Issue 926

Australia

The Support Assange and WikiLeaks Coalition released the statement below on June 20.

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As Julian Assange seeks political asylum in Ecuador, concerned Australian citizens will protest their government’s treatment of the WikiLeaks founder in Sydney on Thursday, June 21.

Members of Amnesty International Australia’s Tasmania City Group dressed as bananas and collected signatures on a global petition to help launch Amnesty’s Arms Trade Treaty campaign on June 16 at the Salamanca markets in Hobart.

There is no international standard to regulate the global trade and transfers of conventional arms.

Amnesty Tasmania City Group’s Yabbo Thompson said: “There are complicated rules on the international trade of many products, such as bananas, but no global treaty controlling weapons or bullets.

Over 2000 people marched in Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth, Canberra and Adelaide to protest twenty years of mandatory detention and to mark World Refugee Day on the weekend of June 16-17.

The Queensland Council of Unions released the statement below on June 19.

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The Queensland Council of Unions (QCU) has strongly condemned today’s announcement that Premier Campbell Newman may cut up to 20,000 jobs from the public service.

QCU President John Battams says cutting so many permanent and temporary public sector jobs would take billions out of the state economy and have a huge impact throughout Queensland.

Protesters tore through a giant run-through banner that read "free the refugees" as part of World Refugee Day rally in Melbourne. Below the slogan, symbolic bars were broken representing the breaking of the fences imprisoning refugees.

More than 2000 protesters took to the streets in Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth, Adelaide and Canberra on the weekend of June 16-17 to say 20 years of mandatory detention is 20 years too many.

The rallies mark the annual World Refugee Day and highlighted the fact this year is the twentieth anniversary of the introduction of the policy of mandatory detention.

The controversial introduction of income management to Playford in northern Adelaide was the subject of a thought-provoking and at times emotional community meeting hosted by Socialist Alliance on June 13.

A sizeable turnout of locals, including individuals from Anglicare, Uniting Care and the Playford City Council, discussed how this policy, to be “trialled” from July 1, will impact on the wellbeing of those on Centrelink payments and the broader community, and how people should respond.

Queensland Premier Campbell Newman said on June 12 that the government would abolish state-sanctioned civil ceremonies for same-sex couples, but still allow them to formally register their partnership.

Same-sex civil unions were introduced in February by the former Labor government.

The move follows a big rally last month to protest against plans to abolish same-sex union laws entirely in Queensland. Newman said he wanted to remove “provisions which 'emulated' marriage”, which we're opposed by Christian churches, the June 13 Courier-Mail said.

Forest conservation campaigners in the Yarra Valley, east of Melbourne, released the statement below on June 15.

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The blockade to halt logging in the mountain ash forests of Mount St Leonard continues with protesters planning to lock themselves to log harvesting machinery to delay logging for as long as possible.

The blockade is strongly supported by Toolangi and Healesville residents and business owners, more than 120 of whom turned out for a public meeting three weeks ago to ask VicForests managers why they were logging the loved and iconic mountain.

Twenty-seven -year-old Kwementyaye Briscoe died on January 5 while in police custody in Alice Springs, Northern Territory. Last week, the coronial inquest into his death began.

A man who was taken into custody with Briscoe told the inquest he watched police drag him through the watch-house, ABC Online said on June 13. Other prisoners saw that Briscoe was bleeding from the head, and one man told the inquest he could hear him “groaning and gasping for air”.

Several hundred workers from the Queensland Department of Communities rallied in Queens Park on June 13 to oppose job cuts in the sector. The unionists condemned the state Liberal-National government's plan to sack about 1300 temporary contract workers employed in the communities area.

The state government's special audit team, headed by former Liberal Party federal treasurer Peter Costello, issued its interim report on June 15, claiming the previous Bligh Labor government had financed almost all its infrastructure spending from state debt.

O’Farrell plans to axe 10,000 jobs

The June 12 Coalition NSW government budget outlined plans to cut 10,000 public sector jobs, on top of 5000 sackings already announced, and slash more than $1 billion from government programs. But the government refused to say where to job losses will be. The Labor opposition called the cuts a “betrayal of firefighters, hospital cleaners and teachers”.

The budget also projected the leasing of Port Kembla’s shipping terminal to private interests, adding to existing plans to lease Port Botany.

The Support Assange and WikiLeaks Coalition released the statement below on June 15.

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WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has lost his final British appeal against extradition and will be sent by force to Sweden within a matter of days. Australians are taking to the streets to demand the Australian government act immediately to prevent the injustice and harm facing Assange.

In Sweden, Assange will be held in pre-trial detention indefinitely, incommunicado and in solitary confinement for up to 23 hours a day.

The National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) released the statement below on June 15.

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The National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) has condemned today’s announcement by the ANU Vice-Chancellor Ian Young to savagely cut the School of Music.

Aboriginal resistance leaders Tunnerminnerwait and Maulboyheener where executed in Melbourne in 1842. They where sentenced to death for their resistance against the colonial settlers’ drive to take over their land. However, today they are not remembered as heroes. Rather, they are hardly remembered at all.

Aboriginal rights supporters have organised commemorations for the two men for the past seven years, but a campaign for a permanent public memorial had gone an unanswered, until now.

The Gurindji people of Daguragu and Kalkarinji in the Northern Territory released the statement below on June 11.

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The Gurindji people at Daguragu and Kalkaringi are today calling on the government to get rid of the “Stronger Futures” laws.

About 7000 union and community activists braved heavy rain in Sydney to protest against the NSW government's plans to undermine workers' compensation and entitlements on June 13. They chanted “shame, Barry, shame” and “injured workers in his sights, taking away our compo rights”.

In Newcastle, Hunter nurses took strike action to join up to 1500 workers and supporters. Hundreds also rallied in Wollongong.

Abbott concerned for BHP Billiton’s profits

Opposition leader Tony Abbott has asked Prime Minister Julia Gillard to promise to never apply its new mining tax to gold, copper and uranium. The June 13 International Business Times said Abbott sought the assurance “on behalf of BHP Billiton”, the world’s third biggest company.

Thousands of workers braved torrential rain to tell Barry O'Farrell and the NSW Government exactly what they think of the proposed attacks on workers compensation. "Dog", "liar", "rotten", "grub", "supporter of the rich", "shameful", "cowardly" were some of the messages to Barry and his government for their planned attacks including reduced pay while workers' recover; scrapping payments and medical costs completely if workers can't recover 'quickly enough', and stopping workers being covered to and from work.

The Coalition against Israeli Apartheid and Jews Against the Occupation hosted the Melbourne launch of Beyond Tribal Loyalties: Personal Stories of Jewish Peace Activists on June 9.

Two Jewish activists and a Palestinian spoke out against Zionism at the launch. All speakers stressed that “speaking out against the actions of Israel is not anti-Semitic”, highlighting the often blurred line between Jewish identity and Zionism.

Heavy rain did not deter workers across NSW from turning out in their thousands today to protest against the Barry O’Farrell Liberal-National government’s attack on hard-won workers' compensation rights and entitlements. There were firefighters, nurses, construction workers, factory and office workers recalling workplace casualties and angrily shouting out: "Shame, Barry, shame!" The workers later left flowers outside Parliament House gates to remember those killed and injured.

The June 11 Sydney Morning Herald reported that people with disabilities in Australia are paying up to five times more for essential equipment than their overseas counterparts.

A vigorous exchange of views took place at the Socialist Alliance and Resistance-sponsored forum, “Women’s Rights today” at the Perth Activist Centre on May 30.

The audience heard from a panel of Bec Copestake, who spoke about the Western Australian government’s prostitution bill, Kamala Emanuel, who spoke about reproductive rights, Zoe Bush, who discussed the rape culture on campus at the University of Western Australia (UWA), and Sanna Andrew, who spoke about the victory of the Australian Service Union’s equal pay campaign and the steps taken to achieve it.

Up to 30,000 Victorian school teachers took strike action on June 7 in what the Australian Education Union (AEU) said was the largest teachers’ strike in the state’s history. More than 11,000 — many wearing the AEU signature red colours — marched through the streets of Melbourne to rally at state parliament.

Before the march, teachers packed out Melbourne’s Hisense Arena for a mass meeting. Several hundred more people who could not fit in gathered outside to watch and listen to the proceedings on huge screens.

World

When WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange sought asylum on June 19, the question many supporters asked was: “Why the Ecuadorian embassy?”

The simple answer is because the Ecuadorian government has been one of the strongest supporters of WikiLeaks, which reflects its strong stance in defence of media and information freedom.

Much has been made in the media about supposed abuses of media freedom in Ecuador.

Austin Mackell, an Australian journalist based in Cairo who has reported on the Egyptian revolution, speaks about his arrest by the regime, and Egyptian politics around the elections. He spoke just prior to the run-off election, in which the Muslim Brotherhood claimed victory but the military council dissolved parliament in what activists are calling a coup.

Global Friends of WikiLeaks is an independent collective of WikiLeaks supporters. It is not affiliated with WikiLeaks. The letter below was originally posted here on June 20. You can sign an online petition to the government of Ecuadorian president Rafael Correa in support of Julian Assange's extradition request.

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Afrodity Giannakis, Green Left correspondent in Greece and an activist in SYRIZA, gives her first impressions of the result of the June 17 election where the conservative New Democracy beat the left coalition SYRIZA to the highers vote by just 3% of votes. Younger voters voted strongly for the left while older voters tended to vote conservative.

“If the Greeks had done the right thing, they wouldn’t be in the mess they’re in today.” The argument that the Greek people brought austerity packages down on their own necks keeps getting louder.

“Nearly three years into their country's worst crisis in modern times, life goes on as normal for Greece's super-rich,” The Guardian said on June 13.

The article said that, “since the outbreak of Greece's runaway debt crisis, its moneyed class has been notable more by its absence than presence”.

In the June 17 elections, anti-austerity Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) came a close second with 26.9% of the vote. The right-wing New Democracy came first with more than 29%, amid huge blackmail and threats from major governments and financial institutions, and will now attempt to form a coalition government.

Egypt's second-round presidential elections between ex-regime figure Ahmed Shafiq and Muslim Brotherhood candidate Mohamed Morsi will go ahead after the High Constitutional Court (HCC) ruled on June 14 that Shafiq's candidacy was constitutional.

The ruling declared that the Political Disenfanchisement Law, which barred ex-members of Mubarak's National Democratic Party (NDP) from holding high government offices, was unconstitional.

The opening salvo in a promised, summer of protest by Quebec’s student movement was delivered at the annual, Montreal Grand Prix auto race and surrounding festivities from June 7 to 10. Hundreds, sometimes thousands, of students and their allies used the high-profile event to press demands for a freeze in post-secondary tuition fees and an end to police and state repression.

Mariano Rajoy, the Popular Party Spanish prime minister of Spain, appeared at a special press conference on June 9 to give the nation the good news—Spain had won the lottery! A €100 billion prize in the European Bank Rescue Lotto!

Make no mistake, señoras y señores, this was not a “bailout package” or a “rescue” of the kind inflicted on Greece, Ireland and Portugal, full of those nasty “macroeconomic conditionalities” imposed by the “troika” of the European Union, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund..

On the eve of the June 17, 2012 elections in Greece, Green Left correspondent Afrodity Giannakis reports from Thessalonika, on the hopes and fears of a people being forced to bear the burden for a global capitalist economic crisis built on the greed, speculation and corruption of the rich and powerful minority.

Criticism of Latin America’s radical governments has become common currency among much of the international left. While none have been exempt, Ecuador’s government of President Rafael Correa has been a key target.

But a problem with much of the criticism directed against Correa is that it lacks any solid foundation and misdirects fire away from the real enemy.

Correa was elected president in 2006 after more than a decade of mostly indigenous-led rebellions against neoliberalism.

West Papua has been rocked by a wave of shootings and repression in recent weeks that has left many parts of the occupied nation in a state of fear.

Indonesian security forces went on a rampage in the highlands town of Wamena, killing one person, injuring many others and destroying property on June 6.

Human rights group Tapol said on June 8 the soldiers were seeking revenge for an attack by locals on two colleagues who had run over a three-year-old child with a motorbike. Locals killed one of the soldiers on the motorbike and the other was severely beaten.

Striking coal miners blocked roads in northern Spain with burning tires and fired missiles at riot police on June 12 after officers tried to disperse their protest with tear gas and baton charges.

They were among the 8000 miners who kicked off a four-day strike on May 23 against the right-wing government's decision to slash subsidies to the sector.

Some miners have remained underground for 23 days, but thousands of others in the northern provinces of Asturias and Leon have staged mass street protests in defence of the coal industry and decent jobs.

The Irish government successfully bullied a majority of those who turned out for the May 31 referendum into voting “yes” to changing the constitution to allow the government to ratify the European Union's pro-austerity Fiscal Treaty.

But it would be a mistake to read it as a ringing endorsement for their austerity policies.

Many of those who voted did so with a gun to their head and no enthusiasm for the policies contained in the treaty. After all the blackmail and bullying, the Yes side could only manage a 60% Yes vote with a 50% turnout.

In a much-watched election on June 5, Republican Scott Walker handily defeated Democrat Tom Barrett in a recall election for governor of Wisconsin.

Walker is on the right wing of the Republican Party and Barrett on the right wing of the Democrats. Walker was first elected in late 2010.

When he took office early last year, Walker launched a drive to smash public worker unions. In response, there were huge mobilisations.

Public sector unions went on strike and organised mass demonstrations in the capital city of Madison, the largest of which mobilised 100,000.

Manchester United legend Eric Cantona, FIFA President Sepp Blatter, UEFA President Michel Platini, renowned British film director Ken Loach and US intellectual Noam Chomsky are among international figures who have joined calls for Israel to release Palestinian footballer Mahmoud Sarsak.

25-year-old Sarsak is on hunger strike and close to death. A player with the Palestine national soccer team, he has been on hunger strike almost 90 days in protest at his imprisonment without charge or trial.

In the June 17 elections, anti-austerity Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) came a close second with 26.9% of the vote. The right-wing New Democracy came first with more than 29%, amid huge blackmail and threats from major governments and financial institutions, and will now attempt to form a coalition government.

Anti-war and progressive groups in the Philippines have asked for Australian support against a Status of Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) between Australia and the Philippines currently before the Philippines Senate for ratification.

On June 6, there were two anti-war protests against the VFA, which is seen as part of a US-led military build up in the Asian region aimed at China.

The US used to operate huge military bases in the Philippines under the Marcos dictatorship. After Marcos was toppled by peoples power uprisings, these agreements were revoked.

This article and petition was prepared by a group of young Cambodian women activists.

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Evictions and forcible confiscations of land ranks as one of Cambodia's most pervasive human rights problems, and in fact is growing worse. Such actions, coupled with total impunity and a lack of the rule of law, are leading to violence fuelled by deep dissatisfaction over existing resettlement schemes. This in turn leads to violent responses by companies, the authorities and the law enforcement agencies.

Analysis

The NSW Teachers Federation released the statement below on June 18.

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Teachers and principals are stepping up pressure for action on the recommendations of the Gonski Review with a new national campaign kicking off today.

The I give a Gonski campaign will start with national and regional television advertising as well as grass roots community activity involving teachers and parents.

Next week, Green Left Weekly will launch its newest project: an internet-based current affairs program inspired by shows like Democracy Now and Julian Assange’s The World Tomorrow.

The first Green Left Report will feature interviews with WikiLeaks supporter and activist Cassie Findlay and Cairo-based Australian journalist Austin Mackell.

Coal and gas developments proposed in Queensland are putting Australia's Great Barrier Reef at risk, says a report by the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO).

The report, released on June 1, said there were “a number of developments that, were they to proceed, would provide the basis to consider the inscription of the property on the List of World Heritage in Danger”.

Green Left Weekly’s Ben Peterson spoke to Wellington-based student activist Joel Cosgrove about socialist organising in New Zealand. Cosgrove is a member of the Workers Party and the Mana Party. He will speak about radical politics in New Zealand at Resistance’s Time Of Revolution conference in Adelaide, July 20-22.

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What is ‘We are the University’?

Tony Abbott is right: we can't allow a “Green veto” to hold back a huge expansion in the Queensland coal export industry.

Journalists and editorial staff at Fairfax media walked off the job for 36 hours on May 30 in response to an outsourcing scheme announced by management. Workers from the Sydney Morning Herald, the Melbourne Age, Newcastle Herald, Illawarra Mercury, Sun Herald, Canberra Times and Australian Financial Review took part in the stoppage.

Sixty-six subediting jobs at the Newcastle Herald, Mercury and seven associated community newspapers would be moved to a New Zealand office of Fairfax Media.

Once again we have seen the spectacle of the Jewish leadership banning dissenting Jews from their annual festival of ideas, Limmud Oz.

Organisers of this year’s conference held last weekend in Melbourne told the co-ordinators of a workshop on a new book, Beyond Tribal Loyalties, that their session would not be included. They gave no reasons. At the event, the contributors held their own workshop independently of the Limmud organisers. It was very successful, attracting an appreciative audience of 60 people.

Hundreds of people rallied outside the Western Australia parliament on June 13 to protest the planned redevelopment of Perth’s foreshore. The protest was organised by the City Gatekeepers. A speech given at the rally by campaigner Ken Eastwood appears below.

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The Colin Barnett government’s decision to divert thousands of vehicles into our already overstressed road systems defies belief.

In late May, Kangan TAFE Institute announced that due to budget cuts the Diploma of Auslan was no longer viable and would close in December 2012.

The Diploma of Auslan (Australian Sign Language ) is a two-year, full time course and the only one available in Victoria. On completion of this course, most students will undertake the Auslan Interpreter course at RMIT or Macquarie University to become sign language interpreters to the deaf community.

The Socialist Alliance released the statement below on June 13.

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Since the uprising against the government of Bashar al-Assad began in March 2011 the death toll in Syria is now estimated to have exceeded 10,000. As the violence escalates, Western government leaders are openly canvassing launching a military intervention. We oppose imperialist military intervention.

The Socialist Alliance released the statement below on June 12.

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The Socialist Alliance stands in solidarity with the Yolngu Nations Assembly in its unequivocal rejection of federal Labor’s Stronger Futures bill.

This proposed law continues the trauma of invasion, dispossession, paternalism, neglect and cultural destruction that Australia’s First Nations have withstood since colonisation began in 1788.

Tracker, June 6: You’ll forgive Aboriginal people for not jumping over the moon today at the Transit of Venus. One of the last times the "Evening Star" got between the Earth and Sun, it was used as the pretext for invasion.

Ever a suspicious lot, the British had long wanted to claim the "Great Southern Land" for themselves, which they were sure existed thanks to the hard work of explorers from other countries. But they didn’t want to tip off other countries to what they were doing.

Carlo Sands comes out strongly in favour of the Queen's Jubilee celebrations, lauding everyone from Tom Jones to Julia Gillard, even putting up his own hand to make a similar sacrifice.

On June 7, Australian Education Union (AEU) members — primary and secondary teachers in Victorian government schools — held their first stop-work meeting since 2008. About 25,000 teachers took part in Melbourne and marched to the steps of Victoria’s parliament house.

In 2008, teachers were campaigning for their Enterprise Bargaining Agreement (EBA), which expired at the end of last year. Since then the AEU officials have been unsuccessfully negotiating with Victoria’s Ted Baillieu state government for a new EBA.

Culture

On June 16, 2012, an all-female line-up of artists put on a Sydney gig to raise funds for women prisoners after funding for the charity Sisters Inside was cut by the Liberal state government in Queensland. Green Left TV spoke to event organiser Shannon Hall and Aboriginal rappers Naomi Wenitong, of The Last Kinection, and Sky'high.

BORDERS

Rivers don’t interrupt their flow
at national borders.
Mountain ranges don’t answer to their names
in different languages.
The air is not confined within the limits
of national air space.
The waves don’t stay still
to preserve their nationality.
Birds don’t need a passport
to migrate.
Souls don’t carry identity cards
to be certified.

And humans live in their parallel world.
But that’s a different history…


WHERE HAS YOUR SMILE GONE?

Your smile
a mask of despair
from an ancient tragedy.
Your look

News that a popular front-man is about to become a front-woman might not stir such intense buzz if we lived in a world that was truly sexually liberated.

Hell, it might not even be “news,” just another instance of an individual becoming more like the person they envision themselves to be; end of story.

We don’t live in that world, though. The furor over Tom Gabel amply reveals that.

Rolling Stone announced on May 8 that Gabel, singer and guitarist for Florida punks Against Me!, plans to begin living as a woman.

Left Turn: Political Essays for the New Left
Edited by Antony Loewenstein & Jeff Sparrow
Melbourne University Press, 2012
RRP $32.99

In the past few years, the world economy has fallen into its deepest crisis for eight decades with no end in sight, shocked scientists have reported new evidence the climate is changing quicker than feared and opinion polls have reflected widespread anger and cynicism with mainstream political parties openly tied to business interests.