Issue 935

News

Residents in Sydney’s southwest have slammed AGL’s coal seam gas activity in NSW. AGL has admitted that it failed for three years to meet a requirement to monitor air emissions from its Camden Gas Project.
The South Australian Feminist Collective (SAFC) brings together feminists from different backgrounds. It holds regular meetings and forums on issues relating to women in Australia today. The collective held a forum on reproductive rights last month, which focussed on the current legislation concerning abortion in South Australia. Abortion is still on the criminal code in South Australia.
Students will vote on proposed amendments to the University of South Australia's (UniSA) UniLife constitution from August 27 to September 3. UniLife provides various amenities to UniSA students and is run by an elected student board. Over the past nine months, the board has redrafted constitutional amendments 14 times. But the drafts were withheld from the wider student body until the board called a snap referendum on the amendments with a weeks’ notice.
The Arid Lands Environment Centre and the Environment Centre Northern Territory released the statement below on August 8. * * * The Arid Lands Environment Centre (ALEC) and the Environment Centre NT are calling for a moratorium on approvals for non-conventional gas extraction and fracking while the review of the NT Water Act is underway.
Friends of the Earth and Quit Coal released the statement below on August 24. * * * While it is a vindication of the community’s concerns about the harmful impacts of coal seam gas mining, today’s announcement by the Baillieu Government of a moratorium on coal seam gas fracking is inadequate to protect Victoria from the negative impacts of coal seam gas development.
Representatives of the taxi industry have urged the Victorian Taxi Industry Inquiry to adopt its proposal for centrally booked door-to-door share ride minibuses as an alternative to many regular bus routes. Peter Erwin and Douglas Clark, who describe themselves as having extensive experience in the taxi industry, made a joint submission to the inquiry on August 13. Erwin and Clark have approached community groups and local media in the Yarra Ranges, Whittlesea and East Gippsland seeking support for a trial of share ride minibuses.
The campaign against the Liberal National Party Queensland government’s public sector cuts and suppression of alternative views is gathering momentum in the state’s Far North region.
A small but vocal group of people gathered outside the Land and Environment Court in Sydney on August 20 to protest against Rio Tinto’s plans to extend its Mount Thorley Warkworth coalmine near Bulga, in Singleton Shire in the NSW Hunter Valley. The protesters held banners saying “Don’t bugger Bulga”, “Stop coal and gas destroying NSW” and “Save the Warkworth Sands Woodlands”, while they chanted slogans such as “Rack off Rio Tinto.”
In response to attacks on jobs and services by the Barry O’Farrell Coalition NSW government, Unions NSW is launching Local Union and Community Councils (LUCCs) across the state. Many of these groups are based upon networks established during the Your Rights At Work campaign in 2007. LUCCs have been set up in more than a dozen regional and metropolitan locations, and several groups are having their inaugural meetings over the coming weeks (see below for details).
Telstra sends jobs offshore Regional communities are furious at Telstra’s announcement that it will axe 651 jobs from Queensland, NSW and Victoria. Last year, Telstra made $3.4 billion profit. Local councils say the 126 job cuts in Townsville and 116 job cuts at Lismore will devastate communities there.
Occupy La Trobe, formed by La Trobe University students to fight cuts proposed to the Faculty of Humanities and Social Services (HUSS), published the statement below from the Stop the HUSS Cuts Collective on August 23. * * *
Residents of Fullerton Cove, on the outskirts of Newcastle, set up a blockade on Monday 20 August to prevent Dart Energy from drilling two coal seam gas pilot wells that are currently under construction.
The Coal Terminal Action Group hosted a public forum on August 21, with several expert speakers opposing the proposed fourth coal loader for Newcastle, known as the “T4”. Georgina Woods, senior climate campaigner with Greenpeace Australia Pacific, said T4 was not “just another coal terminal … It is part of a long process of continual expansion that will more than double coal exports with an extra 120 million tonnes and 107 extra trains per day and destroy an internationally listed wetlands.
About 200 people rallied against La Trobe University executives’ massive cuts to the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences on August 22. Protesters occupied the Agora at La Trobe’s Bundoora campus in support of a hunger strike against the cuts. They occupied the campus overnight. The cuts will result in hundreds of subjects being slashed, entire areas of study being abolished and at least 41 job losses. A mass meeting of staff and students in July passed a resolution demanding all cuts be withdrawn.
The Socialist Alliance NSW released the statement below on August 21. * * * “Parramatta City Council has a civic responsibility to respond urgently to the report from the Australian Council of Social Services (ACOSS) that the lack of affordable housing has reached crisis levels”, said Kerryn Williams, a Socialist Alliance candidate for the Woodville ward in the Parramatta council election.
One hundred and fifty people attended a lively conference held over August 18-19 titled “Fidel in the 21st century: his contribution and ideas for a better world”. The event examined the inspiring life and historic political contribution of former Cuban President Fidel Castro. The conference was organised by the Latin America Social Forum (LASF), the Australia-Cuba Friendship Society, the Cuba Solidarity Committee (Western Suburbs), and the Free the Cuba Five Committee, with the support of the Cuban Embassy and the Cuban Institute for Friendship with the Peoples (ICAP).
Organisers of an Adelaide rally to support WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange released the statement below on August 22. * * * Supporters of Julian Assange have organised a protest today (Wednesday, 21st August) at 5pm at Parliament House. The rally is one of many protests that have already taken place around Australia after the decision of the UK government to deny Julian Assange safe passage to Ecuador.

Analysis

The Socialist Alliance released the statement below on August 25. * * * 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.
The attacks on tertiary education around Australia continue to escalate. The University of Wollongong has announced it would reduce the current 11 faculties into five “super-faculties” as part of a five-year plan aimed at putting the university in the “top 1%” of global institutions.
1. Set immediate emission cut targets to reduce net emissions to zero as soon as possible, including a target to achieve 100% renewable energy by 2020. Introduce emissions reduction targets of at least 5% a year. 2. Begin new international treaty negotiations aimed to get all countries to agree on a global target of at least 90% emissions cuts on 1990 levels by 2030. Make cutting rich industrial nations’ emissions a priority, and increase aid to poorer countries to help them to use clean energy for their development.
OK, nobody panic or anything, but it seems another key plank in Gina Rinehart's plot to destroy the Earth has been given the green light. Gina Rinehart's multibillion-dollar Alpha coal mine and rail project in central Queensland has been granted federal government approval, ABC.net.au said on August 23.
The Refugee Action Coalition released the statement below on August 24. * * * The Refugee Action Coalition has welcomed the government’s announcement to immediately increase Australia’s refugee intake to 20,000. But the government could and should have increased the intake without re-opening Nauru. “The bitter pill of violating refugee rights on Nauru is not going to be sweetened by increasing Australia’s overall intake,” said Ian Rintoul, spokesperson for the Refugee Action Coalition.
In recent months, Prime Minister Julia Gillard has taken to highlighting the role of state electricity utilities in pushing up power prices. Average power bills have been rising rapidly — 69% over four years in NSW.
The independent Gonski review, commissioned by the federal government into school funding, was released in February. It concluded that Australia is investing far too little in education and that in our wealthy country there are many schools that are underprivileged. It also concluded that our education system is not fair — that our school system is stacked against the disadvantaged, while it gives the most privileged the most advantages.
The Tasmanian Greens have proposed the “biggest reform in the Tasmanian electricity sector since the dams were built", in its response to an expert panel that reviewed the state’s electricity industry earlier this year. About 80% of the Tasmania’s electricity comes from hydro power, owned by Hydro Tasmania. This is sold to Aurora, the only retail company in the state. Another company, Transend, owns the distribution network. All three are government business enterprises.
Five words sum up federal opposition leader Tony Abbott's response to some sharp questions put to him by journalist Leigh Sales in the August 22 episode of ABC TV's 7.30: Liar, liar, pants on fire! If you need a good example of a person with a chronic disposition to lie, this is it. Read the transcript or watch the video, then imagine the same interview — except conducted after Abbott was given a dose of truth serum. Perhaps it would go something like this. * * *
Sydney City Greens councillor Irene Doutney is a fighter. She’s a public housing tenant and knows a thing or two about the dispossessed and disadvantaged. She is part of a rich council that sprawls from Millers’ Point in the north and Annandale in the West to Moore Park in the east to St Peters in the south. It also includes the much poorer neighbourhoods of Woolloomooloo, Redfern, Zetland and Rosebery.
The personal saga of WikiLeaks editor-in-chief Julian Assange has been used to overshadow the ground-breaking journalism of WikiLeaks in exposing the secrets of governments and corporations around the world.
Stop CSG Illawarra released the statement below on August 22. * * * The fire last week that consumed 1600 hectares of bush around Bulli Tops, forced the F6 to close, and threatened homes at Darkes Forest also burned right through one of the approved (now lapsed) CSG well sites in the northern Illawarra.
What is solidarity? It is a term used frequently on the left, and one that demands attention. Solidarity refers to an act or expression of mutual support among a group of people. However, capitalism can narrow the parameters of solidarity and weaken its collective power to acts of individualism.

World


Sonny Melencio, chairperson of the Partido Lakas ng Masa, reflects on the politics of class and catastrophic climate change in the wake of the 2012 Manila floods.

Jade Lee, a residents' rights and environmental activist, explains why there is powerful community opposition to the commencement of operation of a rare earth refinery in Malaysia by Lynas, an Australian company. See also: Stop Lynas campaigners challenge company's licence to operate
British-Pakistani author, journalist and activist Tariq Ali chaired a rally outside the Ecuadorean Embassy in London on August 19. The rally came before WikiLeaks editor-in-chief Julian Assange's widely publicised speech. Ali also gave two speeches. In the second, he spoke about why it was that Assange and WikiLeaks had found support in Ecuador and Latin America more generally — and highlighted the revolutionary movements that have swept the continent to challenge US corporate domination.
The statement below was released on August 23 by Craig Murray, a former British ambassador and career diplomat, on the Ecuadorean embassy siege in London. It is reprinted from www.wikileaks.org. * * * My name is Craig John Murray. I am a retired British diplomat. I was a member of Her Majesty’s Diplomatic Service for over 20 years, and a member of the Senior Management Structure of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office for over six years.
Free Syrian Army (FSA) leader Abdul Salaam types on his Dell laptop while a comrade sitting nearby taps a text message on his iPhone. Eight of his fighters lounge around an apartment living room late one night. Their 150-man brigade, Ahrar Syria (Free People of Syria), even has its own Facebook page. The brigade sports modern techno gadgets, but it lacks sophisticated arms and ammunition. So instead of fighting in the battle of Aleppo, the militants help smuggle refugees and injured fighters from war-torn Syria into Turkey.
Tens of thousands of demonstrators took to Montreal's streets on August 22 for the monthly protest march of Quebec's student movement. The movement has organised big marches on the 22nd of each month since March of this year. The march was an impressive display of militancy and determination just 12 days before the September 4 provincial election. Some members of the radical Broad Coalition of the Association for Student Union Solidarity (CLASSE) student association said that 100,000 people took part.
The 34,000 employees who work at the Polar Business food production conglomerate in Venezuela have denounced what they describe as a violation of their labour and social rights. The workers accused the company of trying to destabilise the country in the run up to the presidential elections on October 7. Polls show that President Hugo Chavez is far ahead of his right-wing rival, Henrique Capriles Radonski. Chavez is campaigning on a platform of deepening the socialist transformation of Venezuela.
The deluded and deranged fantasy world of the woman-hating, anti-choice right wing filled front page headlines in August, thanks to the comments of Missouri Republican representative and Senate candidate, Todd Akin. Asked during an interview on August 19 whether he thinks abortion should be legal in cases of rape, Akin explained: “That's really rare. If it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”
In the aftermath of the terrible Marikana massacre on August 16, many statements have been released by South Africa's left, condemning and explaining the murder of more than 34 miners that day and several others in the weeks previously. Many of these statements can be read at Green Left Weekly's sister publication Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal. Below is the August 23 statement by the Democratic Left Front, a South African anti-capitalist group formed in January last year. * * *
Burger King is trying to intimidate and silence its workers and the Unite union from criticising the company. The company has applied to the Employment Relations Authority seeking an injunction to stop Unite from organising teach-ins at its stores about how the company is treating its workers. It also wants to shut down the union's blog from reporting on Burger King and its activities. Burger King has told its staff that if any of them speak up at teach-ins outside its stores they face “serious consequences”.
In the early evening of August 6, a series of explosions at the Richmond Chevron oil refinery in the San Francisco Bay Area sparked a huge fire that burned for hours. The fire sent a huge black cloud that went for miles over densely populated areas. Tens of thousands of residents were ordered to stay in their homes, with windows and doors closed. Local authorities issued a level three warning, meaning the cloud would cause eye, skin, nose and respiratory sickness.
In May 2008, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez endorsed Plan Socialist Guyana (PGS), drawn up by elected representatives from workers in Venezuela's heavy industry sector in Guyana. This plan calls for the introduction of workers' control across the state-owned industries grouped in the Guyana Venezuela Corporation(CGV), as well as a shift away from producing raw materials for multinationals towards Venezuela's development needs and taking the needs of communities and the environment into consideration.
With weary familiarity, Britain’s government deficit — the gap between what it spends, and what it receives from taxes — has been revealed as far worse than anticipated. Last month, the government borrowed £557 million ($846 million). In July last year, it saved £2.5 billion — spending less than it received in taxes. For the financial year since April, its total deficit has risen to £44 bllion, £11.6 billion higher than the same period last year.
More than 2 million square kilometres of Arctic ice that should be there, is not. A few years ago, United Nations models predicted climate change would lead to ice-free Arctic summers within 100 years. Now, some scientists say it could melt away completely within the next few 100 weeks. And there is next to no chance it will recover. For climate solutions plan, see: The Socialist Alliance 10-point climate action plan

Culture

Smokey’s Haunt Urthboy Elefant Traks Out October 12 Touring from August 30 Has the internet turned activists into "slacktivists"? It's just one of the questions posed on Smokey’s Haunt, the new album by the persistently provocative Urthboy. "Kony 2012 is a perfect example," the Australian hip hop pioneer tells Green Left. The online Kony campaign was seen by millions, but has so far failed in its goal to arrest Ugandan war criminal Joseph Kony.
Go Back To Where You Came From Series Two SBS One From Tuesday, August 28, at 8.30pm Catherine Deveny wasn’t quite sure what she would be in for when she agreed to appear in the second series of SBS’s hit refugee reality TV show, Go Back To Where You Came From. But it seems everyone on the show, which makes Australians re-trace the steps of asylum seekers fleeing war zones, was equally wary of her. It was only when the left-wing author, comic and Green Left fundraiser turned up for filming that she found out who her co-stars were.
In an act as appropriate as it is overdue, the Australian parliament began debating issuing an official state apology on August 20 to the country's late, great sprinter Peter Norman. Norman won the 200-meter silver medal at the 1968 Olympics, but that is not why he is either remembered or owed apologies.