Issue 927

Australia

Stop CSG Illawarra released the statement below on June 25.

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After weeks of enquiries and confusion around the status of the local coal seam gas project, Stop CSG Illawarra has finally received a clear statement from The Department of Planning and Infrastructure. They have confirmed that drilling cannot happen at this time. Development consent for all CSG wells in the Illawarra – approval to drill and run them – is now invalid.




The Sydney and Perth components of a June 23 national-wide 'Walk Together' in recognition that "although we've all arrived here via different pathways we share a common Australian journey". Videos by Peter Boyle/GLTV (Sydney) and Zeb Parkes/GLTV (Perth)

Queensland public sector unions are preparing for an all-out battle with the Campbell Newman Liberal National Party (LNP) government over pay and conditions, as several enterprise bargaining agreements come up for re-negotiation.

The state's public servants are outraged after being offered the lowest pay rise yet.

Queensland's 60,000 public service workers have been offered a mere 2.2% pay rise per year and likely no additional funding for promotions over the next three years, the June 19 Courier-Mail said.

Opposition to the risks associated with coal seam gas (CSG) exploration and mining is growing across NSW. In northern NSW, thousands of people have rallied in Byron Bay, Lismore and The Channon to demand a moratorium on CSG.

Green Left Weekly’s Pip Hinman spoke to Lismore’s Labor Mayor, Jenny Dowell, about the campaign.

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Why did Lismore City Council decide to hold such a poll?
 

Unconventional gas fracking is set to go ahead in WA, after the state's upper house voted down a motion calling for a moratorium on the controversial gas extraction process on June 20.

The motion had been put to the state's upper house by Greens MLC Alison Xamon. The Liberal, National and Labor parties voted against it and it was lost. The motion called for a moratorium on the emerging industry until a comprehensive and transparent regulatory framework could be developed. “It is highly concerning that this motion has been dismissed by parliament,” Xamon said.

The nationwide "Walk Together" protests were held on June 23 in recognition that "although we've all arrived here via different pathways we share a common Australian journey". It was organised by GetUp! and sponsored by Mission Australia. This was part of several activities to mark Refugee Week.

As world leaders gather in Brazil for the Rio+20 summit to discuss the pressing environmental issues facing the world, academics, politicians, unionists, climate activists and local resident groups are preparing to meet and work out real proposals for how western Sydney can begin to tackle climate change.

The Australian government’s Climate Commission report The Critical Decade found that rising temperatures in western Sydney will impact on everything from our water supply to mental health and crime levels.

NSW firefighters went out on strike for the first time in 56 years to protest against attacks on workers' compensation rights by the O'Farrell Liberal-National state government. They converged with their firetrucks on Macquarie St, Sydney, and turned the hose on Parliament House to "wash away the stench" of this anti-worker government.

Stop Coal Seam Gas Sydney activist Pip Hinman gave the speech below at the Marrickville local council meeting on June 19.

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I am a long-term resident in Newtown, a mother and an activist with Stop Coal Seam Gas Sydney.

I want to speak in favor of council supporting this poll.

We did have a win recently with DART announcing that it was not going to drill in St Peters after council decided to add a no CSG condition to Dial-a-Dump’s development application.

While that was a victory – it was only a victory of sorts.

Labor and independent councillors in Marrickville decided on June 19 against holding a poll on coal seam gas at the same time as the local council elections.

This is despite the fact that the council has had two unanimous votes against coal seam gas exploration.

Non-binding polls are available to all councils and have been used to gauge community opinion on a variety of topics.

Greens councillor Cathy Peters put the urgency motion, inspired by Lismore City Council’s decision to poll its local residents about coal seam gas production and exploration.

The search and rescue of some 90 asylum seekers still missing at sea continues after a boat capsized 200 kilometres from Christmas Island on June 21. Sydney's Refugee Action Coalition released the statement below on June 22.

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From the timeline of contacts between Australian authorities and the capsized asylum boat indicated by Home Affairs Minister Jason Clare, it seems that more timely action by the Australian rescue authorities could have averted the latest asylum boat tragedy.
 

Sydney’s Indigenous Social Justice Association (ISJA) says it will hold a ceremony in Redfern to give out Aboriginal passports to supporters. The ceremony will hand the passports to migrants, refugees and Australian citizens who want to give their support to Aboriginal justice.

Refugees will receive the passports for free. Others who want a passport will need to bring a passport photo and pay a $10 fee.

Aboriginal speakers lashed out against the Labor government’s five-year Northern Territory intervention at a forum organised by Arena Magazine on June 21.

Rosalie Kunoth-Monks, a former mayor of Barkly shire in the Northern Territory, said: “A lot of us are going through severe trauma. We live in terror of our language, ceremonies and land being taken away.”

She drew parallels between her people’s current nightmare and that faced by the Jews during the Holocaust of World War II.

Newman to axe 20,000 public servants

Queensland Premier Campbell Newman said on June 20 that the state had 20,000 public sector staff it could not afford, based on a report by former federal treasurer Peter Costello. In this year’s election campaign, Newman promised there would be no public sector forced redundancies if he was elected.

Uncertainty and confusion now surround the Apex/Ormil coal seam gas (CSG) project in the Illawarra. The project includes 16 CSG wells scattered across two Petroleum Exploration Licences (PELs). But according to the project’s conditions, drilling and operation of the wells must take place within three years and before the expiry of one of two relevant licences, unless the director-general of the planning department steps in.

The NSW Teachers Federation (NSWTF) launched the Putting Students First Charter on June 19. The charter is a response to the state Coalition government’s plans to radically restructure the education system and cutback teaching an allied support positions.

Teachers called on the government to guarantee it would preserve quality education. The NSWTF warned that if the government refused to give such guarantees, it would ask members to stop work on June 27 to attend protest meetings and rallies.

The editor-in-chief of Wikileaks and Australian citizen Julian Assange has not been charged with any crime in any country yet he now sits alone, abandoned by his government, in the Ecuador Embassy waiting to see if he will be granted asylum.

WikiLeaks Australian Citizens Alliance (WACA) will hold a mass rally on the steps of the State Library in Melbourne on July 1st at noon in support of Julian Assange.

About 80 people gathered at Victorian Trades Hall on June 20 for a public forum about the United States’ increased military presence in Australia. The forum was organised by the Medical Association for the Prevention of War, with the support of Victorian Trades Hall council, the Philippines Australia Solidarity Association and Spirit of Eureka, among others.

The Australian Council of Trade Unions released the statement below on June 21.

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Fairfax Media has breached its legal obligation to consult its workers, and failed to explain why it plans to sack thousands of workers, unions will tell a hearing in Fair Work Australia today.

About 1000 Queensland teachers rallied outside state parliament on June 20 to protest the Campbell Newman Liberal National Party government's "unacceptable" offer on pay and conditions in current enterprise bargaining talks. The government is proposing a 2.7% annual pay rise in return for cuts in rights and conditions.

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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To:

Rafael Vicente Correa Delgado
President of the Republic of Ecuador

Ricardo Armando Patiño Aroca
Minister of Foreign Relations, Republic of Ecuador

CC:

Raúl Gangotena
Ambassador of the Republic of Ecuador in Australia

Luis Felipe Valencia
Consul General of the Republic of Ecuador in Australia

The Darwin Aboriginal Rights Coalition released the statement below on June 21.

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Aboriginal people across the Northern Territory have spoken out against the Stronger Futures laws, which they say continue the discriminatory and racist laws launched with the NT intervention 5 years ago today.

World

There are wildly divergent estimates of the death toll from ethnic and religious violence in the Burmese state of Arakan.

Mainstream media reports and the Burmese government are claiming that fewer than 100 people have been killed in violence they describe as clashes between the Buddhist Rakhine majority and Muslim Rohingya minority communities.

However, Rohingya sources estimate thousands of deaths from a planned campaign of violent ethnic cleansing by Burmese government forces. Rohingya sources say the regime has been instigating Rakhine mob violence as part of their campaign.

The United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development took place in Rio de Janeiro in Brazil over June 20-22. Known as Rio +20, it takes place 20 years after the first UN Earth summit in Rio in 1992 that was supposed to establish guidelines for sustainable development. Since then, the problems noted have drastically worsened. Environmental groups have slammed Rio +20 for failing to propose serious, drastic action needed to deal with a multitude of environmental crises the Earth is facing.

Before the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, that took place in Rio de Janeiro in Brazil over June 20-22, the Global Alliance of Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities on Climate Change against REDD and for Life launched a declaration on June 15 opposing the summit's “solutions” to the environmental crisis.

Palestinians have achieved three consecutive victories in the past few months. In October last year, there was the release of hundreds of Palestinian prisoners in an exchange deal involving the kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.

Then there was a series of individual hunger strikes, which lasted unparalleled periods of time. These began with Khader Adnan, who went on hunger strike to protest against the Israeli policy of administrative detention (holding people in jail without charge, let alone a trial).

United States President Barack Obama announced on June 15 that deportations of undocumented immigrants who came to the US as children would be put on hold for two years.

During this time, they could apply for work permits. About 800,000 young people could be affected.

To be eligible, these youths must be 30 years old or younger, and have come into the country before they were 16. They must be in school, be high school graduates or military veterans and have no criminal records.

Official results were yet to be announced on June 24, but it appears Muhammad Morsi, the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood (MB) candidate, has won the second round of Egypt's presidential elections, held over June 16 and 17.

The election took place amid huge protests in Tahrir Square and around the country against moves by the ruling Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF) to dissolve Egypt's elected parliament.

The governments of Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador strongly condemned on June 21 a parliamentary coup by the Paraguayan Congress against President Fernando Lugo.

BBC news said on June 22 that, after both houses of Congress voted to impeach Lugo, the president was forced to step down. The vice-president, Federico Franco, was sworn in as president on June 22, as supporters of Lugo massed on the streets, The Guardian said that day.

To the great relief of the big financial institutions and European powers, the right-wing New Democracy party narrowly came first with more than 29% of the vote in Greece's June 17 elections. However, the Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) won nearly 27% on a platform of clearly rejecting the savage austerity policies forced on Greece's people in a bid to make them pay for the financial crisis caused by big banks.

WikiLeaks editor-in-chief Julian Assange went to the Ecuadorian embassy in London on June 19 to apply for asylum, after losing his final appeal in British courts against extradition to Sweden.

The extradition to Sweden is nominally over allegations of sexual assault, for which Swedish authorities wish to question Assange ― who has not been charged. But WikiLeaks supporters point to evidence released by the whistleblowing site this year that the United States government has prepared a secret sealed indictment against him.

Despite much speculation in the international media regarding the health of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, a mass gathering of supporters accompanied him on June 11 as he registered his candidature for the October 7 presidential elections.

Chavez used the opportunity to address the issue of recent tests he had undergone after his cancer treatment. “Everything came out absolutely fine, I feel very well” said Chavez, Venezuela Analysis reported the next day.

Sudan’s National Congress Party (NCP) regime is facing rising dissent after a new round of youth protests began on June 16 against austerity measures, spreading throughout the week to cities and towns across Sudan.

Protesters and security forces have clashed daily as the government of President Omer Al Bashir struggles to prevent a widespread uprising.

For 9 months, Baba Jan Hunzai and 4 fellow activists have languished in Pakistani jails, charged with terrorism offences, and suffered torture. Their crime? Organising the oppressed local community to struggle for compensation, after their villages were submerged by a climate-change induced landslide. Green Left TV's Peter Boyle interviewed Labour Party of Pakistan spokesperson Farooq Tariq.

Analysis

Churchgoers all over Sydney heard official statements from their denominations on June 17 with a firm and united message: “Marriage is only for heterosexual couples.”

I needed to see this for myself, so I and four gay Christian friends summoned our courage and attended the evening service at St Andrew's Cathedral.

Opposition leader Tony Abbott announced his vision for a “tougher” refugee policy on June 9. Among the plans are to refuse refugee status for those who have arrived in Australia by boat without documentation.

He also said that an Abbott Coalition government would appeal immigration department decisions to grant refugee status to boat arrivals.

Abbott said: “What is happening now is that 90% of people who arrive illegally via boat are given successful outcomes.”

Confirmation that billionaire mining boss Gina Rinehart now owns about 20% of Fairfax Media’s shares came as the media corporation announced plans to downsize its major newspapers. The moves spell out the future for Australia’s mainstream media: more corporate-friendly reports and less journalism.

Rinehart’s tilt for three positions on Fairfax’s board of directors sparked defensive outrage from executives and journalists alike, who said the company’s “editorial independence” should not be compromised.

The federal government announced on June 14 that it would create the “world's largest network of marine reserves” in Australia. It will form 33 new marine reserves, adding to the current 27.

Green Left Weekly’s Patrick Harrison spoke to Shamikh Badra, the youth and students coordinator for the Palestinian People Party in Gaza Strip. Badra will speak at Resistance’s Time of Revolution conference in Adelaide, over July 20-22.

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What is the daily experience of living in the Gaza Strip?

Green Left Weekly’s Jay Fletcher spoke to Wendy Bacon, a Walkley award-winning journalist and professor at UTS’s Australian Centre for Investigative Journalism, about the crisis in Australia’s mainstream media

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The big structural changes announced at Fairfax — 1900 jobs cuts, moving the flagship papers to tabloid, merging the Sydney and Melbourne news rooms — seem to spell the continuing trend toward more corporatism and less journalism. What are the main consequences of Fairfax’s downsizing?

Locals from the WA town of Gingin, and visitors from Perth including members of the groups No Fracking WAy and Doctors for the Environment, left a June 22 community forum on unconventional gas fracking scratching their heads in bewilderment.

The forum, facilitated by National Party MPs, included speakers from the Department of Mines and Petroleum, the Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association, Nationals member Philip Gardiner, a representative from Empire Oil & Gas and Peter Stone from the CSIRO.

Coal seam gas (CSG) exploration and mining poses significant risks. Yet licences have been issued and development approved in vital drinking water catchments in NSW.

The promise

Before the last state election, then NSW opposition leader Barry O'Farrell made a promise to reverse this. He said: “The next Liberal/National Government will ensure that mining cannot occur ... in any water catchment area, and will ensure that mining leases and mining exploration permits reflect that common sense; no ifs, no buts, a guarantee.”

Socialist Alliance member on the Fremantle City Council, Sam Wainwright discusses the "boom", 457 visas, training and migration to Australia.

Socialist Alternative members Vashti Kenway and Corey Oakley released the open letter below to Victorian Trades Hall on June 21.

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Letter to Victorian Trades Hall re: cancellation of our room booking for Racism and Police Violence.

We are writing to object in the strongest terms to the arbitrary cancellation of our room booking for a public meeting on the issue of “racism and police violence” on Thursday 21 June.

The Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre released the statement below on June 21.

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Michael Mansell today said the forest Bill introduced into the Tasmanian Parliament “is a straight betrayal of Aboriginal people”.

Mansell said: “The Bill represents a rejection by the government and the Greens of the proposal put by Aborigines for ownership and management of the reserved areas. The Government talks of land rights, but talk is cheap.

The Socialist Alliance released the statement below on June 19.

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Message of solidarity to anti-war and progressive movements opposing the Philippine-Australia Status of the Visiting Forces Agreement

Editorial

WikiLeaks editor Julian Assange is right to seek political asylum in Ecuador. He was left with no other choice after the Australian government made clear it would do nothing to prevent his extradition to the United States on espionage charges.

His real “crime” is groundbreaking journalism, which has exposed the lies and crimes of governments around the world, especially the US.

Letters

Rewrite the Constitution

What a brilliant 6-1 decision by the High Court on the federal funding of the chaplain program. The dysfunctionality of the federal constitution and the federal system couldn't have been made more obvious.

The major parties now have to, again, find ways to circumvent the Constitution to make sensible government possible. Rudd passed up the opportunity in 2007 to replace the federal system with something far more effective with ALP governments in six states and in Canberra.

Culture

Forever Sky'high
Sky'high
Elefant Traks
Released May 25, 2012
Stream the whole album at:
www.skyhighforever.com

Rapper Sky'high is a strong, Black woman surrounded by strong, Black women. "This is correct," she tells Green Left Weekly. "My family's full of strong, Black women."

But when asked if there are any strong men in her family, she replies: "My father and brothers' father both passed away."

Sky'high
Forever Sky'high
Elefant Traks
Released May 25, 2012
Stream the whole album at:
http://www.skyhighforever.com/

Rapper Sky'high is a strong, Black woman surrounded by strong, Black women. "This is correct," she tells Green Left Weekly. "My family's full of strong, Black women."

But when asked if there are any strong men in her family, she replies: "My father and brothers' father both passed away."

Mark Stewart
The Politics Of Envy
Future Noise Music
Released March, 2012
http://www.markstewartmusic.com/

"Genius and lunatic are two sides of the same coin," says Mark Stewart. The post-punk pioneer is telling Green Left Weekly about "Method to The Madness", a song on his star-studded new CD, The Politics Of Envy.

But he could just as easily be talking about dub-reggae doyen Lee Scratch Perry, Clash co-founder Keith Levene or mindbending moviemaker Kenneth Anger, all of whom appear on the album.

Or he could, of course, be talking about himself.

Co-editors Jeff Sparrow and Antony Loewenstein discuss their new book with contributors Tad Tietze and Larissa Behrendt at the June 14 launch at Sydney's Gleebooks.

The book's essays seek to spark a wider discussion about an Australia where "crisis stalks the old political order and yet no new alternatives seem possible". Loewenstein and Sparrow say alternatives to the status quo are urgently needed.

Struggle For Freedom: Aung San Suu Kyi
By Jesper Bengtsson
Fourth Estate, 2011, 308 pages, $35 (pb)

Aung San Suu Kyi’s entry into political activism in Burma in 1988 quickly met the fate of so many other pro-democracy opponents of the Burmese military dictatorship — decades of arrest and harassment.

Suu Kyi has been under house arrest for 15 of the past 21 years. But, as Jesper Bengtsson’s biography of the 65-year-old Suu Kyi shows, her resistance and courage, like that of so many other Burmese, has not faltered.

Bindi-eye Bop: Singable Songs for Aussie Kids
Margaret Bradford
http://margaretbradford.com

Bindi-eye Bop is a delightful collection of songs for kids and kids-at-heart. Most of the songs are Margaret Bradford’s original songs and the words are all presented in this beautifully illustrated, hard-covered book.

The full-colour illustrations that accompany the songs are the work of Janet Selby. This talented artist has skillfully created some wonderful illustrations to complement the songs.

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

Malik Miah

The first volume of former United States Socialist Workers Party (SWP) leader Barry Sheppard’s political memoir The Party covered the exciting years of “the '60s”.

Fighting Fund

Our persistent supporters who take Green Left Weekly out into the street week after week (yes, even on the chilliest of winter days) have received a few more smiles, nods and words of encouragement as, out there in the corporate media, the billionaire bosses have been mercilessly wielding the axe and whip.

Our growing team of new volunteers for the Green Left TV project have also been warmly congratulated and encouraged. More people now appreciate the importance of the alternative media.