Issue 940

News

Members of the Australian solidarity brigade in Venezuela released the statement below on October 8. * * * “We, members of the Australian solidarity brigade to Venezuela, congratulate socialist President Hugo Chavez on his re-election on October 7”, said Coral Wynter, an organiser of the Australia-Venezuela Solidarity Network (AVSN) 2012 brigade. “We have seen Venezuela's unique participatory democracy system in action, and it works.”
About 200 people rallied in Sydney on October 6 at a protest organised by the Support Assange and WikiLeaks Coalition and the Stop the War Coalition Sydney. Speakers are the rally included Greens Senator Lee Rhiannon, independent journalist Antony Loewenstein, Sydney branch secretary of the Maritime Union of Australia Paul McAleer, The Justice Campaign's Aloysia Brooks and Stop the War Coalition's Christine Keavney. Rally-goers also heard statements of support from independent journalist Austin Mackell, lawyer and human rights activist Kellie Tranter and the Afghan Peace Volunteers.
Photos from the Australia-Venezuela Solidarity Network (AVSN) 2012 Presidential Elections Brigade. The brigade's program kicked off with an introductory talk on Venezuelan history and politics by Dr Marcelo Alfonzo, Central University of Venezuela. Then visits to National Institute of Hygiene plant, a world leader in the manufacture of vaccines, the Bolivarian University, ALBA (the Bolivarian Alternative for Latin America) and the Latin American School of Medicine. Photos by Pip Hinman unless otherwise designated.
The student left has won a big victory at Curtin University, taking several key positions in the student guild elections held over September 25 to 27. Positions won include president, education vice-president, women's officer and queer officer. The Left Action ticket ran a very political campaign, highlighting a range of student rights issues. These included opposition to the university's planned budget cuts and cuts to courses. The university is also planning to increase parking fees, which will hit students hard.
The third Australia-wide gathering of boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaigners took place in Adelaide from September 21 to 23. The Australian Friends of Palestine Association (AFOPA) hosted the weekend of events. A highlight of the three days was the appearance by London-based Israeli academic Ilan Pappe, who spoke twice. He spoke to 600 people at the annual Edward Said Memorial lecture, which is named for the late Palestinian academic.
About 40 concerned citizens opposed to the ongoing conflict in Afghanistan and Australia’s role in the conflict, gathered in Queenscliff on the Bellarine Peninsula, 30 kilometres from Geelong, to blockade the entrance to the Swan Island military base over September 23 to 27.
Leaving a legacy marred by ecological annihilation, government bribery, coercion and corruption, and a penchant for poisoning the environment and communities alike, one of Australia’s most powerful companies — timber-logging firm Gunns — has announced voluntary administration. The September 25 announcement came after the company’s $904 million loss last financial year, ending an eight-year struggle by Tasmanians against a controversial $2 billion pulp mill project.
Tasmanian community groups Friends of the Tamar Valley and Pulp the Mill released the joint statement below on September 26. * * * In expressing their sincere regret about the job losses that must inevitably result from the closure of Tasmanian logging company Gunns Limited, community groups Friends of the Tamar Valley and Pulp the Mill said Tasmanians can breathe more easily now the spectre of the world’s fourth largest pulp mill has receded further into the background.
Queenslanders continue to stand up against state Liberal National Party premier Campbell Newman's vicious austerity budget and job cuts, with several hundred joining a rally and march to parliament on September 22. The rally was organised by the Queensland Uncut coalition. Activists and members of the community sector gave speeches to the rally about the many people affected by the cuts and reiterated the need for a strong, sustained campaign.
About 200 people rallied at Melbourne’s Maribyrnong Detention Centre on September 22, against deporting refugees to danger and mandatory detention. Dayan Anthony, a Tamil refugee, was deported to Sri Lanka in July against his will from Maribyrnong. Antony's Lawyer Sanmati Verma said: “Each and every professional and all community members in contact with Dayan Anthony attested that he was a torture survivor. And yet he was put on a plane and yet he was sent back to Sri Lanka.
Still Wild Still Threatened released the statement below on September 25 in response to news that two environmental groups, The Wilderness Society and the Australian Conservation Foundation, had sent letters to customers of logging company Ta Ann urging them not to cut ties with the company. * * *
Front Line Action on Coal released the statement below on September 25. * * * Three men who blockaded the Boggabri open-pit coalmine in Leard Forest, NSW, on September 3 and 4 will appear before Narrabri Local Court this morning, as the Front Line Action on Coal camp marks its 50th day in Leard Forest.

Analysis

Independent journalist Austin Mackell sent the statement below to be read out at an October 6 rally in Sydney to support Julian Assange and WikiLeaks. * * * For those of you who have not heard the story, I’m a freelance journalist who has also faced the wrath of a foreign government in the course of doing my work. While attempting to interview a union leader in the town of Mahalla, my colleagues and I were mobbed and arrested.
Dr. Oliver Villar is a Lecturer in Politics at Charles Sturt University. His new book is "Cocaine, Death Squads, and the War on Terror: US Imperialism and Class Struggle in Colombia", published by Monthly Review Press. Villar gave the speech below at the Fidel in the 21st Century conference in Sydney, in August 2012.
Arthur Murray died the other day. I turned to Google Australia for tributes, and there was a 1991 obituary of an American ballroom instructor of the same name. There was nothing in the Australian media. The Australian newspaper published a large, rictal image of its proprietor, Rupert Murdoch, handing out awards to his employees. Arthur would have understood the silence.
Arthur Murray died the other day. I turned to Google Australia for tributes, and there was a 1991 obituary of an American ballroom instructor of the same name. There was nothing in the Australian media. The Australian newspaper published a large, rictal image of its proprietor, Rupert Murdoch, handing out awards to his employees. Arthur would have understood the silence.
This public statement was released on October 3 and was initiated by the signatories below. To add your name to the statement visit here. * * *
The Sri Lankan civil war ended in 2009 and in the war’s aftermath there has been a plethora of serious human rights abuses perpetrated by the Sri Lankan government. Some of these abuses include abductions, torture and the murder of journalists and civilians, including women and children.
Australianmap.net is a new online educational resource which brings together information, photos and videos about more than 50 of Australia’s nuclear sites including uranium mines and processing plants, the Lucas Heights research reactor, proposed reactor and dump sites and British nuclear weapons test sites.
A new report by Greenpeace says plans to double Australia’s coal exports will damage worldwide attempts to reduce carbon emissions and limit climate change. Released on September 18, Greenpeace’s report, Cooking the climate: Wrecking the reef, focused on the Galilee Basin, a coal-rich region in central Queensland. Several companies are seeking approval to build nine huge coalmines there, “five of which would be larger than any existing coal mine in Australia”.
Police arrested and handcuffed two Brisbane-based activists, Rebecca Barrigos and Sid Zaoichi, after they set up a stall and petition against the state government’s budget cuts at a Brisbane university campus on September 21. Green Left Weekly’s Liam Flenady spoke to Barrigos about the arrests and the campaigns against austerity and for free speech in Queensland. * * * What were you and fellow activist Sid Zaoichi campaigning for on campus and why was security called to evict you?
Sixteen Aboriginal adults in the remote New South Wales town of Wilcannia are the first graduates of a groundbreaking trial literacy program that would not have been possible without the help of a tiny Caribbean nation — Cuba. At the beginning of this year, Cuban educator Jose Chala Leblanch arrived in Wilcannia to help establish the literacy program based on the world-famous “Yes, I Can” teaching method developed by Cuba.
A document called “Sydney's Rail Future – Modernising Sydney's Trains” was released by the Barry O'Farrell NSW government in June. It plans to modernise the Sydney rail network by converting it to a "three tier" system: rapid transit, suburban and intercity. Unfortunately, the plan is vague about the long-term future of rail expansion around Sydney. Its unstated objectives would appear to be:
We are facing a climate emergency. The impacts of increasing extreme weather events are already being felt around the world and the unprecedented record Arctic sea ice melt highlights the urgent need to transition away from fossil fuels. Shamefully, it is in this context that new coal and gas projects continue to be approved, and the federal government plans to give $4.5 billion in free carbon permits to the country’s dirtiest coal-fired power stations. This money should be put into building large-scale renewable energy, like solar thermal power for Port Augusta.
One day after the huge stop work and rally of Australian Education Union (AEU) members on September 5, Mary Bluett, the Victorian AEU’s branch president, announced she was retiring. Her husband AEU branch secretary Brian Henderson, also announced his retirement. Bluett has been an education union official for 31 years. The Victorian AEU is a 51,000 member strong union. Teachers have come increasingly under attack in recent years, but they, like nurses, still have a lot of public support.
An election in the NSW Public Service Association (PSA) will be held in October to determine who leads the 42,000-strong union for the next four years. Membership of the PSA consists of public servants employed by the NSW government. The current ALP-aligned leadership team is being challenged by a group of rank-and-file members and delegates known as the Progressive PSA (PPSA).
The news of Jill Meagher's death has rightly distressed many Australians. However, much mainstream media and internet commentary have taken this as an opportunity to blame the victim for what happened to her in an effort to warn other women. This approach is both despicable and wrong. Melbourne writer Clementine Ford addressed this in her Daily Life piece, "Can we please stop the victim blaming?"
Once it became public that Brunswick woman Jill Meagher was missing, several women began posting on Facebook about scary experiences they’d had in Brunswick. One of these women was writer and social commentator Catherine Deveny, who mentioned an incident that took place in Brunswick several months ago when a man tried to pull her off her bike.
Responding to a new book by former Labor finance minister Lindsay Tanner, which said the Labor Party had lost any sense of purpose, foreign minister Bob Carr said: “I think it is getting a little too easy to bag the Labor Party.” Carr said: “If I were in retirement … it would have been a pushover to have polished off another book, number 20, on what's wrong with the Labor Party.”
In the first episode of The Chaser’s new series The Hamster Wheel on ABC TV, the comedy group poked fun at Green Left Weekly for being the only media to challenge the distorted mainstream media’s reports of the supposed “violent Muslim protest” in Sydney on September 15. But The Chaser’s hilarious but blistering attack was focused on the utter hypocrisy of the mainstream media, politicians and the police on this issue.
WikiLeaks editor-in-chief Julian Assange gave the speech below to permanent representatives of the United Nations General Assembly on September 27. Assange gave the speech via video link up from the Ecuadorian embassy in London, which accepted his request for political asylum. Republished from WikiLeaks' official transcript. * * * I speak to you today as a free man, because despite having been detained for 659 days without charge, I am free in the most basic and important sense. I am free to speak my mind.
The very peaceful welcome to Aboriginal land passport ceremony was held on September 15 at the Settlement, Darlington. A great time was had by the 300 people who attended. We were contacted by the Redfern police, as is their practice when an Indigenous Social Justice Association event occurs, to ask if they could be of any assistance during the event. They were politely told that we expected no trouble from any quarter and if trouble did arise, we knew where they were. We had no problems from any outsiders against our event whatsoever.

World

Venezuela's socialist President Hugo Chavez has won the October 7 Venezuelan elections with over 54.44% of the vote against 45% of the vote for right-wing opposition candidate Henrique Capriles. The National Electoral Council's Tibisay Lucena announced more than 80% of the 19,119,809 registered voters in Venezuela participated in the election.
On the eve of the October 7, Venezuelan presidential election, Green Left TV's Peter Boyle spoke to Tamara Pearson (below), an Australian socialist who has been living in Venezuela since 2007. She writes for Venezuela Analysis and for Green Left Weekly. Pearson lives in Merida but was in Caracas for the final stage of the election campaign and to help lead the 2012 Australia-Venezuela Solidarity Network brigade whose members are also there to witness this election campaign.
“Major U.S. business groups are stepping up pressure on President Barack Obama's administration to suspend longtime trade benefits for Ecuador, citing the Andean country's mistreatment of Chevron Corp as proof of a deteriorating investment climate”, Reuters said September 26.
“Washington has refused to extradite a former Bolivian president to the South American country to stand trial over political violence that forced him from office nine years ago”, Reutuers reports that Bolivian President Evo Morales said on September 7. Bolivia wants former US-backed president Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada, known as “Goni”, to face charges over corruption allegations and for his role in the deaths of 63 people killed by security forces during the 2003 uprising that overthrew him.
The presidential elections, to take place on October 7, are a truly national event in Venezuela. There are rallies to attend, public statements and press releases by the candidates, mini-newspapers containing plans for the next six years of government ― and everyone has an opinion. The posters are the easiest to spot. On every street corner, two faces are prevalent: President Hugo Chavez and his main opponent, Henri Capriles Radonski.
Huge protests in Madrid, brutally repressed, are now matched by another Greek general strike. Three years of the European debt crisis are producing a social and political crisis on an immense scale, with the threat of the break-up of the Spanish state. Just as those in the global South – the great arc of less developed countries across the southern hemisphere, from South America to the Far East – have suffered years of debt crises and IMF-led structural adjustment programs, so now too is southern Europe.
The recent strike and mass mobilisations of teachers and their supporters in Chicago were significant for those who opposed them. The Democrat Barack Obama and the Republican Mitt Romney aligned themselves against this fight to defend public schools. In contrast, Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein expressed solidarity with the movement and was invited to speak at a rally.
Egypt is being hit by a strike wave as the government comes under pressure to push austerity measures. However, the protests getting the most international attention are the ones against The Innocence of Muslims film. Like countries across the world, Egypt Islamaphobic film. But the Egyptian protests, which targetted the US embassy, took on a different dynamic due to the revolution that toppled dictator Hosni Mubarak.
The Australian government's support for Indonesia's occupation of West Papua reached absurd levels on September 12. Labor and Coalition senators voted down a Senate condolence motion for late refugee advocate and Papuan solidarity activist Vikki Riley on the basis that it contained the words “West Papua”. The Don't Say These Words? blog said on September 13 that Country Liberal Senator Nigel Scullion told the mover of the motion, John Madigan of the Democratic Labor Party, that he would support the motion if the words “West Papua” were removed.
Amnesty International called on the Swedish authorities on September 27 to issue assurances to WikiLeaks' founder-in-chief Julian Assange that if he leaves Ecuador’s London embassy and agrees to go to Sweden to face sexual assault claims, he will not be extradited to the United States in connection with WikiLeaks.
Independent journalist Juan Cole wrote on his Informed Comment site: * * * The Israeli Likud Party’s cover story for why it wants to draw the United States into a war with Iran makes no real sense.
On our third full day of activity on the Australia-Venezuela Solidarity Network (AVSN) 2012 Presidential Elections Brigade we visited Sala de la Batalla Sociales, LA Communa. This is a grouping of 35 Community Councils in the barrio of Petare. We visited the community medical centre (where free health care is provided by Cuban and Venezuelan doctors), a community radio station and had an exchange with community council members. The commune of Petare is building a chocolate factory which will sit alongside a community university. Photos by Pip Hinman.
Climate change could kill 100 million by 2030: report More than 100 million people will die and global economic growth will be cut by 3.2 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) by 2030 if the world fails to tackle climate change, a report commissioned by 20 governments said on Wednesday …
In Venezuela's October 7 presidential elections, the candidate leading the polls — President Hugo Chavez — is standing on a platform of pushing a socialist transformation. Leaked documents show his main opponent, Henri Capriles Radonski, has a neoliberal agenda. But publicly he presents himself as a social democrat who supports pro-poor policies such as the Chavez government's health and education social programs.
Their demonstrations have shaken Quebec in recent months, and on September 20, students and environmentalists won big victories. At her first news conference as premier, Pauline Marois announced that her Parti Quebecois (PQ) government had cancelled the university tuition fees rise imposed by the previous Jean Charest Liberal government. The PQ government, which won the September 4 elections, said it would also repeal the repressive provisions of Law 12 (formerly Bill 78). Charest had imposed the law in a bid to smash the province's huge student strike.
The statement below was released by the Awami Party Pakistan, the Labour Party Pakistan and the Workers Party Pakistan on talks to merge their groups. * * * Over the past few months, three left political parties have been holding meetings to discuss the possibility of a merger and creation of a new progressive force in Pakistani politics. Many of us have been striving for left unity for years, even decades.

Culture

Dial M for Murdoch: News Corporation & the Corruption of Britain Tom Watson & Martin Hickman Penguin Books 2012, 360 pages, £20.00 This book provides much needed background information to the Levenson inquiry, which investigated the phone hacking scandal of Rupert Murdoch-owned newspapers and its cast of characters.
By Light Alone By Adam Roberts 2011 www.adamroberts.com Progress under capitalism, Karl Marx wrote, resembles “that hideous, pagan idol, who would not drink the nectar but from the skulls of the slain”. Changes that ought to make life better often produce new social, economic and environmental disasters.