail said the government was preparing to overturn the civil unions law passed under the previous Labor government earlier this year.
Qantas cuts 500 more jobs Qantas said on May 21 it would axe more than 500 engineering jobs from Tullamarine and Avalon in Victoria. Qantas said: “Further changes to Avalon are expected as the business continues to modernise.” Qantas CEO Alan Joyce said the company had to cut maintenance costs to match its competitors, and that newer aircraft “require less maintenance, less often”.
Australian supporters of WikiLeaks announced nationwide protests after news that Britain’s supreme court will decide on Julian Assange’s final appeal against extradition to Sweden on May 30. The protest rallies will take place in most capital cities the next day, May 31. The rallies will take place regardless of the court’s decision. Even though Assange has spent the past 534 days under house arrest without charge, protest organisers say the campaign to defend Assange and WikiLeaks is only just beginning.
The Sydney Al-Nakba rally and march - marking 64 years since the brutal dispossession of Palestinians from their homeland - was successful despite police attempts to derail it. Around 500 people protested, after the Supreme Court dismissed the NSW Police Commissioners attempts to derail the march, which was organised by the Palestine Action Group Sydney.
Tens of thousands of NSW teachers stopped work for two hours on May 18 to protest against the Barry O’Farrell state government’s cuts to public education. Using the smokescreen of “increasing school autonomy”, the government plans to radically cut funding and resources for public schools through its Local Schools Local Decisions policy. Many teacher meetings across NSW reported the largest turnouts in recent times and unanimous votes for escalating industrial action if the O’Farrell government refuses to halt its cost-cutting agenda.

Analysis

Union activist Chris White has worked for several unions and for 17 years was assistant secretary, and then secretary, of the United Trades and Labor Council of South Australia. The article below is based on a speech he gave at a fringe event during the recent Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) Congress. * * * Unionists need to organise for the right to strike, for the effective strike and for workers’ control.
A May 3 briefing to South Australia’s parliament by Doctors for the Environment Australia (DEA) has drawn attention to important research on the alarming health effects of coal burning on the Port Augusta community, reaffirming the case for a speedy transition to solar thermal power for the region.
Across NSW, dozens of local groups have organised to campaign against coal seam gas (CSG) mining. After years of using official channels of protest, they have been frustrated by the lack of response from the government and feel that they have no choice but to change tactics. In the Pilliga state forest south of Narrabri, 92 wells have been drilled to explore for CSG. In June last year, 10,000 litres of untreated saline CSG water were leaked into the environment.
Election pundit Peter "Mumble" Brent has accurately summed up Paul Howes as “not so much a person as an ever-evolving script”. He became chief of the right-wing run Australian Workers Union five years ago but clearly has much higher political ambitions.
The Socialist Alliance Queensland state conference was held at the Brisbane Activist Centre on May 19, attended by more than 40 members and supporters. Themed "Towards a Socialist Australia", the conference discussed rebuilding the socialist movement in Australia and in Queensland, in the framework of a rise in international struggles for radical change. Peter Boyle, SA national co-convenor, set the scene by challenging the movement to re-imagine socialism in the new period of international crisis, beginning with the polarisation in a Greece faced with economic disaster.
Anyone who knows me will tell you straight up: I wholeheartedly believe in the United States' mission to spread democracy throughout the world. So when the Arab Spring broke out last year, how the hearts of the rulers of the land of the free must have soared at the sight of long-oppressed peoples demanding freedom! Except it soon became hard to ignore that, in case after case, the people were standing up to tyrants who were actually propped up by the United States.
A large public forum was held in Victoria’s Goulburn Valley on May 16 to officially launch a community cooperative that local people hope will become an example for the rest of the country. The launch came almost a year since Heinz announced it would shut down its tomato processing plant in the nearby town of Girgarre. The closure left 146 workers without a job and affected about 600 people whose livelihoods depended on the factory.
Planning has started for the Resistance National Conference, to be held this year in Adelaide, South Australia, over July 20-22 at the University of Adelaide. With the Arab Spring in the Middle East, anti-austerity protests across Europe and the Occupy movement in the US, last year was a year in which people’s movements around the world stood up to take centre stage in world politics. The theme of this year’s conference, “A Time of Revolution”, was inspired by these uprisings.
The Stop the War Coalition Sydney released the statement below on May 24. * * * The NATO announcement on May 21 that it will “withdraw” troops from Afghanistan in 2013 is an admission of defeat. But there are no victors in this war. The country is no closer to peace and security today than when the Taliban were forced out in 2001.
Gina Rinehart — mining tycoon and Australia’s richest person — is now also the world’s richest woman. Last year, her wealth grew by $18.87 billion to $29.17 billion. Her wealth grew $52 million a day or $1 million every 30 minutes. It means that for every second that passed in 2011, Rinehart made more ($598) than a minimum wage earner made in a week ($589.30). Rinehart’s fortune is now so big, if she spent $1 million a year her money would last for 29,170 years. It would take a minimum wage earner about 950,000 years to reach Rinehart’s bank balance
The open letter below was developed in consultation with feminist activists and is supported by the Coalition for a Feminist Agenda and Women Everywhere Advocating Violence Elimination. To add your name or organisation to the statement visit http://weaveinc.org.au/ * * * To our political leaders, political and media commentators, journalists and opinion formers in print, visual and audio media.
More than 1000 Sydneysiders hit the streets on May 12 demanding equal marriage rights, but prominent left-wing journalist John Pilger criticised the march in his recent article “Bradley Manning, not gay marriage, is the issue”.
Aboriginal leader Sam Watson discusses the brutal dawn eviction by 300 police of the peaceful embassy in Brisbane; the importance of the Tent Embassy movement; the need for unity to fight the LNP government which he compares to the infamous government of Joh Bjelke Petersen; and where to for the struggle for sovereignty.

World

More than 400,000 filled the streets of Montreal this week as a protest over a 75% increase in tuition has grown into a full-blown political crisis. After three months of sustained protests and class boycotts that have come to be known around the world as the "Maple Spring," the dispute exploded when the Quebec government passed an emergency law known as Bill 78, which suspends the current academic term, requires demonstrators to inform police of any protest route involving 50 or more people, and threatens student associations with fines of up to $125,000 if they disobey.
Quebec’s student movement, and the swelling ranks of its popular allies, staged a huge rally and march in Montreal on May 22. The march supported the students’ fight for free, quality public education and rejected government repression. Estimates by some mainstream news outlets and by many independent observers put the number of participants as high as 400,000.
The protesters in Chicago on May 20, marching against NATO, remind us that the US government is not representative of the US people. It's encouraging to see so many willing to take action and stand up against this unjust, disastrous war. Recently, US President Barack Obama travelled to Kabul to meet Afghanistan's so-called president, Hamid Karzai. Both leaders used this meeting to pretend that they are ending this war when they are really trying to prolong it.
US President Barack Obama announced on May 21 after the Chicago NATO leaders’ summit that the US, NATO and their allies had agreed to end their war of occupation in Afghanistan by the end of 2014. However, the announced “withdrawal” will leave US military bases in the country and some soldiers, including special forces, from the US and its allies to train, advise and assist the armies and militias of the occupiers’ Afghan puppets and warlords and carry out “targeted operations” against al-Qaeda.
Three leaders of the People's Justice Party (Parti Keadilan Rakyat — PKR), a major parliamentary opposition party in Malaysia, were arrested on May 22 under provisions of a controversial new Peaceful Assembly Act. The three were PKR de facto leader Anwar Ibrahim, PKR deputy president Azmin Ali and Badrul Hisham Shaharin. The charges relate to the April 28 Bersih 3.0 mass democracy protest in the capital Kuala Lumpur, involving 100,000-200,000 peaceful protesters. The march was violently attacked by riot police after a few protesters pushed through police barricades.
Twenty years after the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in 1992, the environmental crisis continues to worsen. The unsustainable development model that dominates the world has led to a grave loss of biodiversity, melting of polar ice caps and mountain glaciers, an alarming rise in deforestation and desertification and the looming danger of an at least 4º Celsius temperature rise. Science says we are approaching a point of no return that will change the way our planet has behaved over the past 650,000 years.
Red carpet and champagne marked the start of the first Red-Green Alliance (RGA) congress since the party tripled its mandate at a poll in September last year. The 385 delegates representing the 8000 members packed a basketball stadium in the migrant and working class Copenhagen suburb of Norrebro to grapple with the party's new increased influence on Danish politics. Party membership has more than doubled in the past two years, with the party welcoming into its ranks many ex-members of the Social Democratic and Socialist People's party.
Up to 30,000 protesters from across Europe took to the streets on May 19 in the financial district of Frankfurt. The rally, which lasted for seven hours, ended outside the European Central Bank (ECB). The protest, “Blockupy Frankfurt”, was part of a three-day action, organised to oppose the European debt crisis policies of the “troika” made up of the ECB, the International Monetary Fund and the European Commission. These polices include the so-called Eurozone bailout funds, which have helped push people across Europe into poverty and the dismantled democratic rights.
Independent journalist and author Antony Loewenstein visited Papua New Guinea in January and February as part of his research for an upcoming book and documentary about disaster capitalism and privatisation. He spoke to Green Left Weekly's Ash Pemberton about the influence of the resource industry in PNG, its links with government and private security forces, the rising influence of China and PNG's domestic politics in light of upcoming elections. * * *
Greece's Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) sent a message of solidarity to the thousands of people who protested against the NATO summit in Chicago on May 20. SYRIZA came second in Greece's May 6 poll on an anti-austerity platform. It is polling first, with a vote as high as 30%, for the new elections scheduled for June 17
In Occupy-style, they are pop-up and pop-out protesters on Montreal's streets. A jester threw juggling clubs high in the air, a masked face beamed — the sweat of the warm day glistening over her make-up — and the nose of a clown tilting up to figures on stilts, occasionally twisting round in a dance-trot. An impromptu band shook beans in glass bottles and beat drumsticks, while an accordion played old favourites. Whistles tried to organise the crowd. Dogs menaced one another, tying themselves up in their leashes as their owners passed by.
Anti-war soldiers headed a protest against the NATO summit in Chicago on May 20. Thousands poured through the streets in the largest anti-war demonstration seen in the United States for some time. The turnout was inspired by the Occupy movement that broke out last year, which helped legitimise street protest again. From conflicting accounts, the march involved about 10,000 people. See also: SYRIZA to anti-NATO protesters: 'Bring the war home!'

Culture

Rich Land, Wasteland Sharyn Munro Exisle Publishing & Pan Macmillan 453 pages, pb, $29.99 When a coalmine starts up near a township, a village or a farm it is to be expected that lives will change. Indeed change is often promised and welcomed ― more Jobs, more money flowing into the community, better roads and services. In short, progress is promised.
Megrahi: You are My Jury ― The Lockerbie Evidence John Ashton Birlinn 2012 £14.99, 497 pages Abdelbaset Al-Megrahi was convicted in 2001 of blowing up Pan Am flight 103 over the Scottish town Lockerbie in December 1988 and is usually described in the mainstream media as “the Lockerbie bomber”. Readers familiar with Paul Foot’s series of penetrating articles on Lockerbie in Private Eye will already be familiar with the potentially problematic nature of Megrahi’s trial and conviction. But this book brings the story up to date.
Legendary masters of hip-hop Public Enemy made their seventh visit to Australia to play to 800 fans at St Kilda’s Esplanade Hotel on May 17, after consecutive shows in Brisbane and Sydney. Original members Chuck D and Flavor Flav belted out their most popular hits including “Don’t Believe the Hype”, “Welcome to the Terrordome” and “Fight the Power” from their 25 year-long recording career .