Issue 934

Australia

An August 16 protest in Melbourne against TAFE cuts carried out by the Ted Baillieu Victorian state government.

Department cuts cost baby's life

A baby who was bashed to death near Wollongong had been reported to the Department of Family and Community Services twice in the weeks leading up to his death.

Community services staff walked off the job on August 9, in protest at the Barry O'Farrell government's cuts to their budget, which they say led to a “preventable death”.

Three open cut coalmines have been proposed over the Leard State Forest and adjoining farmland near Boggabri in NSW. Two mines currently operate in the forest, but their proposed expansion and a brand new mine would clear 50% of the forest.

The National Parks Association of NSW says the forest is “home to 26 threatened plant and animal species” and is “the single biggest remnant of native vegetation left on the heavily cleared Liverpool Plains”.

Two new mines are being assessed within the Tarkine rainforest in north-west Tasmania. The Tarkine is well known for the public battles to save it from logging, and was given emergency National Heritage listing in 2009.

But that status lapsed in December 2010, and with the global price of minerals rising, mining companies began to explore the area. Ten mines have been proposed for the area — nine of them open cut. The first two mines planned will produce tin and iron ore.

The Broome Community No Gas coalition released the statement below on August 17.

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The Broome Community has vowed to stop Woodside's works as they are illegal, and will damage the Broome town water supply, after a convoy of Woodside vehicles entered the compound near James Price Point this morning.

Socialist Alliance has announced its preferences for the Wali (North) ward of Marrickville Council in the local government elections on September 8.

Community activists Pip Hinman, Josie Evans and Jill Hickson will contest the election with the platform of “Power to the people!” and “Community and environment before developers’ profits”.

Although New South Wales has an optional preferential system for local government elections, Socialist Alliance will allocate preferences to all candidates in the ward.

On August 16, around 4000 people rallied in Melbourne to Save TAFE in Victoria. Staff, students and supporters mobilised from around Melbourne as well as from regional centres such as Ballarat and Geelong.

Since the Baillieu government cut $300 million from the TAFE sector, hundreds of teachers and support staff have been sacked, campuses are facing closure, courses have been shut down and fees have been massively increased for thousands of students.

Two Israeli peace activists, Sahar Vardi and Micha Kurz, described their political awakening at a public forum at the Uniting Church, Balmain, on August 15. Vardi and Kurz explained their gradual realisation of the truth about Israel's oppression of the Palestinians and their determination to take action against it to an audience of about 60 people.

Up to 200 Bagot community residents and supporters rallied outside Country-Liberal Party MLA Dave Tollner’s office on August 16, angry over his plans to “normalise” their home.

Bagot was a reserve established in 1938 and included a residential facility for Stolen Generations children.

The Sydney Peace Foundation released the statement below on August 17.

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The Sydney Peace Foundation thanks the government of Ecuador for giving asylum to Julian Assange.

“The Palestinian people will never surrender. We will win in the end,” Shamikh Badra, youth and students coordinator for the Palestinian People's Party in the Gaza Strip, told a public forum in the Resistance Centre on August 14. The forum was sponsored by Socialist Alliance and Resistance.

He passed around graphic photos of Israeli military attacks on Gaza to the audience. The photos showed “the war crimes of Israel; how the Palestinian people suffer from the Israeli occupation”. He asked: “Where is the rule of international humanitarian law in this.”

Anglesea Air Action, a group of residents opposed to the Victorian government’s plan to extend the lease for Alcoa’s Anglesea coalmine for 50 years, released the statement below on August 15.

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Anglesea Air Action criticise the state government’s renewal and extension of the Anglesea coalmine without releasing the Alcoa Health Risk Assessment which, it has been revealed, have been on their files for years.

The Support Assange and WikiLeaks Coalition released the statement below on August 16.

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Ecuadorian Foreign Minister, Ricordo Patino, has confirmed that UK police have threatened to invade the Ecuadorian Embassy in London and arrest Julian Assange. This would be an unprecedented and scandalous violation of international law.




Activists from Refugee Action Collective rallied in Melbourne on August 15 against the Gillard government using

Carolus Wimmer, a longstanding member of the Latin American Parliament and International Relations Secretary of the Communist Party of Venezuela, spoke at a Sydney forum on Latin America in revolt on August 11, sponsored by the Communist Party of Australia.

During his Australian tour, he also addressed meetings in Brisbane, Perth and Adelaide.

Up to 200 people crowded into the Mori Gallery on August 8 to attend the official opening of the Beautiful Art for Innocent Children exhibition.

The exhibition was sponsored by Agent Orange Justice to aid “the innocent children being born now in Vietnam with horrific birth defects as a consequence of Agent Orange/dioxin remaining in the soil and the consequential genetic damage continuing for generations”.

World

Author and filmmaker John Pilger sent the speech below to be read out at an August 19 protest outside the Ecuadorian embassy in London to defend Julian Assange.

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I have known Julian since he came to London and gave the world vital information about Afghanistan and Iraq, which governments had suppressed and denied.

Julian Assange's speech from the balcony of the Ecuadorean embassy in London on August 19. Also features the speeches by a range of WikiLeaks supporters, including renowned writer and veteran activist Tariq Ali who chaired the rally outside the embassy before Assange spoke.

The aricle below is an August 18 editorial in progressive South African magazine Amandla.

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No event since the end of Apartheid sums up the shallowness of the transformation in this country like the Marikana massacre.

What occurred will be debated for years. It is already clear the mineworkers will be blamed for being violent. The mineworkers will be painted as savages.

In Marikana, South Africa, at least 35 striking miners were shot dead by police and another 78 wounded on August 16. The incident, which was caught on tape, took place as police were trying to clear striking miners from a hilltop outside of the Lonmin mine.

In response to authorities firing stun grenades and tear gas, a number of miners began to charge. Without warning, dozens of officers opened fire with automatic weapons.

After an armed attack killed 16 Egyptian guards on the border with Israel in the Sinai Peninsula, President Mohammed Morsi sacked defence minister and head of the Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF) Mohammed Tantawi, and his second in command, Sami Anan.

The move is part of an ongoing battle that has taken place between the Muslim Brotherhood — main political force that emerged after the overthrow of former dictator Hosni Mubarak — and SCAF, which took governmental power after Mubarak stepped down.

“In this time of crisis, when they are expropriating the people, we want to expropriate the expropriators, namely, the landowners, banks and big retailers.”

With these words Juan Manuel Sanchez Gordillo, leader of the Andalusian Union of Workers (SAT), United Left (IU) member of parliament in the Andalusian regional parliament and mayor of the rural town of Marinaleda, justified the August 7 seizure of food by SAT members from two stores of the Mercadona and Carrefour supermarket chains — the Coles and Woolworths of Spain.

The highland agricultural community of Santa Rosa de Cajacuy, in Peru’s central Ancash department, has been severely affected by a toxic spill from the BHP Billiton and Xstrata-operated Antamina mine.

Antamina is one of the world’s largest sources of copper and zinc. It relies on a 300 kilometre high-pressure pipeline to pump resources from the mountains to coastal port facilities.

A Russian judge sentenced three members of Pussy Riot to two years each in prison on hooliganism charges on August 17.

The judge said the three band members, who have already been detained for five months, committed hooliganism driven by religious hatred and offending religious believers.

The women smiled sadly at the testimony of prosecution witnesses accusing them of sacrilege and “devilish dances” in church.

They remained calm after the judge announced the sentence and someone in the courtroom shouted: “Shame!”

“It would be easier for 100 camels to pass through the eye of a needle than for [the capitalist class] to win the election”, said Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez speaking at the Caracas Municipal Theatre on August 15.

It is just six weeks until Venezuela’s October 7 presidential election pits incumbent Chavez and his pro-revolution Great Patriotic Pole (GPP) electoral alliance against his main rival Henrique Capriles.

Capriles heads the right-wing opposition bloc, the Democratic Unity Forum (MUD).

Venezuela and the Bolivarian Alliance of the Americas (ALBA) have backed Ecuador against “threats” from Britain, after Ecuador granted WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange diplomatic asylum in the Ecuadorian embassy in London on August 16.

ALBA is an anti-imperialist bloc of eight nations that includes Ecuador, Venezuela, Cuba and Bolivia.

Swedish authorities want to extradite Assange from Britain to investigate allegations against him of sexual assault.

The Greek right-wing New Democracy(ND) party won the June 17 elections by a narrow margin, getting 29.7% of the vote. Left-wing Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) came second with 26.9% on a clear platform of opposing the savage austerity measures imposed on Greece.

ND’s dubious victory was largely achieved through blackmail and mud-slinging against SYRIZA ― as well as promises to negotiate the harsh memorandum measures if it was elected.

Papua New Guinea's new cabinet was named on August 10 by re-elected Prime Minister Peter O'Neill. It marked the end of the election period that ended the country's long-running political crisis.

The election period began in June and was extended in some areas due to violence, delays, fraud and voting problems.

The article below was abridged from Correo Del Orinoco International.

See also
Venezuela: Chavez set for win as campaign pushes socialist transformation

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Internationally-acclaimed author, activist, and intellectual Tariq Ali highlighted the importance of Venezuela´s Bolivarian Revolution and socialist President Hugo Chavez at a conference at the Bolivarian University of Venezuela in Caracas over July 27-28.

The text below is translated from the official Spanish transcript of the press statement issued by Ecuadorian Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino on August 16, explaining Ecuador’s decision to grant asylum to Julian Assange.

Supporters of WikiLeaks are planning emergency rallies in Sydney and Brisbane

The Front Line Socialist Party of Sri Lanka held a protest to defend equality in education with an August 15 demonstration in front of the Fort Railway station in Colombo in support of a mass campaign student and teacher organisations, Premakumar Gunaratnam told Green Left Weekly.

“Ever since 1977, various Sri Lankan governments have being trying to privatise the education system,” Gunaratnam explained. “The first attempts were blocked by a strong student movement led by the Inter University Students Federation (IUFS).”

WikiLeaks released the statement below on August 16.

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In a communication this morning to the government of Ecuador, the UK threatened to forcefully enter the Ecuadorian embassy in London and arrest Julian Assange.

The UK claims the power to do so under the Diplomatic and Consular Premises Act 1987.

This claim is without basis.

By midnight, two hours prior to the time of this announcement, the embassy had been surrounded by police, in a menacing show of force.

As the Philippine government dithered and made excuses for its grossly inadequate response to the catastrophic floods — which inundated 80% of the country's capital, Manila — Sonny Melencio was leading a grassroots relief effort that brought the first food supplies in days to some of the poorest and most badly affected communities.

Analysis

In a "stunning victory for civil liberties", the Barnett government has announced that they will introduce legislation to enable police officers to enter private houses without a search warrant and without the permission of the property owner.

The Evening News investigates the implications of this move in a fair and impartial way.

More videos from Green Left TV.

Australian historian Humphrey McQueen gave the speech below at an August 17 pro-WikiLeaks protest outside the British High Commission, Canberra.

Fifteen years of Labor in NSW set in motion changes that severely and negatively affected the well-being of our community. Unfortunately these regressive policies are being pursued even more aggressively by the Barry O’Farrell Coalition government.

Labor gave the Coalition the framework for changing planning laws to take away community say in planning decisions, commenced the privatisation of electricity assets and sale of public housing, and approved hundreds of coal seam gas mining licenses including at St Peters in the heart of Heffron.

The Union of South American States (UNASUR) threw its support behind Ecuador in its diplomatic dispute with Britain over Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, after a meeting of UNASUR foreign ministers yesterday in Guayaquil, Ecuador.

UNASUR unites 12 South American nations (Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Guyana, Ecuador, Uruguay, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname and Venezuela).

On August 16, Ecuador granted Assange diplomatic asylum in its London embassy due to fears his human rights could be violated if extradited to Sweden to face sexual assault charges.

Greens candidate for Heffron in the August 25 NSW by-election Mehreen Faruqi gave the speech below at a refugee rights rally in Sydney on August 15.

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Seeking asylum is a legal and a human right. But our current government and the Coalition are bent upon stripping these rights and protections from vulnerable people who most need them.

Former diplomat Tony Kevin gives a very different view to the political and media commentary about 'evil people smugglers'. He says the main danger to the lives of refugees is not those who assist desperate people fleeing war and persecution, but government border protection policies that prioritise political spin over saving lives.

Venezuelan revolutionary Carolus Wimmer speaking in Perth on August 16 as part of a national tour organised by the Communist Party of Australia.

In the lead up to the September 8 council elections across NSW, candidates in the City of Sydney have been finalised and several candidates forums have already been held.

Within a week of the government-appointed Houston panel’s recommendation that Australia return to the “Pacific solution” for asylum seekers, the toxic atmosphere of John Howard's “children overboard” era resurged powerfully in Australian politics.

On the same day the Houston report recommended indefinite refugee detention on Nauru and Manus Island for all asylum seekers arriving by boat, 67 asylum seekers taken aboard the Singapore-bound MV Parsifal were the subject of a tense stand-off at sea.

In the lead up to its first budget next month, Queensland’s Liberal National Party (LNP) government has intensified its slash-and-burn approach to public and community services. In its first 100 days in office, it axed 7000 public service jobs. Premier Campbell Newman says a further 13,000 job cuts are to come.

Newman has wielded his axe indiscriminately. School cleaners, teachers’ aides, child safety, paramedics, firefighters, local courts, QBuild tradesmen and apprentices are all in the firing line.

Congratulations to Tony Abbott on becoming prime minister. We all know how just badly he wanted this job, and he didn't even have to sell his arse. Or worse, support nominal action on climate change.

His rise to the nation's top office was marked on August 15, when his government passed his asylum seeker policies, with the opposition — Adam Bandt and Andrew Wilkie — voting against.

Coal seam gas (CSG) advocates are running a fear campaign against a backdrop of soaring electricity prices in New South Wales. They claim that unless CSG development in NSW goes ahead, household gas bills will triple.

This is a frightening idea, given the stress already caused by electricity price hikes.

Over the past four years the average power bill in NSW has gone up by 69% on top of inflation. Users face a further 18% price hike this year.

The Socialist Alliance released the statement below on August 17.

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The Howard-era racist “Fortress Australia” is being rebuilt with the passing of laws to persecute asylum seekers arriving in Australia by boat.

The adoption of offshore processing means that Labor and the Coalition have united to, in effect, withdraw from the implementation of the UN refugee convention.

Walking into the Summer Hill Childcare Centre, it's clear that the children and workers alike are busy and happy. I went to meet the centre's director, Roberta de Souza, to find out more about child care in the inner west of Sydney.

Sitting among the children, who range from three to five years old, de Souza was critical of government policy, which she said undervalues childcare workers.

“It supports nurses, fire fighters, ambulance drivers. But we are also providing an important service – to future adults.”

The government of Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa gave Julia Gillard's Australian government a lesson in dignity on August 16 when, facing British threats to raid its London embassy, it granted asylum to WikiLeaks editor-in-chief Julian Assange.

Ironically, Ecuador's decision to grant asylum to the Australian citizen who founded the whistleblowing website came on the same day the Australian Senate voted to further punish those seeking asylum in this country.

The August 25 Northern Territory elections have degenerated in to a “law and order” slugfest between the Labor Party and the Country Liberals, but there are still some progressive candidates running who may do well.

Max Bound grew up during the Great Depression, and his view of the world was shaped in part by such experiences as seeing classmates being sent home from school because they were too hungry to stay conscious. He left school at the age of thirteen and as a teenager he started reading socialist theory. His experience working in a coalmine, as a cleaner, a tram conductor and as a builder's labourer gave him a thorough education in how the world worked.

The Support Assange and WikiLeaks Coalition released the statement below on August 16.

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Extraordinary scenes are unfolding in London as British authorities are reported to have entered the Knightsbridge building, which houses the Ecuadorian Embassy, in defiance of more than 100 years of tradition which treats diplomatic compounds as sovereign territory of the embassy’s government.

Advocacy group Refugees, Survivors and Ex-Detainees (RISE) released the statement below on August 15.

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There is nothing to be surprised about. Once again, the government has used puppets to say yes to “offshore processing”. None of the three individuals on the Houston Panel have been appointed by refugee community groups or advocates, and therefore it comes as no surprise that their proposal is in line with the government’s own offshore solutions.

The Asylum Seeker Resource Centre released the statement below on August 14.

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The Asylum Seeker Resource Centre (ASRC) is shocked and disappointed with the release of the expert panel’s recommendations as they focus on deterrence, punishment and breach the very reason the Refugee Convention was established — offering protection to people fleeing persecution. The recommendations are a step backwards in Australia's humanity and will affect our reputation as a defender of human rights.

The Refugee Action Coalition released the statement below on August 13.

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The Refugee Action Coalition has strongly condemned the Houston panel’s recommendations for offshore processing as made public at their press conference this afternoon.

The report delivered by the Angus Houston-led “expert panel” on asylum seekers is not a plan for “stopping the boats” or stopping people from risking their lives at sea. It is a plan to demonise refugees and use them as a scapegoat for the rising government-led attacks on Australian people.

The ALP’s capitulation to populist refugee-bashing is wrong on so many levels that it's hard to know where to begin.

The underlying rationale is patently false. The Age reported: “In a major backdown from her earlier insistence on the Malaysia ‘people swap’, Prime Minister Julia Gillard declared: ‘If people want to put up banners that this is a compromise from the government: dead — in order to start saving lives.’

The Coal Terminal Action Group this week launched a community-led dust and health study, following the application by Port Waratah Coal Services to construct yet another coal terminal in Newcastle (T4).

For many years, communities living around the port, along the coal train lines and near the mines have been calling for the NSW government to do the research to find out what health impacts all the coal dust and diesel emissions are having on them.

Culture

Insidious war
civil war
worldwide
to the accompaniment
of patriotic
grandiose
really unrelenting
drumming
honourable members of society
in paranoid march
socialisation savagely civilising
national hypnosis
general narcosis
lest we feel the mines
secretly scattered around
by wretched powerful creatures
who with vacant gaze
and tight jaws
injure the truth
in guileless eyes unsettled
in broad limelight
they carry around
their deaf dead bodies
smartly disguised
with immaculate clothes
flashing spouses
palace-like houses
their filthiest linen
in grand pits they flush

In Australia, Treasurer Wayne Swan made headlines by saying he was a huge fan of Bruce Springsteen ― despite implementing neoliberal economic policies of the sort Springsteen rails against. Mining billionaire and wannabe Liberal politician Clive Palmer jumped up to respond that his favourite band was Redgum ― despite the famously left-wing folk band, active in the 1970s and '80s, representing politics that are the exact opposite politics to Palmer's.

The spectacle of the 2012 London Olympics should be subtitled “The Bashing of the Chinese Athlete”.

On August 8, Andrew Jacobs of the New York Times published a much-discussed piece called “Heavy burden on athletes takes joy away from China's Olympic success”.

All kinds of “concerns” were raised about the toll “the nation's draconian sports system” is taking on the country's athletes.

Fighting Fund

The “moral bankruptcy of the ruling classes” is a thought readers would have shared as the Labor, Liberal and National parties came together in an unholy alliance to return to the cruel and shameful practice of locking up asylum seekers indefinitely in detention camps on Nauru and Manus Island, PNG.

And again when the British government threatened to storm the embassy of Ecuador in London to arrest WikiLeaks editor-in-chief Julian Assange, who has now been granted asylum by Ecuador's progressive Rafael Correa government.